Duffy to explore Philadelphia as potential International Rules venue
OUTGOING GAA director general Paraic Duffy is set to travel to Philadelphia next week in a bid to source a venue that would allow the International Rules to go Stateside.
The idea of playing a Test in the United States has been mooted for several years, with both the GAA and the AFL keen to pursue it.
But one of the primary issues has been finding a venue that has a playing surface and spectator capacity capable of hosting the game, which is played on a pitch with the dimensions for Gaelic football.
NFL pitches are only 120 metres long, which is longer than a soccer pitch, while the rhombus-shaped surfaces for baseball would not be ideal for facilitating spectators.
Despite a lingering apathy around the series among spectators at home, Duffy insists it is safe and that the only discussions taking place are over whether to expand it.
“The one thing that was absolutely clear was that they [the AFL] want this to continue. No question about that. It might have been a question seven or eight years ago but not anymore.
“Their players have bought into it. They’re very happy that it’s the All-Australians and they want it to continue so there’s no question of it not going ahead. The attitude of Gillon (McLachlan, CEO of the AFL) has made that very clear.
“They feel they’ve cracked the issue of players and who plays. The fact that it’s All-Australian now and that the elite players are selected means they’re very happy with that.
“They’re very keen on going to the States so we’re going to push hard on that and see if it’s possible. The whole issue has been getting a venue in the US because of the size of American Football pitches but there are a couple of things we’re going to explore and we said that we’d try and tie this down before February.
“The University of Pennsylvania – Franklin Field – is being suggested and I’m actually going to be in Philadelphia the week after next so I’ll take a look.”
The series had been beset in the early part of this decade by Australia fielding weakened teams, leading to Ireland winning the two-Test series’ in 2011 and 2013 by a combined total of 166 points.
But the shoe is on the other foot now, with Joe Kernan bringing a squad Down Under containing no representative from the All-Ireland champions, Dublin.
The 5.10am throw-in time at home won’t have done much to boost viewing figures but Duffy feels there is enough enthusiasm about the Irish squad to the series when it returns to these shores some time over the next two years.
“I don’t think it’s a harder sell and I don’t want to comment on the Dublin players but there are no Richmond players either on the Australia team.
“The main reason we’re short of some players is because of club fixtures. That’s been the biggest issue and we have to accept that.
“The timing isn’t ideal for either of us but it works fairly well and I think the enthusiasm is still there among our players.
“I’ve heard nobody within the GAA saying ‘let’s scrap this’. There was concern a number of years ago about the player talent drain to Australia until people realised you lose a couple of players and that’s it.
“You’re not losing players who play in the series so that’s not an issue anymore and I think people at home accept the reason why it’s good for our players – a chance to wear the Ireland jersey.
“I think we will reach agreement for a longer term. There’ll be no problem with that.”