2021 Irish American Football Preview

2020 was not a good year for anything, Irish American football included. Various restrictions and lockdowns resulted in all competitive games being cancelled. For the most part, teams couldn’t even officially hold training sessions. That’s how bad things were.  Now that vaccines are being rolled out and there’s light at the end of the tunnel, the burning question is:  Are we finally gonna get some football this year? We spoke to AFI Commissioner Brian Cleary to find out more.

GG: Do the league anticipate kitted and flag seasons going ahead in 2021?

BC: I think it’s safe to say that everyone is itching to get back to participating in the sport. We are hopeful that we can get football played and we are looking at a provisional kick off date in June. Despite our hope we are unfortunately at the mercy of the Pandemic and the welfare of our members has to come first. I wish I could give you a more definitive answer but all we can do is have the plans in place and be ready to go when it’s safe to do so. 

GG: Are you considering running blitz style tournaments as an alternative to reduce travel/contact?

BC: All our clubs were canvassed over the last few weeks for their feedback on how this season should run. We are looking at regional Divisions, two North, two Dublin and a South. The aim is to reduce travel as much as possible while ensuring there isn’t a huge mismatch between teams. We are looking at between 6 to 8 games all going well. 

GG: Have any new teams joined the league for the season ahead?

BC: Two new flag team have applied to join the AFI and a vote will take place at the AGM in February. The Thomastown Tigers and the Belfast Lions. 

GG: If the season goes ahead, do you have a venue in mind for the Shamrock Bowl?

BC: I don’t foresee a Shamrock Bowl taking place this year. If football gets played we will have 5 Divisional winners. 

GG: Are there any other exciting developments or announcements we can expect over the next year?

BC: There is an exciting announcement coming very soon. As you have probably seen from our social media teasers, the AFI have partnered with another organisation. This partnership will provide excellent opportunities for our members, you’ll just need to wait a little longer for the Offical announcement. 

We are also still working closely with Irish American Events who are bringing the College games to Dublin over the next few years and there is some exciting plans in place for the AFI in relation to those games. 

We’d like to thank Brian for his time and for his dedication to the sport. Subscribe to Gaelic Gridiron below for more Irish American Football updates!

How to (safely) watch this year’s Superbowl

 This year’s Superbowl party is going to be a little bit different. For one, we won’t all be jammed into the absolute sweatbox that is the Woolshed. That place would definitely count as a so called “superspreader”. Come the first week of February, it is all but guaranteed that any viewing of the NFL’s championship game will have to take place in the comfort of your own home.

With that, you’re going to need reliable coverage to ensure you don’t miss a minute of what will be a historic game. Did any of us really believe back in August that the league would even get this far? I certainly didn’t.  So, where should you watch this year’s Superbowl?

Sky Sports

Neill Reynolds and Co. generally put on a good show for the Superbowl and you can expect some special guest appearances as well. Typically, they broadcast live from the game although something tells me that won’t be the case this year.

NFL Game Pass

If you have a Game Pass account, then you’d be mad not to use it to watch this year’s Superbowl.  You’ll get the American broadcast, with the added bonus of the world famous ads! Game Pass itself is pricey, but you can sign up for a free trial and cancel before your card is charged, a handy way to watch the best version of this years Championship game.

BBC

Unless you have a weird obsession with Vernon Kay, the BBC’s Superbowl broadcast should be your absolute last resort.  It’s not that their coverage and analysis is bad per se, it’s just subpar compared to the other options available to you.  I mean if the biggest names you can attract are Jason Bell and Osi Umenyiora, you’re definitely going to be bottom of the pile.

By the time next years Superbowl rolls around we will hopefully be once again allowed to fill the pubs, but for now we have to make do with what we have. Wherever you watch the game, we hope that you enjoy it!

Football is Cancelled

American Football in Ireland has officially been cancelled for the rest of the year. It had been hoped that at the least the flag football season could be completed, but after being delayed several times due to Covid 19 it was finally called off late last week. Some teams were fortunate enough to play a few games before their season was cut short, while others waited in vain for their chance show off an extended offseason of hard work. After the adult kitted season and subsequently it’s junior counterpart were nixed earlier in the year, the flag football season was the last hope for competitive American football to be played on the island of Ireland this year. But it wasn’t to be and now teams will look towards 2021 for the return of football. 

But will it even be feasible to have a season next year?  The full contact season usually kicks off around late March and, in most cases, preseason training would already be in full swing by now for the upcoming season. Realistically there is no way that teams will be allowed to resume any kind of contact training this side of Christmas, leaving them with very little time to prepare. One option is to delay games until the middle of summer.  It is hoped that by then we will be out the other side of this mess. Another option is to hold tournament style game days, similar to the flag football league format. Teams could play shortened games in a central location, minimising contact and travel risks. It’s not the best solution, but at least there would be football. And some football is better than no football.

In the meantime, teams from both codes need to stay sharp and focused. A long off season is about to get a whole lot longer and it can be easy to for players to lose their focus and motivation.  Coaches will need to figure out how to keep their athletes engaged, and one way of doing so is by holding intra – squad scrimmages. Proper games tend to bring out the best in players and a little competitive football will go a long way to raise team spirits, while also keeping skills sharp! Alternatively, mixing things up by holding a training session on the beach or even holding a different kind of training session will help ensure that your team doesn’t get jaded during this unprecedented football outage.

At the end of the day, American football in Ireland is kind of like a big family and we all need to pull together. The sooner we get through these strange times, the quicker we can all get back to playing football.

Are you coping without Football?

Are you starting to experience symptoms of football withdrawal? Good, so it’s not just us then! Under normal circumstances the Irish American football season would just be coming to a close after a long summer . The Shamrock Bowl  would have been contested, and teams up and down the country would already be plotting for next season. And with full contact American football in Ireland unlikely to happen until the new year, what ever are you going to do to get your football fix?

18,876 American Football Player Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty ...

Fortunately, we are less than 2 weeks away from football kicking off across the Atlantic! The 2020 college football season (albeit in a much-adapted format) gets underway on the first weekend in September, and despite 2 conferences already pulling out, some football is better than no football! There was a lot of uncertainty as to whether college football would even go ahead at all, and it could very well still come grinding to a halt mid season if there is a sudden spike in coronavirus cases.

Meanwhile in the professional ranks, the NFL seems content to adopt a wait and see approach. Teams are limiting the number of fans that will be in attendance at games, or in some cases are banning fans altogether for the start of the season.

Will the season be completed? Right now it’s impossible to predict, but the odds are definitely stacked against. But at least we’ll have some sort of football to watch soon!

Not content with just sitting and watching football? We get that. Being deprived of any sort of competitive football would  drive any player a bit crazy.  And while the kitted season may be postponed, flag football is still going strong with games due to start in mid to late September.  The non contact version of the sport is just as competitive and demanding, putting a heavy emphasis on skill, footwork and technique.  There are flag football teams all over the country, so if you’d like to give it shot get in touch with us and we’ll point you in the right direction!

American Football Ireland

Let’s be honest, with everything that’s going on in the world these days we’ll take any sort of football we can get our hands on! Football is probably something we all took for granted – not truly realising how important it was to our personal lives as an outlet for socialising and for fitness. I for one will never take anything, let alone football for granted again. So, when you’re sitting cheering for your favourite team on a wintery Saturday evening, or lining up to run routes on a chilly Sunday morning, savour the feeling. It’s more important than you realise!

Last Chance Review – Laney College

The final football instalment of Last Chance U arrived on our screens this week, and like any self-respecting football fan I dedicated my evenings to getting acquainted with the latest bunch of misfit players striving to get recruited into a big time college programme.

My expectations for this season were high, perhaps unrealistically so. You can see why Netflix have decided to progress the show onto a different sport – there was just no oomhph. No Fireworks.

Real talk: There was no Buddy Stephens. The show has never been able to recapture the emotional turmoil inflicted by watching the fiery tempered coach go off on his team in Season 1. Yes, it was extreme, but It was effective. And it made for excellent television. Don’t get me wrong, I liked Coach Beam. He seemed to genuinely care about his players, and really wanted to see them succeed. He definitely ranks above Jason “JB” Brown in the hierarchy of LCU coaches.

I liked this season, but I didn’t love it. And I think the reason being is that Last Chance U has deteriorated into a pseudo reality TV show. This affliction started in part 2 of Independence College; players were signing up to play football there with the sole goal of getting on TV and getting noticed. You can’t blame them for this – some Division One coaches (cough Lane Kiffin cough) are notorious for picking up players who feature. But this trend has undoubtedly contributed to the overall feeling of “shtick” I get from the show. The football players are playing up to the camera, and playing down any mistakes they might make. Cornerback Rezjohn White is a prime example of this. While he is unquestionably talented and ended up with scholarship offer to Oregon State, he gave up a couple of big plays and ultimately sat out a large part of the season.

There was one redeeming quality to this season, well technically two. Dior Walker-Scott and Nu’u Taugavau. Honestly these two were the only reason I connected to the show and stuck it out.  I was really rooting for these boys to succeed and to make it. They overcame obstacles and adversity with grit and determination and I truly hope they do well at the next level. If you watched the show and weren’t quietly pulling for these two to get recruited then there’s something wrong with you inside.

(Honourable mention to another of the featured players, Wide Receiver RJ Stern. You can understand his frustration at not getting targeted with enough passes, but his constant whining began to grate after a while.)

Overall, it was a refreshing change of pace to get an insight into a substantially different program, in a vastly diverse environment. But having said that, I wouldn’t be in a rush back to Laney College.

American Football Charity Tournament set for October

Teams representing North America, Europe & Australia will converge upon Chester Country Club on October 17th this year, for the inaugural edition of the Schymder Cup. Players from different countries will come together and compete to raise funds for American Football mental health charity “Lifting the Lid”.

(Important Note: The players are primarily UK based, with some international players participating. Team Canada/USA/Australia were created to accommodate the number of players who signed up. These are not official international teams.)

The charity game is the brainchild of Razorbacks player and former Thundering Herd General Manager, Mike Ireland. Mike has had great success with charity matches in the past; previous iterations include the “East West Bowl” a “Comic Book Bowl” featuring Marvel vs DC and even a “Star Wars Bowl” with Team Jedi squaring off against Team Sith!

All funds raised will go to Lifting the Lid, who are doing amazing work in raising awareness around mental health in American football.

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Since announcing the tournament Mike has received a huge response, with over 150 players and coaches expressing an interest in being involved in some shape or form: “It turns out if you take football away from people, then there’s any sniff of a game they’ll jump all over it!”

Given the lack of football on at the moment it’s really no wonder that players are snapping at the chance to strap on a helmet and pads! Such has been the uptake that Mike has had to turn people away and even convert a few to coaches in order to get them involved: “I felt bad though – I’ve had to turn a lot of people away, or some have done, convert them to being coaches! So we have the likes of Nicholas Jones, Glen Toonga and Sam Astley, all top level ballers standing on the sidelines shouting at the poor souls doing the running around on the pitch!”

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Showing up for Ireland in the Schmyder Cup is none other than Tosan Memuduaghan! The former South Dublin & UCD signal caller will be representing Team Canada (don’t ask us how lol) alongside former Panthers teammate Ben Arulogun. Rounding out the Irish contingent are Euan Maclean, Carl Rugen, Liam McNally , Paddy Hart, Eamon McManus, Jamie Somers and Chrisie McKee, all of the NI Razorbacks!

The game will be streaming live on the official Scmyder Cup Facebook page, and presumably there will be various other streams available to watch. Keep an eye out as well for the slick jerseys being sported by the players! The official kit provider is none other than Ridge Sports and we all know they make some nice gear. All in all it sounds like it’ll be a great day out, raising funds for a great cause!

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Why you should be playing Flag Football

A few years ago, if you’d suggested flag football to me, I would have laughed. I didn’t rate it at all. I was still playing kitted football and honestly never gave it a second thought. But then I was asked to coach the inaugural flag team of the club I was with at the time. And it gave me a whole new perspective. 

Flag football is not just for the casual participant. In fact, playing flag can be of great benefit to kitted players and athletes of different codes alike.

First and foremost, are skills.  The flag version of American football is played in tighter confines, which means your route running will have to be on point if you want to get separation. 90% of flag football plays are passes, giving players plenty of opportunities to refine their footwork, balance, and hand – eye coordination.

A huge secondary perk of playing flag football is the fitness. Whether you’re on offense or defense you’re going to be running a lot. Flat out sprinting every play. As we all know, high intensity exercise is hugely beneficial for cardio and fat burning.  Playing flag will boost your physical fitness, your stamina and your speed. For QB’s , there won’t be as much running but the high tempo of the game will help enhance your mechanics.

For me, the biggest draw of flag football was the opportunity to continue to play competitively. Without the risk of getting seriously injured. Flag is (meant to be) non contact, and if you’re starting to feel the wear and tear of full contact, switching will definitely extend your playing career. Flag football is a hell of a lot safer than full contact!

The Irish flag football scene is coming on strong. There are currently 2 divisions & over 25 teams, and players of all genders and ability are welcome.   So whether you’ve played for years or are looking to try a new sport now is definitely the time to get to get involved!

The 2020 College Football Game in Ireland has been cancelled.

Today it was announced that the College Football game between Navy and Notre Dame due to take place in Ireland on August 29th, has officially been cancelled.

There was much speculation in recent weeks that the game would still go ahead despite restrictions on mass public gatherings.

In a statement, Chet Gladchuck, Naval Academy Director of Athletics said: “We are obviously disappointed not to be travelling to Ireland this August, but, as expected, our priority must be ensuring the health and safety of all involved.  I am expecting that we will still be able to play Notre Dame as our season opener, but there is still much to be determined by health officials and those that govern college football at large.”

The game is now slated to take place in Annapolis, the home city of the Naval Academy Midshipmen.

The college football game was due to set a new world record, with 40,000 Americans planning on travelling outside of the US for the game, the most to ever do so for a single sporting event.

The 5 Game Aer Lingus College Football Classic Series will now begin in 2021 when the Fighting Illini take on the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

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.