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Ulster to host next International Rules tie

By John Campbell

When Ireland launch their bid to claim back-to-back successes in the International Rules series next year, they will do so on Ulster soil.

The first Test on October 24 will be staged in the province, at a venue yet to be confirmed, with the second — and crucial — Test taking place a week later at Croke Park.

Ireland's series triumph in Australia at the weekend has fermented interest in the hybrid game to such an extent that plans are already being formulated to make the 2009 competition the biggest and best since the inception of the Rules format.

When GAA president Nickey Brennan led a delegation to Dubai a few months ago to discuss the possibility of resurrecting the link with the AFL following the shelving of last year's Rules series because of the violence that blighted the 2006 Tests, he little dreamt that his labours would meet with such satisfying reward in Melbourne at the weekend.

Like everyone else in the Irish camp, Brennan has hailed the spirit in which the Tests were played and believes that next year could see the International Rules scale a new peak in national fervour.

Certainly skipper Sean Cavanagh (pictured) and Benny Coulter, two of Ireland's outstanding performers in both Perth and Melbourne, are in no doubt the visit of the Aussies in '09 will spark Rules fever.

"I was absolutely delighted with the way things went this time round and I thought the Australians were superb. They are very patriotic people and they certainly weren't going to lie down but they never went outside the laws. I think the future is very bright indeed. I believe that when it is played like the way it was this time round the Rules game is the best on the planet," said Cavanagh.

And Coulter, a two-goal hero last Friday and now one of the most capped Rules players in this country, is predicting that the '09 series will win many more converts to the Rules concept.

"I know a lot of people may have reservations about it and that's understandable in view of what has happened in the past, but I thought the two Tests we have just played were absolutely brilliant. I think they have helped to cement the future of he Rules series and I know that all the players would be looking forward to facing the Aussies again next year,” he said.

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