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. 

Image result for tailgate to heaven

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.

Image result for shamrock bowl

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. 

Image result for ucd american football

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!

Image result for west dublin rhinos

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.

Image result for college football ireland 1988
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.
Image result for pittsburgh rutgers dublin 1989
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.

Image result for penn state ucf dublin field goal
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.

Image result for georgia tech bc dublin

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.

Image result for aer lingus college football classic 2021

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!

Image may contain: text

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. 

Image may contain: one or more people

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?!

Image may contain: text

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!

Image may contain: possible text that says 'NEL SUNDA YS NFL NFL FOOTBALL SCREENING EVERY SUNDAY FULL MENU AVAILABLE TILL' 11PM 2 MEGA SCREENS & 16 LARGE SCREENS DRINK SPECIALS FROM 10PM SPECIAL DJ'S FROM 1PM'

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!

No photo description available.

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!

Image result for the steel curtain


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.

Image result for JJ Watt blood

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.

Image result for ray lewis scary

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!

Image result for spider face mask nfl