Big 10 Football is coming to Dublin

B1G 10 Football is coming to Dublin

Yesterday it was announced that Big 10 conference rivals University of Nebraska Cornhuskers and University of Illinois Fighting Illini will face off in Dublin in 2021, as the second of five college football games taking place in Ireland over 5 years. For college football aficionados here, this revelation may be slightly lacking in the firepower we expected. While both teams boast historically successful football programs, they do not boast the recent success that previous visitors such as Penn State and Notre Dame do. However, I will say this; When Boston College and Georgia Tech were announced as the 2016 game, I was a little bit underwhelmed. Two fairly average ACC teams didn’t offer a lot to get excited about. But boy was I wrong. Both sides put on a highly competitive performance in subpar conditions and gave native spectators and travelling fans alike a decent show.  (still glad I didn’t pay for my tickets though!) So, while the more hardcore Irish college football fan may have been a bit ‘meh’ about yesterday’s announcement, this matchup will be more than satisfactory for the newly initiated and of course, the fans making the trip.

My own blatant college football snobbery aside, this showdown does have the potential to be a half decent game. Nebraska are currently third in the Big 10 West with a record of 4-3, with 2 of those losses coming against ranked opponents Minnesota and Ohio State.  Their 2019 meeting with Illinois ended in a 42-38 victory for the ‘Huskers and pending the result of next years game, the 2021 edition could be a particularly fiery addition to the series!

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The Fighting Illini have not faired as well so far this season, and currently sit at 2-4 overall. But perhaps the most exciting aspect of the Fighting Illini program is the man at the helm: none other than Lovie Smith. The former NFL head coach took over in 2016, and now in his 3rd season has given the Illinois football program a much needed boost. If Smith can continue to improve the previously beleaguered football team then this 2021 encounter could just be one of the Big 10’s Games of the Season!

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College Football star power aside, the 2021 College Football Classic features two decent enough teams to inspire faith that the plan to bring 5 games to Ireland in 5 years hasn’t overreached it’s ambition. These are two sides that have never played here, who will bring with them two sets of fans and alumni that quite likely have never set foot on our little island before. And that is the real goal of this game and all the games to come. To put Ireland on the map as an International home for College Football.

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The Pats & The Dubs; How New England and Dublin GAA are basically the same team.

On Saturday September 14th, Dublin saw off a brave Kerry effort to claim their 5th All Ireland title in a row. The display of total dominance and self belief put on by the Dubs is hard not to compare to a certain NFL franchise.  Yes that’s right folks, I’m talking about the New England Patriots.  New England have become annual favorites to raise the Lombardi, and rightfully so. Since 2008, the Pats have appeared in 6 championship games, claiming 3 of those.  It’s gotten so ridiculous at this stage that even 2 weeks into the 2019 season, and another Patriots Super Bowl appearance is already being predicted. And unless something drastic happens with the structure of the GAA, (or if another county can find some sort of Dean Rock Kryptonite) the boys in blue are almost a shoe in for a 6th Sam Maguire in a years time.

Dublin GAA claimed a historic 5 All Ireland’s in a row.

Perhaps the most common trait that these two storied organizations share is being absolutely despised outside of their own fan bases. It could be that I’m biased, but whenever either team is playing, I almost always side with their opponent.  And I think the reason for this is that most  (not all mind you) supporters display a certain type of arrogance whenever either team is playing.  Now maybe they’ve earned this right – both teams are after all the undisputed best in their respective codes, but there is no need to be downright cocky about it. Patriots and Dublin fans alike show a blind belief and refuse to accept that there is even the smallest chance they will lose.  Additionally, they both seem to have attracted an awful lot of bandwagon supporters over recent years. I don’t know about you, but I have definitely noticed an influx of Dublin GAA and Tom Brady jerseys about the place. 

Patriots fans seem to be everywhere these days.

The Dublin footballers and the Patriots both happen to have wiley coach at the helm, undoubtedly a major factor in their joint success. Bill Belichick and Jim Gavin are renowned for their methodical preparation and “no bullshit’ approach.  Belichick is famous for refusing to allow a blizzard to interfere with his practice schedule, informing players they would be expected to train regardless of the snow. Gavin, a former Air Corps Pilot and Flight Instructor, applies his military expertise and precision to his training sessions. And it shows. Dublin’s playing style under him has been almost surgical, patiently picking apart their opponents with precision passing and waiting for just the right moment to launch a strike.

Jim and Bill also share somewhat of a dispassionate relationship with the media.  Bill’s responses to questions from members of the press are typically terse and god help you if you ask him something not directly related to the game at hand.  And let’s not forget when Jim refused to speak to RTE in retaliation to not being provided with video footage of his footballers. Taking no prisoners whatsoever.

By the way, have you ever seen either of them smile during a game? Didn’t think so. In fact, the only time the two men smile is when they win big. Like Super Bowl or Sam Maguire big.

Bill’s trademark scowl

We can complain all want about the unrelenting supremacy of both teams, but we must acquiesce to the fact that they are the standard to which all challengers must reach before even dreaming of taking their place. Some have come close – The LA rams stilted the Patriots offense to a 13-3 victory in February, but ultimately they couldn’t find the firepower to finish the job. Similarly, Dublin needed two go’s to kill off Kerry in this years All Ireland. While the would be de-throners fell short, it can only be a matter of time before either sport becomes competitive once more.

How to watch College Football in Ireland

College Ball is finally back! With 5 college football games taking place in Ireland from 2020 onwards, now is the time to immerse yourself in NCAA action. It  is now easier than ever to watch college football in Ireland, and we’ve complied a list of how you can get your college ball fix every weekend!

  1. BT Sports ESPN

Remember the good old days of ESPN America on Sky Sports? 12 glorious hours of uninterrupted College Football, book ended by College Game Day. Well those days are sadly over and now if you want to watch football on your TV, you’re going to have to pay up. Fortunately, BT Sports college football offering is quite decent and they will normally have the marquee match ups, as well as Bowl games, Playoffs and the National Championship Game!

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2.ESPN Player

The official ESPN player is essentially the College Football Version of Game Pass and gives you access to pretty much any game that ESPN has the broadcast rights for.  With the ESPN player you can stream all kinds of American College sports as well as watching highlights and getting full game recaps. The ESPN player is better value if you are a fan of College Football rather than one team in particular, as your teams game mightn’t always be shown.

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3. Streaming sites

Let me begin here by saying that in no shape or form do we condone illegal streaming sites. However, needs must and when it comes to getting your fill of college football, you gotta do what you gotta do! First Row Sports is our go to for streaming college football games, and if you have an Android device, apps such as Mobdro should do the trick as well. Streams can be a bit hit or miss in terms of quality and speed and your patience will probably be tested.

If you’ve been an American football for one year or ten, then College Football is definitely worth getting in to.  Its popularity is growing exponentially both here in Ireland and all over Europe. There’s more passion, more atmosphere and more to lose in College games than there is in the pro’s, and with Ireland becoming the home of College Football on this side of the Atlantic, there really isn’t a better time than now to get involved!

Alternative American Football Movies

With the return of real life football only a matter of weeks away we thought it would be an appropriate time to pick some of our favourite alternative football movies. These flicks mightn’t have been as commercially successful as the likes of The Longest Yard & Co but there are some gems in here that are definitely worth a watch! What are your favourite football movies? Let us know in the comments!

My All American

My All American tells the true story of a high school Safety who’s wish to play for the legendary Coach Darrell Royal was temporarily granted, only to be cruelly cut short. Such was the impression that Freddy Steinmark made on his Coach that he was remembered even in the Coaches later days. A combination of great storytelling and plenty of action scenes make this a must see for any football fan.

Greater

Another true story, this time of the remarkable success of Brandon Burlsworth who despite being told he had no chance of playing D1 Football, walked on at the University of Arkansas and was eventually named an All American and a 3rd round draft pick. The movie is primarily set during his memorial service, with flashbacks to his life and career. It’s unique in the fact that the protagonist is in fact his brother, dealing with the grief of his loss.

Varsity Blues

If you loved Friday Night Lights, then chances are you’re going to enjoy Varsity Blues as well. A classic coming of age tale set in small town America, Varsity Blues depicts the trials and tribulations of the West Canaan Coyotes Football Team and how they deal with a threating  head coach. The ultimate message is that there is more to life than football and as important as the sport may seem right now, it’s not going to be forever!

Draft Day

Despite being a complete Box office bust, Draft Day has become something of a cult classic. Set during the run up to and throughout the NFL Draft, this movie presents a (heavily fictionalized) scenario where the Cleveland Browns are successful and are plotting how to spend the top draft picks they control. If you’re comfortable with the complete suspension of disbelief and with the notion of Kevin Costner as the GM of a football franchise then there’s no harm in giving this one a whirl. And remember: “Vontae Mack no matter what!”

The College Football Conundrum

The College Football season is just around the corner and with 5 games taking place in Ireland over the next few years, now is the perfect time to choose a college football team to follow!

The question is, what college team is the best one to follow? Well, that depends. There are a number of important factors to consider when selecting your college football team. Firstly and most importantly, can they win? Let’s face it, there’s no point in staying up till 3 am every Sunday morning to watch your team lose. If you’re going to sacrifice sleep to watch football, it has to be worth it. Secondly, does that team have a good reputation? If the coach is being investigated for something sketchy or underhand then maybe it isn’t the best idea to start supporting them. And finally – is their jersey nice? As shallow as it might sound, if your going buy their merch, you have to like how it looks.

So without further ado, let’s take a look at some of the best college football teams to jump onboard with right now.

  1. Alabama

The Alabama Crimson Tide are without a doubt the best pound for pound college football team over the past 10 years. In the past 5 years alone they have appeared in 4 National Championship games, winning two of those. They always recruit the top players and have an evil genius as their coach. So if you want a team that wins, go with Bama! Although everyone will probably hate you for it.

2. Clemson

Clemson football are destined to be the next number one team in America, a fate they sealed by hammering their rivals Alabama in this years Championship game. The Tigers have a cool Coach, a monstrous Defensive Line and a Quarterback that will be playing on Sundays in the next two years. This is a bandwagon you definitely want to jump on!

3. Notre Dame

I’ll try to be as unbiased here as possible – but for me when I first got into college football, following the “Fighting Irish” was a no brainer! Not only are they once again emerging as a perennial contender for the national championship, but their mascot is a fecking Leprechaun! And if you find the Irish shtick to be offensive, then you don’t have any sense of humour. Notre Dame are on the come up in a big way and once their recruiting improves, expect them to be in the final on a regular basis.

4. Oregon

While they mightn’t have won much in recent years, the combination of ever changing uniforms and their adorable Duck mascot makes Oregon a solid team to support. Oregon’s jersey’s are produced by Nike and are usually pretty slick. They also occasionally produce talented footballers. For example, you may have heard of a guy called Marcus Mariota? The Ducks have been down on their luck in recent years but don’t be surprised if they splash back onto the scene this season.

NFL Academy comes to London

History was made in London on July 2nd as 150 kids battled it out to become part of the first class at the NFL’s London Academy.  The ground-breaking institute is the first of its kind outside of the US and will give select student athletes the opportunity to combine life skills with intensive sport training under full time coaches. Upon graduation, the students will not only have the chance to pursue pathways into employment and further education but also the chance to play for an NCAA college team in the USA. The players will be coached by British American Football legend Tony Allen who previously coached the London Warriors.

  

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   The try-out took place in Tottenham Hotspurs new stadium (which has been recently fitted specifically for NFL games) and was attended by current NFL players JuJu Smith Schuster and London native Efe Obada. Obada and Smith Schuster were both very impressed with the “Stadium Showcase” particularly by the talent and passion for the sport that was on display. Obada especially, knows how valuable any opportunity to play in the NFL can be. Obada played for the London Warriors before getting his shot to make the jump to the pro’s. He didn’t have this resource at his disposal.

So who can join the NFL’s London Academy? Well, according to their website they are looking for “16-18 year old talented American Football players, cross over athletes or those who have yet to play the sport”. Basically, if you haven’t turned 18 yet and are athletically inclined with an interest in the NFL you have what they’re looking for.  Unfortunately, the age limit rules myself and probably all of our readers out as well!  It seems that I’ll have to keep waiting for my chance to finally make it in the NFL.

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Despite my disappointment at being ruled out, I think the launch of a dedicated NFL UK education centre is major indication of the growth of the game in Europe. It also presents a huge chance for young talented Irish players. At the moment the furthest you can go in Ireland is the National Team, which in itself a huge honour. But imagine being able to take your skills and love for the game to another level altogether. Imagine playing College Football.

If you think you have what it takes then head over to www.nflacademy.com/whowerelookingfor and register. And who knows, you could be the next Irish man to be playing College Football!

Playing with the Big Boys

In any aspect of life, taking a step up is always tough. A new challenge will always add to the physical and mental strains being put on you. This is particularly true in sport. When a team is promoted to a higher division it can take a while for the players to adjust to all aspects of playing at that higher level. If you’re going to be playing with the big boys, then you’re going to have to put in the work.

It starts in the gym. Like it or not, strength and conditioning are going to play an integral part in your success at the next level. You don’t need to be jacked, but you need to have the durability and explosiveness to compete with the guys you’ll be playing against. Becoming stronger should also help you to avoid the unfortunate injuries that are part and parcel of playing American Football.

But playing American football out of your comfort zone is more than big muscles and fast 40’s. It’s as much a mental thing as it is physical. You need to have faith and belief like never before. If a game isn’t going the way you had hoped the worst thing you can do is let your head drop. Becoming a student of the game will also help immensely. Get your head into game tape and learn about your opponent. What are their tendencies? How often to they blitz?  Having even the slightest advantage over the other guy will go a long way.  When you line up and you already know what the guy across from you is going to do, your chances of beating him have doubled.

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Both the talent of players and the standard of play in a higher division is naturally going to be higher, so It’s up to you to put in the necessary work that will be required to compete.  I’ve played at all levels of competitive American Football in Ireland and in a lot of cases there is a massive gulf between teams playing in the top division and those in the lower leagues. And realistically, it should not be that hard for teams playing in IAFL1 or 2 to make the jump. It will take consistency, it will take dedication and it will take sacrifice. But if you love this sport as much as I do, it will be worth it.

If you want to win trophies and you want to play with the big boys then you better up your game.

The Fighting Irishman

The Notre Dame mascot is one of the most iconic in sport. On game day, the spirit of the ‘Fighting Irish” is brought to life by the Cheer Squad, in particular those select few who don the green blazer and bowler to become the Leprechaun. Notre Dame recently announced three new mascots and one of those fortunate enough to have earned this honour, is Conal Fagan. Conal hails from Derry, in the North of Ireland and is the first native Irishman to take on the mantle of the Notre Dame Leprechaun.  But how does a kid from Ireland end up as Notre Dame’s most recognisable representative? We caught up with Conal and he told us all about his amazing journey from St Columb’s College in Derry to a scholarship studying Political Science and Peace Studies in South Bend.

So how just did Conal end up at Notre Dame?

“Two kids from my school had gone to study in the US before me, so they really inspired me to look into it. “ While still in school, Conal began applying for the Sutton Trust, a program which helps youngsters from low and middle income families apply to Colleges in the states. “The process for applying to US colleges is a lot more holistic and denser than applying in the UK or Ireland so it’s not really something you do half-heartedly. As soon as I put my mind to it, I knew that the US was where I needed to be.” As part of the Sutton Trust program, Conal was flown to the US to experience first-hand what college life was like in the States. After months of research and preparation, Conal’s decision came down to either Notre Dame or University of North Carolina. “I’m confident I made the right choice!”

What was the draw of Notre Dame?

For Conal, it was vital that he ended up in a place where he would feel right at home, and where he would be part of a community. “A word that really resonates with people here is ‘family’ – no matter when you graduated, if you meet a fellow alum there’s an instant connection.” The Notre Dame family has a global reach, even as far as South Africa, which Conal found out while coaching soccer in the townships as a volunteer last summer. A family of Notre Dame Fans spotted the ND hoodie he was wearing and instantly recognised him as one of their own. It was then that it really hit home for Conal how powerful and influential the ND brand is around the world. “One of the hardest things to explain back home is just how influential and integral Alumni are.”  

           In addition to being a lifelong member of such a powerful graduate network, the opportunities offered to students at Notre Dame is absolutely “crazy”. From getting to travel around the world for research to meeting some of the most promising young athletes, there’s so much to do. The driving factor for moving abroad to study is summed up by Conal as a desire for self-growth, and to defy the norm. “One of the biggest reasons why I decided to move to the US was that I wanted to push myself outside of what was comfortable. And I really haven’t looked back since”.

Now to the burning question we all have, how the hell did Conal end up on the Notre Dame Cheerleading squad? Well, it all started with a Notre Dame Onesie. That onesie became his attire for every basketball game he attended, and at every game Conal would be courtside leading the fans in their chants. “ Going to the Brandywell ( the home ground of Derry City FC) to see Derry play, I used to sit in the ‘Jungle’ – so I had good experience of being noisy!”  But Conal wanted to do more at games than just sit in the crowd. He wanted to be a bigger part of the experience. And joining the cheer squad was the best way to do this.  “I honestly think the cheerleaders were confused as to how I was so energetic at the games! I had a friend on the squad and when she heard me discussing the possibility of joining, she gave me the push that I needed. It’s been such an incredible experience so far!”

What’s it like being the mascot and representing the Notre Dame spirit? “I can’t emphasise enough how amazing the experience has been”  Conal’s friends initially thought it would be hilarious if someone from Ireland auditioned for the role of the leprechaun, but once he began to realise what exactly the position meant and the opportunities that came with it, it was simply too good for him to turn down. Because mascots aren’t really a thing in Ireland, at first it was quite difficult for Conal to convey the significance of the role, but one he started to appear on TV and on social media people began to grasp the idea a little better.

“Putting on the suit honestly makes you feel like a superhero. When you adopt this persona, it represents more than you can ever imagine.”

The first few weeks of being the mascot were quite overwhelming for Conal as he adjusted to being bombarded for photograph requests as well as being constantly on the go to events, games and other appearances. But no matter how hectic the schedule, for Conal “..The benefits will always outweigh the drawbacks.”

“Pulling on that jersey (in my case a suit) is one of the best feelings. It’s the stuff dreams are made of”.

As Cheerleading isn’t really a thing here in Ireland, can you tell us how big part of University sports culture it is in the States?

“A lot of people’s perceptions of cheerleading are based on what they see in movies, and to be honest, it couldn’t be further from the truth. I think most people imagine that cheerleading involves running around in a leotard waving pom- poms! In reality, I get to throw people in the air and do some really insane stunts, none of which I ever thought I could do! It’s a super dangerous sport that requires a huge amount of strength, technique and focus.” Cheerleaders in America are full time athletes, who have to train four times a week as well as lifting twice a week. But the reward for all the hard work is getting to run out in front of 80,000 people at home football games as well as the millions watching on TV at home. “I don’t think I could have ever pictured this as a kid back home!”

Becoming the face of the Fighting Irish cheer squad wasn’t Fagan’s first brush with Athletics. In fact, he had previously been part of the Notre Dame Men’s Soccer programme! Before he came to South Bend, he was already playing soccer at a high level having made appearances for both the Northern Ireland U15/16 team as well as Derry City’s U17/19 team.  Fagan had already considered playing in a US college, but didn’t want soccer to define his university experience. An email from a highly respected coach encouraging him to give it a shot, however, made his decision a lot more straightforward. And although he did not ultimately make an appearance for the team, working with some of the best players and coaches in the country undoubtedly gave him a strong start and a competitive edge to his time in Notre Dame.

As Conal gears up for the 2019/2020 season, his main goal on the field is to learn how to do a flip! “It’s something I’ve always wanted to learn to do but never really been able to focus the time on so I feel that it’s the perfect time to take advantage.” Off the field, a summer internship in Australia awaits where he’ll be working with Paralympians and Disabled Athletes.  A flat out but very rewarding year awaits him! Best of luck Conal and thanks for taking the time to talk to Gaelic Gridiron!

Injury Prone

American football is a contact sport, and chances are that if you play at some stage you’re going to get injured. Bumps and bruises are part and parcel of the game and normally won’t impact on your playing time. But twisted ankles, sprained wrists and cracked ribs all pose a bigger challenge! There’s a distinct difference between playing hurt and playing injured. In the ten or so years I’ve been playing American football in Ireland, I’ve almost lost count of the number of injuries that I’ve picked up.

In fact, this year alone I’ve been injured 7 (yes 7 ) times since January. I’m what you might call injury prone”.

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But the point of this article isn’t to focus on the negative aspects of being injured. Quite the opposite in fact. Oftentimes when players get injured, their heads will drop and they’ll get disheartened. The worst thing you can do is wallow. This will only make things worse. Recovering from an injury is just as much a mental thing as it is physical.  So what exactly can you do to make sure you get back on the field as soon as possible?

  1. Keep working out.

The most important thing you can do to aid your recovery from a football injury is to stay as active as possible. Not only will working out keep you in game shape, it will keep the blood pumping and flowing which is vital in promoting healing. One of the biggest benefits of exercise is the release of endorphins; that magic happy hormone too boost your mood and overall productivity. It goes without saying that you should only push yourself as much as you feel comfortable with, doing your best not to re-injure yourself.

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  1. Stay involved.

Just because you’re injured, doesn’t mean you’re no longer part of the team.  Get yourself to training – you can learn just as much from watching and listening as you can from actually playing. Watching from the sideline will give you a different perspective and a different viewpoint from which to improve. Staying involved will keep you sharp and make your return to the field a lot easier.

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  1. Be Positive

You won’t be injured forever.  Keep your head up and keep working towards getting back to playing. Tracking your rehabilitation will help you to see how you are progressing and how close you are to returning to play.

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Injuries happen in our sport, and if you’ve been fortunate enough to never experience one then you are truly one of the lucky ones. But if you’re like me then you know just how demoralizing it can be to have to sit and look on as your team play. But trust me when I say that if you rehab properly and have the right attitude then you will be recovered and ready to play in no time.

The Growth of the Game

On Saturday afternoon, the 2019 SBC Season will kick off with the South Dublin Panthers hosting last year’s runners up, the Dublin Rebels. This season there are 22 teams competing in kitted football, the most that we can ever remember being active at the one time. It is without a doubt a time of great growth for the league and indeed the sport on the Island of Ireland. With one brand new team coming on board and one team returning to the fold, there will be a lot of football played in Ireland over the next 5 months.

There are changes afoot in the IAFL, and after years of poor management and shenanigans, the league finally seems to be moving in the right direction.

We recently sat down with IAFA Commissioner Brian Cleary to get his take on this growth and what is in store for the Irish American Football League during 2019 and beyond.

GG: What are your thoughts on the recent growth of the game in Ireland?

BC: I think everyone will agree that growth in any sport is a positive thing and it’s brilliant to see new teams expressing an interest and joining the association every year. This year we have a brand new team with the Causeway Giants and we welcome the return of the Waterford Wolves. We already have interest from two brand new teams for next season in parts of the country that has never had a team so we are definitely heading in the right direction. It’s important though that we manage our growth responsibly to ensure that all the clubs are sustainable and that we have the resources within the association to meet the growing demand for football in Ireland. While it’s great to have new adult kitted clubs coming on board each year, I feel it’s important we don’t neglect the need focus on the growth potential of flag football, youth football and indeed women in sport. Those are the areas that I feel will take our association to the next level and plans are underway to ensure we experience growth in those areas in the coming years.

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GG: What, if any, challenges are presented by new teams coming on board?

BC: New teams means more football, which is great but the challenge is then scheduling all those games to take place within the 5-6 months of our season. We are somewhat limited with the amount of games we can facilitate every Sunday and it’s pretty much dictated by the availability of home grounds and number of qualified full-time officials. We have started scheduling some games on Saturday’s and/or having double headers and I’m hoping that going forward more teams are willing to play on days other than a Sunday. We have recently restructured our officiating department and we now have a dedicated officiating development manager so we hope to see more full time officials coming on board to meet the growing demand. 

 

GG: How have the league been working to promote the sport and support the creation of new teams?

 BC: In late 2018 the board appointed a Director of Development – Niall O’Connor. This is a position that has been vacant for a number of years within our association and probably one of the positions we needed the most to develop and promote the sport. Niall brings in a wealth of experience and spent the last few months learning about the association and identifying our needs. I think we will start to see the benefit of his work and input in the months to come. 

 

In relation to new teams we are currently in the process of developing a handbook. The aim of this handbook is to help brand new or developing teams identify everything they need to successfully set up and run a club. A very rough version of this was actually supplied to the two new teams that joined us this year and indeed to the teams that are hoping to join us next season. It included a basic checklist on what was required to set up a club, a sample budget, constitution bylaws and general pointers on what is expected of a club. To my knowledge this was the first time the association has issued such a document to clubs and the feedback has been very positive. We hope to have the final version complete before the years end, which should be a big support for new clubs. 

 

GG: How will the announcement of more college games to be played here impact the growth of the game?

 BC: The college games present an amazing opportunity to promote our sport and raise awareness that American Football actually exists in Ireland. We have developed a good working relationship with organizer of these events and there will be most certainly opportunities for IAFA to benefit from these games. While I can’t go into great detail on it at the moment the focus will be on education and exposure for IAFA and its members.

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IAFA Commissioner Brian Cleary (right) at the launch of the 2020 College Classic

GG: What advice would you have for someone thinking about playing American football in Ireland for the first time? 

BC: I would say just get down to your local club and give it a go. If you’re thinking about it then you must have at least a small interest in it, so just do it. The American Football community are very welcoming to new players and all our coaches our certified by Coaching Ireland so you’ll be sure to have a safe and enjoyable experience. Be careful though, once you start playing it you’ll be hooked and never look back. It’s a great sport to be part of and you’re sure to meet a great bunch of people who will become friends for life.

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GG: Where do you see the league in 5 years’ time?

 BC: How long have you got? I would like to see growth and development across all areas of the association.  I would like to have maintained a consistent and competitive league structure not just for our adult kitted league but also for youth football. I can see our national team the Irish Wolfhounds participating in International competitions and our full time officials participating in such tournaments. I can see a massive growth in flag football particularly within schools and this is currently being supported by the NFL UK, which we are very fortunate to have working with us. Our Director of Coaching, Emma Burrows has already commenced a five year plan to raise the standard of coaching in Ireland. This is currently on track and I would be very hopeful that it will result in a very clear path, for new and existing coaches to develop their skills. I would like to see IAFA’s first all-female kitted game of football within five years with the ultimate goal of an all-female league being set up soon after. 

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I could literally talk forever on what I would like to see for our future but finally I think it’s important that IAFA improves its reputation both nationally and internationally, with the aim of securing sponsorship and commercial opportunities that can be used to further develop the association.