This weekend nine Magpies represented the United States AFL in an annual series of matches against Canadian representative sides. The 49thÂ Parallel Cup, as it is known, was played at the Darree Fields in Dublin, Ohio on Saturday and featured four international contests: womenâ€™s and menâ€™s development team matches, the US Freedom v. the Canadian Northern Lights (ladies), and the US Revolution v. the Canadian NorthWind (men). With the heat and humidity soaring at near 95Â° (35Â°C), fitness was a key component throughout the day and the Magpies rose to the challenge.
The morning match up saw the US womenâ€™s development team taking on their Canadian counterparts. Five Lady Pies were prominently featured: Christina Licata, Autumn Ervin, Kim Hemenway, and first year players Alison Vorsatz and Emily Bennett. The low scoring, back and forth affair was highlighted by physical play and high spirit from each team. Lady Pies co-founder and Freedom veteranÂ LicataÂ was named captain for the match. Sporting her trademark bandanna, she had multiple possessions and disposals through the middle of the field and was labeled by the on-field commentators as their favorite player. Â HemenwayÂ played a physical brand of football through the middle and kicked a goal from play.Â Vorsatz, after starting in the back pocket, was moved up into the halfback line to mark the Canadianâ€™s most productive forward and effectively shut her down. She received a team award from the coaching staff for this effort and versatility.Â BennettÂ was very skilled on the ball taking several marks and balls along the ground. With very few rotations, she ran between the halfback and half forward lines with ease and was integral in pushing the ball forward.Â Ervin, a long time footy player, showed true in the back line putting her head over the ball and contesting marks left and right. Her role was key to keeping the Canadian score low. Controversy surrounded the end of this match as a US player from the Boston Lady Demons squad played on through a mark and scored. However, the kick was called back for a long set shot, which sprayed wide. The match ended Canada 3.6.24Â to USA 3.0.18.
Â The dayâ€™s second contest took place at high noon between the Canadian and US menâ€™s development squads and featured Â Magpies leadership team members Mike â€˜Magicâ€™ Murphy and Bryan R. Caine. With no available substitutes, every member Â of the squad played a full 80 minutes with rotations being made within the oval.Â MagicÂ was named a team captain and Â gave a spirited patriotic pre-game talk telling players to take pride in the jumpers they were wearing. Rotating between on Â ball and the back pocket in the first half, Magic muscled through the Canadians to take frequent possessions and disposals Â going forward. After half time, he was pushed up into the forward line where he shepherded strongly and assisted on a Â series of scoring plays.Â CaineÂ played the match as the full back and took control of the ever-changing back six. He won Â individual battles in the air against the Canadian full forwards, took goal line kick outs, and directed the Americanâ€™s Â aggressive full ground press. Though a physical and demanding match, the US dominated from the opening bounce and Â ran out winners. USA 8.14.62 â€“ Canada 3.4.22.
The US Freedom took to the pitch under the punishing afternoon sun to take on the Canadian Northern Lights, a match they have not won since their inaugural match in 2007. Lady Pies Andrea Casillas and Siobhan McHale were named in the team and Kim Hemenway was added as a substitute.Â Casillas, Lady Pies co-founder and USAFL Womenâ€™s Development chair, played 80 minutes in the back pocket and was instrumental in leading the back and keeping the Canadians from getting clear scoring opportunities. Her possessions and disposals up the boundary into the midfield helped the Americans move the ball forward and gave rest to the continuously engaged back line. The ever-dangerousÂ McHaleÂ was on form running hard through the half-forward line, beating her defender to the ball, and assisting on multiple scoring opportunities. The scoreboard seesawed for the whole of the match and gutsy play from both sides made for exciting football. In the final minutes, the Freedom took the lead and were able to hold on to win. USA 6.7.43 â€“ Canada 5.8.38.
The dayâ€™s final match, between the US Revolution and Canadian NorthWind, did not feature Magpie players, but was a barn burner from the opening bounce that saw the Americans come out decisive winners after trading leads for the first three quarters. USA 7.12.54 – 5.1.31 Canada.
The day was a massive success for the USAFL, who are beginning to build strong teams for the 2014 International Cup in Australia. The full day was broadcast atÂ www.usaaussieruleswebcast.comÂ and was viewed by over 125,000 people from the world over. Respect was shown all around the ground to opposition and umpires, a great sign for the future of our diverse relationships and international AFL football in general.
The teams gathered at Dublinâ€™s 25thÂ Annual Irish Festival for some live entertainment and then moved to local hotspot Dub Pub (scouted on Thursday by Vorsatz, Ervin, and Caine) for celebration and libation. Thanks to all the drivers and navigators who made the 10 hour drive bearable, to the town of Dublin for hosting a group of city slickers, and to the USAFL for the wonderful event. Visit the USAFL website (www.usafl.com) for full match recounts and visit the Magpies photo stream for shots from the weekend.
Written by Bryan R. Caine
Photos by Autumn Ervin