TFA facilitates sports diplomacy exchange with The Corrs

Members of The Corrs alongside Adil Cader, Aisling McCarthy and The Eagles Delegation at the Jersey Presentation

In celebration of the role of sports and music diplomacy in Australia-Ireland relations, Adil Cader, founder of Talking Foreign Affairs, facilitated a jersey presentation between The West Coast Eagles and Irish band, The Corrs. This exchange coincided with The Corrs’ performance on October 25th at The Perth Arena during their 2023 Down Under Tour.

The Corrs, a renowned family band recognised for their chart-topping songs such as ‘Breathless’, ‘Runaway’ and ‘Forgiven, Not Forgotten’, have achieved global success, boasting over 40 million album sales and earning prestigious BRIT Awards and Grammy nominations.

The West Coast Eagles are one of the major clubs in the Australian Football League (AFL), the pre-eminent competition of Australian Rules Football. They also have a team in the AFLW, the women’s competition.

During the backstage meeting at the concert, the band members—siblings Andrea, Sharon, Caroline, and Jim—met with West Coast Eagles AFLW player Aisling McCarthy and Adil Cader. McCarthy, originally from Ireland, expressed the significance of connecting with her Irish roots in a foreign land, stating, “It’s always great to build connections with Irish people, especially when I’m so far from home.” McCarthy found the experience at the concert and meeting the band personally to be both exhilarating and reminiscent of her homeland.

McCarthy, who originally played Gaelic Football for County Tipperary, moved to Australia in 2019 to play for the West Coast Eagles. She is one of several Irish players that have played in the Australian Football League under the CrossCoders program, a scheme that allows high potential Gaelic Footballers to transfer into AFL.

Given the technical similarities between Australian Rules Football and Gaelic Football, it has allowed for many Irish Gaelic Footballers to make the switch. Notably, the presence of 33 Irish players in the AFLW in 2023 marked a significant year for Irish exports within the league.

The legacy of Irish players in the AFL dates back to the 1980s, notably highlighted by Sean Wight, a Gaelic Footballer from County Kerry, whose historic recruitment by the Melbourne Football Club opened pathways for subsequent Irish talents. Players like Zach Tuohy, hailing from County Laois, have further exemplified this transition, contributing significantly to the success of teams like the Geelong Cats during their 2023 Premiership Winning Season.

Within the AFL, several programs have been instituted to identify and recruit potential Irish talents, strengthening the league’s commitment to global inclusivity and diversity.

In a broader context, the nexus between sports and music holds the power to unify nations. The longstanding bilateral diplomatic, cultural, and economic relationship between Australia and Ireland, encompassing over 2 million Australian residents of Irish Descent, reflects the influence of Irish music within Australia, showcased notably in programs like the Australian Celtic Music Awards.

Adil Cader highlighted, “The increasing prominence of Gaelic Football and AFL in both countries has contributed significantly to a deeper understanding and appreciation of both cultures.” He emphasized the ambassadorial role of athletes like Aisling, bridging gaps and promoting awareness of Australian sports within Ireland. Cader underscored the potential of Sports Diplomacy, exemplified by landmark events such as the Women’s Football World Cup in Australia, in fostering international relations.

The intertwining histories of Irish players in the AFL and the profound cultural connections between Australia and Ireland exemplify the influence of music and sports as conduits for diplomatic exchanges. These shared experiences transcend geographical boundaries, spotlighting a nation’s influence on the global stage while fostering unity across diverse landscapes.

Also commenting on the exchange, Gary Gray, Australian Ambassador to Ireland also emphasised on the importance of sports on the bilateral relationship. “AFL games are aired on Irish TV and watched with close interest, the opportunity for talented athletes to further develop their skills in Australia has added to the relationship”.

Talking Foreign Affairs is a start-up initiative to that aims to increase awareness of global affairs. Its activities includes a podcast that has hosted several world leaders and conducting diplomatic events. It is incubated by MTI Consulting.