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International Rules Football

International Rules Football or Compromised Rules is a fusion of Gaelic Football and Australian Rules Football that is played in Ireland, Australia and across the globe. It was originally developed to facilitate international matches between Gaelic football players and Australian rules footballers. Here in the Middle East it has been an important part of the foundation and of the evolution of both codes, Gaelic Games and Australian Rules. Irish and Australian players, along with other nationalities, are involved in playing both at club and regional level and have proved a crucial support for the progression and promotion of each sport in the region. This is happening in GAA and AFL clubs in the U.A.E., Bahrain, Oman and Qatar to date, training and playing together often as one entity.

Clann na hOman Gaelic Football Club was founded in 2003 when their first games were played against Dubai with a team made up of predominantly non Irish but spear headed by their first Chairman Steve O Connor. As the club began to grow and it was evident that there were a large number of Australian players playing Gaelic Football, the club decided to expand and to implement Australian Rules Football, and so Muscat Magpies was born. The club initially went under the banner of MGAFC (Muscat Gaelic and Australian Rules Football Club), but with the introduction of hurling in 2013, the club has changed its name to the more traditional Clann na hOman GAA and Muscat Magpies AFL Club.

The name Muscat Magpies draws its inspiration from one of the world’s most popular Australian Rules football clubs, Collingwood Football Club. In December 2007, the Muscat Magpies took to the field for the first time when they played the Dubai Dingoes for the Steve O Connor trophy. This cup is still contested between the 2 clubs today. That season also coincided with the inaugural Middle East Premiership trophy. In their first year the Muscat Magpies played off in the Grand Final, where they narrowly lost to the fancied Dubai Heat. That Magpies team consisted of 5 Irish players playing for the first time against a full squad of seasoned Aussies. The team that day was captained by Chris Holmes, a former Fitzroy Professional who also became an established GAA player.

Holmes and current Chairperson Liam McAuliffe have carried on the tradition of the club playing under two banners along with the support of such senior players as Alan Kelly, Shane O Donnell and club coach Lance Scott, who have all been involved in both codes since its inception. In March 2013 the Magpies made history when they fielded an AFL team of all Irish against a team of all Aussies and were only beaten by 2 goals, having led in the final quarter.

Training sessions are divided up between AFL and GAA, depending on which code is playing next. At the majority of training sessions, the club partakes in a Compromise Rules session which tones skills for both codes at the same time. The club hopes in the future to host a compromise rules tournament in Muscat with invitations to all AFL/GAA clubs in the Middle East to try their skills at the cross over sport. It is hoped that this would encourage more players to play in their opposite code and increase popularity throughout the AFL/GAA in the Middle East region. 

The Bahrain Blues is an AFL Team that was set up in 2009, a year after the Arabian Celts GAA Club was formed. Initially both codes trained on the same night down at the Rugby Club but on different pitches. Australian Adam “Trigger” Trzesinski had played AFL at the top level back in his native homeland had lined out with the Arabian Celts earlier in the year and Stevie Leask had played for the Bahrain Blues in one of their pre season friendlies. To celebrate St Patrick’s weekend both Clubs agreed to an International rules match. It would be played over 4 quarters with a change of football/footy in each quarter. A very evenly contested match won by the Aussies by 1 point in somewhat questionable circumstances prompted a replay and a friendship that lasts until today. Over the last few years Gaelic players have played Aussie Rules and Australian players have played Gaelic football and neither have been found wanting. There is now an annual International Rules match usually around Australia day which is a great family day out and another opportunity to recruit players for both codes and to earn bragging rights in the Clubhouse afterwards.

AFL is very well established in the Region with a crossover of players between with Gaelic Games and AFL. Adam Trzesinski moved to Abu Dhabi and lined out with the Abu Dhabi Falcons along with other GAA players like Gary Treacy and Gerard Lovett. In Qatar you GAA stalwarts like Ben Simpson and Killian Coleman lining ou with the Doha Kanagroos or the Barsha Bombers – a social team representing the Dubai Dingos AFL team enter a team into the Men’s Social League every year at the Gulf Gaelic Games in Dubai, a testament to the continuing cooperation and camaraderie that exists between the AFL and the GAA.  


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