High School Football returned in style to Dublin last weekend when the Global Ireland Football Tournament rolled into town. This would be the fourth iteration of GIFT, held as part of the build up to the almost annual college football game here and featured a triple header of fixtures at Donnybrook’s Energia Park. 4 US teams made the trip to participate this year, including Tennessee State champion Baylor School, along with a strong contingent of support staff and supporters.
Game 1 kicked off at 12 noon local time and saw the Bonner & Prendie Friars of Philadelphia pitted against the NFL Academy based in the UK. Perhaps surprisingly this was the sole game where the US side were not favorites to win. But despite having a considerable size advantage on either side of the line, the international team were no match for the speed and athleticism of their US counterparts. Lending his boot to the NFL Academy was one Andy Quinn, a local rugby lad from Donnybrook who learned to kick on the very pitch where he was now making his debut! Quinn was instrumental to his side’s success, accurate on both extra point and field goal attempts. The Friars would ultimately come out on top on a scoreline of 34-24.
The second joust featured two powerhouses in the Baylor School and Seton Hall Prep. And while a much tighter affair was expected in this fixture, that turned out to not be the case as the reigning Tennessee champions rained down 42 points on their east coast opponents. Also raining from the sky were several nasty bolts of lighting, which forced the game to be postponed midway through the 3rd quarter. The unscheduled respite did nothing to bolster the preppy pirates as their defense was no match for future SEC Quarterback Whit Muschamp. His opposite number Liam Londergan struggled to get the Pirates offense going, particularly evidenced when he failed to get the snap off with time running down in the first half. The final score: Baylor 42 – Seton Hall 7.
Despite the weather’s best efforts, the evening fixture proceeded as planned as the untested Junior AFI Wolfhounds took the the now soggy field to face the Community School of Naples Seahawks. And boy did they give them one hell of a game. Causing massive pressure up the middle of the line, the rag tag defensive front had the Seahawks QB running for his life on multiple occasions. Better yet, the Hounds forced not one, but two massive turnovers in the form of a forced fumble recovery and in interception. The home crowd were loving it, as shouts of “In your head” rang out from the stands. The US side were visibly shaken, and the fact they only put up 22 points is a testament to the hard work of players and coaches. There is a lot more to come from these young Irish American Football players.
“The Irish who represented their nation as members of the AFI Jr Wolfhounds are now more motivated to improve, and proud to be developing the depth and talent of American football players and programs across the country.” said GIFT Founder Patrick Steenberge after the game.
Steenberge was delighted with the success of the 2023 event. “The 4th Global Ireland Football Tournament, played alongside Notre Dame & Navy, proved to achieve nearly every goal we had set. First off, the members of the 4 American high schools who joined with their football teams and supporters each had memorable experiences that will impact each individual forever. The youngsters especially now have a far better understanding of Ireland and the Irish people, and are better TEAMmates.. A heartfelt ‘thanks’ to everyone who helped make it a success!”
If you missed this year’s Global Ireland Football Tournament then fear not, as more games are planned for 2024 and 2025, with teams from Florida, Georgia and California already slated to play. Subscribe to Gaelic Gridiron for more!