A fascinating trend has emerged in college football in recent times: Irish kickers. In the past 6 years, no less than 3 young Irishmen have been recruited for their pigskin booting abilities. And we’re not talking about obscure Division 2 schools here either, oh no. These are legitimate D1 programs, with a serious amount of prestige.
With the increasing popularity of the sport here and the fact that we are a nation of soccer and GAA players, it’s not really that surprising to see players swapping codes. Especially when they emigrate and are immersed in the native sport.
The most recent to be recruited is David Shanahan. The Kerry youngster caused quite a stir in the Irish and international media last year when it emerged that he had been recruited to punt at Georgia Tech. Shanahan grew up watching American football, and upon turning 18, signed with an Australian based kicking academy from where he was signed by the Yellowjackets. And although the pandemic prevented him from suiting up last season, he is bound to get a shot this time around as it will be more or less business as usual when the 2021 season kicks off in August.
The widespread coverage of Shanahan’s achievement shone a spotlight on other irish born college football players; Daniel Whelan and James McCourt respectively. Daniel Whelan is currently punting at UC Davis. How good is he? Well, he was just named to the FCS All America Team. And he declined an invitation to this year’s draft in order to play one more year of college football. Whelan grew up in Enniskerry before moving with his family to California at the age of 13. There, he was recruited to play high school football. Now, he is on the verge of becoming Ireland’s first NFL player in 36 years. But more on that later.
For McCourt, his time as a college kicker has unfortunately come to a close. But during his tenure at the University of Illinois, he famously kicked a game winning 39 yard field goal against Wisconsin. Having waited patiently in line to become the starter, McCourt didn’t waste any time – also hitting a record tying 57 yarder. Originally hailing from Dublin 6, James would have loved to play in front of a home crowd when the Fighting Illini took the field at the Aviva Stadium as part of the Aer Lingus College Football series.. But even if the game had gone ahead, McCourt would have already graduated and would not have been eligible to play.
The last Irishman to play in the NFL was Neil O’Donoghue, who was also a kicker. Are you seeing a pattern yet? O’Donoghue grew up playing GAA and soccer and later went on to win a scholarship at the University of Auburn. During his time there, he kicked a school record 57 yard field goal and was awarded All American Honours. Kind of like our boy Daniel Whelan right? By all accounts it’s a matter of when, not if Whelan is drafted. It would be absolutely fantastic to have an Irishman playing in the NFL during our lifetime and I’m sure we’d never shut up about it.
Everyone at Gaelic Gridiron would like to wish all of the gentlemen mentioned above the very best in their future endeavors on and off the field.
NFL free agency 2021 is only about 10 days old, but it has been absolutely wild! The Patriots splashed the cash adding weapons for Cam, the Steelers lost some key starters, and more than a few big-name players have found new homes. We take a look at the biggest signings and swaps that have happened so far!
The Patriots made waves early on in free agency by signing not one, but two tight ends. Hunter Henry and Jonnu Smith will serve as much needed targets for Cam Newton. New England re-signed Newton in the off season and are clearly in rebuild mode after losing Brady and Gronk to the Buccaneers. Landing Henry is an absolute coup for the Patriots, and as one of the top TE’s in the league he is bound to help them become relevant again in 2021.
As a Steelers fan, the free agency period has been a tough watch. Pittsburgh have lost several key defensive starters, most notably Bud Dupree and Mike Hilton. Both were salary cap casualties and will be sorely missed for their big play ability. Hilton signed with Bengals, meaning the Steelers will have to contend with his blitzing capabilities at least twice a year. There was good news at least on the offensive side of the ball with the retention of WR Juju Smith – Schuster. Juju apparently turned down big money from the Ravens and the Chiefs, and was rewarded with a one year “prove it” deal. The Steelers are in win now mode but will need to add some new pieces through the draft.
There have been a couple of other noteworthy departures this offseason, both before and during the free agency period. Perhaps the biggest story is JJ Watt effectively forcing the Texans to release him. Watt was highly courted, but eventually landed with Arizona in what was one of the most exciting shakeups in the league this year. While the Cardinals may have gained one of the greatest defensive players in history, they also lost another in Patrick Peterson. The All-Pro Cornerback signed with the Vikings on the first day of the free agency period. Peterson will leave a sizeable hole in the Cardinals’ defensive backfield.
With trades and rumours abound, the next few weeks in the NFL are going to be very interesting to watch. And with an absolutely stacked draft taking place in April, we get the feeling that there is no end in sight to the madness we have witnessed over the past few weeks.
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.
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…
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!
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.
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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?
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!
*If you do hit The Woolshed, make sure to keep an eye out for the West Dublin Rhinos American Football team!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
(Shout out to Matt Saracen, possibly the greatest back up turned starter ever)
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.
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.
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.