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Everybody needs good neighbours: International Rules' greatest hits

They come from a land down under – and, as always, there’s sure to fireworks when the Aussies take to the field in Limerick this week.

The late Cormac McAnallen on the end of some rough treatment from Australia's Barry Hall during the seconnd test in 2003
The late Cormac McAnallen on the end of some rough treatment from Australia's Barry Hall during the seconnd test in 2003
Image: INPHO/Morgan Treacy

SHRIMP ON THE barbie? Check! Cans of cool Fosters? Check! Unusual case of kangaroo cruelty? Check!

The Aussies are here – they play a Cork colleges selection on Leeside in a practice match tomorrow evening – and it’s time to prepare for that greatest of antipodean cliches: fighting during the International Rules series.

Admittedly, not one for the purists; it’s a very fast, entertaining, rough ‘n’ tumble game that has delivered plenty of entertainment down the years.

Often however, it’s the niggling rivalries and explosive scraps that get the crowd going rather than any skilful kicking or fielding.

In 1990 the Compromise Rules experiment was abandoned; knocked out, essentially, by the one-two of public apathy and increasing on-pitch violence during the 80s.

It has since returned, of course, and though the Australians have this year insisted they’ll avoid confrontation in Limerick and Dublin – a claim about as plausible as an Irishman on Bondi Beach of a Friday night saying he’ll avoid the Cock and Bull pub – the hybrid game’s history is pock-marked by ugly games.

So… let’s get ready to rumble, etc and so on.

  • Half-man, half-Sunday Game sofa Colm O’Rourke managed the Irish to wins at home in 1998 and in Oz the following year. The Meath legend also experienced the white-heat of the game’s 1980s incarnation. Check out the transition in the game, after about two minutes of this film.

  • In a sporting tradition that was never squeamish, the 2006 series was particularly blood-soaked. After an X-rated first test in Galway in which Graham Geraghty was cited, the sides lined out in Croke Park a week later. Australia’s Danyle Pearce soon left Geraghty unconscious and requiring hospitalisation in an act described later as a ‘square up’. Game on, Ger. Despite a couple of broken noses and more headbutts than a Glasgow new year’s celebration, no red cards were shown amazingly. A disgusted Irish coach Sean Boylan called for the arrangement to be scrapped.

  • Between the first and second tests in ’06 the visitors lost a team member, you may recall. Brendan Fevola was over-enthusiastic in ordering a gin and tonic in a Galway city hotel. The news report is below; but you know you’re in trouble when Barry Hall is the peacemaker.

  • Incidentally, Fevola doesn’t seem to have learned from his public embarrassment. At last year’s Brownlow Medal ceremony – think the Allstar awards in flip-flops – he made a holy show of himself . The then-Carlton player was fined Aus$10,000 and told to “wake up to himself”. ‘Fev’ said  he has no recollection of the events which also led him to being axed from Thursday night’s Footy Show on Channel Nine. Bravo, sir.

  • In 2004, the action on the pitch mirrored that in the gantry. Endearingly, in a kind of cultural experiment, a representative from each country co-commentates on the action. Here Marty Morrissey is elbowed out of the spotlight – before the series  even throws in – when his Aussie colleague gets excited by the premature brawl in front of the Hogan Stand.


What’s your favourite Compromise memories?

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