Interview with Wexford Eagles Head Coach Kevin Klatt

The Wexford Eagles had only one goal heading into the 2018 season, promotion. After two years of relative success, where they were finalists in the IAFL 2 Bowl game in 2016 followed by semi-finalists in IAFL 1 last season, the Eagles now want to take that step up to the Shamrock Bowl Conference and test themselves against the best the country has to offer.

The Eagles are coached by an American, Kevin Klatt, who’s been living in Ireland for almost 40 years. His reason for moving to the Emerald Isle – “The love of an Irish Woman.”

The coach, who grew up in Sioux City, Iowa explains, “I moved to Ireland in 1981. I’m married to a Wexford girl. We met and got married in 1980. She tried the States for 10 months but unfortunately couldn’t settle. So I said I’ll give Ireland a bash and I’ve been here ever since.”

The Eagles are currently on a 5-game winning streak and will head to the Naas Sports Centre this weekend to face the Cill Dara Crusaders looking for win number six.

We asked coach Klatt about his background in the game and how he got involved with the Eagles. He said, “In 1987 I played for the Dublin Celts. I had played a bit in high-school and a year in College. The Celts got in touch with me and I went up a played for them for one season. I had a very young family at the time and I said I’d give it the one year and see how it goes. We won everything that year. We won the Shamrock Bowl II and we went to the European playoffs and it was great. I gave up playing after that year.”

He continued, “Then I didn’t get involved again until I was over in the States on holidays in the summer of 2015. One of my sons best friends, in fact the guy was best man at his wedding, sent me an email. He said, ‘Kevin we’re setting up an American Football team in Wexford, based in Gorey, and we want to know would you be willing to come and teach us a little bit about offence etc.. ‘ I said absolutely. So around the middle of 2015 I went out to have a look at them. After about three sessions or so I said these are the things you should be working on, and then very shortly after that they asked me if I’d be the head coach. One thing led to another and I became the head coach. To be honest, they’re a great set of guys and I couldn’t be associated with a better bunch.”

Eagles listening intently to coach Klatt


With most teams in the league, recruitment is vitally important, so how difficult was it to recruit players when he initially got involved with the Eagles? He said, “We would have players who would range from 20 years old to 46! When I joined the club there was 10 guys coming to practice. I said that if we’re to have a team everyone of them will have to bring two more guys to practice between now and the first of January or don’t bother putting a squad out there. And in fairness, the guys went out and did their own recruiting, they got people to come along – some just for the laugh – and we’ve pretty much got the same core of players that we had in that first season.”

“One of the things that we do, and I don’t think a lot of other teams do it, is myself and my defensive coordinator Craig Morrell put in a rule since the first game that nobody plays both ways. I don’t allow players to play both ways. We’ve got guys who are more than good enough to do it but I want fresh legs on the field. So one thing about us is that if you come and train with the Wexford Eagles, you’re gonna play. We don’t have players standing on the sideline for the whole game. Everyone who suits up gets on the field – that’s another rule I have. Even if they’re not on the starting team, everyone who suits up plays.”

Coach continued, “It makes it easier I think to get guys as they know they’ll get to play and not stand on the sidelines. I think this year, if we had everybody healthy we’d have 34-35 players in the squad. That’s a healthy squad, and everyone of them plays in every game.”

His first season brought him lots of joy, with lots of success on the field, but the season ended in defeat in the IAFL 2 Bowl game. Klatt explains, “We played our first ever game on the 1st of May 2016 and that was against the North Dublin Pirates. We suited up 29 players for that game and 27 had never played a game of competitive American football in their lives. One of the guys had played 1 game, John Lynch, and one had played a bit of a season with the Waterford Wolves. It was a complete rookie team. It went really well though. I have to say that these guys, you know I’ve asked a lot of them as have the other coaches now, and they’ve never cribbed, never complained. They’ve always done what we’ve asked of them.”

“That year was a great start. We went 6-0 in the regular season. We lost to the Vipers in the IAFL 2 Bowl game that year 33-29 with a last minute Touchdown by Ryan Brolly, a great catch in the end zone. It was just one of those things.”

In his second season in 2017 his side found that life in a higher league I’d difficult. Klatt said, “We got promoted to IAFL 1 and we started out greatly confident, probably over-confident and we got absolutely hockeyed in our first game by the Westmeath Minotaurs. They just outplayed us. There was nothing flukey about it, they beat us. That was a real wake-up call that we needed. We came back and won the next game. We were 2-4 after six games but we knew if we didn’t win our next two games we wouldn’t make the playoffs, so we made a few changes, put some things together and won the last two fairly handy.”

“We played in the IAFL 1 semi-final against the Craigavon Cowboys. We were leading until there was 1 minutes 26 seconds remaining when they got the go-ahead Touchdown. It was a cracking game however, 44-37 it finished. When time ran out we were on their 6 yard line, pushing to score, when the clock expired.”

Thanks coach


Following the disappointing end to the 2017 season Klatt and his players met up and had a discussion on what to do next. Everyone to a man agreed that promotion to the Shamrock Bowl Conference was achievable and they set to work to reach that goal.

The coach told us, “We got together in the off-season and we instigated a lot of changes between last year and this year. We have the same defensive co-ordinator as last year but we’ve also brought in player coaches for positions, so we’ve asked players to coach. One player coaches the offensive line. We have one of my former Dublin Celts team-mates now also travelling down to coach the O-line. We got two guys coaching the defensive backs. We’ve got the defensive coach working with the defensive line and the linebackers and I work with offensive backs and receivers.”

“What we decided to do was institute position specific fitness training and position specific skill drills at practice. I think that’s been the difference. It’s just kind of taken off for us this year.”

They’ve had an excellent start to the season, sitting top of IAFL 1 South on 5-0, and have been superb both on offence and defence, something coach Klatt is very proud of. He said, “Yeah we’re 5-0. We’ve got a points difference of, let’s see we’ve scored 197 points and conceded just 27. A points difference of 170. Last year it was our eight game before we even got to zero points difference.”

“We were always able to put points on the board, but I have to say the defence has come on unbelievably this year. We put that down to changing the way we train. It’s really worked wonders.”

He’s also very proud of the way his players treat the league’s officials saying, “If you talk to any of the officials in the league they’ll tell you that the Eagles players are the easiest to officiate because again we have a standing rule – nobody growls at the officials, nobody talks back, nobody looks funny, nobody asks stupid questions – if you hear a call that you don’t like, just walk away. The officials appreciate that too. You wouldn’t get that with every team but I’m very fortunate to have that kind of group around me.”

With the Eagles only in existence for a few years it’s difficult to build a fan base more or less from the ground up but the club are very active, whether it’s on Social Media through their Facebook, Twitter and Instagram pages or doing bag-packing at their local Tesco’s.

The players have also bought into it said Klatt, “They all show up, wear there Eagles jerseys, smile and laugh with the people and generally have a great time. Gorey’s a great place, it’s a happy little town. They’ve been great about getting behind us. We also have every year a quiz that we call ‘The best table quiz in the world ever’ and we promote that vigorously as it’s our biggest fundraiser. We get a great crowd at that.”

The club have a sponsor, a local bar ‘The sixty-four’ where everyone gets invited after games, win or lose.

He also had plenty of praise for the teams supporters, “We frequently get more supporters at away games than some of the home teams do. We have a fantastic group of supporters who follow us all over, they’re really great and we thank them for that. The first thing our players do after every game, regardless of the result, is applaud the supporters for being there.”

When talking to Coach Klatt it’s obvious that promotion is the ultimate aim this season. He said, “Absolutely, we’re 5-0 now. We’ve played three very tough games to begin with. We had to travel to Donegal for our first game, then the Craigavon Cowboys and West Dublin Rhinos. All three are longer established. They have formidable records, but we just put game-plans in place and went out and did what we had to do. Again, I put that down to the players, they never lost focus, never lost sight of what they’re doing.”

Picture Credits: Wexford Eagles