With the exciting news emerging last weekend that flag football will become an Olympic sport in 2028, could we possibly see an Irish team qualifying and perhaps even competing for a medal in less than 5 years time? Flag football in Ireland has undoubtedly taken massive steps forward in a short period, but the Olympics are a different story altogether. The European Flag Football Championships took place here in August, and featured both a men’s and women’s national team, a feat that alone is testament to the quality of players on our little island. And despite the results not going their way, both outfits made their country proud. But is it enough to warrant a trip to Los Angeles?
At this early stage and with the games so far away it’s impossible to know what the road to the Olympics could look like for an Irish Wolfhounds team. Qualification could take multiple forms, such as world rankings, results from continental and world championships, or even a good old fashioned play in style tournament. One thing is for sure; Ireland has the talent to compete on a global stage. The Wolfhounds Men’s team fared out pretty well in August’s championship, recording victories over Poland and Slovakia. Their female counterparts also made history, becoming the first of their kind from Ireland to wear the green jersey at an international tournament. Their success shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, as the proportion of quality flag football players that has emerged in Ireland in the past couple of years is staggering. Some, like Peter Loughran and Ryan Eccles have transferred their talents from the kitted version of the game while the likes of Hannah King and Helen Smyth are still relative newcomers to the sport. But regardless of their background or how long they’ve been playing, each should be well in with a shout when it comes to selecting an Olympic side.
20 teams currently comprise the flag football scene in Ireland, with more and more being established. Competing across two divisions, they typically meet in an official capacity twice a year in summer and winter tournaments. Some teams are flag only while others are offshoots of kitted teams. A strong pipeline of talented flag football players will be vital to Ireland’s chances of making the Olympics. The current set up and structure of the leagues is decent, but advancements in coaching, resources and the rest will undoubtedly be required if the lofty heights of the Olympics are to be reached. The pieces are in place, they just need refinement.
It is certainly not beyond the realms of possibility or imagination to envision Ireland competing in flag football at the next Olympics. So for anyone with aspirations of becoming an Olympian, now is the time to take it up!