The International Rules Series is a senior men's international rules football competition between the Australia international rules football team (selected by the Australian Football League) and the Ireland international rules football team (selected by the Gaelic Athletic Association). The series is played close to annually in October or November after the completion of the AFL Grand Final and the All-Ireland Football Final which are both traditionally played in late September. The matches are played using a set of compromise rules decided upon by both the two governing bodies; known formally as international rules football. While the International Rules Series matches use some rules from Australian rules football, the field, ball and uniforms of both teams are all from Gaelic football.
The two teams contest a trophy, which in 2004 was named the Cormac McAnallen Cup—after the Tyrone team captain Cormac McAnallen, whose death that year from a heart condition came after he had represented Ireland in the previous three series.
The concept for the series originates from the Australian Football World Tour, which took place in 1967. The first series took place in Ireland in 1984 under a three match format, whereby the team accumulating the most wins from the series gained victory. Following poor Australian crowds and relative lack of interest in 1990, the series was revived in 1998 under a two match aggregate points format. In a bid to revitalise the public interest in the concept, the 2014 series was reduced to a one-off test match featuring exclusively All-Australian players.
The series alternates host countries each appropriate year between Ireland and Australia. Since the commencement of the modern era series in 1998, the average attendance up to the conclusion of the 2014 series was 42,898. On two occasions have test matches sold out in Australia, both in Perth in 2003 and 2014. The first entire series to sell out was in Ireland in 2006 when a combined record crowd of 112,127 was set, as well as the largest international sports fixture at Croke Park for the second test.
The tests were indefinitely postponed by the GAA in 2007 following the 2006 Series, citing a series of violent onfield incidents. However, the series resumed in October 2008 in Australia, after the GAA and AFL reached collective agreement on a revised set of rules. The 2013 series was notable for the inclusion of an Australian team made up of exclusively Indigenous players, known as the Indigenous All Stars.
The most recent series was won by Australia.
Note: includes statistics from 1984 (fully updated post 2017 series)
|Country||Series won||Test matches won 1||Points scored|
1 Two draws (second test 1999, second test 2002)
Scores are given in the form [goals]–[overs]–[behinds] ([points]). A goal equals 6 points, an over, 3, and a behind, 1. So 2–9–7 (46) means 2 goals, 9 overs and 7 behinds; 2(6) + 9(3) + 7(1) = 12 + 27 + 7 = 46 points in total.
|Year||Host country||First test||Venue||Att.||Second test||Venue||Att.||Total||Series winner||Australian channel||Irish channel|
|2017||Australia||Australia 2–13–12 (63)
Ireland 1–13–8 (53)
|Adelaide Oval, Adelaide||25,502||Australia 0–15–8 (53)
Ireland 2–10–8 (50)
|Subiaco Oval, Perth||30,116||116
|Australia||Seven Network||RTÉ Television|
|2013||Ireland||Ireland 2–12–9 (57)
Australia1 1–7–8 (35)
|Breffni Park, Cavan||17,567||Ireland 6–22–14 (116)
Australia1 2–7–4 (37)
|Croke Park, Dublin||28,525||173
|2011||Australia||Ireland 4–17–5 (80)
Australia 1–8–6 (36)
|Etihad Stadium, Melbourne||22,921||Ireland 1–13–5 (50)
Australia 0–7–8 (29)
|Metricon Stadium, Gold Coast||12,545||130
|2010||Ireland||Australia 0–14–5 (47)
Ireland 1–8–10 (40)
|Gaelic Grounds, Limerick||30,117||Australia 0–14–13 (55)
Ireland 1–11–13 (52)
|Croke Park, Dublin||61,842||102
|2008||Australia||Ireland 3–6–9 (45)
Australia 0–12–8 (44)
|Subiaco Oval, Perth||35,153||Ireland 4–8–9 (57)
Australia 3–8–11 (53)
|2006||Ireland||Ireland 1–12–6 (48)
Australia 1–9–7 (40)
|Pearse Stadium, Galway||35,000*||Australia 3–15–6 (69)
Ireland 0–7–10 (31)
|Croke Park, Dublin||82,127*||109
|2005||Australia||Australia 2–27–7 (100)
Ireland 3–11–13 (64)
|Subiaco Oval, Perth||39,098||Australia 0–18–9 (63)
Ireland 0–11–9 (42)
|Telstra Dome, Melbourne||45,428||163
|2004||Ireland||Ireland 3–17–8 (77)
Australia 1–9–8 (41)
|Croke Park, Dublin||46,370||Ireland 1–15–4 (55)
Australia 0–12–5 (41)
|Croke Park, Dublin||60,515||132
|2003||Australia||Australia 3–10–8 (56)
Ireland 1–10–10 (46)
|Subiaco Oval, Perth||41,228*||Ireland 2–9–9 (48)
Australia 1–10–9 (45)
|2002||Ireland||Australia 2–15–8 (65)
Ireland 1–14–10 (58)
|Croke Park, Dublin||44,221||Draw: Ireland 1–8–12 (42)
Australia 1–11–3 (42)
|Croke Park, Dublin||71,544||107
|2001||Australia||Ireland 2–13–8 (59)
Australia 1–13–8 (53)
|MCG, Melbourne||48,121||Ireland 2–17–8 (71)
Australia 1–13–7 (52)
|Football Park, Adelaide||31,713||130
|2000||Ireland||Australia 0–14–13 (55)
Ireland 1–11–8 (47)
|Croke Park, Dublin||38,000||Australia 2–15–11 (68)
Ireland 1–12–9 (51)
|Croke Park, Dublin||57,289||123
|1999||Australia||Ireland 2–16–10 (70)
Australia 0–15–17 (62)
|MCG, Melbourne||64,326||Draw: Australia 2–12–4 (52)
Ireland 1–11–13 (52)
|Football Park, Adelaide||45,187||122
|1998||Ireland||Australia 2–12–14 (62)
Ireland 2–12–13 (61)
|Croke Park, Dublin||22,900||Ireland 4–12–7 (67)
Australia 2–10–14 (56)
|Croke Park, Dublin||35,221||128
|Year||Host country||Host city||Venue||Result||Attendance||Series winner||Australian channel||Irish channel|
|2015||Ireland||Dublin||Croke Park||Ireland 3–11–5 (56)
Australia 1–13–7 (52)
|38,386||Ireland||Seven Network & 7mate||RTÉ2|
|2014||Australia||Perth||Patersons Stadium||Australia 0–17–5 (56)
Ireland 2–9–7 (46)
|Year||Host country||First test||Venue||Att.||Second test||Venue||Att.||Third test||Venue||Att.||Series winner|
|1990||Australia||Ireland 0–12–11 (47)
Australia 0–10–8 (38)
|VFL Park||18,332||Ireland 3–9–7 (52)
Australia 0–7–10 (31)
|Bruce Stadium||7,000||Australia 0–13–11 (50)
Ireland 0–12–8 (44)
|1987||Ireland||Ireland 3–7–14 (53)
Australia 1–11–12 (51)
|Croke Park||15,532||Australia 3–14–12 (72)
Ireland 3–6–11 (47)
|Croke Park||15,485||Australia 0–14–17 (59)
Ireland 1–13–10 (55)
|1986||Australia||Australia 1–14–16 (64)
Ireland 5–5–12 (57)
|WACA Ground||25,000||Ireland 3–10–14 (62)
Australia 1–10–10 (46)
|VFL Park||10,883||Ireland 4–8–7 (55)
Australia 0–7–11 (32)
|Football Park||10,000 (est.)||Ireland|
|1984||Ireland||Australia 2–15–13 (70)
Ireland 4–8–9 (57)
|Páirc Uí Chaoimh||8,000||Ireland 3–18–8 (80)
Australia 1–18–16 (76)
|Croke Park||12,500||Australia 1–18–16 (76)
Ireland 5–11–8 (71)
* Sold out / maximum capacity
The following are lists of International Rules Series venues and their locations, ordered by amount of test matches hosted:
|Páirc Uí Chaoimh||Ballintemple||Cork||1 (1st test 1984)|
|Pearse Stadium||Salthill||Galway||1 (1st test 2006)|
|Gaelic Grounds||Limerick||Limerick||1 (1st test 2010)|
|Breffni Park||Cavan||Cavan||1 (1st test 2013)|
|Subiaco Oval (Domain Stadium)||Perth||Western Australia||5[b]|
|Melbourne Cricket Ground (MCG)||Melbourne||Victoria||4[c]|
|Football Park (AAMI Stadium)||Adelaide||South Australia||3 (3rd test 1986, 2nd test 1999, 1st test 2001)|
|Western Australia Cricket Assoc. (WACA) Ground||Perth||Western Australia||2 (1st test 1986 & 3rd test 1990)|
|Waverley Park||Melbourne||Victoria||2 (2nd test 1986 & 1st test 1990)|
|Docklands Stadium (Telstra Dome/Etihad Stadium)||Melbourne||Victoria||2 (2nd test 2005 & 1st test 2011)|
|Canberra Stadium (GIO Stadium Canberra)||Canberra||Australian Capital Territory||1 (2nd test 1990)|
|Carrara Stadium (Metricon Stadium)||Gold Coast||Queensland||1 (2nd test 2011)|
|Adelaide Oval||Adelaide||South Australia||1 (1st test 2017)|
The Jim Stynes Medal is awarded to the best player of the Australian team for each series. It was first awarded in 1998 and named after Jim Stynes, who won the All-Ireland Minor Football Championship with Dublin before joining Melbourne. With the Demons, he won the 1991 Brownlow Medal, set the record for most VFL or AFL consecutive games played with 244, was named to Melbourne's Team of the Century and was elected into the Australian Football Hall of Fame while also playing for both Ireland and Australia in the series. He was also honored with a state funeral in Melbourne when he passed away in 2012.
The GAA Medal (also known as the Irish Player of the Series) is awarded in similar circumstances to the Australian award, whereby the Irish player adjudged as the best performed from each series wins the medal. It has been awarded since 2004.
The Harry Beitzel Medal was awarded to players adjudged "fairest and best" on the field during the 1984 to 1990 series. Beitzel was honoured for his pioneering of the sport and the fact that he arranged the first ever official contact between the two sports of Gaelic football and Australian rules football.
The Australian team were sponsored until 2006 by Foster's, which also sponsored series held in Australia. Toyota took over both roles for the 2008 series. Australian plastic manufacturer Nylex sponsored the Australian team in 2010, whilst Toyota and Carlton Draught were guernsey sponsors for the 2011 series. Supermarket chain Coles and community health group National Aboriginal Community Controlled Health Organisation (NACCHO) were guernsey sponsors for the 2013 series. Airline company Virgin Australia were the series and Australian team sponsor for the 2014 test match.
The Irish team, and all series held in Ireland, were sponsored by Coca-Cola until 2008. The 2010 and 2013 series in Ireland was sponsored by the Irish Daily Mail, while Irish language television station TG4 sponsored the Irish team in 2010, 2011 and 2013. Gaelic games online streaming service GAAGO.ie were sponsors of the Irish team in 2014 and 2015, whilst electric power transmission company EirGrid were the title sponsors of the 2015 series in Ireland.
The International Rules Series has been broadcast on television in Australia and Ireland since the late 1990s. In Ireland it has usually been broadcast on RTÉ Two; from 2010–2014 the series was broadcast live by Gaelic-language channel TG4. RTÉ reclaimed the rights to the series in 2015. In Australia, the Seven Network broadcast the 1998–2001 series, whilst the Nine Network broadcast the 2002–2005 series. The 2006 and 2011 series have both been broadcast on Network Ten, whilst the 2008 and 2013–2015 series have all been broadcast on Seven and its digital multi-channel 7mate.
Apart from Australia and Ireland, the international focus of the series has seen a growing international audience. From 2005, broadcasting extended its reach to the United States via Setanta Sports North America and to Hong Kong via the Australia Network. The 2006 series was also broadcast to the United Kingdom via Setanta Sports 2. Defunct New Zealand free-to-air sports network Sommet Sports broadcast the 2013 and 2014 series. The 2014 test match was broadcast live in the United States and parts of Europe and Asia.
The series has a number of high-profile critics. Three-time All-Ireland winning Tyrone manager Mickey Harte has continually called for a cessation to the game. He said in 2008 that the tours to Australia are in essence just a free holiday for the players involved, before repeating the claim in 2011 and calling on the GAA to withdraw from the Series as it does a "total disservice to the development of Gaelic games on the international stage". Similarly, Australian journalists such as Mike Sheahan have argued that the relevance of the series was diminished on account of the Australian team no longer being made up primarily of All-Australian players (though the Australian team resumed being made up of exclusively All-Australian players from 2014).
The future of the series was brought into doubt in 2005 and 2006, mostly through the on-field actions of some Australian players and excessive physicality by both teams. In December 2006, the GAA decided to abandon the 2007 series.
"On the recommendation of the Management Committee, it was agreed that there would be no Junior or Senior Series of games in 2007...Dessie Farrell, the player's representative stated that while there would be some disappointment amongst players that the 2007 Series will not take place, the decision was, in his view, probably a wise one."
Talks between the two organisations resumed in 2007 and the 2008 series went ahead without incident. Since that, despite an Australian withdrawal from the 2009 series due to "economic concerns", the Series appeared to have a strong future. Yet following the 2011 Series, concerns were raised over relatively small crowd attendances. The small crowds were blamed on a lack of high-profile AFL players being selected in the Australian team and a longer AFL season. Again, the series' temporary future was assured by GAA director general Paraic Duffy, and will return in 2013 (Ireland) and 2014 (Australia). During the 2013 Series, the possibility of expanding future International Rules games into a tri-series was mooted. It is envisaged that such a series would incorporate the Indigenous All Stars team that participated in 2013, possibly against an AFL-All Star team for the right to play off against the Irish. Though this idea never eventuated, it has since been mooted of the possibility of staging a series in the United States, likely in Boston and/or New York City.
Whilst an extremely lopsided result occurred in the 2013 series and the Australians were accused of demonstrating apathy to the concept, a 2014 series featuring current and former All-Australian players occurred, one that was regarded as a demonstrable success. During a successful training camp in New York City ahead of the 2015 Series, Australian coach Alastair Clarkson gave his strongest pitch yet for the expansion of the series to include a test match in America and even an actual American international rules team, to facilitate a tri-nations format. In May 2016, the GAA and AFL announced an agreement to not have a test match in 2016 and instead renew the 2-match aggregate series in 2017 (in Australia), with a view to conducting further series in the following years in both Ireland and the United States.
The hybrid game has always had its detractors, and the heavy-handed tactics that Kevin Sheedy’s victors deployed in front of 82,127 Croke Park spectators – a record crowd for an international fixture held on Irish soil – will only add to their number.