A Brief History of American Football in Ireland (2000-2004)

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Record attendance at Shamrock Bowl XVIII in August 2004