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IRISH AMERICAN FOOTBALL LEAGUE

The Irish American Football League (IAFL) is Ireland's official adult full contact American football league. It is made up of teams from all over the island competing to see who will win the Shamrock Bowl, Ireland's National Championship.

Belfast Bulls
Belfast Trojans
Carrickfergus Knights
Cork Admirals
DCU Saints
Dublin Dragons
Dublin Rebels
Tallaght Outlaws
UL Vikings
Craigavon Cowboys
Galway Sea Devils
New Team - Sth East
Edenderry Soldiers

   
HISTORY

   

 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF AMERICAN FOOTBALL IN IRELAND:

The first American football game in Ireland took place in 1942. Two teams of U.S.servicemen played before 8,000 spectators at Ravenhill in Belfast.

 

This game was staged to raise money for the Red Cross. In 1946, a similar game, involving US servicemen on the way home from the Second World war, was played in Croke Park, Dublin. This is believed to be the first time a "foreign" sport was played at the GAA's historic venue.

 

In the early 1980s, some of the television stations available in Ireland; including RTE, Channel 4 & Screensport; started covering the NFL, CFL and College football. As a result, interest in American football began to develop. In 1984, a group of American football fans in Dublin advertised for players in the national press. Sixty-five players attended the first training session in the Phoenix Park, Dublin and Ireland's first kitted team - the Dublin Celts, was formed. Over the next few years, the Dublin Celts would become Ireland's most dominant team. In October 1985, the Dublin Celts played their first competitive match. They beat the Bristol Bombers (British League) 32-0 in Dublin. The progress of the Celts encouraged other teams to start up around Ireland. The first ever game between two Irish sides also took place in 1985 - the Tyrone Tornadoes played the Coleraine Chieftans at Omagh Rugby Club in Co. Tyrone. In Spring 1986, the Dublin Celts travelled over to Britain and defeated the Wirral Wolves 14-0 and Newcastle Senators 16-14. The first domestic match in Dublin took place at Blackrock College, when the Dublin Celts maintained their unbeaten record by defeating the Belfast Blitzers in a game which attracted over 4,000 spectators. In the summer of 1986, a four-game tournament took place between the Dublin Celts, Belfast Blitzers, Craigavon Cowboys and Coleraine Chieftans. The competition received sponsorship, and the Jack Daniels Summer Bowl, as it was known, was won by the Celts. 1986 also saw the arrival of the Shamrock Bowl - Ireland's National Championship. The Craigavon Cowboys defeated the Dublin Celts 6-0 in Shamrock Bowl I to become Ireland's first National Champions.

 

In 1987, 11 teams joined the Irish American Football League (IAFL) and the first full league season was played. The Dublin Celts posted an unbeaten regular season and defeated the Craigavon Cowboys in Shamrock Bowl II. Victory for the Celts gained them entry to the prestigious EuroBowl (European Championship) in 1988. Unfortunately, the Celts lost 36-12 to Austrian Champions, the Graz Giants in the first round game, played in Austria.

 

After retaining their title in 1988 (with a 34-6 victory against the Belfast Blitzers in Shamrock Bowl III), the Celts again qualified for the EuroBowl.

 

This time they would have to face the British Champions, the Birmingham Bulls. The Bulls won 29-3 at Alexander Stadium, Birmingham.

 

In 1989, most of the Irish teams played in the British based Combined Gridiron League (CGL), playing in Irish conferences, but with the winners qualifying for the UK playoffs. The Dublin Celts won the Irish Conference of the Premier Division (Duke), and then narrowly lost 18-13 to the Manchester Heroes in the quarterfinals. The Antrim Bulldogs had greater success in the First Division (Baron). Having won their conference, they trashed the Furness Phantoms 34-6 in the quarterfinals and then lost to the Severn Valley Warlords in the semifinals. The Celts took the IAFL title for the 3rd straight year and won Shamrock Bowl IV. In 1990 the Dublin Celts recorded their first victory in the EuroBowl. They hosted the Barcelona Boxers in the first round and won 30-0. They then hosted British Champions, the Manchester Spartans and put in a great performance before eventually going down 28-12. The Antrim Bulldogs won the IAFL in 1990, but lost to the Craigavon Cowboys in Shamrock Bowl V.

 

The Dublin Celts did not contest the IAFL in 1990, instead opting to play in the fledgling NCMMA. In 1991, the Craigavon Cowboys hosted Belgian Champions, the Brussels Raiders in the EuroBowl, but lost 16-6. The Dublin Celts returned to the IAFL, going undefeated and winning the their fourth Shamrock Bowl with a 44-0 victory against the Antrim Bulldogs.

 

In 1992, the Dublin Celts again travelled to Birmingham to play the Bulls in the EuroBowl. Two late touchdowns from the Bulls sealed a 20-0 victory. The Craigavon Cowboys won Shamrock Bowl VI, defeating the Antrim Bulldogs in the final. The first ever American football game played in College Park, part of Trinity College Dublin's historic city centre campus also took place in 1992. The Dublin Tornadoes defeated the Antrim Bulldogs, courtesy of a last minute field goal, in this game which was played as part of the college's 400th anniversary celebrations.

 

In 1993, a new force emerged in Irish American football. Coach Dave Curran, who previously coached the Celts, guided the Dublin Tornadoes to their first league title. The Tornadoes defeated the Celts in Shamrock Bowl VII - the first Shamrock Bowl final contested between 2 Dublin teams.

 

In 1994, the Tornadoes went undefeated in the IAFL and beat the Carrickfergus Knights in Shamrock Bowl VIII which was played in Newry, Co. Down.

 

In 1995, the Tornadoes again went unbeaten in the IAFL and again defeated the Carrickfergus Knights in the Shamrock Bowl - this time played in Dublin.

 

1995 also saw the formation of the Irish National Team. Ireland were defeated 22-0 by Great Britain in their first ever International, played at Saffron Lane, Leicester.

 

Dublin Lightning, who were only formed in 1995, became the first "new" team to win the Shamrock Bowl in 1996 - all previous Shamrock Bowls had been won by founder members of the IAFL. Irish National Team quarterback, Eddie Goggins led them to a 26-8 victory over the Dublin Tornadoes 26-8 at St. Mary's RFC in Dublin.

 

In 1997, most of the teams joined the newly formed AFAI Senior League. Over the next 2 to 3 years a lot of teams dropped out of league football.

 

The Carrickfergus Knights defeated the Dublin Bulls in Shamrock Bowl XIII, which was played in Belfast. The Knights, who by now were the strongest team in Ireland, won the Shamrock Bowl again in 1998, defeating the Dublin Tigers.

 

In 1999, only 3 teams played competitive football. The Dublin Tigers defeated the Carrickfergus Knights in a very evenly matched Shamrock Bowl XIV. The AFAI Senior League ceased operations after the 1999 season.

 

During 2000, plans were made to resurrect the IAFL. The only fixture to be played in Ireland that year was an Irish selection against a visiting high school team - Mount St. Josephs from Maryland USA. In 2001, the Carrickfergus Knights, Dublin Dragons, Dublin Rebels and University of Limerick Vikings played a full league season of fooball. The Dublin Rebels defeated the Carrickfergus Knights in Shamrock Bowl XV, which was played in Carrickfergus.

 

All 4 teams participated in the reformation of the Irish American Football League (IAFL). A new league structure and administration was put in place and

 

the IAFL helped form the Irish American Football Association (IAFA) - the new national governing body for the sport. During 2002, the sport found a new lease of life in Ireland. Again, 4 teams contested the league with the Carrickfergus Knights defeating the UL Vikings in Shamrock Bowl XVI. However, during the course of the year there were some significant developments. Firstly, 3 development teams applied to join the league for 2003. Secondly, an Irish team won an International club competition for the first time ever. In June, the Dublin Rebels travelled to Belgium and won the Charleroi Trophy against the Charleroi Courgars and two French teams - Reims Champs and Forbach Taupes. The season finished on a high note with the visit of Team Canada, the Canadian U21 team. The Carrickfergus Knights played Team Canada in Dublin and performed well in a 34-6 defeat.

2003 turned out to be one of the best ever years for Irish American football. 3 more teams - Cork, Belfast & Craigavon joined the IAFL bringing the total up to 7. The Carrickfergus Knights, Cork Admirals, Dublin Dragons and Dublin Rebels played in Division 1. The Belfast Bulls, Craigavon Cowboys and UL Vikings played in Division 2 which was created to help development teams get competitive game experience.

Membership in the IAFL increased significantly and the standard of play was higher than in previous years. In June 2003, the Dublin Rebels returned to Belgium to defend their Charleroi Trophy title. They were joined in Belgium by the Carrickfergus Knights. The Rebels won the Charleroi Trophy, defeating local team, the Charleroi Cougars in the Tournament final. The Knights came 3rd, ahead of French team, Celtes de Mitry.

The knights finished first in the league to qualify for the Shamrock Bowl. The Rebels beat the Cork Admirals in the semi-final and then defeated the Knights 24-12 in a spectacular Shamrock Bowl XVII, played at Suttonians RFC in Dublin. The game attracted a large crowd and some media attention - highlights were broadcast on TV3 in Ireland and Sky Sports throughout Europe. The Belfast Bulls won the Division 2 title. The season finished with the first ever IAFL Allstar game in which the North defeated the South 7-0.

During the 2003/2004 off-season, Coach Phil DeMonte (ex-Oxford University Cavaliers) was appointed as the Head Coach of the Irish National Team and IAFL Allstars. Coach DeMonte will also help with the eduction of coaches throughout Ireland. 2004 promised to be the best season ever for Irish American football both on and off the field and did not fail to deliver. 6 teams played a full competitive league schedule and the standard of play was higher than at any time in the previous 10 years. IAFL membership reached an all time high of more than 300 registered players. All teams had bigger rosters and most of the rookies were in the 17-21 age group. The Dublin Rebels defeated the Carrickfergus Knights 24-22 in Shamrock Bowl XVIII. The game, which attracted a record attendance for an IAFL game, is regarded as the best ever Shamrock Bowl. 2004 also saw the return of the Ireland team. The team played two fixtures including the inaugural Celtic Classic against John Carroll University from Ohio, USA.

Ireland v John Carroll University, May 2004.

The IAFL/IAFA had a very successful 2004 from an adminstrative point of view. For the first time ever, American football received official recognition from the Irish Sports Council thus making the sport eligible for Government grants which were directed towards coaches education. Ireland was also accepted back into the European Federation of American Football (EFAF) and admitted to the International Federation of American Football. The sports is expected to build on the successes of the past couple of years in 2005. All the teams will return stronger for the new season and Adrian College, Michigan will visit for Celtic Classic II in May.

Record attendance at Shamrock Bowl XVIII in August 2004

 
© Irish American Football League 2007.