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!

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.

Getting Football Fit

In a little over a month, the 2019 Irish American football season will kick off and players up and down the country are busy preparing for what promises to be the best set of fixtures yet.  And while knowing the playbook inside out is a critical part of a player’s success, being physically prepared for the inevitable toil is just as important.  Anyone who has played the sport knows just how sore you can be on a Monday after hitting and getting hit repeatedly the day before.  So what can you do to get your body ready for the upcoming season?

 

  1. Train

Strength and condition is a critical part of being an American football player. Unless you’re naturally strong enough, chances are you’re going to have to lift. Even lifting twice a week will give you an edge. The key exercises for football players are: bench press, squats, dead-lifts and cleans. Physical strength and explosiveness are essential qualities to succeed on the field.  But it’s not all about pumping iron.  In order to keep up with the fast paced, stop start nature of the game, you’re going to need to run. A lot. A mix of sprints and longer runs should give you the speed and endurance required to play.

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  1. Eat

Depending on what position you’re playing, you’re going to have to retain a certain weight and size. For example, anyone playing a high contact positon like Linebacker, Running Back or anywhere on the line will need to be heavier and bulkier than someone playing WR or DB. Getting enough protein in your diet can often be challenging. Instead of just having toast for breakfast, try to include some eggs or even chicken. For dinner, adding red meat or fish will make a significant difference to your muscle mass. And remember: If you’re trying to get lean by cutting carbs, you’re going to lose strength and size too!

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  1. Rest

Rest days are just as important, if not even more so, than working out. Rest is invaluable to your body’s recovery – allowing for muscle growth and retention. If you’ve had a particularly tough training session or game, the best thing you can do after is rest! Those aches and pains will only get worse if you do an intense workout the day after a game. If you absolutely have to exercise, a quick walk to get the blood flowing will do the trick.

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It’s important to remember though that every player is different and will have their own fitness ideology.  This article is only intended as a guide, for new players and for veterans looking to get a few tips on how to become a better competitor and athlete! We are by no means qualified experts!

Do you have a workout or meal plan that you swear by for football? Let us know in the comments!

The Gaelic Gridiron Superbowl Guide

Super Bowl Sunday is almost upon us and the entire nation is getting in on the act. What was once a niche event on the Irish sporting calendar has grown to become a nationwide celebration of all things USA. As American Football continues to grow in popularity here, pubs up and down the country are stocking up on hot dogs as they prepare to feed fans until the wee hours of Monday morning. It’s a far cry from a few years ago when you’d be hard pushed to find even one place that would invest in a late licence in order to stay open to show it.

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Superbowl Sunday in Dublin

Whether this Is your first Super Bowl, or your tenth (god I’m old) it’s essential that you find the right spot to settle in and cheer on whoever is playing against Tom Brady. For the ultimate Super Bowl atmosphere and experience, nowhere beats The Woolshed. Dublin’s best sports bar transforms into NFL world with every screen in the place (that’s a lot) showing the game. 3 bars across two floors ensures that you’re never waiting too long for a drink. And if you’re feeling peckish during the game, you can literally get a bucket of wings delivered to your table. What more could you want?

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If you don’t fancy the trek down Parnell Street then have no fear because the south side of the city also has plenty of options to watch the Super Bowl! An old favorite of mine is Sinnotts, beside St.Stephen’s Green.  Sinnotts has a huge cinema style screen as well as several smaller screens so you’re guaranteed to have a good view from wherever you’re sitting. Although if you do want to be sitting I’d recommend getting in early as both The Woolshed and Sinnotts will be packed by 9pm at the latest. Grub wise, Sinnotts does some pretty savage platters, perfect for picking on throughout the night. The burgers are also decent. Wherever you end up, there’ll be no shortage of soakage options, ensuring that you can keep the pints up till the 4th quarter!

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Sinnotts is an absolute gem.

*If you do hit The Woolshed, make sure to keep an eye out for the West Dublin Rhinos American Football team!

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Once you’ve decided where to watch the game and sorted yourself out with some wings – it’s time to play NFL jersey bingo! Ireland has a huge sleeper NFL fan base, and Super Bowl Sunday brings them all out of the woodwork. While it’s a given that there will be an unbearable amount of Patriots jerseys with ‘Brady’ or ‘Gronkowski’ on the back, you’re guaranteed to also see a few gems. Will you spot an ill-fated Browns Johnny Manziel jersey? Or perhaps an orange crush Denver broncos top. Those are pretty sweet.

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Whatever the outcome of Super Bowl 53, the important thing is to have the craic. Sunday will literally see the forces of Good and Evil battling it out for a year of bragging rights, and the city of Dublin is bound to be buzzing.

 

 

Back Up Ballers

Being a Backup QB in the NFL is a handy gig. You earn a shitload of money to sit on the sideline drinking Gatorade and having the craic. Every once in a while you might be called in to close out a game or hold a snap. But things are changing. Backup QB’s are fast becoming the saviors of NFL franchises. Nick Foles is the prime example of this tectonic shift. Foles cemented his place in NFL history last season, when he came off the bench to lead the Eagles to Superbowl glory, earning MVP honors for his trouble. Foles also gained the adulation of Philadelphia. Philly sports fans are notoriously tough to please, and by bestowing him with the title of “Big Dick Nick” they have made him one of theirs forever. The underdog QB nearly repeated his heroics this season but suffered an unfortunate stumble at the Divisional round hurdle.

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Philly’s favorite son will forever live on in NFL history.

Nick Foles isn’t the only backup QB to be unexpectedly thrust into action in recent times. 49ers 3rd stringer Nick Mullens went from zero to hero this year when he was forced to replace both Jimmy G and CJ Beathard. Mullens more than stepped up to the plate and in 8 games threw for 2,277 yards and 13 touchdowns. He formed a strong connection with Tight End George Kittle, which will certainly benefit them both when the roster is being set next Summer. Mullens’ real triumph however, came off the field, when his Twitter profile became verified. You know you’ve made it in life when that little blue tick appears next to your name. Now that’s validation.

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Big Dick Nick Jr?

While this trend of the number two signal caller riding in to save the day may seem relatively new, we must remember that the greatest QB of our generation was once a back up himself. Yes, as much as it pains me, I am in fact talking about Tom Brady. When he was drafted out of Michigan in 2000, no one thought that he would ever amount to much. But Mr. Irrelevant took his chance to usurp the incumbent New England Passer and never once relinquished his grip. Over the course of almost 20 years, Brady went from scrawny understudy to NFL golden boy. And love him or loathe him, you have to admit that he has done so much for the game of American Football, especially serving as an inspiration for young QB’s who want to one day lead a franchise.

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Brady always knew that he’d be a star.

September 2019 will almost certainly see Wentz and Garoppolo back at their respective helms, there will always be hope for the back up. Your day will come.

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It could be you. 

(Shout out to Matt Saracen, possibly the greatest back up turned starter ever)

Regular Season Review

And then there were twelve. The dust has settled on the regular season, and tonight 4 teams will do battle in the Wildcard Round. The top prize is on the line: a trip to the Superbowl.

It’s been a weird 4 months of football.  Pass defense seemed to fall by the wayside as high octane offenses dueled to outscore each other. It was only down the stretch that teams remembered that they had secondary’s. The emergence of rookie gunslingers like Mahomes and Goff and the resurgence of the legendary Drew Brees were the main factors behind the apparent redundancy of defending against the pass.

But it wasn’t just defensive backs who became villains. Pass rushers, Clay Matthews in particular seemed to become persona non grata with the league. In the early part of the season, defenders who even breathed aggressive were penalized for roughing the passer. It became so farcical that Ndamukong Suh created his own PSA demonstration video on how to safely tackle the Quarterback.

Disastrous defense aside, there were a number of other notable events that marred the season.

Le’veon Bell’s holdout at the start of the season cast a shroud over the Steelers. Bell’s absence was a massive distraction for the team and is undoubtedly the reason they got off to such a rocky start. But Bell’s holdout also revealed the true nature of professional football, the side we don’t like to acknowledge. Money. The league is a business, and these men are assets. Bell has every right as an employee to demand more money, but because we like to ignore this facet of football, he was portrayed as the bad guy, greedy and gutless for holding out on his teammates and his fans.

You could write a whole thesis on the ins and outs of professional athletes and their rights vis a vis payment. All we’ll say for now is that by taking the above action, Bell has guaranteed two things. 1: He has played his last game for Pittsburgh and 2. Other Running Backs are going to follow in his lead.

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The NFL has a checkered history of players committing physical assault. Ray Rice, Greg Hardy and more recently Reuben Foster have all been accused of violence against women. In some cases the league will pay lip-service and then sweep it under the carpet. But occasionally, they’ll make an example. 2018’s perpetrator was Kareem Hunt, the electric Chiefs Running Back. Within an hour of a video of him appearing to hit someone surfaced, his former time cut ties. There message was loud and clear: “We don’t want anything to do with him.” And you can’t blame them. In order to maintain some sort of a good reputation, the NFL has to be tougher on this issue. Zero tolerance. Zero excuses.

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It has indeed been an up and down year in the NFL. I haven’t even enjoyed watching games as much as I used to. Hopefully the 2019 season will be better. As for the Post Season Finale in February: The Chiefs and the Rams will battle it out in Atlanta for a chance to lift the Lombardi. And ultimately, Patrick Mahomes will win his first world championship.

Walking in a Christmas Football Land

The festive football period is finally upon us. December is when The NFL is at its best. Teams that have been trailing make a sudden playoff push, games are played in the snow and sometimes even Santa makes an appearance! Read on to find out what we think are some of the essential aspects of Football in December.

 

  1. Christmas day football.

The Christmas day game is always a must watch! On December 25th 2016 the Steelers got the best Christmas present of all – a last gasp win over the Ravens. Pittsburgh were down 27-24 with a minute to go in the 4th quarter. They then drove the field and on 2nd and goal with 14 seconds left in the game, delivered one of the most memorable plays in recent Steelers history. Big Ben stood in the pocket and delivered a strike to AB who was immediately hit at the 1 yard line before somehow extending the ball across the chalk for the winning score. This stunning play came as time expired and sealed the Christmas miracle win for the Steelers. Dubbed by fans as “The Stretch” it will go down in Steelers lore. They couldn’t have asked for a better Christmas present than the Steelers beating the ravens on Christmas day.

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The Stretch 

 

  1. Santa in the Stands

I can’t be the only one who was caught by surprise while playing Madden over Christmas, when suddenly St. Nick would appear on my screen decked out in team colours?! The games’ seasonal changes added some enjoyable realism to playing and brought you closer to actually being there. And while I haven’t played Madden in a couple of years, I’m sure Santa still makes an appearance every year to cheer on his side.

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No way Santa is really a Giants fan…

  1. Snow Games!

Let’s all admit it – watching a game being played in heavy snow is way more fun than watching any old ordinary game. It’s hard to run the ball and even harder to pass owing to poor visibility and a slippy football. So when a big play is made, it’s extra special. Nothing says December football like a Snowbowl. And what better way to celebrate a touchdown in a Snowbowl than making a snow angel or engaging in a friendly snowball fight with your team mates?

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Who wears white during a snow game?!

 

  1. Santa’s little Cheerleaders.

This one needs no explanation at all…Santa baby 😉

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All I want for Christmas

 

Christmas is a special time of year in the NFL and with the season coming to its business end, teams have limited time to seal their post season fate. Who will be on the naughty list come playoff time? And who will get the best present of all, the Lombardi Trophy?

These are just some of the best things about Christmas football. What’s your favorite festive football tradition? Let us know in the comments!

 

Here Come the Irish: My day in Notre Dame

“And there’s a magic in the sound of their name…Here come the Irish of Notre Dame…”

As these words rang out around Notre Dame Stadium and segued into “Shipping up to Boston”, a wave of chills ran through me. I was finally here. From the first time I watched Notre Dame play in their home stadium on TV, I had set my sights on making it to a game.  And there was the band, there was the leprechaun, and there were the players. They were even wearing green to welcome their biggest Irish fan! (Not really, but still a cool coincidence) Justin Yoon sent the kickoff flying and Notre Dame stadium echoed with the roar of “GO! IRISH!” But how the hell did I end up here?

I had arrived on the South Bend campus earlier that day and caught my first glimpse of the Golden Dome glinting in the distance. As I wandered around the grounds of the university, jaw ajar in sheer awe of the place, the craziness of the past two days began to pay off. On Wednesday evening of last week, I got a message from Notre Dame Athletics on Facebook telling me I’d won two tickets to the game that weekend. I had previously entered their competitions and had  claimed that if I ever won tickets I’d fly out for the game…and now they were calling my bluff. My hands were shaking so hard that I could barely type as I furiously searched for the cheapest possible flight. It did strike me that what I was about to do was insane. I also realised that if I didn’t go, I would always regret it. Life comes down to a few moments. This was one of them.

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The Golden Dome

I was initially greeted in South Bend by sub zero temperatures and more than enough snow. Luckily I had been forewarned of the inclement weather and was well wrapped up… apart from my feet which were beginning to feel like blocks of ice. The solution? Head to the Irish bar! This is exactly what I did, and after asking a local for directions, I ended up getting a lift in his golf cart. Happy days! The patrons in  the bar got a great kick out of the fact that I had traveled three and half thousand miles on less than forty eight hours notice to see Notre Dame play at home. I was later greeted by a great friend of mine, James O’Toole. I hadn’t seen James since the last time I went to game three years previously, and when I found out I’d won he was the first person I called. It was fantastic to catch up.

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As evening fell we made our way back to the campus to collect the tickets, and I got to meet legendary Coach Knute Rockne(In statue form, anyway) There was a buzz in the air as tailgaters took their revelry from the the parking lot into the stadium. It was somehow even colder in there than it had been outside. But once the ball was kicked off, I forgot all about being cold. The Irish dominated all game. I had flown across the Atlantic to witness potential national champions at work, and they did not disappoint.

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Just chilling with Knute

 

As I write this I am still having trouble accepting that it happened. It was like being in a dream. A dream that came true. And I will definitely be back.

 

NFL Hall of Horrors

Halloween is upon us and to celebrate the spooky season  we decided to take a look at some of the scariest players to haunt the NFL. Now as you can imagine, most of these fellas are demons of defense and spent their careers terrorizing opposing offenses. You can only imagine the pure terror felt by Quarterbacks when they realized they were about to be hit by one of these beasts. Of course, Offensive players can be scary as well and this list would not be complete without one particular Running Back. Read on to find out who makes the cut…

  1. Ray Lewis

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Ray Lewis was the scourge of many a backfield for almost 2 decades. Famous for his old school, brutal hits, he was once infamously involved in a murder trial. Not a man to be trifled with.

2. JJ Watt

Since he entered the league, JJ has made a name for himself as one of, if not the best Defensive player. Although being an absolute gent on the field, once he enters combat he will not stop until your soul is his.

3. Gilbert Brown

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I didn’t even know about this guy until I googled ‘Scary NFL players’ and boy did Google deliver! Just look at him! He’s terrifying!

4. “Mean” Joe Greene

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I think the name says it all really. Greene spent the 70’s bullying Offensive Lines as part of the legendary ”Steel Curtain”.

5. Beast Mode

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God help you if you went high on this man. He would make you PAY!

 

Who’s your scariest NFL player? Let us know in the comments!

College Football is coming back to Ireland

Yes you read that right! For the first time since 2016, big time NCAA football will be played in Ireland’s capital city. It was announced today  that Notre Dame will face off against their longest standing rivals Navy in the Aviva Stadium on August 29th 2020!

This will be the first of 5 College Football games taking place in Dublin between 2020 and 2024.

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Notre Dame last played in Dublin in 2012 in the Emerald Isle Classic, and on that occasion they absolutely dominated Navy. The final score was 50-10 to the Irish. Over 35,000 Americans travelled to Ireland for this rivalry game, generating approximately €60 billion for the Irish economy.

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For many Irish people that game was their first taste of live American Football, and inspired two further games to be played here; Penn State and UCF in 2014 followed by Georgia and Boston College in 2016.

Notre Dame are a perennial contender for the National Championship and their 2020 season opener in Dublin is guaranteed to be an explosive affair. We will have updates on tickets and pre game festivities closer to the game (so in like a year)

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