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Australian Rules Football League of Ireland

The Australian Rules Football League of Ireland (ARFLI) is an Australian rules football competition and is the governing body of Australian Football in Ireland. Ireland is ranked the number three country in Australian football outside of Australia despite having a smaller league than some of its lower-ranked competitors <>. Ireland has been a competitor and finalist in all AFL International Cups and a winner twice. The success of the Irish team has commonly been attributed to the ease at which Gaelic footballers adapt to the Australian football because of certain similarities between the two codes.

Australian Rules Football League of Ireland
SportAustralian rules football
No. of teams6
Most recent
Belfast Redbacks
Most titlesLeeside Lions
(6 premierships)

The league is an international affiliate of the Australian Football League and a founding member of the European governing body, AFL Europe. The league is not affiliated with the Gaelic Athletic Association or the International Rules Series.


The ARFLI was formed in October 2000 after the first ever Irish Grand Final was contested between Dublin Demons and Belfast Redbacks. Aussie Rules had arrived in Ireland almost exactly a year previously when Australian Football clubs were simultaneously formed in Dublin and Belfast. The two clubs recruited and trained through the winter and played a number of British clubs in challenge matches in early spring.

The Demons then travelled to London in April 2000, where they took part in the FSS Cup - BARFL’s (British Australian Rules Football League) pre-season competition. The Dublin lads finished third out of twelve teams in their first real competitive games and people sat up and took notice that Aussie Rules had arrived in the Emerald Isle. The Demons and Redbacks then played out a best of three series that culminated in the previously mentioned Grand Final with the Demons being crowned Irelands first Aussie Rules Champions.

After this game, Michael Currane (originally from Kilmihil in West Clare), ARFLI Chief Executive Officer, and Ciaran O hEeadhra from the Gaeilteacht area of Mayo, who had both been actively involved with the Dublin club from the start, decided that it was time to take the sport of Aussie Rules on a step in Ireland, and working in close collaboration with the existing clubs in Dublin and Belfast, set up the Australian Rules Football League of Ireland. They wanted to see the game develop and saw the huge potential for the sport to be a success due to the obvious similarities with Gaelic football.

ARFLI spent the following few months promoting the game and encouraging and assisting with the formation of new clubs. The Leeside Lions (based in Cork City) were the next team to be formed. The Lions had quite a debut year with the club contesting both domestic finals that season. The Lions were quickly followed by the Drogheda Dockers (founded by Justin Stubbs - an Aussie based in the County Louth town) and the Midland Tigers (based in Mullingar and founded by Paul Ryan, an Aussie expat and local man Tom Leavy). ARFLI had grown to a five-club organisation in as many months. The founding clubs of ARFLI are the Belfast Redbacks, Dublin Demons, Leeside Lions, Drogheda Dockers and Midland Tigers.

From the early days, ARFLI’s co-founders Currane and O ‘Headhra were also heavily involved with developing relations with other leagues and promoting the sport internationally. Even though Aussie Rules had been played in many countries worldwide, for upwards of ten/fifteen years there was a lack of organised international interaction. In response to this, Michael founded the EARFC (European Australian Rules Football Council) in January 2001, with a view to developing the sport of Aussie Rules across the continent and strengthening ties between the already established leagues.

The EARFC was immediately ratified and joined by the other European leagues. Michael and Ciaran have sat on the council from the beginning. The EARFC is currently liaising with existing footy leagues/clubs in the following nations: Great Britain, Ireland, Denmark, Sweden, France, Germany, Greece, Turkey and Poland. As a founding member of the Atlantic Alliance (formerly the NHAFF) Michael was elected onto the five man Atlantic Alliance Committee as the ARFLI representative, along with representatives from Canada, USA, Denmark and Great Britain. The Atlantic Alliance is an international umbrella group for the sport of Australian Rules Football in the Northern Hemisphere.

In Domestic games in 2001, ARFLI had two major competitions - the ARFLI Super 9’s and the ARFLI Premiership. The ARFLI Super 9’s was a nine a side competition played on regular Gaelic football pitches. It was designed to help the new clubs adapt to Aussie Rules, gain some experience and allow for maximum participation for all players. The use of the GAA pitches also made it easier on the clubs in that it is extremely difficult to find space to have a full size Aussie rules oval. The competition was a huge success with two of the new teams the Leeside Lions and the Midland Tigers making it through to the final which was played at O Rathailligh Park (Louth’s county GAA Grounds) in Drogheda towards the end of May. This game proved to be a hard fought and exciting contest and was ultimately won by the Tigers.

The ARFLI Premiership commenced on 16 June and was a 14 a side competition played on a home and away basis. After a very close competition, the final took place in September in James Park, Kilkenny and was contested between the Dublin Demons and the Leeside Lions. ARFLI brought the final to Kilkenny as part their efforts to spread the game and as a result there is now a team being formed in the marble city – the Kilkenny Bulldogs. The Demons won a hard fought contest to win their second flag in a row and the ARFLI Premiership Cup 2001.

The first ever Fosters Aussie Rules Australia Day Challenge Cup took place on 26 January in Ennis as part of a big Australia Day celebration. The Leeside Lions contested the game against the Dublin Demons with the Cork-based side deservedly winning their first piece of silverware in a very close game. The first ever “” Auscamp took place earlier on the same day in Ennis where ARFLI introduced their Auskick program to local children.

The Leeside Lions made ARFLI history in 2016, completing a first ever unbeaten championship after winning all nine games of the Home and Away Season and the Grand Final. This was a feat repeated by the Belfast Redbacks in 2018.

Premiership WinnersEdit

Year Winner Runners Up
2000 Dublin Demons Belfast Redbacks
2001 Dublin Demons Leeside Lions
2002 Leeside Lions Dublin Demons
2003 Leeside Lions
2004 South Dublin Eagles Dublin Demons
2005 Leeside Lions Dublin Demons
2006 South Dublin Swans Leeside Lions
2007 Leeside Lions South Dublin Swans
2008 Dublin Demons Leeside Lions
2009 Dublin Demons South Dublin Swans
2010 South Dublin Swans Belfast Redbacks
2011 South Dublin Swans Leeside Lions
2012 Belfast Redbacks Midwest Magpies
2013 South Dublin Swans Belfast Redbacks
2014 Belfast Redbacks Galway Magpies
2015 South Dublin Swans Belfast Redbacks
2016 Leeside Lions Belfast Redbacks
2017 Leeside Lions South Dublin Swans
2018 Belfast Redbacks Galway Magpies

Current ClubsEdit

Women's ClubsEdit

Former ClubsEdit

NB: Midland Tigers and Saints merged during the 2011 Season under the name Kangaroos. For the 2012 Season following an affiliation with Greater Western Sydney, the Kangaroos became the North Leinster Giants.

See alsoEdit

External linksEdit