Kitted Football Live and Kicking

For the second year running, there is no kitted football league taking place in Ireland.  But the lack of a formal league has not stopped teams across the country from getting together to organise friendly, competitive fixtures over the coming weeks and months. 

Up in Belfast, the 5 time national champions Trojans have lined up games with the neighbouring Craigavon Cowboys, as well as with former Shamrock Bowl semi finalists, the South Dublin Panthers. The Trojans and Panthers were the last two teams to contest a Shamrock Bowl and will be eager to reignite their recent rivalry. 

Staying up north, and it’s already week three of the Donaghy Invitational Cup. The mini tournament is being held between the Donegal/Derry Vipers, the NI Razorbacks, the Causeway Giants and the Antrim Jets. The so called “Nordy Bowl” has produced one of the best touchdowns we’ve ever seen in Irish American football history. Did he break the plane? Check it out for yourself below:

Touchdown or Not???

Not to be outdone, the boys down south are also busy getting in the kitted reps ahead of an anticipated return to normality next spring. The Westmeath Minotaurs will face the Bulldogs, Pirates, Crusaders and Rhinos respectively in the near future. The Minotaurs and Rhinos have been close to making a breakthrough over the past few years and could be a wildcard contender for a playoff spot whenever normal service resumes. 

It’s great to see competitive full contact football making a comeback and we must commend these teams for taking the initiative. Did we miss any games? Drop us a line and let us know!

Summer Flag Football Tournament kicks off in Cork

The first competitive american football  games on the island of Ireland since 2019 will take place this weekend, as a summer flag football tournament kicks off in Cork. 

Teams from all over the country will converge on the people’s republic for the first of 4 blitzes taking place over 4 weekends in June and July.

The tournament is serving as a precursor to the official start of the flag football season, which is provisionally slated to start in early September.

The Raptors, Lions, Tigers, Hurricanes, Quetzals, Saints, Eagles and Outlaws will duke it out for bragging rights as the de facto number one flag team in the country. 

Commenting on the summer flag tournament, Director of Flag Football Robert Caldwell spoke of how these fixtures are a great opportunity for teams to get some playing time in before the season starts in earnest. Caldwell also discussed the growth of flag football in Ireland in recent years: “When I first played flag football there were 16 teams, we’re up to 22 now, even as high as 26 and GP before me did an excellent job in putting a solid foundation in place for development long term.”

The outcome of the summer flag tournament should give a good indication of how the upcoming season will play out.

Caldwell’s vision for the future of flag football in Ireland is ambitious: “One thing I’d like to see is more regional teams, such as out west. The more teams we have the better it would be for everyone. We’ve got some great flag players and I’d love to see us competing in tournaments abroad and on the international stage.  I don’t see any reason why we couldn’t compete.”

It has been a long offseason, but with the return of competitive football there is finally light on the football horizon here in Ireland. 

Stay tuned to Gaelic Gridiron for all your Irish American football news!

College Football is returning to Ireland

College Football is finally coming back to Ireland!

Yes, after a seemingly endless drought, the wait is over.

Northwestern and Nebraska will open the 2022 season in Dublin as part of the Aer Lingus College Football Series.

The clash of these Big Ten titans will mark a much anticipated return for college football to the shores of the Emerald Isle, after several big matchups were cancelled as a result of the pandemic.

Nebraska was originally due to play Illinois in August of this year. That game will now instead take place in Illinois.

Both schools boast powerhouse football teams, and this is sure to be a very entertaining matchup.

Personally, we’re already looking forward to sitting in a sunny Aviva stadium with a couple of ice cold pints watching some good ol’ football.

The Cornhuskers and the Wildcats are two of the Big Ten’s finest and this is sure to be one to remember.

Stay tuned to Gaelic Gridiron for more updates!

The Kick of the Irish

 A fascinating trend has emerged in college football in recent times: Irish kickers. In the past 6 years, no less than 3 young Irishmen have been recruited for their pigskin booting abilities. And we’re not talking about obscure Division 2 schools here either, oh no. These are legitimate D1 programs, with a serious amount of prestige.  

With the increasing popularity of the sport here and the fact that we are a nation of soccer and GAA players, it’s not really that surprising to see players swapping codes. Especially when they emigrate and are immersed in the native sport. 

The most recent to be recruited is David Shanahan. The Kerry youngster caused quite a stir in the Irish and international media last year when it emerged that he had been recruited to punt at Georgia Tech. Shanahan grew up watching American football, and upon turning 18, signed with an Australian based kicking academy from where he was signed by the Yellowjackets. And although the pandemic prevented him from suiting up last season, he is bound to get a shot this time around as it will be more or less business as usual when the 2021 season kicks off in August. 

The widespread coverage of Shanahan’s achievement shone a spotlight on other irish born college football players; Daniel Whelan and James McCourt respectively. Daniel Whelan is currently punting at  UC Davis. How good is he? Well, he was just named to the FCS All America Team. And he declined an invitation to this year’s draft in order to play one more year of college football.  Whelan grew up in Enniskerry before moving with his family to California at the age of 13. There, he was recruited to play high school football. Now, he is on the verge of becoming Ireland’s first NFL player in 36 years. But more on that later.

Dan Whelan UC Davis

For McCourt, his  time as a college kicker has unfortunately come to a close. But during his tenure at the University of Illinois, he famously kicked a game winning 39 yard field goal against Wisconsin. Having waited patiently in line to become the starter, McCourt didn’t waste any time – also hitting a record tying 57 yarder. Originally hailing from Dublin 6, James would have loved to play in front of a home crowd when the Fighting Illini took the field at the Aviva Stadium as part of the Aer Lingus College Football series.. But even if the game had gone ahead, McCourt would have already graduated and would not have been eligible to play.

Illinois kicker James McCourt
McCourt celebrates with his teammates.

 

The last Irishman to play in the NFL was Neil O’Donoghue, who was also a kicker. Are you seeing a pattern yet? O’Donoghue grew up playing GAA and soccer and later went on to win a scholarship at the University of Auburn. During his time there, he kicked a school record 57 yard field goal and was awarded All American Honours. Kind of like our boy Daniel Whelan right?  By all accounts it’s a matter of when, not if Whelan is drafted. It would be absolutely fantastic to have an Irishman playing in the NFL during our lifetime and I’m sure we’d never shut up about it. 

Neil O'Donoghue

Everyone at Gaelic Gridiron would like to wish all of the gentlemen mentioned above the very best in their future endeavors on and off the field.

My Favourite Football Memory

I’ve been playing American football for a long time. Over 11 years in fact. I’ve been on some great teams, acquainted myself with some fantastic lads and made tonnes of great memories along the way. But the one that stands out the most actually comes from early on in my playing days.

The Drogheda Lightning were about to play the Meath Bulldogs at home for the first time. It was the Lightning’s inaugural season, in the old DV8’s division. (For the uninitiated, an 8 a side development league). I remember sitting in the dressing room with my 9 other team mates, dreading the prospect of facing a 20 something strong Bulldog side. It seemed like an insurmountable challenge. We were completely outnumbered and there was already a sombre mood hanging over us. 

Coach Russell Kerley walks in and lays it all out for us: ‘Yes there are more of them. No it doesn’t look good. Just go out there and play your fucking arse off” ( I’m paraphrasing a bit, it was 9 years ago.) But I just remember sitting there and thinking to myself: “Fuck it, what do we have to lose?”

We ended up winning by over 40 points.

10 players went up against a squad double their size and recorded the most memorable victory in Lightning history.

I don’t remember much else from that game, but I do remember the feeling of absolute elation.

Things with the Lightning went to the dogs a season later, so it’s nice to have some positive memories of a team I had a hand in creating to look back on.

Winning the IAFL 1 championship in 2019 is a close second as my favourite footballing memory. The fact I won some hardware in what was likely my last kitted season, makes it slightly bittersweet though.

Now that I’ve moved on to competing in flag football and coaching, I’m sure there are plenty more amazing football memories to come! What’s your favourite football memory? Let us know in the comments

Free Agency Frenzy II

NFL free agency 2021 is only about 10 days old, but it has been absolutely wild! The Patriots splashed the cash adding weapons for Cam, the Steelers lost some key starters, and more than a few big-name players have found new homes. We take a look at the biggest signings and swaps that have happened so far!

The Patriots made waves early on in free agency by signing not one, but two tight ends. Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith will serve as much needed targets for Cam Newton. New England re-signed Newton in the off season and are clearly in rebuild mode after losing Brady and Gronk to the Buccaneers. Landing Henry is an absolute coup for the Patriots, and as one of the top TE’s in the league he is bound to help them become relevant again in 2021.

As a Steelers fan, the free agency period has been a tough watch. Pittsburgh have lost several key defensive starters, most notably Bud Dupree and Mike Hilton. Both were salary cap casualties and will be sorely missed for their big play ability. Hilton signed with Bengals, meaning the Steelers will have to contend with his blitzing capabilities at least twice a year. There was good news at least on the offensive side of the ball with the retention of WR Juju Smith – Schuster. Juju apparently turned down big money from the Ravens and the Chiefs, and was rewarded with a one year “prove it” deal. The Steelers are in win now mode but will need to add some new pieces through the draft.

There have been a couple of other noteworthy departures this offseason, both before and during the free agency period. Perhaps the biggest story is JJ Watt effectively forcing the Texans to release him. Watt was highly courted, but eventually landed with Arizona in what was one of the most exciting shakeups in the league this year. While the Cardinals may have gained one of the greatest defensive players in history, they also lost another in Patrick Peterson. The All-Pro Cornerback signed with the Vikings on the first day of the free agency period. Peterson will leave a sizeable hole in the Cardinals’ defensive backfield.

With trades and rumours abound, the next few weeks in the NFL are going to be very interesting to watch. And with an absolutely stacked draft taking place in April, we get the feeling that there is no end in sight to the madness we have witnessed over the past few weeks.

NFL in Europe is back!

Professional American football is back in Europe! The newly formed European League of Football announced yesterday that it had agreed to terms with the NFL for the naming rights of two former NFL Europe teams.

NFL Europe ran until 2007 and essentially served as a farm league where NFL Franchises could send players who were not quite ready for the big leagues.  One notable NFL Europe Alumnus is Kurt Warner, who played for the Amsterdam Admirals.

European League of Football

The inaugural European League of Football season is scheduled to kick off this summer, and will initially have 8 teams with more to be added in seasons to come. These are the Hamburg Sea Devils, Frankfurt Galaxy, Wroclaw Panthers of Poland, the Barcelona Gladiators, Stuttgart Scorpions, German Knights 1367 Niedersachsen, Ingolsatdt Praetorians and an as yet unnamed Berlin franchise. It is expected that the number of franchises will be expanded depending on the success of the league.

French national team head coach Patrick Esume has been tapped as the Commissioner of the league.

If the league flourishes, then it is only a matter of time before teams outside of mainland Europe are added as franchises. The UK is an American football stronghold, and was previously home to the London Monarchs of NFL Europe. And while it is unlikely that our wee island is awarded a team, there are plenty of players here who could more than hold their own in a professional setting!

For more on the new European League of Football, check out the official site at www.europeanleague.football/

Stay tuned to Gaelic Gridiron for updates!

2021 Aer Lingus College Football Classic moved from Dublin.

Late yesterday 17th of February 2021 it was announced that the Aer Lingus College Football game between Illinois & Nebraska set for Dublin in August, will not be taking place in the Aviva Stadium as planned.

Instead, the game will take place at Memorial Stadium in Champagne, Illinois. The decision to move the game comes as a result of coronavirus concerns.

This is the second fixture in the five game College Football Classic slate to be adversely affected by the pandemic. Last years marquee matchup between Notre Dame and Navy was also postponed due to public health measures.

While organisers are still committed to the original 5 game plan, there are additional costs and risks post covid that may affect this model.

All four Universities scheduled to play in the cancelled fixtures also remain committed to fulfilling these fixtures.

The most disappointing outcome of the news is that it will be at least another year before Corso and Co. of College Gameday grace these shores.

Stay tuned to Gaelic Gridiron for more College Football news.

2021 Irish American Football Preview

2020 was not a good year for anything, Irish American football included. Various restrictions and lockdowns resulted in all competitive games being cancelled. For the most part, teams couldn’t even officially hold training sessions. That’s how bad things were.  Now that vaccines are being rolled out and there’s light at the end of the tunnel, the burning question is:  Are we finally gonna get some football this year? We spoke to AFI Commissioner Brian Cleary to find out more.

GG: Do the league anticipate kitted and flag seasons going ahead in 2021?

BC: I think it’s safe to say that everyone is itching to get back to participating in the sport. We are hopeful that we can get football played and we are looking at a provisional kick off date in June. Despite our hope we are unfortunately at the mercy of the Pandemic and the welfare of our members has to come first. I wish I could give you a more definitive answer but all we can do is have the plans in place and be ready to go when it’s safe to do so. 

GG: Are you considering running blitz style tournaments as an alternative to reduce travel/contact?

BC: All our clubs were canvassed over the last few weeks for their feedback on how this season should run. We are looking at regional Divisions, two North, two Dublin and a South. The aim is to reduce travel as much as possible while ensuring there isn’t a huge mismatch between teams. We are looking at between 6 to 8 games all going well. 

GG: Have any new teams joined the league for the season ahead?

BC: Two new flag team have applied to join the AFI and a vote will take place at the AGM in February. The Thomastown Tigers and the Belfast Lions. 

GG: If the season goes ahead, do you have a venue in mind for the Shamrock Bowl?

BC: I don’t foresee a Shamrock Bowl taking place this year. If football gets played we will have 5 Divisional winners. 

GG: Are there any other exciting developments or announcements we can expect over the next year?

BC: There is an exciting announcement coming very soon. As you have probably seen from our social media teasers, the AFI have partnered with another organisation. This partnership will provide excellent opportunities for our members, you’ll just need to wait a little longer for the Offical announcement. 

We are also still working closely with Irish American Events who are bringing the College games to Dublin over the next few years and there is some exciting plans in place for the AFI in relation to those games. 

We’d like to thank Brian for his time and for his dedication to the sport. Subscribe to Gaelic Gridiron below for more Irish American Football updates!

How to (safely) watch this year’s Superbowl

 This year’s Superbowl party is going to be a little bit different. For one, we won’t all be jammed into the absolute sweatbox that is the Woolshed. That place would definitely count as a so called “superspreader”. Come the first week of February, it is all but guaranteed that any viewing of the NFL’s championship game will have to take place in the comfort of your own home.

With that, you’re going to need reliable coverage to ensure you don’t miss a minute of what will be a historic game. Did any of us really believe back in August that the league would even get this far? I certainly didn’t.  So, where should you watch this year’s Superbowl?

Sky Sports

Neill Reynolds and Co. generally put on a good show for the Superbowl and you can expect some special guest appearances as well. Typically, they broadcast live from the game although something tells me that won’t be the case this year.

NFL Game Pass

If you have a Game Pass account, then you’d be mad not to use it to watch this year’s Superbowl.  You’ll get the American broadcast, with the added bonus of the world famous ads! Game Pass itself is pricey, but you can sign up for a free trial and cancel before your card is charged, a handy way to watch the best version of this years Championship game.

BBC

Unless you have a weird obsession with Vernon Kay, the BBC’s Superbowl broadcast should be your absolute last resort.  It’s not that their coverage and analysis is bad per se, it’s just subpar compared to the other options available to you.  I mean if the biggest names you can attract are Jason Bell and Osi Umenyiora, you’re definitely going to be bottom of the pile.

By the time next years Superbowl rolls around we will hopefully be once again allowed to fill the pubs, but for now we have to make do with what we have. Wherever you watch the game, we hope that you enjoy it!

Gaelic Gridiron Team of the Decade

As I sit down to put together this list, it strikes me that I have been involved in Irish American football for over ten years. Ten years of knowing and playing with some absolute ballers. The Gaelic Gridiron Team of the Decade recognises the best players the country has seen in recent times, many of whom will hopefully still be playing long into the future!

Note: This list is based off the author’s personal opinion, memory of past games etc. Your own opinions may vary. Don’t @ me.)

Offense

Quarterback: Andrew Dennehy (Dublin Rebels) Dennehy was at the heart of the Rebels Shamrock Bowl dynasty, and is arguably the best QB the country has produced. We were going to include another QB on the list but couldn’t think of anyone who even comes close.

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Running Back: Ben Arulogun (South Dublin Panthers) Ben Jamiing, as he’s more commonly known made the national squad as a rookie. A natural athlete who has a bright future in Irish football.

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Running Back: Gareth ‘Suntan’ Miller (Belfast Knights/Belfast Trojans) No explanation needed really. Don’t get in his way or he’ll run you over.

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Running Back: Rob McDowell (Trinity College) Someone once described Rob to me as a “human frog” in reference to his lower body strength. And if you’ve ever seen him juke or box jump you’ll know how accurate this is.  The wings on his lid were pretty bad ass as well.

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Wide Receiver: Marty Caskey (Belfast Knights) If you’ve seen this man go full stretch vertical for a high ball then you know that he deserves to be on this list.

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Wide Receiver: Sean Douglas (UCD (currently)) Dougie’s quick feet and natural athleticism lend themselves as attributes of being probably the best slot receiver in the country.

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Wide Receiver: Sean Devlin (South Dublin Panthers) In his rookie season, Sean Devlin became one of the best vertical deep threats, forming a formidable connection with his quarterback at the time.

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Offensive Line: Belfast Trojans. One of the most dominant and forceful units in the country, and a key reason that the Trojans have been so successful over the past few years.

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Offensive Line: Barry Bolton (Dublin Rhinos) I once saw this man block a would – be tackler so hard that his head snapped and his soul left his body. An absolutely cracking football player.

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Punter/Kicker: Paul Hosford(Dublin Rhinos) Can you say that you kicked the winning field goal in a national championship game? Well, this fella can. His other claim to fame has to do with a stray field goal. Ask him about it.

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Defense

Linebacker: Eoin Fox (DCU Saints / Dublin Rhinos) Foxy was the Field General for the Saints and if you got popped by him you knew all about it. In all likelihood if he was still playing today he’d be a lock for the Wolfhounds.

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Linebacker: Adam Skelly (DCU Saints / Dublin Rhinos) A ferocious tackler, excellent in both run and pass defense, Adam Skelly has been around the league for a long time and shows no signs of slowing down.

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Linebacker: Larry Doyle (UCD)  Defensive leader, Wolfhound and now Head Coach. Larry Doyle is widely regarded as one of the best defenders in the country.

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Linebacker: Aidan Waters (Dublin Dragons) Before he retired to coach receivers in Cork, Aidan was arguably the best Linebacker in the country. I’ll never forget the sole occasion on which I bested him during a tackling drill. On the next rep he made me pay and put me in the ground. And that was the attitude that the brought to the defense; unrelenting and unforgiving.

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Linebacker / CB: Conrad Cook ( South Dublin Panthers / Dublin Rebels) Great closing speed, a high motor and aggressive tackling, the Florida native was a great asset to have on the defensive side of the ball. Conrad rightfully belongs on the team of the decade.

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Defensive Line: Augustus Zigmantavicius (Dublin Dragons / South Dublin Panthers) Gus was the quietest most unassuming man off the field, but once his helmet was on god help anyone who got in his way.

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Defensive Line: Neill Graham (Belfast Trojans) Not so average really, despite what his nickname alludes. In fact the complete opposite. An pure baller.

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Defensive Line: Niall Burke (Dublin Dragons / South Dublin Panthers) Niall Burke has been the heart and anchor of the Dragons/Panthers Defense for many years now and has proven to be a force to be reckoned with up the middle.

Safety: Oisin Dowling (Drogheda Ligthning/North Dublin Pirates) The rangy Dowling was a natural from Day 1 with the Drogheda outfit and has continued ball hawking with his current team.

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MVP: Fu Fa’aptio (Drogheda Lightning/Belfast Trojans)   The Samoan Smasher, all around legend and gentleman. Our team of the decade would not be complete without mentioning Fu. I’ll never forget a practice session where he sent one of his teammates flying with a block. Hailing from California, Fu changed the landscape of football here by forcing teams to prepare for him on all sides of the ball.

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Football is Cancelled

American Football in Ireland has officially been cancelled for the rest of the year. It had been hoped that at the least the flag football season could be completed, but after being delayed several times due to Covid 19 it was finally called off late last week. Some teams were fortunate enough to play a few games before their season was cut short, while others waited in vain for their chance show off an extended offseason of hard work. After the adult kitted season and subsequently it’s junior counterpart were nixed earlier in the year, the flag football season was the last hope for competitive American football to be played on the island of Ireland this year. But it wasn’t to be and now teams will look towards 2021 for the return of football. 

But will it even be feasible to have a season next year?  The full contact season usually kicks off around late March and, in most cases, preseason training would already be in full swing by now for the upcoming season. Realistically there is no way that teams will be allowed to resume any kind of contact training this side of Christmas, leaving them with very little time to prepare. One option is to delay games until the middle of summer.  It is hoped that by then we will be out the other side of this mess. Another option is to hold tournament style game days, similar to the flag football league format. Teams could play shortened games in a central location, minimising contact and travel risks. It’s not the best solution, but at least there would be football. And some football is better than no football.

In the meantime, teams from both codes need to stay sharp and focused. A long off season is about to get a whole lot longer and it can be easy to for players to lose their focus and motivation.  Coaches will need to figure out how to keep their athletes engaged, and one way of doing so is by holding intra – squad scrimmages. Proper games tend to bring out the best in players and a little competitive football will go a long way to raise team spirits, while also keeping skills sharp! Alternatively, mixing things up by holding a training session on the beach or even holding a different kind of training session will help ensure that your team doesn’t get jaded during this unprecedented football outage.

At the end of the day, American football in Ireland is kind of like a big family and we all need to pull together. The sooner we get through these strange times, the quicker we can all get back to playing football.

Are you coping without Football?

Are you starting to experience symptoms of football withdrawal? Good, so it’s not just us then! Under normal circumstances the Irish American football season would just be coming to a close after a long summer . The Shamrock Bowl  would have been contested, and teams up and down the country would already be plotting for next season. And with full contact American football in Ireland unlikely to happen until the new year, what ever are you going to do to get your football fix?

18,876 American Football Player Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty ...

Fortunately, we are less than 2 weeks away from football kicking off across the Atlantic! The 2020 college football season (albeit in a much-adapted format) gets underway on the first weekend in September, and despite 2 conferences already pulling out, some football is better than no football! There was a lot of uncertainty as to whether college football would even go ahead at all, and it could very well still come grinding to a halt mid season if there is a sudden spike in coronavirus cases.

Meanwhile in the professional ranks, the NFL seems content to adopt a wait and see approach. Teams are limiting the number of fans that will be in attendance at games, or in some cases are banning fans altogether for the start of the season.

Will the season be completed? Right now it’s impossible to predict, but the odds are definitely stacked against. But at least we’ll have some sort of football to watch soon!

Not content with just sitting and watching football? We get that. Being deprived of any sort of competitive football would  drive any player a bit crazy.  And while the kitted season may be postponed, flag football is still going strong with games due to start in mid to late September.  The non contact version of the sport is just as competitive and demanding, putting a heavy emphasis on skill, footwork and technique.  There are flag football teams all over the country, so if you’d like to give it shot get in touch with us and we’ll point you in the right direction!

American Football Ireland

Let’s be honest, with everything that’s going on in the world these days we’ll take any sort of football we can get our hands on! Football is probably something we all took for granted – not truly realising how important it was to our personal lives as an outlet for socialising and for fitness. I for one will never take anything, let alone football for granted again. So, when you’re sitting cheering for your favourite team on a wintery Saturday evening, or lining up to run routes on a chilly Sunday morning, savour the feeling. It’s more important than you realise!

Last Chance Review – Laney College

The final football instalment of Last Chance U arrived on our screens this week, and like any self-respecting football fan I dedicated my evenings to getting acquainted with the latest bunch of misfit players striving to get recruited into a big time college programme.

My expectations for this season were high, perhaps unrealistically so. You can see why Netflix have decided to progress the show onto a different sport – there was just no oomhph. No Fireworks.

Real talk: There was no Buddy Stephens. The show has never been able to recapture the emotional turmoil inflicted by watching the fiery tempered coach go off on his team in Season 1. Yes, it was extreme, but It was effective. And it made for excellent television. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Coach Beam. He seemed to genuinely care about his players, and really wanted to see them succeed. He definitely ranks above Jason “JB” Brown in the hierarchy of LCU coaches.

I liked this season, but I didn’t love it. And I think the reason being is that Last Chance U has deteriorated into a pseudo reality TV show. This affliction started in part 2 of Independence College; players were signing up to play football there with the sole goal of getting on TV and getting noticed. You can’t blame them for this – some Division One coaches (cough Lane Kiffin cough) are notorious for picking up players who feature. But this trend has undoubtedly contributed to the overall feeling of “shtick” I get from the show. The football players are playing up to the camera, and playing down any mistakes they might make. Cornerback Rezjohn White is a prime example of this. While he is unquestionably talented and ended up with scholarship offer to Oregon State, he gave up a couple of big plays and ultimately sat out a large part of the season.

There was one redeeming quality to this season, well technically two. Dior Walker-Scott and Nu’u Taugavau. Honestly these two were the only reason I connected to the show and stuck it out.  I was really rooting for these boys to succeed and to make it. They overcame obstacles and adversity with grit and determination and I truly hope they do well at the next level. If you watched the show and weren’t quietly pulling for these two to get recruited then there’s something wrong with you inside.

(Honourable mention to another of the featured players, Wide Receiver RJ Stern. You can understand his frustration at not getting targeted with enough passes, but his constant whining began to grate after a while.)

Overall, it was a refreshing change of pace to get an insight into a substantially different program, in a vastly diverse environment. But having said that, I wouldn’t be in a rush back to Laney College.

American Football Charity Tournament set for October

Teams representing North America, Europe & Australia will converge upon Chester Country Club on October 17th this year, for the inaugural edition of the Schymder Cup. Players from different countries will come together and compete to raise funds for American Football mental health charity “Lifting the Lid”.

(Important Note: The players are primarily UK based, with some international players participating. Team Canada/USA/Australia were created to accommodate the number of players who signed up. These are not official international teams.)

The charity game is the brainchild of Razorbacks player and former Thundering Herd General Manager, Mike Ireland. Mike has had great success with charity matches in the past; previous iterations include the “East West Bowl” a “Comic Book Bowl” featuring Marvel vs DC and even a “Star Wars Bowl” with Team Jedi squaring off against Team Sith!

All funds raised will go to Lifting the Lid, who are doing amazing work in raising awareness around mental health in American football.

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Since announcing the tournament Mike has received a huge response, with over 150 players and coaches expressing an interest in being involved in some shape or form: “It turns out if you take football away from people, then there’s any sniff of a game they’ll jump all over it!”

Given the lack of football on at the moment it’s really no wonder that players are snapping at the chance to strap on a helmet and pads! Such has been the uptake that Mike has had to turn people away and even convert a few to coaches in order to get them involved: “I felt bad though – I’ve had to turn a lot of people away, or some have done, convert them to being coaches! So we have the likes of Nicholas Jones, Glen Toonga and Sam Astley, all top level ballers standing on the sidelines shouting at the poor souls doing the running around on the pitch!”

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Showing up for Ireland in the Schmyder Cup is none other than Tosan Memuduaghan! The former South Dublin & UCD signal caller will be representing Team Canada (don’t ask us how lol) alongside former Panthers teammate Ben Arulogun. Rounding out the Irish contingent are Euan Maclean, Carl Rugen, Liam McNally , Paddy Hart, Eamon McManus, Jamie Somers and Chrisie McKee, all of the NI Razorbacks!

The game will be streaming live on the official Scmyder Cup Facebook page, and presumably there will be various other streams available to watch. Keep an eye out as well for the slick jerseys being sported by the players! The official kit provider is none other than Ridge Sports and we all know they make some nice gear. All in all it sounds like it’ll be a great day out, raising funds for a great cause!

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Why you should be playing Flag Football

A few years ago, if you’d suggested flag football to me, I would have laughed. I didn’t rate it at all. I was still playing kitted football and honestly never gave it a second thought. But then I was asked to coach the inaugural flag team of the club I was with at the time. And it gave me a whole new perspective. 

Flag football is not just for the casual participant. In fact, playing flag can be of great benefit to kitted players and athletes of different codes alike.

First and foremost, are skills.  The flag version of American football is played in tighter confines, which means your route running will have to be on point if you want to get separation. 90% of flag football plays are passes, giving players plenty of opportunities to refine their footwork, balance, and hand – eye coordination.

A huge secondary perk of playing flag football is the fitness. Whether you’re on offense or defense you’re going to be running a lot. Flat out sprinting every play. As we all know, high intensity exercise is hugely beneficial for cardio and fat burning.  Playing flag will boost your physical fitness, your stamina and your speed. For QB’s , there won’t be as much running but the high tempo of the game will help enhance your mechanics.

For me, the biggest draw of flag football was the opportunity to continue to play competitively. Without the risk of getting seriously injured. Flag is (meant to be) non contact, and if you’re starting to feel the wear and tear of full contact, switching will definitely extend your playing career. Flag football is a hell of a lot safer than full contact!

The Irish flag football scene is coming on strong. There are currently 2 divisions & over 25 teams, and players of all genders and ability are welcome.   So whether you’ve played for years or are looking to try a new sport now is definitely the time to get to get involved!

The 2020 College Football Game in Ireland has been cancelled.

Today it was announced that the College Football game between Navy and Notre Dame due to take place in Ireland on August 29th, has officially been cancelled.

There was much speculation in recent weeks that the game would still go ahead despite restrictions on mass public gatherings.

In a statement, Chet Gladchuck, Naval Academy Director of Athletics said: “We are obviously disappointed not to be travelling to Ireland this August, but, as expected, our priority must be ensuring the health and safety of all involved.  I am expecting that we will still be able to play Notre Dame as our season opener, but there is still much to be determined by health officials and those that govern college football at large.”

The game is now slated to take place in Annapolis, the home city of the Naval Academy Midshipmen.

The college football game was due to set a new world record, with 40,000 Americans planning on travelling outside of the US for the game, the most to ever do so for a single sporting event.

The 5 Game Aer Lingus College Football Classic Series will now begin in 2021 when the Fighting Illini take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Opinion: The College Football Game in Ireland should go ahead.

On Friday evening, Leo Varadkar announced his plan for “reopening Ireland”. From May 18th onwards, there will be the gradual relaxation of the harsh restrictons and the country will slowly return to normal. However, the mass ban on gatherings over 5,000 people still remains in place, until September at the earliest. With the college game here due to take place on August 29th, 2 days before the ban is set to be lifted the fate of the fixture is still very much up in the air.

In a press release sent out early last week, game organisers stated that that they were working hard to ensure the multi million dollar/euro fixture could go ahead with all possible precautions in place.

And you know what, it should one hundred percent still go ahead.

There are so many benefits to this game being played as planned. Let’s for a minute forget the fact that it’s worth millions in tourism and will provide a massive boost the an Irish economy that has suffered deeply as a result of the pandemic. This game is something to look forward to. It’s something to dream about. It’s like a big shining beacon at the end of a very dark tunnel. It gives us a glimmer of hope that one day everything will go back to normal. Or as normal as possible. And its not just American football fans here that are looking forward to it either. Sporting enthusiasts of all codes have embraced our American visitors soon to be annual trip across the pond to play a game of gridiron in the Aviva.

And then there’s the aforementioned issue of money. College football boils down to cold hard cash, and this game is worth a lot of it. Do you really think the event organisers are going to refund all those juicy VIP Travel packages they were selling at $5,000 a pop? No chance.  This game also worth several million in TV rights and viewership. There’s simply no way that the organisers, the Unversities and the NCAA ( who ultimately will make the final decision) walk away from that much profit. Even if the game is played elsewhere and not in Ireland, it won’t be anything of the gold mine it would be if it was played on these shores.

Now I hear what you’re all shouting at me through the screen – what about the 40 odd thousand Americans due to travel here for the occasion?  America has been one of the hardest hit countries by the pandemic, and letting people travel does seem like a ridiculous idea. But what if those coming here for the game were tested before they were allowed leave the country? In other words, sure you can go to Ireland ,but you have to be tested for coronavirus first. If you get the all clear then you can go. This would be a massive undertaking and would pose a huge logistical challenge. But it’s doable. And by August, I’m hopeful we’ll have the infrastructure in place to have test results back in less than a day which would make this process a whole lot easier.

ESPN College GameDay to Dublin, Ireland in 2020 - YouTube

 Even if we have to wear masks and gloves to the game, then so what? It’s better than nothing. If this game proceeds as planned it will be a major indicator that life as we know it is not lost forever. It will give us hope. And hope is what we need most right now.

College Football Update

The Aer Lingus College Football Classic between the University of Notre Dame and the Naval Academy, set to take place on August 29th 2020 is likely to still go ahead according to reports.

In a press release earlier today, it was outlined that the recent ban on mass gatherings here does not apply to this game, and it can go ahead without a license.

However the Universities, the NCAA and the Event Organisers are all still working to ensure that public safety remains paramout and that the game can go ahead while making the health of both spectators and students a priority.

An announcement is expected in mid-June on the specifics of how the game will take place.

Stay tuned to Gaelic Gridiron for more details.

The Sport Shortage

The GAA, The NBA, The Premier League, and now American Football Ireland. Competitive American football in Ireland is the latest organised sport to be cancelled or postponed as a result of the Covid 19 outbreak. The decision came on April 4th with the proviso that if circumstances allowed, there would be a kitted tournament towards the end of the year. But for all intents and purposes, football as we know it will not be happening in Ireland in 2020. And while in the grand scheme of things this may seem relatively insignificant, it further highlights the importance and value of sport in our lives.

Sport isn’t a matter of life or death. It’s much more important than that. Sport unites us. It brings us together in pubs and in stadiums, on warm summer days and cold winter nights.  As players and athletes, sport drives us to become better versions of ourselves. It demands sacrifices and dedication. But it often results in rewards for our hard work, on and off the field. As friends and family, sport forms communities and special bonds. People who mightn’t have that much in common or who wouldn’t normally be friends off the field are required to work together for a shared goal.

Sport is also a very important tool for maintaining positive mental health. Regular physical activity and exercise are proven to be beneficial for our mindset. Being out on a pitch chasing a ball around allows us to forget about our worries and our troubles.  We’re focused on the game, and we’re too busy having a laugh with our mates to feel the weight of the world. We’re also able to subconsciously clear our heads of any noise. But in the time of Coronavirus, we have learned that sport is a luxury. A luxury that we could really do with having back to cope with the added stress and anxiety brought on by the great unknown we’re facing.

When all of this has passed and the NFL season is kicking off on time, we will never again take sport for granted.  During this crisis it has become glaringly apparent just how much we rely on organised sporting events. Sport provides such an important personal and social function in our lives. It brings us together. It helps us to communicate and to grow. And it often defines us as people. So once Ireland’s “lockdown” is lifted, kick a ball around with your mates or throw a Frisbee. Swing a hurl or shoot some hoops. And hope that sport is never taken away from us again.

Gaelic Gridiron’s Guide to Self Quarantine

Social Distancing is in full swing, and if you’re like us then you’re slowly running out of ways to keep yourself occupied. The absolute mayhem of NFL Free Agency has briefly disrupted the monotony and boredom, but with no end to self-isolation in sight we’re going to need some more solid options! Fortunately, there are many forms of American Football media that we can indulge in to stave off the boredom! We’ve compiled a list of the best ways that American Football can provide entertainment until the world goes back to normal.

  1. Play Madden

Let’s face it, you’re not really an American football fan unless you’ve played Madden. In fact, some of us probably first discovered the sport by throwing virtual touchdown passes.  I’ve personally spent hours taking my team all the way to the top, and that was before we were told to stay inside! Now that we’re actively being encouraged not to leave the house, there’s no better time to start career mode on Madden 20!

2. Watch old games on Game Pass

The NFL announced last week that they were making Game Pass free in order to raise fans spirits during these difficult times. There is some great quality content available on Game Pass including A Football Life, Peyton’s Places as well as an archive of your favorite teams’ games. In fact, NFL.com recently released a list of the best throwback games available to watch over on Game Pass. Game Pass has other cool features such as NFL Network, Coaches Film and much more. So, what are you waiting for?

3. Read American Football Books

Give your eyes a break from the increased screen time they’re probably experiencing and get reacquainted with a good old book. Over the years I’ve accumulated a number of really interesting reads on my favorite sport. In fact, my future man cave is going to have a full shelf dedicated to America’s Game. One of my personal favorites is “The Catch”.  The Catch tells the story surrounding the great San Francisco 49ers Dynasty of the 1970’s and 1980’s, and of one of the greatest plays in NFL history.  I’d also recommend “Tailgate to Heaven” which details one mans quest around the States to find the best Pre -game tailgate experience. 

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Now is the time for us as American Football fans to show solidarity and come together as a community. So if you have a favorite throwback game, book or other form of entertainment that you think others would enjoy then let us know. This too shall pass, and before we know if the NFL regular season will be kicking off again as if nothing ever happened!

Brady has left the Building

It is the end of an Era. Tom Brady’s time with the New England Patriots has come to a close. The Quarterback made the announcement on social media earlier yesterday morning, putting an end to both the speculation and to the Patriots formidable dynasty. Personally, I had a feeling that he wouldn’t be returning to Foxboro. And now we know for sure. For the first time since I’ve started watching American football, Tommy 12 won’t be playing for the Patriots come September. And I honestly don’t know how I feel about that.  

Tom Brady is undoubtedly one of the greatest players to ever touch a pigskin. He is also the greatest Quarterback to ever play the game. I might not particularly like the man, but God Dammit do I respect him. His departure from Boston marks a significant blow to the core tenets of the National Football League. The last vestiges of old school football are fading; blindside blocks, Tom Brady and soon enough the kick return.

We could all see that Brady was fading. His performance through the 2019 season and the Patriots failure to advance past the wildcard round of the playoffs made it abundantly clear that his age defying magic was beginning to wear off. But any scenario other than Tom Brady retiring as a Patriot was unthinkable. The Patriots without Tom Brady are like Queen without Freddie Mercury or the latest series of Star Wars movies. They might be alright to watch but they don’t work.  It’s just not the same.  Tom Brady has been a cornerstone of not only his team but the entire league, and this move signals that the writing is on the wall for the 42 year old signal caller. He’ll play a couple of more years, work on his tan in California or Florida and then ride off into the sun.

And while I’m dismayed by the landscape of the future of professional American football that this announcement heralds, I’m also quite relieved. If Tom Brady goes to Tampa Bay (and at the time of writing this is looking to be the likeliest outcome) then chances are he’ll never get another opportunity to torture the Defense of my Steelers. For too long, the aerial assault of Brady to Gronk down the seam or Brady to Edelman across the middle was simply too much to handle. I imagine that the rest of the teams in the AFC East are STILL celebrating the joyous news. Brady’s exodus opens the door for another team to claim the division championship title for the first time since 2009. With Brady gone, the smart money is on the Buffalo Bills to take over as Kings of the East, especially after the shock acquisition of Stefon Diggs from the Minnesota Vikings. But that’s another story for another time.

And what about fallout from the team he leaves behind? The only professional team he has ever known? Well, there doesn’t seem to be any. At least not publicly. Both Robert Kraft and Bill Belichick have shown nothing but love for their former QB. And why wouldn’t they? Brady’s move down the coast is essentially his retirement plan.  He’ll play for 2 or 3 years and make millions of dollars.  And it’s hard to begrudge him that.  Love him or hate him, Tom Brady has provided us all with a whole lot of entertaining football over the years. And when he hangs it up, the NFL just won’t be the same.

2020 Irish American Football Preview

A new season of Irish American Football in Upon us. On March 8th at 1pm, UCD and UL will kick off the Inaugural season of American Football Ireland. The league has  recently undergone a pretty comprehensive rebrand, but new logos and names aside it’s pretty much business as usual. Last year’s finale was contested by perennial top dogs the Belfast Trojans and first time finalists the South Dublin Panthers. Despite a lopsided start to the game, the Panthers made a valiant comeback attempt. But they never really stood a chance and Belfast skipped to another victory.

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Unsurprisingly, the Trojans are already heavy favourites to claim this year’s title. In fact, there are only three teams (in our opinion, don’t @ us) who really have a shot. The Dublin Rebels along with the Trojans have held a monopoly on Shamrock Bowl titles over the past couple of years, while the reformed Cork Admirals have become a force in the south. Cork’s tilt against the Rebels in 2018 was a very close affair, with 2 points being the difference in the final score. The Admiral’s ship was sunk at the semi final stage last year by the ambitious Panthers. The Panthers will be looking to ride the momentum from last season and make a return to the American Football Ireland Championship game.

Outside of the “top 3” there are a couple of teams looking to make some noise this season. 

UCD  have gotten to a semi final several times now, but have yet to make it as far as a Championship game. The students had a strong campaign in 2019 including decisive wins over the eventual title contending Panthers, as well as the Dublin Rebels.But can they take the next step? The Rebels themselves didn’t have a great year at all. Defeats to the newly demoted Knights and southside rivals UCD saw them miss out on the playoffs for the first time in years. The championship record holders will be looking to put last season behind them and return to winning ways. 

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Can a new Challenger emerge this season and upset the status quo in Irish American Football’s top flight? The likes of the Craigavon Cowboys and the Dublin Rhinos are only a few plays away from being in the conversation. Both clubs enjoyed a fierce rivalry during their time in Division 1 which has shown no signs of slowing down. Our prediction is that one of these teams will make it to the wildcard round this season, and who knows – maybe even further. Personally, we wouldn’t mind seeing things being shaken up a little bit. For example, It’s been about ten years since the Vikings last lifted the trophy. That was back in the “good” old days of the Smith Brothers. The landscape of American Football here has changed significantly in the intervening years, thankfully becoming more progressive and forward thinking – and actually focusing on the development of the sport here. But that’s a whole different article altogether!

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Honestly, we’re just glad that football is back! 

A History of College Football in Ireland

College Football makes its long-awaited return to Dublin this August, with the University of Notre Dame squaring off against old rivals Navy. This will be the third time that these sides meet on Irish soil and Notre Dame will be going for the Hat Trick.  Back in 1996, Notre Dame cruised to a 50-24 victory over the midshipmen in Croke Park.  The Sailors didn’t fare much better the second time around either, suffering a 50-10-point defeat to the Fighting Irish in 2012 at The Aviva Stadium.

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Notre Dame wore Tricolor gloves and cleats to mark the occasion.

But did you know that College Football’s history in Ireland goes as far back as the 1980’s?  The first ever college football teams to play here were the Boston College Golden Eagles and the Army Black Knights. The year was 1988, the venue was Lansdowne Road (the Aviva to you Millennials) and Boston College emerged victorious.  Just over a year later, there was a second college football game here as The University of Pittsburgh rolled over Rutgers on a score line of 46-29. Both games were known as the Emerald Isle Classic. The men behind these matches were Aidan Prendergast and Jim O’Brien, who were involved with the Irish American Football scene at the time.

The Golden Eagles and The Black Knights at Lansdowne Road.
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A young fan poses with The Pitt Panthers in Dublin, 1989.

The Emerald Isle series was reborn in 2012, as thousands of Americans descended on Dublin. Despite concerns over the time difference, the game was a huge success in terms of ticket sales and viewership back in the States. The third emerald isle classic provided a massive boost to the following of American football in Ireland.  People who would have had a passing knowledge or interest in the sport got to watch a game up close and live for the first time. And not just any old game but two of Americans top college football programmes. The positive effects of the 2012 game (including of course the massive cash influx to Dublin from tourism) inspired two further college football games in Dublin, taking place in 2014 and 2016 respectively.

2 years after Notre Dame sank Navy on Dublin’s South Side, Penn State University took on the University of Central Florida at GAA headquarters in what was dubbed the “Croke Park Classic”.  Despite the lack of an Irish connection, there was still a fantastic hype and atmosphere to the proceedings.  Penn State emerged victorious on the day, stealing the win from UCF with a last second field goal. The overall reception to the match up was positive, with the Penn State cheerleaders being a high point.

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Penn State with the Win!

The most recent iteration of a college football game in Ireland took place in 2016, with two lesser known teams taking the stage. Boston College returned to Irish shores to face off against the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets. Without the name recognition of Notre Dame or Penn State, the “Aer Lingus College Football Classic” suffered a poorer attendance than its predecessors. It also suffered inclement weather, resulting in a low scoring 17-14 victory for BC.

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Ireland’s status as the official home of college football in Europe was cemented in October of 2018, when it was announced that there would be no less than five games taking place here over 5 years beginning in 2020. Two of those slots have already been determined: Notre Dame and Navy in 6 months’ time, followed by the University of Nebraska and the University of Illinois a year later. The latter is an interesting fixture. Neither of these teams boast a huge following outside of their home states, so we could potentially have another low attended game on our hands. A repeat of 2016 is unlikely however, as American Football’s fanbase has increased significantly here in the last 4 years.  Regardless of what teams fill the last three spots, a 5-year commitment is sure to put Ireland on the map as College Football’s home from home.

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Superbowl Sunday

The 54th Superbowl is almost upon us, and for the first year in recent memory neither Tommy 12 or Bad Bill Bellichick will be making an appearance. Instead, this year’s tilt is going to feature some new blood – with either Patrick Mahomes and his Chiefs or Derrick Henry and the resurgent Titans squaring off against the NFC Champion. American Football has never been as popular in Ireland, and almost every pub in the capital city will be opening late to ensure uninterrupted coverage of the greatest sporting event in the world! 

So where exactly are the best places to watch the Superbowl in Dublin?  There are some great spots for American football on either side of the Liffey so you won’t be stuck for choice

1.The Woolshed

The Woolshed is undoubtedly one of the best sporting pubs in the city, and every year they throw the biggest Superbowl party in Dublin. You can expect wings, hotdogs and pitchers of beer until the final whistle. But you can also expect a massive crowd so make sure you get in nice and early! The Woolshed is also home to the West Dublin Rhinos so keep an eye out for some real life American Footballers!

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2. The Camden

Formerly known as The Palace Nightclub, The Camden has been given a huge face lift and is rapidly becoming  one of the premier establishments in the city for food, drinks and watching sport. It even boasts a cinema room, which is going to be pretty sweet for watching this years Superbowl. 

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3.The Odeon

Fancy watching the Superbowl in the company of cheerleaders and big burly American Football players? Then The Odeon is the place for you. Located at the top of Harcourt St, The Odeon throws one of the best Superbowl nights in Dublin and has hosted the official Superbowl party of the Dublin Rebels for a number years now, so you know you’ll be guaranteed a great night! Oh and apparently they’re giving away 2 tickets to next years Superbowl?!

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4. McGowans

           A staple of northside nightlife, McGowans is an ideal location for watching this years Superbowl. It’s got food, beer, big screens AND it’s open late! Sure what more could you want? However, it’s going to be absolutely jammers on the night so make sure you get in nice and early to get a good view of a TV!

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Honourable Mentions

Outside of our top 4 Superbowl nights, there are a good few other decent spots to watch the game, such as McSorley’s in Ranelagh and Sinnott’s on Stephen’s Green. So no matter where you are in the city, you’re guaranteed a great night for this years Superbowl!

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Hanging it Up?

By Jimmy English

I always knew that my days playing football would come to an end. I just didn’t think it would be this soon. I was absolutely plagued with injuries last season. Before game one even kicked off, I took a knock to the side of my knee that resulted in the lower half of my left leg turning into one gigantic bruise. (I have pictures somewhere it’s actually kinda cool) What wasn’t cool however, was not being able to walk properly for three weeks.

That injury had a butterfly effect and from then on, every game seemed to result in a new or recurring niggle. It was like my body was telling me that it was time to hang it up.

And so, I did. I played in a few flag games for the craic, and then for the first time in god knows how long I had nothing to do on Sundays. And it was unreal.  No more cold winter mornings, extra sleep, and no more waking up on Mondays feeling like I’d been run over by a car (or a D Lineman).

I’d lost my passion for playing. I’d lost the fire and desire and the willingness to put myself through contact sessions. Maybe it was self-preservation finally kicking in, or maybe ten years of playing had finally caught up with me. Either way, I knew it was time to take a break from football.

But now I’m not so sure. Both the NFL and College seasons are drawing to a close, and in less than two months there’s going to be a massive football shaped hole in my life. It’s all well and good having an extra couple of hours to myself every weekend but what the hell am I going to do on Sundays when there’s no football to watch on TV?

So TLDR: I’m conflicted. For ten years I lived and breathed football. And I still do, maybe just to a lesser extent. I know that with time the lingering injuries that are holding me back mentally will heal and I’ll physically be ready to play again. But I just don’t know If I want to.  Is that desire to kit up still there? I feel like I have at least a few years left in me, but maybe it’s better to get out now with minimal wear and tear. And if my hearts not in it then what’s the point?

I guess I’ll wait and see.

The Scariest Players in Football

A year ago, we put together a list of the most terrifying players in the NFL, and a lot of people were not happy with our choices. So, this spooky season we decided to take another crack at it. But this time around, we’re going to include players from all eras of the NFL. It’s no coincidence that this list is dominated by defenders, as they are usually the ones doing the scaring!  Read on if you dare…

  1. The Purple People Eaters

The name says it all really, doesn’t it?  Minnesota’s Defensive Line of the 1960’s/1970’s was notorious for terrorizing the Quarterback, and just causing carnage in general. In 1969, the People Eaters contributed to 49 sacks! Offenses today should be thankful that these monsters are no longer haunting the NFL!

2. The Steel Curtain

Featuring the notorious “Mean” Joe Greene, the Steel Curtain was the dominate defensive force in football during the 70’s. Quarterbacks these days would run in terror if they saw the Steel Curtain coming after them!

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3. JJ Watt

We couldn’t write about the scariest players in football without mentioning this beast! I mean just look at that face. Who in their right mind wouldn’t scream and run in fear if they saw that coming from them. The man is literally covered in his own blood but is still hellbent on wreaking havoc.

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4. Ray Lewis

Ray Lewis makes the list again this year. Lewis is arguably one of the most threatening players to ever take the field.  Despite being on the short side for a Linebacker, Lewis took tremendous pleasure in tracking down Running Backs and making them pay.

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5. Spider Facemask

Okay so this isn’t technically a player but it’s still pretty spooky! I have a dee rooted fear of spiders, and I’m sure there are more than a few NFL players who share my fear and wouldn’t be too pleased to see this Halloween themed helmet coming at them!

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Big 10 Football is coming to Dublin

B1G 10 Football is coming to Dublin

Yesterday it was announced that Big 10 conference rivals University of Nebraska Cornhuskers and University of Illinois Fighting Illini will face off in Dublin in 2021, as the second of five college football games taking place in Ireland over 5 years. For college football aficionados here, this revelation may be slightly lacking in the firepower we expected. While both teams boast historically successful football programs, they do not boast the recent success that previous visitors such as Penn State and Notre Dame do. However, I will say this; When Boston College and Georgia Tech were announced as the 2016 game, I was a little bit underwhelmed. Two fairly average ACC teams didn’t offer a lot to get excited about. But boy was I wrong. Both sides put on a highly competitive performance in subpar conditions and gave native spectators and travelling fans alike a decent show.  (still glad I didn’t pay for my tickets though!) So, while the more hardcore Irish college football fan may have been a bit ‘meh’ about yesterday’s announcement, this matchup will be more than satisfactory for the newly initiated and of course, the fans making the trip.

My own blatant college football snobbery aside, this showdown does have the potential to be a half decent game. Nebraska are currently third in the Big 10 West with a record of 4-3, with 2 of those losses coming against ranked opponents Minnesota and Ohio State.  Their 2019 meeting with Illinois ended in a 42-38 victory for the ‘Huskers and pending the result of next years game, the 2021 edition could be a particularly fiery addition to the series!

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The Fighting Illini have not faired as well so far this season, and currently sit at 2-4 overall. But perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Fighting Illini program is the man at the helm: none other than Lovie Smith. The former NFL head coach took over in 2016, and now in his 3rd season has given the Illinois football program a much needed boost. If Smith can continue to improve the previously beleaguered football team then this 2021 encounter could just be one of the Big 10’s Games of the Season!

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College Football star power aside, the 2021 College Football Classic features two decent enough teams to inspire faith that the plan to bring 5 games to Ireland in 5 years hasn’t overreached it’s ambition. These are two sides that have never played here, who will bring with them two sets of fans and alumni that quite likely have never set foot on our little island before. And that is the real goal of this game and all the games to come. To put Ireland on the map as an International home for College Football.

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The Pats & The Dubs; How New England and Dublin GAA are basically the same team.

On Saturday September 14th, Dublin saw off a brave Kerry effort to claim their 5th All Ireland title in a row. The display of total dominance and self belief put on by the Dubs is hard not to compare to a certain NFL franchise.  Yes that’s right folks, I’m talking about the New England Patriots.  New England have become annual favorites to raise the Lombardi, and rightfully so. Since 2008, the Pats have appeared in 6 championship games, claiming 3 of those.  It’s gotten so ridiculous at this stage that even 2 weeks into the 2019 season, and another Patriots Super Bowl appearance is already being predicted. And unless something drastic happens with the structure of the GAA, (or if another county can find some sort of Dean Rock Kryptonite) the boys in blue are almost a shoe in for a 6th Sam Maguire in a years time.

Dublin GAA claimed a historic 5 All Ireland’s in a row.

Perhaps the most common trait that these two storied organizations share is being absolutely despised outside of their own fan bases. It could be that I’m biased, but whenever either team is playing, I almost always side with their opponent.  And I think the reason for this is that most  (not all mind you) supporters display a certain type of arrogance whenever either team is playing.  Now maybe they’ve earned this right – both teams are after all the undisputed best in their respective codes, but there is no need to be downright cocky about it. Patriots and Dublin fans alike show a blind belief and refuse to accept that there is even the smallest chance they will lose.  Additionally, they both seem to have attracted an awful lot of bandwagon supporters over recent years. I don’t know about you, but I have definitely noticed an influx of Dublin GAA and Tom Brady jerseys about the place. 

Patriots fans seem to be everywhere these days.

The Dublin footballers and the Patriots both happen to have wiley coach at the helm, undoubtedly a major factor in their joint success. Bill Belichick and Jim Gavin are renowned for their methodical preparation and “no bullshit’ approach.  Belichick is famous for refusing to allow a blizzard to interfere with his practice schedule, informing players they would be expected to train regardless of the snow. Gavin, a former Air Corps Pilot and Flight Instructor, applies his military expertise and precision to his training sessions. And it shows. Dublin’s playing style under him has been almost surgical, patiently picking apart their opponents with precision passing and waiting for just the right moment to launch a strike.

Jim and Bill also share somewhat of a dispassionate relationship with the media.  Bill’s responses to questions from members of the press are typically terse and god help you if you ask him something not directly related to the game at hand.  And let’s not forget when Jim refused to speak to RTE in retaliation to not being provided with video footage of his footballers. Taking no prisoners whatsoever.

By the way, have you ever seen either of them smile during a game? Didn’t think so. In fact, the only time the two men smile is when they win big. Like Super Bowl or Sam Maguire big.

Bill’s trademark scowl

We can complain all want about the unrelenting supremacy of both teams, but we must acquiesce to the fact that they are the standard to which all challengers must reach before even dreaming of taking their place. Some have come close – The LA rams stilted the Patriots offense to a 13-3 victory in February, but ultimately they couldn’t find the firepower to finish the job. Similarly, Dublin needed two go’s to kill off Kerry in this years All Ireland. While the would be de-throners fell short, it can only be a matter of time before either sport becomes competitive once more.

How to watch College Football in Ireland

College Ball is finally back! With 5 college football games taking place in Ireland from 2020 onwards, now is the time to immerse yourself in NCAA action. It  is now easier than ever to watch college football in Ireland, and we’ve complied a list of how you can get your college ball fix every weekend!

  1. BT Sports ESPN

Remember the good old days of ESPN America on Sky Sports? 12 glorious hours of uninterrupted College Football, book ended by College Game Day. Well those days are sadly over and now if you want to watch football on your TV, you’re going to have to pay up. Fortunately, BT Sports college football offering is quite decent and they will normally have the marquee match ups, as well as Bowl games, Playoffs and the National Championship Game!

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2.ESPN Player

The official ESPN player is essentially the College Football Version of Game Pass and gives you access to pretty much any game that ESPN has the broadcast rights for.  With the ESPN player you can stream all kinds of American College sports as well as watching highlights and getting full game recaps. The ESPN player is better value if you are a fan of College Football rather than one team in particular, as your teams game mightn’t always be shown.

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3. Streaming sites

Let me begin here by saying that in no shape or form do we condone illegal streaming sites. However, needs must and when it comes to getting your fill of college football, you gotta do what you gotta do! First Row Sports is our go to for streaming college football games, and if you have an Android device, apps such as Mobdro should do the trick as well. Streams can be a bit hit or miss in terms of quality and speed and your patience will probably be tested.

If you’ve been an American football for one year or ten, then College Football is definitely worth getting in to.  Its popularity is growing exponentially both here in Ireland and all over Europe. There’s more passion, more atmosphere and more to lose in College games than there is in the pro’s, and with Ireland becoming the home of College Football on this side of the Atlantic, there really isn’t a better time than now to get involved!

Alternative American Football Movies

With the return of real life football only a matter of weeks away we thought it would be an appropriate time to pick some of our favourite alternative football movies. These flicks mightn’t have been as commercially successful as the likes of The Longest Yard & Co but there are some gems in here that are definitely worth a watch! What are your favourite football movies? Let us know in the comments!

My All American

My All American tells the true story of a high school Safety who’s wish to play for the legendary Coach Darrell Royal was temporarily granted, only to be cruelly cut short. Such was the impression that Freddy Steinmark made on his Coach that he was remembered even in the Coaches later days. A combination of great storytelling and plenty of action scenes make this a must see for any football fan.

Greater

Another true story, this time of the remarkable success of Brandon Burlsworth who despite being told he had no chance of playing D1 Football, walked on at the University of Arkansas and was eventually named an All American and a 3rd round draft pick. The movie is primarily set during his memorial service, with flashbacks to his life and career. It’s unique in the fact that the protagonist is in fact his brother, dealing with the grief of his loss.

Varsity Blues

If you loved Friday Night Lights, then chances are you’re going to enjoy Varsity Blues as well. A classic coming of age tale set in small town America, Varsity Blues depicts the trials and tribulations of the West Canaan Coyotes Football Team and how they deal with a threating  head coach. The ultimate message is that there is more to life than football and as important as the sport may seem right now, it’s not going to be forever!

Draft Day

Despite being a complete Box office bust, Draft Day has become something of a cult classic. Set during the run up to and throughout the NFL Draft, this movie presents a (heavily fictionalized) scenario where the Cleveland Browns are successful and are plotting how to spend the top draft picks they control. If you’re comfortable with the complete suspension of disbelief and with the notion of Kevin Costner as the GM of a football franchise then there’s no harm in giving this one a whirl. And remember: “Vontae Mack no matter what!”

The College Football Conundrum

The College Football season is just around the corner and with 5 games taking place in Ireland over the next few years, now is the perfect time to choose a college football team to follow!

The question is, what college team is the best one to follow? Well, that depends. There are a number of important factors to consider when selecting your college football team. Firstly and most importantly, can they win? Let’s face it, there’s no point in staying up till 3 am every Sunday morning to watch your team lose. If you’re going to sacrifice sleep to watch football, it has to be worth it. Secondly, does that team have a good reputation? If the coach is being investigated for something sketchy or underhand then maybe it isn’t the best idea to start supporting them. And finally – is their jersey nice? As shallow as it might sound, if your going buy their merch, you have to like how it looks.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best college football teams to jump onboard with right now.

  1. Alabama

The Alabama Crimson Tide are without a doubt the best pound for pound college football team over the past 10 years. In the past 5 years alone they have appeared in 4 National Championship games, winning two of those. They always recruit the top players and have an evil genius as their coach. So if you want a team that wins, go with Bama! Although everyone will probably hate you for it.

2. Clemson

Clemson football are destined to be the next number one team in America, a fate they sealed by hammering their rivals Alabama in this years Championship game. The Tigers have a cool Coach, a monstrous Defensive Line and a Quarterback that will be playing on Sundays in the next two years. This is a bandwagon you definitely want to jump on!

3. Notre Dame

I’ll try to be as unbiased here as possible – but for me when I first got into college football, following the “Fighting Irish” was a no brainer! Not only are they once again emerging as a perennial contender for the national championship, but their mascot is a fecking Leprechaun! And if you find the Irish shtick to be offensive, then you don’t have any sense of humour. Notre Dame are on the come up in a big way and once their recruiting improves, expect them to be in the final on a regular basis.

4. Oregon

While they mightn’t have won much in recent years, the combination of ever changing uniforms and their adorable Duck mascot makes Oregon a solid team to support. Oregon’s jersey’s are produced by Nike and are usually pretty slick. They also occasionally produce talented footballers. For example, you may have heard of a guy called Marcus Mariota? The Ducks have been down on their luck in recent years but don’t be surprised if they splash back onto the scene this season.

NFL Academy comes to London

History was made in London on July 2nd as 150 kids battled it out to become part of the first class at the NFL’s London Academy.  The ground-breaking institute is the first of its kind outside of the US and will give select student athletes the opportunity to combine life skills with intensive sport training under full time coaches. Upon graduation, the students will not only have the chance to pursue pathways into employment and further education but also the chance to play for an NCAA college team in the USA. The players will be coached by British American Football legend Tony Allen who previously coached the London Warriors.

  

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   The try-out took place in Tottenham Hotspurs new stadium (which has been recently fitted specifically for NFL games) and was attended by current NFL players JuJu Smith Schuster and London native Efe Obada. Obada and Smith Schuster were both very impressed with the “Stadium Showcase” particularly by the talent and passion for the sport that was on display. Obada especially, knows how valuable any opportunity to play in the NFL can be. Obada played for the London Warriors before getting his shot to make the jump to the pro’s. He didn’t have this resource at his disposal.

So who can join the NFL’s London Academy? Well, according to their website they are looking for “16-18 year old talented American Football players, cross over athletes or those who have yet to play the sport”. Basically, if you haven’t turned 18 yet and are athletically inclined with an interest in the NFL you have what they’re looking for.  Unfortunately, the age limit rules myself and probably all of our readers out as well!  It seems that I’ll have to keep waiting for my chance to finally make it in the NFL.

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Despite my disappointment at being ruled out, I think the launch of a dedicated NFL UK education centre is major indication of the growth of the game in Europe. It also presents a huge chance for young talented Irish players. At the moment the furthest you can go in Ireland is the National Team, which in itself a huge honour. But imagine being able to take your skills and love for the game to another level altogether. Imagine playing College Football.

If you think you have what it takes then head over to www.nflacademy.com/whowerelookingfor and register. And who knows, you could be the next Irish man to be playing College Football!

Playing with the Big Boys

In any aspect of life, taking a step up is always tough. A new challenge will always add to the physical and mental strains being put on you. This is particularly true in sport. When a team is promoted to a higher division it can take a while for the players to adjust to all aspects of playing at that higher level. If you’re going to be playing with the big boys, then you’re going to have to put in the work.

It starts in the gym. Like it or not, strength and conditioning are going to play an integral part in your success at the next level. You don’t need to be jacked, but you need to have the durability and explosiveness to compete with the guys you’ll be playing against. Becoming stronger should also help you to avoid the unfortunate injuries that are part and parcel of playing American Football.

But playing American football out of your comfort zone is more than big muscles and fast 40’s. It’s as much a mental thing as it is physical. You need to have faith and belief like never before. If a game isn’t going the way you had hoped the worst thing you can do is let your head drop. Becoming a student of the game will also help immensely. Get your head into game tape and learn about your opponent. What are their tendencies? How often to they blitz?  Having even the slightest advantage over the other guy will go a long way.  When you line up and you already know what the guy across from you is going to do, your chances of beating him have doubled.

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Both the talent of players and the standard of play in a higher division is naturally going to be higher, so It’s up to you to put in the necessary work that will be required to compete.  I’ve played at all levels of competitive American Football in Ireland and in a lot of cases there is a massive gulf between teams playing in the top division and those in the lower leagues. And realistically, it should not be that hard for teams playing in IAFL1 or 2 to make the jump. It will take consistency, it will take dedication and it will take sacrifice. But if you love this sport as much as I do, it will be worth it.

If you want to win trophies and you want to play with the big boys then you better up your game.

The Fighting Irishman

The Notre Dame mascot is one of the most iconic in sport. On game day, the spirit of the ‘Fighting Irish” is brought to life by the Cheer Squad, in particular those select few who don the green blazer and bowler to become the Leprechaun. Notre Dame recently announced three new mascots and one of those fortunate enough to have earned this honour, is Conal Fagan. Conal hails from Derry, in the North of Ireland and is the first native Irishman to take on the mantle of the Notre Dame Leprechaun.  But how does a kid from Ireland end up as Notre Dame’s most recognisable representative? We caught up with Conal and he told us all about his amazing journey from St Columb’s College in Derry to a scholarship studying Political Science and Peace Studies in South Bend.

So how just did Conal end up at Notre Dame?

“Two kids from my school had gone to study in the US before me, so they really inspired me to look into it. “ While still in school, Conal began applying for the Sutton Trust, a program which helps youngsters from low and middle income families apply to Colleges in the states. “The process for applying to US colleges is a lot more holistic and denser than applying in the UK or Ireland so it’s not really something you do half-heartedly. As soon as I put my mind to it, I knew that the US was where I needed to be.” As part of the Sutton Trust program, Conal was flown to the US to experience first-hand what college life was like in the States. After months of research and preparation, Conal’s decision came down to either Notre Dame or University of North Carolina. “I’m confident I made the right choice!”

What was the draw of Notre Dame?

For Conal, it was vital that he ended up in a place where he would feel right at home, and where he would be part of a community. “A word that really resonates with people here is ‘family’ – no matter when you graduated, if you meet a fellow alum there’s an instant connection.” The Notre Dame family has a global reach, even as far as South Africa, which Conal found out while coaching soccer in the townships as a volunteer last summer. A family of Notre Dame Fans spotted the ND hoodie he was wearing and instantly recognised him as one of their own. It was then that it really hit home for Conal how powerful and influential the ND brand is around the world. “One of the hardest things to explain back home is just how influential and integral Alumni are.”  

           In addition to being a lifelong member of such a powerful graduate network, the opportunities offered to students at Notre Dame is absolutely “crazy”. From getting to travel around the world for research to meeting some of the most promising young athletes, there’s so much to do. The driving factor for moving abroad to study is summed up by Conal as a desire for self-growth, and to defy the norm. “One of the biggest reasons why I decided to move to the US was that I wanted to push myself outside of what was comfortable. And I really haven’t looked back since”.

Now to the burning question we all have, how the hell did Conal end up on the Notre Dame Cheerleading squad? Well, it all started with a Notre Dame Onesie. That onesie became his attire for every basketball game he attended, and at every game Conal would be courtside leading the fans in their chants. “ Going to the Brandywell ( the home ground of Derry City FC) to see Derry play, I used to sit in the ‘Jungle’ – so I had good experience of being noisy!”  But Conal wanted to do more at games than just sit in the crowd. He wanted to be a bigger part of the experience. And joining the cheer squad was the best way to do this.  “I honestly think the cheerleaders were confused as to how I was so energetic at the games! I had a friend on the squad and when she heard me discussing the possibility of joining, she gave me the push that I needed. It’s been such an incredible experience so far!”

What’s it like being the mascot and representing the Notre Dame spirit? “I can’t emphasise enough how amazing the experience has been”  Conal’s friends initially thought it would be hilarious if someone from Ireland auditioned for the role of the leprechaun, but once he began to realise what exactly the position meant and the opportunities that came with it, it was simply too good for him to turn down. Because mascots aren’t really a thing in Ireland, at first it was quite difficult for Conal to convey the significance of the role, but one he started to appear on TV and on social media people began to grasp the idea a little better.

“Putting on the suit honestly makes you feel like a superhero. When you adopt this persona, it represents more than you can ever imagine.”

The first few weeks of being the mascot were quite overwhelming for Conal as he adjusted to being bombarded for photograph requests as well as being constantly on the go to events, games and other appearances. But no matter how hectic the schedule, for Conal “..The benefits will always outweigh the drawbacks.”

“Pulling on that jersey (in my case a suit) is one of the best feelings. It’s the stuff dreams are made of”.

As Cheerleading isn’t really a thing here in Ireland, can you tell us how big part of University sports culture it is in the States?

“A lot of people’s perceptions of cheerleading are based on what they see in movies, and to be honest, it couldn’t be further from the truth. I think most people imagine that cheerleading involves running around in a leotard waving pom- poms! In reality, I get to throw people in the air and do some really insane stunts, none of which I ever thought I could do! It’s a super dangerous sport that requires a huge amount of strength, technique and focus.” Cheerleaders in America are full time athletes, who have to train four times a week as well as lifting twice a week. But the reward for all the hard work is getting to run out in front of 80,000 people at home football games as well as the millions watching on TV at home. “I don’t think I could have ever pictured this as a kid back home!”

Becoming the face of the Fighting Irish cheer squad wasn’t Fagan’s first brush with Athletics. In fact, he had previously been part of the Notre Dame Men’s Soccer programme! Before he came to South Bend, he was already playing soccer at a high level having made appearances for both the Northern Ireland U15/16 team as well as Derry City’s U17/19 team.  Fagan had already considered playing in a US college, but didn’t want soccer to define his university experience. An email from a highly respected coach encouraging him to give it a shot, however, made his decision a lot more straightforward. And although he did not ultimately make an appearance for the team, working with some of the best players and coaches in the country undoubtedly gave him a strong start and a competitive edge to his time in Notre Dame.

As Conal gears up for the 2019/2020 season, his main goal on the field is to learn how to do a flip! “It’s something I’ve always wanted to learn to do but never really been able to focus the time on so I feel that it’s the perfect time to take advantage.” Off the field, a summer internship in Australia awaits where he’ll be working with Paralympians and Disabled Athletes.  A flat out but very rewarding year awaits him! Best of luck Conal and thanks for taking the time to talk to Gaelic Gridiron!

Injury Prone

American football is a contact sport, and chances are that if you play at some stage you’re going to get injured. Bumps and bruises are part and parcel of the game and normally won’t impact on your playing time. But twisted ankles, sprained wrists and cracked ribs all pose a bigger challenge! There’s a distinct difference between playing hurt and playing injured. In the ten or so years I’ve been playing American football in Ireland, I’ve almost lost count of the number of injuries that I’ve picked up.

In fact, this year alone I’ve been injured 7 (yes 7 ) times since January. I’m what you might call injury prone”.

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But the point of this article isn’t to focus on the negative aspects of being injured. Quite the opposite in fact. Oftentimes when players get injured, their heads will drop and they’ll get disheartened. The worst thing you can do is wallow. This will only make things worse. Recovering from an injury is just as much a mental thing as it is physical.  So what exactly can you do to make sure you get back on the field as soon as possible?

  1. Keep working out.

The most important thing you can do to aid your recovery from a football injury is to stay as active as possible. Not only will working out keep you in game shape, it will keep the blood pumping and flowing which is vital in promoting healing. One of the biggest benefits of exercise is the release of endorphins; that magic happy hormone too boost your mood and overall productivity. It goes without saying that you should only push yourself as much as you feel comfortable with, doing your best not to re-injure yourself.

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  1. Stay involved.

Just because you’re injured, doesn’t mean you’re no longer part of the team.  Get yourself to training – you can learn just as much from watching and listening as you can from actually playing. Watching from the sideline will give you a different perspective and a different viewpoint from which to improve. Staying involved will keep you sharp and make your return to the field a lot easier.

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  1. Be Positive

You won’t be injured forever.  Keep your head up and keep working towards getting back to playing. Tracking your rehabilitation will help you to see how you are progressing and how close you are to returning to play.

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Injuries happen in our sport, and if you’ve been fortunate enough to never experience one then you are truly one of the lucky ones. But if you’re like me then you know just how demoralizing it can be to have to sit and look on as your team play. But trust me when I say that if you rehab properly and have the right attitude then you will be recovered and ready to play in no time.

The Growth of the Game

On Saturday afternoon, the 2019 SBC Season will kick off with the South Dublin Panthers hosting last year’s runners up, the Dublin Rebels. This season there are 22 teams competing in kitted football, the most that we can ever remember being active at the one time. It is without a doubt a time of great growth for the league and indeed the sport on the Island of Ireland. With one brand new team coming on board and one team returning to the fold, there will be a lot of football played in Ireland over the next 5 months.

There are changes afoot in the IAFL, and after years of poor management and shenanigans, the league finally seems to be moving in the right direction.

We recently sat down with IAFA Commissioner Brian Cleary to get his take on this growth and what is in store for the Irish American Football League during 2019 and beyond.

GG: What are your thoughts on the recent growth of the game in Ireland?

BC: I think everyone will agree that growth in any sport is a positive thing and it’s brilliant to see new teams expressing an interest and joining the association every year. This year we have a brand new team with the Causeway Giants and we welcome the return of the Waterford Wolves. We already have interest from two brand new teams for next season in parts of the country that has never had a team so we are definitely heading in the right direction. It’s important though that we manage our growth responsibly to ensure that all the clubs are sustainable and that we have the resources within the association to meet the growing demand for football in Ireland. While it’s great to have new adult kitted clubs coming on board each year, I feel it’s important we don’t neglect the need focus on the growth potential of flag football, youth football and indeed women in sport. Those are the areas that I feel will take our association to the next level and plans are underway to ensure we experience growth in those areas in the coming years.

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GG: What, if any, challenges are presented by new teams coming on board?

BC: New teams means more football, which is great but the challenge is then scheduling all those games to take place within the 5-6 months of our season. We are somewhat limited with the amount of games we can facilitate every Sunday and it’s pretty much dictated by the availability of home grounds and number of qualified full-time officials. We have started scheduling some games on Saturday’s and/or having double headers and I’m hoping that going forward more teams are willing to play on days other than a Sunday. We have recently restructured our officiating department and we now have a dedicated officiating development manager so we hope to see more full time officials coming on board to meet the growing demand. 

 

GG: How have the league been working to promote the sport and support the creation of new teams?

 BC: In late 2018 the board appointed a Director of Development – Niall O’Connor. This is a position that has been vacant for a number of years within our association and probably one of the positions we needed the most to develop and promote the sport. Niall brings in a wealth of experience and spent the last few months learning about the association and identifying our needs. I think we will start to see the benefit of his work and input in the months to come. 

 

In relation to new teams we are currently in the process of developing a handbook. The aim of this handbook is to help brand new or developing teams identify everything they need to successfully set up and run a club. A very rough version of this was actually supplied to the two new teams that joined us this year and indeed to the teams that are hoping to join us next season. It included a basic checklist on what was required to set up a club, a sample budget, constitution bylaws and general pointers on what is expected of a club. To my knowledge this was the first time the association has issued such a document to clubs and the feedback has been very positive. We hope to have the final version complete before the years end, which should be a big support for new clubs. 

 

GG: How will the announcement of more college games to be played here impact the growth of the game?

 BC: The college games present an amazing opportunity to promote our sport and raise awareness that American Football actually exists in Ireland. We have developed a good working relationship with organizer of these events and there will be most certainly opportunities for IAFA to benefit from these games. While I can’t go into great detail on it at the moment the focus will be on education and exposure for IAFA and its members.

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IAFA Commissioner Brian Cleary (right) at the launch of the 2020 College Classic

GG: What advice would you have for someone thinking about playing American football in Ireland for the first time? 

BC: I would say just get down to your local club and give it a go. If you’re thinking about it then you must have at least a small interest in it, so just do it. The American Football community are very welcoming to new players and all our coaches our certified by Coaching Ireland so you’ll be sure to have a safe and enjoyable experience. Be careful though, once you start playing it you’ll be hooked and never look back. It’s a great sport to be part of and you’re sure to meet a great bunch of people who will become friends for life.

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GG: Where do you see the league in 5 years’ time?

 BC: How long have you got? I would like to see growth and development across all areas of the association.  I would like to have maintained a consistent and competitive league structure not just for our adult kitted league but also for youth football. I can see our national team the Irish Wolfhounds participating in International competitions and our full time officials participating in such tournaments. I can see a massive growth in flag football particularly within schools and this is currently being supported by the NFL UK, which we are very fortunate to have working with us. Our Director of Coaching, Emma Burrows has already commenced a five year plan to raise the standard of coaching in Ireland. This is currently on track and I would be very hopeful that it will result in a very clear path, for new and existing coaches to develop their skills. I would like to see IAFA’s first all-female kitted game of football within five years with the ultimate goal of an all-female league being set up soon after. 

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I could literally talk forever on what I would like to see for our future but finally I think it’s important that IAFA improves its reputation both nationally and internationally, with the aim of securing sponsorship and commercial opportunities that can be used to further develop the association. 

 

 

Getting Football Fit

In a little over a month, the 2019 Irish American football season will kick off and players up and down the country are busy preparing for what promises to be the best set of fixtures yet.  And while knowing the playbook inside out is a critical part of a player’s success, being physically prepared for the inevitable toil is just as important.  Anyone who has played the sport knows just how sore you can be on a Monday after hitting and getting hit repeatedly the day before.  So what can you do to get your body ready for the upcoming season?

 

  1. Train

Strength and condition is a critical part of being an American football player. Unless you’re naturally strong enough, chances are you’re going to have to lift. Even lifting twice a week will give you an edge. The key exercises for football players are: bench press, squats, dead-lifts and cleans. Physical strength and explosiveness are essential qualities to succeed on the field.  But it’s not all about pumping iron.  In order to keep up with the fast paced, stop start nature of the game, you’re going to need to run. A lot. A mix of sprints and longer runs should give you the speed and endurance required to play.

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  1. Eat

Depending on what position you’re playing, you’re going to have to retain a certain weight and size. For example, anyone playing a high contact positon like Linebacker, Running Back or anywhere on the line will need to be heavier and bulkier than someone playing WR or DB. Getting enough protein in your diet can often be challenging. Instead of just having toast for breakfast, try to include some eggs or even chicken. For dinner, adding red meat or fish will make a significant difference to your muscle mass. And remember: If you’re trying to get lean by cutting carbs, you’re going to lose strength and size too!

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  1. Rest

Rest days are just as important, if not even more so, than working out. Rest is invaluable to your body’s recovery – allowing for muscle growth and retention. If you’ve had a particularly tough training session or game, the best thing you can do after is rest! Those aches and pains will only get worse if you do an intense workout the day after a game. If you absolutely have to exercise, a quick walk to get the blood flowing will do the trick.

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It’s important to remember though that every player is different and will have their own fitness ideology.  This article is only intended as a guide, for new players and for veterans looking to get a few tips on how to become a better competitor and athlete! We are by no means qualified experts!

Do you have a workout or meal plan that you swear by for football? Let us know in the comments!

The Gaelic Gridiron Superbowl Guide

Super Bowl Sunday is almost upon us and the entire nation is getting in on the act. What was once a niche event on the Irish sporting calendar has grown to become a nationwide celebration of all things USA. As American Football continues to grow in popularity here, pubs up and down the country are stocking up on hot dogs as they prepare to feed fans until the wee hours of Monday morning. It’s a far cry from a few years ago when you’d be hard pushed to find even one place that would invest in a late licence in order to stay open to show it.

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Superbowl Sunday in Dublin

Whether this Is your first Super Bowl, or your tenth (god I’m old) it’s essential that you find the right spot to settle in and cheer on whoever is playing against Tom Brady. For the ultimate Super Bowl atmosphere and experience, nowhere beats The Woolshed. Dublin’s best sports bar transforms into NFL world with every screen in the place (that’s a lot) showing the game. 3 bars across two floors ensures that you’re never waiting too long for a drink. And if you’re feeling peckish during the game, you can literally get a bucket of wings delivered to your table. What more could you want?

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If you don’t fancy the trek down Parnell Street then have no fear because the south side of the city also has plenty of options to watch the Super Bowl! An old favorite of mine is Sinnotts, beside St.Stephen’s Green.  Sinnotts has a huge cinema style screen as well as several smaller screens so you’re guaranteed to have a good view from wherever you’re sitting. Although if you do want to be sitting I’d recommend getting in early as both The Woolshed and Sinnotts will be packed by 9pm at the latest. Grub wise, Sinnotts does some pretty savage platters, perfect for picking on throughout the night. The burgers are also decent. Wherever you end up, there’ll be no shortage of soakage options, ensuring that you can keep the pints up till the 4th quarter!

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Sinnotts is an absolute gem.

*If you do hit The Woolshed, make sure to keep an eye out for the West Dublin Rhinos American Football team!

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Once you’ve decided where to watch the game and sorted yourself out with some wings – it’s time to play NFL jersey bingo! Ireland has a huge sleeper NFL fan base, and Super Bowl Sunday brings them all out of the woodwork. While it’s a given that there will be an unbearable amount of Patriots jerseys with ‘Brady’ or ‘Gronkowski’ on the back, you’re guaranteed to also see a few gems. Will you spot an ill-fated Browns Johnny Manziel jersey? Or perhaps an orange crush Denver broncos top. Those are pretty sweet.

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Whatever the outcome of Super Bowl 53, the important thing is to have the craic. Sunday will literally see the forces of Good and Evil battling it out for a year of bragging rights, and the city of Dublin is bound to be buzzing.

 

 

Back Up Ballers

Being a Backup QB in the NFL is a handy gig. You earn a shitload of money to sit on the sideline drinking Gatorade and having the craic. Every once in a while you might be called in to close out a game or hold a snap. But things are changing. Backup QB’s are fast becoming the saviors of NFL franchises. Nick Foles is the prime example of this tectonic shift. Foles cemented his place in NFL history last season, when he came off the bench to lead the Eagles to Superbowl glory, earning MVP honors for his trouble. Foles also gained the adulation of Philadelphia. Philly sports fans are notoriously tough to please, and by bestowing him with the title of “Big Dick Nick” they have made him one of theirs forever. The underdog QB nearly repeated his heroics this season but suffered an unfortunate stumble at the Divisional round hurdle.

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Philly’s favorite son will forever live on in NFL history.

Nick Foles isn’t the only backup QB to be unexpectedly thrust into action in recent times. 49ers 3rd stringer Nick Mullens went from zero to hero this year when he was forced to replace both Jimmy G and CJ Beathard. Mullens more than stepped up to the plate and in 8 games threw for 2,277 yards and 13 touchdowns. He formed a strong connection with Tight End George Kittle, which will certainly benefit them both when the roster is being set next Summer. Mullens’ real triumph however, came off the field, when his Twitter profile became verified. You know you’ve made it in life when that little blue tick appears next to your name. Now that’s validation.

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Big Dick Nick Jr?

While this trend of the number two signal caller riding in to save the day may seem relatively new, we must remember that the greatest QB of our generation was once a back up himself. Yes, as much as it pains me, I am in fact talking about Tom Brady. When he was drafted out of Michigan in 2000, no one thought that he would ever amount to much. But Mr. Irrelevant took his chance to usurp the incumbent New England Passer and never once relinquished his grip. Over the course of almost 20 years, Brady went from scrawny understudy to NFL golden boy. And love him or loathe him, you have to admit that he has done so much for the game of American Football, especially serving as an inspiration for young QB’s who want to one day lead a franchise.

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Brady always knew that he’d be a star.

September 2019 will almost certainly see Wentz and Garoppolo back at their respective helms, there will always be hope for the back up. Your day will come.

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It could be you. 

(Shout out to Matt Saracen, possibly the greatest back up turned starter ever)

Regular Season Review

And then there were twelve. The dust has settled on the regular season, and tonight 4 teams will do battle in the Wildcard Round. The top prize is on the line: a trip to the Superbowl.

It’s been a weird 4 months of football.  Pass defense seemed to fall by the wayside as high octane offenses dueled to outscore each other. It was only down the stretch that teams remembered that they had secondary’s. The emergence of rookie gunslingers like Mahomes and Goff and the resurgence of the legendary Drew Brees were the main factors behind the apparent redundancy of defending against the pass.

But it wasn’t just defensive backs who became villains. Pass rushers, Clay Matthews in particular seemed to become persona non grata with the league. In the early part of the season, defenders who even breathed aggressive were penalized for roughing the passer. It became so farcical that Ndamukong Suh created his own PSA demonstration video on how to safely tackle the Quarterback.

Disastrous defense aside, there were a number of other notable events that marred the season.

Le’veon Bell’s holdout at the start of the season cast a shroud over the Steelers. Bell’s absence was a massive distraction for the team and is undoubtedly the reason they got off to such a rocky start. But Bell’s holdout also revealed the true nature of professional football, the side we don’t like to acknowledge. Money. The league is a business, and these men are assets. Bell has every right as an employee to demand more money, but because we like to ignore this facet of football, he was portrayed as the bad guy, greedy and gutless for holding out on his teammates and his fans.

You could write a whole thesis on the ins and outs of professional athletes and their rights vis a vis payment. All we’ll say for now is that by taking the above action, Bell has guaranteed two things. 1: He has played his last game for Pittsburgh and 2. Other Running Backs are going to follow in his lead.

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The NFL has a checkered history of players committing physical assault. Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and more recently Reuben Foster have all been accused of violence against women. In some cases the league will pay lip-service and then sweep it under the carpet. But occasionally, they’ll make an example. 2018’s perpetrator was Kareem Hunt, the electric Chiefs Running Back. Within an hour of a video of him appearing to hit someone surfaced, his former time cut ties. There message was loud and clear: “We don’t want anything to do with him.” And you can’t blame them. In order to maintain some sort of a good reputation, the NFL has to be tougher on this issue. Zero tolerance. Zero excuses.

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It has indeed been an up and down year in the NFL. I haven’t even enjoyed watching games as much as I used to. Hopefully the 2019 season will be better. As for the Post Season Finale in February: The Chiefs and the Rams will battle it out in Atlanta for a chance to lift the Lombardi. And ultimately, Patrick Mahomes will win his first world championship.

Walking in a Christmas Football Land

The festive football period is finally upon us. December is when The NFL is at its best. Teams that have been trailing make a sudden playoff push, games are played in the snow and sometimes even Santa makes an appearance! Read on to find out what we think are some of the essential aspects of Football in December.

 

  1. Christmas day football.

The Christmas day game is always a must watch! On December 25th 2016 the Steelers got the best Christmas present of all – a last gasp win over the Ravens. Pittsburgh were down 27-24 with a minute to go in the 4th quarter. They then drove the field and on 2nd and goal with 14 seconds left in the game, delivered one of the most memorable plays in recent Steelers history. Big Ben stood in the pocket and delivered a strike to AB who was immediately hit at the 1 yard line before somehow extending the ball across the chalk for the winning score. This stunning play came as time expired and sealed the Christmas miracle win for the Steelers. Dubbed by fans as “The Stretch” it will go down in Steelers lore. They couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas present than the Steelers beating the ravens on Christmas day.

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The Stretch 

 

  1. Santa in the Stands

I can’t be the only one who was caught by surprise while playing Madden over Christmas, when suddenly St. Nick would appear on my screen decked out in team colours?! The games’ seasonal changes added some enjoyable realism to playing and brought you closer to actually being there. And while I haven’t played Madden in a couple of years, I’m sure Santa still makes an appearance every year to cheer on his side.

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No way Santa is really a Giants fan…

  1. Snow Games!

Let’s all admit it – watching a game being played in heavy snow is way more fun than watching any old ordinary game. It’s hard to run the ball and even harder to pass owing to poor visibility and a slippy football. So when a big play is made, it’s extra special. Nothing says December football like a Snowbowl. And what better way to celebrate a touchdown in a Snowbowl than making a snow angel or engaging in a friendly snowball fight with your team mates?

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Who wears white during a snow game?!

 

  1. Santa’s little Cheerleaders.

This one needs no explanation at all…Santa baby 😉

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All I want for Christmas

 

Christmas is a special time of year in the NFL and with the season coming to its business end, teams have limited time to seal their post season fate. Who will be on the naughty list come playoff time? And who will get the best present of all, the Lombardi Trophy?

These are just some of the best things about Christmas football. What’s your favorite festive football tradition? Let us know in the comments!

 

Here Come the Irish: My day in Notre Dame

“And there’s a magic in the sound of their name…Here come the Irish of Notre Dame…”

As these words rang out around Notre Dame Stadium and segued into “Shipping up to Boston”, a wave of chills ran through me. I was finally here. From the first time I watched Notre Dame play in their home stadium on TV, I had set my sights on making it to a game.  And there was the band, there was the leprechaun, and there were the players. They were even wearing green to welcome their biggest Irish fan! (Not really, but still a cool coincidence) Justin Yoon sent the kickoff flying and Notre Dame stadium echoed with the roar of “GO! IRISH!” But how the hell did I end up here?

I had arrived on the South Bend campus earlier that day and caught my first glimpse of the Golden Dome glinting in the distance. As I wandered around the grounds of the university, jaw ajar in sheer awe of the place, the craziness of the past two days began to pay off. On Wednesday evening of last week, I got a message from Notre Dame Athletics on Facebook telling me I’d won two tickets to the game that weekend. I had previously entered their competitions and had  claimed that if I ever won tickets I’d fly out for the game…and now they were calling my bluff. My hands were shaking so hard that I could barely type as I furiously searched for the cheapest possible flight. It did strike me that what I was about to do was insane. I also realised that if I didn’t go, I would always regret it. Life comes down to a few moments. This was one of them.

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The Golden Dome

I was initially greeted in South Bend by sub zero temperatures and more than enough snow. Luckily I had been forewarned of the inclement weather and was well wrapped up… apart from my feet which were beginning to feel like blocks of ice. The solution? Head to the Irish bar! This is exactly what I did, and after asking a local for directions, I ended up getting a lift in his golf cart. Happy days! The patrons in  the bar got a great kick out of the fact that I had traveled three and half thousand miles on less than forty eight hours notice to see Notre Dame play at home. I was later greeted by a great friend of mine, James O’Toole. I hadn’t seen James since the last time I went to game three years previously, and when I found out I’d won he was the first person I called. It was fantastic to catch up.

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As evening fell we made our way back to the campus to collect the tickets, and I got to meet legendary Coach Knute Rockne(In statue form, anyway) There was a buzz in the air as tailgaters took their revelry from the the parking lot into the stadium. It was somehow even colder in there than it had been outside. But once the ball was kicked off, I forgot all about being cold. The Irish dominated all game. I had flown across the Atlantic to witness potential national champions at work, and they did not disappoint.

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Just chilling with Knute

 

As I write this I am still having trouble accepting that it happened. It was like being in a dream. A dream that came true. And I will definitely be back.

 

NFL Hall of Horrors

Halloween is upon us and to celebrate the spooky season  we decided to take a look at some of the scariest players to haunt the NFL. Now as you can imagine, most of these fellas are demons of defense and spent their careers terrorizing opposing offenses. You can only imagine the pure terror felt by Quarterbacks when they realized they were about to be hit by one of these beasts. Of course, Offensive players can be scary as well and this list would not be complete without one particular Running Back. Read on to find out who makes the cut…

  1. Ray Lewis

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Ray Lewis was the scourge of many a backfield for almost 2 decades. Famous for his old school, brutal hits, he was once infamously involved in a murder trial. Not a man to be trifled with.

2. JJ Watt

Since he entered the league, JJ has made a name for himself as one of, if not the best Defensive player. Although being an absolute gent on the field, once he enters combat he will not stop until your soul is his.

3. Gilbert Brown

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I didn’t even know about this guy until I googled ‘Scary NFL players’ and boy did Google deliver! Just look at him! He’s terrifying!

4. “Mean” Joe Greene

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I think the name says it all really. Greene spent the 70’s bullying Offensive Lines as part of the legendary ”Steel Curtain”.

5. Beast Mode

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God help you if you went high on this man. He would make you PAY!

 

Who’s your scariest NFL player? Let us know in the comments!

College Football is coming back to Ireland

Yes you read that right! For the first time since 2016, big time NCAA football will be played in Ireland’s capital city. It was announced today  that Notre Dame will face off against their longest standing rivals Navy in the Aviva Stadium on August 29th 2020!

This will be the first of 5 College Football games taking place in Dublin between 2020 and 2024.

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Notre Dame last played in Dublin in 2012 in the Emerald Isle Classic, and on that occasion they absolutely dominated Navy. The final score was 50-10 to the Irish. Over 35,000 Americans travelled to Ireland for this rivalry game, generating approximately €60 billion for the Irish economy.

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For many Irish people that game was their first taste of live American Football, and inspired two further games to be played here; Penn State and UCF in 2014 followed by Georgia and Boston College in 2016.

Notre Dame are a perennial contender for the National Championship and their 2020 season opener in Dublin is guaranteed to be an explosive affair. We will have updates on tickets and pre game festivities closer to the game (so in like a year)

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The McGregor Effect: Notorious in the NFL

Twice in the space of one week I have seen Conor McGregor and American Football mentioned in the same headline. Once is coincidence. Twice is a trend. I suppose it was only a matter of time before Mystic Mac’s Macho Mania was supplanted to pump ups and pep talks in the huddle. And while I was initially surprised, it makes complete sense. Conor McGregor is an international sports star. And a consummate competitor. In fact, how have teams not gone to him sooner for some motivational mojo?

In a recent interview with ESPN University of Michigan Defensive End Chase Winovich cited the Dublin UFC Star as an inspiration for his rise to success. Winovich underwent a transformation from an average Tight End to a dominating force on the Defensive Line.  He drew parallels between McGregor’s ascension from Dublin plumber to top of the sports entertainment world, to his own journey from a blue collar small town family to Primetime D1 Football. He then did whatever it took to excel at his position while maintaining an unrelenting belief that he would succeed. Sound familiar?

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UM Defensive End Chase Winovich says he is inspired by Conor McGregor

Winovich and McGregors paths may once cross again if the college standout makes it to the pros. Conor was a guest of the Dallas Cowboys this weekend gone by as they finally rose from their funk and dominated the Jaguars at home. The key to Dallas’s rejuvenated performance? Conor McGregor. The Dublin native was a colourful figure full of bravado on the sideline and even delivered some brief pre game words of encouragement. It seems that Conor’s cocksureness lit the spark that the Cowboys were missing.  Dak and Zeke even busted out McGregor’s pre fight swagger when celebrating their touchdowns, truly illustrating how big an influence the Irishman had on the Cowboys mentality that Sunday evening. (Dak Prescott should really teach McGregor how to throw a spiral though, this effort is awful.)

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Dak got that swagger

Could McGregor’s recent American football cameo be a foray into an as yet untapped market? Is the Notorious plotting a post UFC gig as a professional pump upper? Or was it just a once off. After the reception from the Dallas players he would surely at least consider motivational speaker as a potential new business venture. Such was the talismanic effect of McGregor’s presence that it would not be at all surprising if we start seeing more of the bearded brawler on the sidelines of professional sports teams.

As for McGregor – this piece of mostly positive media could not have come at a better time. After his recent defeat, his mortality as a fighter looms even larger. And while the clouds of bad publicity have mostly cleared, his future in the UFC has most definitely been called into question. But this is a football blog and not an MMA one. So will we be seeing Conor on the gridiron again soon? You can count on it.

 

A Cotton Bowl Classic: The Red River Showdown

As I do every week, I have a look over the fixtures to see what stands out and this week there is only 1 game that deserves to be game of the week.  This week there is only one place to be and that is the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, Texas for the ‘Red River Rivalry Game’.

The No.7 Oklahoma Sooners will meet the No.19 Texas Longhorns in the 113th fixture between these two historical football programmes, as it stands Texas has more victories on the board with a game score of 61-46 with 5 draws.

But as with many teams that Texas have a history with, Texas have the better past but have been left wanting in the present. Since the turn of the millennium the Sooners have a 12-6 record against the Longhorns including the last two meetings and this season they have looked extremely formidable and look like a team that are determined to go further than last year’s playoff place.

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Even with the loss of Heisman trophy winning Quarterback Baker Mayfield, who last year set the NCAA on fire with what many considered the best statistical passing season in college football history with the highest passer rating ever recorded, this year’s Sooners Junior Quarterback Kyler Murray is unbelievably on track to beat that record breaking statistic and is currently sitting 30+ points higher than Mayfield at the same point last year.

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Murray was suspended for the start of last weekend’s game against Baylor and still managed to account for seven touchdowns against the Bears. He’s now completing more than 70 percent of his passes through five games, with 17 touchdowns through the air and only two interceptions. He’s added four touchdowns and 285 yards rushing. He is a true dual threat.

But two weeks ago I brought up the same dual threat problem with the TCU offence, and the Texas defense were able to overcome a very good TCU team on that occasion with 3 interceptions and limited the run game to win by 15 points, so this will be  a very interesting battle. Texas Defensive Coordinator Todd Orlando is confident that his players are up for the challenge and has said they know what needs to be done to stop a very good Sooners offence and that the team is getting better as time goes on.

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On the other side of the coin Sam Ehlinger seems to be going from strength to strength and having a very productive season so far with has pass completion improving. He had an 80.6% passer rating last week against Kansas and hasn’t had an interception since week 1 and also gives a rushing option to the Texas offence. He is sure to cause the Sooners Defence problems, but the Texas offense statistically is pulling its weight in every position as the scoring has been well spread out and they don’t seem to be reliant on any single player to carry the team which can only be a good thing.

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I feel that this is going to be a very good game on Saturday evening and I honestly couldn’t tell you who is going to win, the Sooners are undefeated but haven’t really had a real test yet, whereas Texas got off to a bad start with a loss against Maryland in week 1 but have now won 4 on the spin with very good victories against USC & TCU.

In Austin their talking about ‘Texas football is back!!’ On Saturday that will be put to the test to see are the Longhorns truly ready to compete again for a Big 12 title or will the Sooners prove to be too big of an ask on their mission to this year reach the college football playoff final.

 

Oklahoma vs Texas kicks off at 17.00 Irish Time on Saturday 6th of October.

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The “INFL”? International American Football is back

Well it’s that time of year again on the football calendar: The NFL International series is almost upon us. Now in its 11th season, this year’s slate of games in the UK sees a total of 6 teams making the trip across the pond. Historically, the NFL games have been a bit of a snooze fest.  Marquee teams and match ups have been few and far between, and yet European fans can’t get enough.

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However, this year’s program may actually be somewhat entertaining.  The Jaguars, whom the NFL won’t stop trying to foist on London, face off against the reigning Superbowl Champion Eagles. The Jags made it as far as the AFC championship game last year and are slowly shrugging off their label as perennial losers.  The Jaguars are locked in for basically every upcoming International Series. While this previously wouldn’t have raised much interest or even a few eyebrows, their recent success has guaranteed a massive increase in their trips to the UK.  As for the other games, both the Titans and Chargers have had solid seasons so far, while the Raiders are a loss away from full on panic mode and the Seahawks defense has all but disintegrated.

And with the arrival of the International Series arises the years old debate that every NFL fan this side of the Atlantic has an opinion on: Should there be a Football Franchise in London?

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Will the Jaguars eventually become a permanent London resident?

By and large there are two schools of thought on this matter. Those for will argue that both the international series and a possible European team will be a huge boost to the promotion of the NFL to audiences outside of the US. A permanent team in London, presumably based out of Wembley Stadium would allow for a solid fan base to develop around one franchise. The sport of American Football already has a significant market share in those who both play and watch the sport in the UK and Ireland. Our ‘own’ professional football team would surely serve to expand and solidify that market share.

On the flip side, a ‘European’ (Brexit pending) team could be an absolute disaster. Before the Jaguars got hot, the only reason they were being pegged as the franchise that would move here is because they were probably the only team the NFL could convince. And while their recent success has possibly sweetened that deal for UK fans, there are still numerous pitfalls. The time difference is a major one. Americans don’t like to get up early on a Sunday. Nor are UK fans fond of staying up to the wee hours to watch Primetime games that start at 1am.  The other glaring factor is the Atlantic Ocean. West Coast teams would have to allow almost a week for travel and acclimatization when coming to play this London franchise.  Let’s also not forget that this has happened before, albeit in a slightly different form.

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The erstwhile NFL Europe league ran from 1991 to 2007.  NFL Europe largely served as a farm system for NFL proper teams and ultimately went bust. But if a franchise is to be supplanted to London, there are probably some lessons to be learned from this predecessor.

The official verdict from Gaelic Gridiron: The NFL International Series is grand as it is in its current format. Don’t feck it up.

Temporary Heroes

On February 4th 2018 Nick Foles led the Philadelphia Eagles to an improbable Super Bowl victory over the incumbent New England Patriots.  Foles had the game of his life, including the now Immortal ‘Philly Special’ play which saw him catch a touchdown pass.  The backup QB, on his second stint with the Eagles even won MVP for his effort.  Throughout the ensuing offseason, Foles was in high demand, but the Eagles fended off all offers for a trade and locked him up as insurance for a still injured Carson Wentz.

But of course, what goes up must come down. Before their week 3 tilt against the Colts, Wentz was cleared for contact and was immediately slotted in ahead of a struggling Nick Foles. The “Big Dick Nick (god bless Philly) era has officially come to an end in Wentzadelphia.  But this was also going to be the case. Carson Wentz is the present and future franchise signal caller. And Foles knows that. Foles was only ever going to be a stop gap. The Temporary Hero.  It’s likely that Foles will forever be a backup unless a franchise decides to take a chance on him. Whatever happens for him, he can be proud of the fact that when his team called on him to be a hero, he put in a perfect shift.

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Perhaps the biggest story of the season so far is the rise of Ryan Fitzpatrick. Fitzpatrick is a text book temporary hero. Stepping in the starting role for a suspended Jameis Winston, Fitzpatrick has had three games with over 400 yards passing. The QB’s red hot performance sparked conversation that he might take over permanently for an inconsistent Winston.  Fitzpatrick’s unlikely heroics gave life to ‘Fitzmagic’ mania and a host of glorious, bearded memes.  Some of the magic wore off in Week 3 against the Steelers when the Harvard grad had 3 turnovers and was sacked twice.  Despite the hot play cooling off a little, Fitzpatrick is likely to get one more opportunity to prove that he can be more than just a temporary hero for Tampa.  The aforementioned stats he put up as well as the resulting internet fodder have served to boost his profile, and even if he doesn’t keep the starting job, Ryan Fitzpatrick is finally relevant again.

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All hail the bearded one. 

Foles and Fitpatrick aren’t the only fill in saviors that have gained prominence in recent times. Both Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brisset both massively increased their stock as starters while subbing for Tom Brady. Jimmy G will eventually go on to be a true franchise QB in how own right.  While being a backup QB suddenly thrown into the spotlight and expected to perform is certainly a tough spot to be in, it undoubtedly has its benefits as well. Stepping up and becoming the Temporary Hero for your team might just turn you into the Permanent Hero.

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