Ireland’s national american football team, the “Wolfhounds” will square off against Spain in the first round of the European Championships on October 22nd in Madrid.
This will be Ireland’s first competitive fixture in these championships, as well as the side’s first game since 2019, when they narrowly defeated the Belgian national side on a scoreline of 6 – 0. That was Ireland’s second victory over the Barbarians, having previously bested them the year before.
Speaking about the game, Wolfhounds General Manager Alan Orr commented how: “This all started with reestablishing the national team, and the home and away fixtures we had with Belgium. The whole idea was to apply for these championships.”
Ireland and Spain will be joined in Group B of the European Championships by Turkey and Israel. The overall group winner will advance to face Germany in 2023. If the Wolfhounds can beat Spain and win the game after that, they will earn the right to face the Germans.
“Playing the best teams gives you a benchmark of where you need to be.” says Orr. “ Our level hasn’t been tested since the Belgium games – and Spain have been tested in the past. It’ll be good to see where we stack up. We’ll Learn from it and Try and get the W.”
Preparations for Ireland’s initial foray into competitive European football have been underway since early this year. “We knew from a distance out that we’d have some European Championship football around September – October time” says Wolfhounds Head Coach Ciarán O’Sullivan. “From the start of the year we were always building towards this. We had our first ever camp this year, which was two days of working on schemes and fundamentals.”
To achieve the desired results though, there had to be buy-in from not just the players and staff but from the league as a whole: “It’s not just the Wolfhounds preparing, it’s American Football Ireland.” O’Sullivan tells us. “We had the first ever international break built into the season this year to allow us to prepare. So that our players would be in mid-season form and at their best.”
Despite his side’s relative inexperience at the international level, Coach O’Sullivan is confident in their ability. “My own expectations are that we’ll be competitive. This is uncharted territory for us. Our first ever European championships. It will be a challenge but we’ll be in the fight for sure.”
While the immediate focus is on the upcoming games, both Orr and O’Sullivan recognise that they have a role to play as stewards, keeping the international program going for the future generations to come. “Last weekend at the Hope Through Football camp there were 40 to 50 young lads from all over the country. There’s the future of football in Ireland. We’re just keeping the seats warm for these young lads coming through.”
“I Want to see a successful team for the next ten years and more, that would be fantastic.” adds Orr.
With four sessions left on the books to prepare for their test against Spain, the Wolfhounds will undoubtedly be hard at work in the coming weeks and we are looking forward to seeing how they fare. The game will be livestreamed, and we’ll have more details on that as well as kickoff time closer to the day.