WHILE the NFL remains in hiatus with the players locked out by the owners, the American Football season in Ireland gets underway this weekend with Tullamore Phoenix American football club open defence of national title.
Should the likes of Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Aaron Rodgers, new Madden Cover Boy Peyton Hillis or any of the rookies chosen in the 2011 NFL Draft last weekend be in search of some organised team activities, they could do worse than visit Tullamore where a talented team is putting the final touches to their preparations for the season.
By Steven O’Rourke
The club, formed in 2009 by John Judge, were crowned Irish American Football League DV8 champions in their inaugural season in 2010.
While the NFL itself is in the midst of a lock-out, Tullamore start the defence of their title this Sunday May 8 at 2pm in Tullamore Rugby Club against Trim Bulldogs.
“Traditionally, American football in Ireland has been based around cities like Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Belfast,” says Judge. “When we set up Tullamore Phoenix, we hoped to give the Midlands a football team it could be proud of and one that would challenge the more established clubs.”
One local attracted to the sport was 22 year old Dáire O’Beirne. “I’ve played hurling, football and rugby for Tullamore,” says O’Beirne, “but I’ve always been a big fan of American football.
“When I heard there was a team after setting up right on my doorstep, I couldn’t wait to get involved.”
O’Beirne, the team’s running back, says that one of the best things about American football is that there is a position for everyone. “It doesn’t matter what shape or size you are, there’s a role for you to play in American football. It’s almost the perfect sport.”
“We can recruit from nearly any sport,” agrees John Judge. “You get tall and fast players from basketball and you can use them as wide receivers. Likewise, you get prop forwards from rugby and you can give them the job of protecting your quarterback.”
As local interest grew, Tullamore caught the attention of players from all over Ireland and beyond. The team now consists of players from Dublin to New York and Laois to Latvia. These new players resulted in instant success for Tullamore Phoenix, who won the Irish American Football DV8s League in 2010. This form of football, played by eight players instead of 11, is used to develop new teams and teach rookies the basics of football.
Tullamore Phoenix begin the defence of their title on Sunday May 8th, at 2pm in Tullamore Rugby Club against Trim Bulldogs. This season will see the team come up against clubs from Drogheda, Craigavon and Carrickfergus.
“I’m confident we can retain our title as we’ve had some impressive pre-season performances,” says Judge, “but we do need local support and we’re always looking for new players.
“If people are interested in American football, they should come down this Sunday and check us out. If they can’t make that game, we train every Sunday from 10.30 in Tullamore Rugby Club and new players are always welcome, no experience necessary.”