The Dublin Rebels are kings. For now anyway. A closely contested win over UCD at home last Sunday sees them sitting atop the American Football Ireland Premier Division table. With only two games to go in their regular season, the South Dublin side are poised to make a push deep into the postseason, and could even reach their first Shamrock Bowl since 2018 ( a loss to the Cork Admirals.) So, how has this as of yet undefeated season come to be? We caught up with Head Coach Ross McCooey and Assistant Coach Andrej Barlafa to find out.
“The season so far has been the result of a lot of hard work and dedication from people at the club over the last few years” comes McCooeys response when queried about the “secret” to his side’s fantastic run in the first full season since Covid. “That resilience that’s been built has really served us well in season so far, allowing us to be confident in ourselves and who we are as a team.”
There is no doubt that the Rebels are gelling incredibly well on both sides of the ball. Quarterback Ty Henry has been a revelation, and is currently ranked second on the passing TD leaderboard with 14 scores through the air. Henry has also added 3 on the ground for good measure. Indeed, the nine time national champs have been greatly bolstered with a number of additions on offense. “Guys like Cathal Keane, who is criminally underrated as a receiver, or rookie WRs Dave ‘Deebo’ King, Greg Johnson, and Alan Dowdall, who have all added explosive dynamics to the O, have been huge parts of it. Not to mention Wello hitting home runs on the ground from all over the field”(10 so far for the season) “ It’s really been a fantastic team effort by everyone” says the Head Coach. “The secret to success this year is really no secret at all, hard work” Barlafa adds. Not to be outdone, the defense has added 6 interceptions courtesy of standout Dylan Paisley. They can score on D too, something longtime veteran Conrad Cook has displayed with 2 defensive touchdowns so far.
With the regular season soon coming to a close, the question has to be asked: Is it Shamrock Bowl or bust for this year’s Rebels side?
“We’re taking it one snap, one game at a time.” says Barlafa “The UCD game finished yesterday, today we’re preparing for Craigavon. No complacency, we’ve been hungry for football since COVID started and we’re not letting a single moment slip away. “We’ve set out a goal to lift the Shamrock Bowl a long time ago.Still a long way to get there.” [sic]
“Lifting the bowl is always the end goal for the Rebels.” McCooey tells us. “We’re in a great spot as a team right now, but, clichéd as it may be, we’ll continue to take it one game at a time and not look beyond the next opponent.”
“We’re focused on continually improving, as we still don’t feel like we’ve hit our top gear yet. Once we keep building on that, the sky is the limit for this squad.”
Last weekend’s clash between the top two teams in the country was almost certainly a preview of this year’s Shamrock Bowl, and if that exciting shootout was anything to go by we are in for a treat. These are not the Rebels of old. In fact, they seem to be working hard to cast off any lingering perceptions from the past and to do their talking with pure football.
We wish them every continued success as they strive to re-ascend to the top of the Irish American football mountain.