Category: Interviews

Youth Championship Day 2019: Cork Admirals

On to the second semi-final of tomorrows Youth Championship Day – we chatted with Alan Lomasney of defending champions Cork Admirals. The Admirals will play the South Dublin Panthers at 14:30.

Your team earned a spot in Youth Championship Sunday. Are your players excited to be playing for the right to be called national youth champions?

“Our players are thrilled to be playing for a National title this Sunday, they have been working very hard in practice for the last 6 weeks to get a chance to play for a championship.”

How much progression of the players and the team as a whole have you seen from day one to now?

“We have seen a huge progression in the lads individually and in the team as a whole. When they started, a lot of them didn’t know anything about football and now they are turning into a solid team.”

What do you think was the key element in the success of your squad?

“The key element in the success of our squad has been the enthusiasm and dedication to training from the players. They are always eager to learn, always train hard and it has been that work ethic that has led them to the playoffs.”

Is there a particular player or players that demonstrate the kind of leadership skills that are so critical to success in American football? Where might you envision these guys’ level of play in two or three years?

“To be honest, all of guys have shown leadership since they started. They have shown leadership in different ways both on and off the field. If all our guys stay playing football for the next couple of years, they will all contribute to the senior squad.”

Coach Lomasney, the Admirals have built up a lot of experience running a youth program. In your estimate, how long does it take to turn a raw youth recruit into a skilful American football player? Any tips for our youth coaches across Ireland?

“This is our third year running a youth program and the standard of new guys that are trying out just gets better and better. Each player differs depending on whether they watch football or play sports in general, but realistically I think you can coach a recruit into a skilful player in a couple of months. If I can offer any advice for other coaches, I would say that giving the new youths a safe, fun, interesting and structured practice environment is a good first step to keeping and maintaining the interest. It’s a tough sport so keeping it fun is a huge part of the process.”

Your team is back vying for a national championship again, how many players do you have from last years championship team on the roster and how much does last years championship experience help your team succeed on Sunday?

“We have 6 players from last year’s team this year and they have been great leaders for the team. Some of the guys are playing different positions this year so it has been a learning experience for them as well as helping mentor their new teammates. I think this year’s team has its own identity so the experience of last year’s guys will help, but it’s all about the guys playing together.”

Coach, you must have seen a lot of development of your players since that first training session till now. How rewarding is it for you to be a part of a young players initial development and introducing American football to a new generation?

“It is hugely rewarding to be involved in the beginning of these lads playing careers, we have seen them improving each and every week. It’s a privilege for us as a group of coaches to introduce them to the sport.”

Now that the season is at an end, regardless of what happens on Sunday, was it worth it for your club to expend the time, effort, and resources on youth football?

“The Admirals consider our youth program an integral part of our club. The effort and time involved is an investment in the growth of the club and is vital to the continued success we have on the field.”

Youth Championship Day 2019: Belfast Knights

Next up in our Youth Championship series, we spoke to Belfast Knights Youth Team Head Coach Jordan Clinton. The Knights take on the Louth Mavericks tomorrow at 13:30.

Your team earned a spot in the Youth Championship tomorrow. Are your players excited to be playing for the right to be called national youth champions?

“Absolutely, they are very excited to take the field on Sunday. It’s clear to us coaches that this group of guys love playing the sport so to be able to play it for a national title is a great opportunity for them.”

This is your first year fielding a youth team. Now that you’ve reached a successful result can you describe what was the most difficult part of getting your club’s youth program going?

“We were very lucky that, when the prospect of a youth team went out, we had no shortage of players willing to come forward and help coach. I suppose our main difficulty was tailoring our wealth of knowledge as players and bringing it all right down to basics for the guys, as a lot of our coaches are relatively new to coaching. However, we caught stride and our confidence in coaching has grown along with our players’ confidence on the pitch. Having that support network of dedicated coaches has been a cornerstone in our youth team’s success.”

How much progression of the players and the team as a whole have you seen from day one to now?

“It’s crazy how far these guys have come. They take everything onboard and they give 100% to every drill and exercise and the results of their hard work shine through on gamedays. Our coaches truly believe the sky is the limit for our youth players so it will be interesting to see what the future holds. As a team, everything seems to have clicked into place. We’ve seen these guys go from a group of lads standing about before warmup on their first week to a close-knit unit in 8 weeks, unbelievable progression from the team.”

What do you think was the key element in the success of your squad?

“I believe the key element in our success has been our guys’ ability to knuckle down and play good, safe football on gameday. Their transition from controlled drills during training to lining up on gameday was seamless. They play with a strong confidence and that I believe is the key element as there is only so much we as coaches can do before they take the field.”

Is there a particular player or players that demonstrate the kind of leadership skills that are so critical to success in American football? Where might you envision these guys’ level of play in two or three years?

“This is a very difficult question as I could very easily give an answer to this for all of the lads. To name one, our centre Ethan McKechnie has come in leaps and bounds as a player new to the sport and he has demonstrated his ability to rally the other lads which was very evident in our tie with the Mavericks. We have had a couple guys take interest in stepping up to senior football and I have every faith that they will transition well and see success like they have in Youth football.”

Last time around you ended up with a tie against your semi-final opponent. How do you see your team breaking the impasse and coming out on top this Sunday?

“A big part of our tie with the Mavericks was mentality. Not once did I see our lads’ heads drop. Instead, they went out with the determination to turn it around and that’s exactly what they did. A mentality like that is hard to coach but these guys have it from the get-go and if they combine it with the level of play that they have been playing at then they will certainly give the Mavericks another good game this Sunday.”

You must have seen a lot of development of your players since that first training session till now. How rewarding is it for you to be a part of a young players initial development and introducing American football to a new generation?

“Honestly as a player it makes me nervous for my starting spot next year! All jokes aside, as a coach, I am extremely grateful that I have been given the opportunity to introduce this sport to these guys. To say it is rewarding is an understatement, I truly believe this is one of the best things I have gotten involved in, next to getting involved with the sport in general. This revitalized Youth Program sets the scene for an unparalleled growth of American Football in Ireland and, with youth and senior teams all over the country, makes it more accessible than ever before. Very excited for what this holds for the sport as a whole.”

Now that the season is at an end, regardless of what happens on Sunday, was it worth it for your club to expend the time, effort, and resources on youth football?

“100%. Going into this off season we, as a club, prioritised the youth team and put a lot of hours into making it happen and all it has done is pay dividends ever since. The youth team has helped revitalise our club after a disappointing senior season, generate publicity for the Knights and the sport as a whole and, most importantly, given these guys an opportunity to take their interest in them sport to a new level and allow them to take the field as players. Definitely worth the time, effort and resources.”

Youth Championship Day 2019: Louth Mavericks

With the Youth Championship Day on Sunday fast approaching, we wanted to chat with the coaches of this year’s four playoff competitors about youth football in general and the interesting match ups that will determine the Youth National Champions. First up, we chatted to Aaron Finley of the Louth Mavericks.

Are your players excited to be playing for the right to be called national youth champions?

“Our players are extremely excited for the games this weekend! Throughout the season, they have been feeling pumped going into every game but the chance to play for a national championship brings a whole other level of excitement.”

This is your first year fielding a youth team. Now that you’ve reached a successful result, can you describe what was the most difficult part of getting your club’s youth program going?

“Recruitment was definitely the most challenging aspect of getting the program up and running. Take up was slow to begin with and at one stage we thought we might not gain enough players to enter a team this year. We were delighted to receive an influx of players just in time for the start of the season.”

How much progression of the players and the team have you seen from day one to now?

“The majority of our players, bar 1 or 2 that had previously played on our flag football team, came to us with absolutely no experience or knowledge of American football and through hard work and commitment they have turned into competent players who would fit right in among our senior kitted team. I have no doubt that they will all continue to develop into great players. As a whole, the players have built a great bond with each other and are good friends on and off the field.”

What do you think was the key element in the success of your squad?

“The key to our success this year has been down to the commitment and hardworking nature of the players. Attendance at training sessions was consistent and they gave it their all in every game, despite the fact that the entire team had to play ironman football.”

Is there a particular player or players on your squad that demonstrates the kind of leadership skills that are so critical to success in American football? Where might you envision these guys’ level of play in two or three years?

“I believe that all of our players have played a big part in us reaching the semi-finals, and without any of them we would not be in this position. One player that stands out as a leader within the group is our quarterback and captain, Nathan Hearty. He was one of the 3 original players at our very first training session and since day 1, he has led by example in everything that he does. He will be one to watch out for in the future.”

Last time around you ended up with a tie against your semi-final opponent. How do you see your team breaking the impasse and coming out on top this Sunday?

“Our game against the Knights will be very interesting. When we last played them, it was our very first match in youth football. I feel that our players have grown since our first meeting with the Knights but I also anticipate that they will enter the game with a slightly different game plan now that they know our strengths and weaknesses. I expect a very close game, but I have every faith in our lads coming out on top.”

As a coach, how rewarding is it for you to be a part of a young players initial development and introducing American football to a new generation?

“It has been very rewarding to see the players develop and grow. We put a lot of thought and effort into preparing effective training sessions so it’s great to see this hard work pay off.”

Now that the season is close to an end, regardless of what happens on Sunday, was it worth it for your club to expend the time, effort and resources on youth football?

“Yes, regardless of what happens on Sunday I am proud of our players for what they have achieved this season. However the season is not over yet and we will go out on Sunday leaving everything on the field.”

Youth Football: Westmeath Minotaurs Joe Kinahan

In our continuing series of interviews focusing on youth American football here in Ireland, we chatted with a former youth player and now starting senior level quarterback, Joe Kinahan from the Westmeath Minotuars, to get his thoughts on the importance of youth American football.

Could you first tell us how you became interested in American football? 

“It happened by accident, to be honest. I got bored of FIFA, as does every 11-year-old with the attention span of a doughnut, and started looking up free soccer games online. I stumbled across a game called Speedback one day, gave that a go thinking it was to do with soccer, and suddenly found myself fascinated with this new American sport. We had Sky at home so I begged to have control of the remote for that Sunday for a few hours. Safe to say, I haven’t looked back since!”

How did you find out about the Minotaurs youth program and what convinced you to give the sport a try? 

“When I joined the club, there wasn’t actually a youth program in place. In fact, I don’t think there was a youth program in place for any team in Ireland, and there certainly wasn’t a league setup like the one we have now. My mam saw an ad for the Minotaurs in the paper recruiting senior members not long after the club was established, and I decided to show up one session in January. That training really lit a fire in me, even at 12 years old, and I got the sense that this may be something that I’m going to love for a long, long time. When I finally got into pads when the youth program started a few years later, it was 100% confirmation, so I’m grateful it did eventually get setup.”

Joe in action earlier this year

What were the early training sessions like and what was your main motivation to stick with it as a youth?

“The early days of training were very focused on fundamentals of tackling and blocking, as I believe it should be when you’re coaching young people. I think too many coaches try to bypass this and overlook poor technique in the hope that “they’ll get better” so they can move on to scheming. The coaching staff we had looking after us made sure to emphasize the basics of football to make sure we became better players. I think it was a combination of that and everything else you mentioned there that kept myself and the rest of the lads coming back for more.”

Looking back on your youth football career, how important do you think that experience was to help you earn the starting QB job on the senior team?

“More important than I can ever stress. I know that’s a clichéd thing to say, but I mean it. The staff that my class, if you will, had coaching us were there not just to stay involved in the game for their own good, not only to teach a new generation of footballers this wonderful sport, but to make every single one of us better football players than they were. Having someone like Coach Conor Brennan, who I’m surprised isn’t sick of dealing with me at this stage honestly, there to answer every football question under the sun made me a better quarterback. Having someone dedicate themselves to teaching me how to throw a football, how to move in and out of the pocket, and how to command an offence… if I turned out to be no good it certainly wouldn’t have been the programmes fault!”

The Antrim Jets and Dublin Rebels in action in the 2019 Youth League

Last year the Minotaurs had their best season ever, making it to the IAFL1 final and unfortunately suffering a loss in a very tight game. How important do you think the Minotaurs youth program was to last year’s success? 

“I think if you look at our squad and you look at how many have come through the youth programme, there’s no question as to how important the programme is. Myself at quarterback, Rafael Monteiro at running back and linebacker, Jack Lynch at receiver, David Walsh as our flex-type, Liam and Conor Dougherty at guard and tight end, Dean Johnston at tackle, Ross McCadden on the D-line… all of us started at nothing, and now we’re all starters. I think that sums it up quite well.”

We hear you’re now coaching the Westmeath youth players. We understand that your youth team is not competing this year but is still training. What is the long-term goal of your youth programme and will you compete next year?

“The short-term aim is definitely to compete next year anyway. We have been working well and I’m very pleased with that I’ve seen from the lads so far. When you have a group of young players that have athleticism to spare and an ability to soak up new information like sponges, though, I guess it’s no surprise that I’m impressed! Even in the short time we’ve worked with each other, I have a feeling that we’ll be adding to that list of youth-graduates-turned-senior-team-starters sooner rather than later. I guess that’s the endgame: to make sure at least some of these guys become staples of our senior team. If we can do that, then we’ve achieved our goal.”

The Cork Admirals and South Dublin Panthers youth teams after a match in the 2019 Youth League

What would you say to a club that is thinking about investing the time, effort, and resources into a youth program? Is it worth the effort? 

“Let me put it to you this way, as a graduate, as a current player and as a coach: would you rather spend a couple of hundred euro on a few extra footballs that you don’t really need, a few tackle bags to add to the collection that’s already gotten too big, and a few new fancy water bottles; or, would you rather spend that money on a few coaching courses and pitch rental to develop what will a) make you a financial profit within the next year, and b) be your starting line-up within the next three? I know what my answer is anyway!”

IAFL 1 Bowl: Westmeath Minotaurs

The Westmeath Minotaurs will enter their first IAFL 1 Bowl this Sunday, following an excellent regular season recording six wins and two losses. This was followed by a hard fought 27-22 win over the Wexford Eagles in the semi-final. The Minotaurs offense stood tall above the rest of the league scoring an average of 32.5 points per game during the regular season whilst the defense recorded three shut outs. We spoke with Minotaurs chairman Adam Ó Corcráin to get his thoughts on the season and the Bowl game:

A scintillating start to the season saw the Minotaurs win six games in a row, including three shutouts, before finishing the regular season with two losses and a second place finish in the league. What was the key to such an impressive season?

“Recruitment was key at the start of the season. We recruited eight new players both young and old who added greatly to our squad. Depth allowed us to keep guys in one position and gave them an opportunity to focus solely on that position. Moving Joe Kinahan from RB/SS to QB has helped us greatly. He has a firm grip of our offense and despite being only 20, he has shown great composure and maturity in the position. The final piece to the puzzle was handing our defence over to previous Head Coach Paddy Lally. Paddy put systems in place that allowed our defensive players to excel in their positions.”

The Minotaurs overcame the Eagles in the semi-final through a 27-22 win, thus completing the double over the Eagles this year. What did you think of your team’s performance in that match?

“We were extremely happy with our performance against a very strong Wexford outfit. We never have an easy game against them so to score 27 points on them in a playoff game was a feat in itself. It helped also that we were at close to full strength with players coming back from injury and holidays such as our captain and anchor of our offensive line JO Coyne. That win has given us great momentum going into the final.”

The IAFL 1 Bowl will see the Minotaurs take on the Craigavon Cowboys. Having already played them this season, what are your expectations for the game and how have you been preparing?

“Looking back on past results, we’ve never beaten the Cowboys but that won’t deter us in the slightest. We expect an extremely tough game against such an experienced team and as we all know anything can happen in a final. We know that we will be at full strength so we’ve tweaked what we’ve needed to tweak so it’s a matter of just bring on the final at this stage.”

Finally, what advice would you like to give to your coaches and players taking to the field on Sunday?

“We’ve learned from previous play-off experience not to focus ourselves too much and to be too serious. Being relaxed and going out to have fun is key. Enjoy the scores, enjoy the hits, and enjoy the atmosphere. Sport is about having fun above all else.”

Coaching Staff
Head Coach
Conor Brennan
Offensive Coordinator
Bill Dougherty
Defensive Coordinator
Paddy Lally
Assistant Coach
Adam Ó Corcráin
Playing Squad
Number Name Position
05
Niall King
DE/P
07
Dermot Corroon
DB
11
Cormac Fagan
WR
13
Jack Lynch
WR
14
Niall Folan
DB
15
Dean Core
DB
16
Jordon Lacey
DB
19
Shaun Dalton
WR
20
Jason Owens
DB
23
Colm Sammon
DB
24
Andrew Patton
RB
27
Joe Kinahan
QB
28
Jay Bruton
RB/K
32
Rafael Monteiro
RB/LB
33
David Walsh
WR
34
Padraic Cunningham
DB
45
Niall Corcoran
DE
48
Steven Nally
LB
50
Jayo McBride
LB
52
Darren Sammon
LB
56
Kevin Monaghan
OL
63
Sean McCormack
OL
66
Liam Dougherty
OL
69
Kevin Tempany
DT
70
Ros McAdden
OL
72
Colin Regan
OL
73
JO Coyne
OL
76
Dean Johnston
OL/DT
77
Stephen Goonery
OL
82
Mark Mulvaney
DB
86
Conor Doughtery
TE
92
Luca Valentini
DT
94
Gordon Murphy
DT

IAFL 2 Bowl: Cill Dara Crusaders

It has been the season the Cill Dara Crusaders where hoping for, almost going unbeaten (won seven, lost one) on their way to the IAFL 2 Bowl. Of those seven wins, the defense recorded four shutouts finishing second best rated in the league. It is the offense however that has stood out, finishing as the best in the league with an average of 27 points scored per game. Their only loss of the year came via a 12-33 home defeat to fellow bowl competitors Meath Bulldogs. The league champions will be hoping to do the league and bowl double on home turf this Sunday. We spoke with Crusaders chairman Robbie Tighe to get his thoughts on the game:

An excellent season for the Crusaders which saw them finish top of the IAFL 2 table and with the most points scored. What has been the key to your success this year?

“Definitely communication and trust in each of the players to do their role. Keeping a cool head and listen to the advice from the head coach.”

The Crusaders have already played the Bulldogs twice this year, with each team winning one apiece. What have you been focusing on in training to overcome the Bulldogs?

“The Bulldogs are a strong powerful team but I can’t be giving away secrets now! We have a few plays but with the two teams being 50/50 it’s going to be a cracker of a game.”

By winning the league, the Crusaders get home field advantage in the bowl game. How important will this be to your team on Sunday?

“It’s incredibly important to us as a team and as a community in the area. We’re looking forward to the support on the day and hopefully come away with the win.”

Finally, what advice would you like to give to your team for the bowl game?

“Nothing I can say that hasn’t already been said to the team. Keep a cool head, play hard and fair and respect your opponents. It’s been an honour to play by your side.”


Head Coach
Ken Farrell
Number Name Position
01
Jordan Farrell
QB
03
Dominik Pindi
RB
05
Eoin Whelan
WR
06
Senan Keane
K
09
Kyle Dooley
LB
10
Gavin Coyne
CB
13
Matthew O'Meara
TE
14 Finbar Downes
WR
16
Nathan Purcell
RB
24
Mike O'Connell
LB
33
Darragh Moran
LB
36
Ken Dooley
DL
42
Brian O Donnell
S
55
Thomas Brocklebank
DL
58
Oisin Marron
LB
59
Kenneth Byrne
OL
62
Deco Gill
OL
65
Robbie Tighe
OL
66
Patrick Travis
OL
69
Mark Lennon
OL
70
Mark Carey
OL
73
Killian Cullen
OL
78
Dan O Neill
DL
80
James Delaney
WR
81
Tommy Oyewo
WR
83
Jonny Keogh
DL
85
Kealan Farrell
WR
89
Jeff Ganly
CB
92
Bob Curran
DL
96
Mark O'Connell
S
99
Craig Dooley
LB

IAFL 2 Bowl: Meath Bulldogs

The Meath Bulldogs have had an impressive season thus far, winning six, drawing one and losing one on their way to the IAFL 2 Bowl. They have won their most recent six games, including a 33-12 win against fellow bowl competitors Cill Dara Crusaders. This saw the Bulldogs finish second in the league table, with the best defense in the league (only 58 points conceded in 8 games). We chatted with Bulldogs chairman Adam Keating to get his thoughts before Sundays big game:

It was a tricky start to the season for the Bulldogs, a 0-0 draw with the Pirates and a 6-21 loss to fellow bowl competitors the Crusaders in your first two games, what was the key to turning around your season?

“With a new head coach in Mike Zito coming into the team, we knew that it would take time for the new plans and structures to come to fruition but thankfully everyone pulled together quickly and everything started to click once our game against the Causeway Giants came around.”

The Bulldogs have now won six in a row and carry the best form into the bowl game. Which of those six wins was the one that you knew you had a serious shot of reaching the bowl game?

“The team took every game one at a time. The division was extremely close coming into the final round of games with three teams still in contention for a playoff spot so as cliche as it may sound, we weren’t sure until the clock reached 0 in our final home game of the season.”

The Bulldogs defense is the best in the league in terms of allowing the least points scored against, including two shutouts in your most recent games. Does the team focus more on defense than any other area?

“We don’t tend to focus on any area more so than others. Every player on the team has trained in a variety of roles and as a result we have many players who can step up when required. The Bulldogs have always been known for having a strong defense and this year has been no different.”

Finally, what advice would you like to give to your team for the bowl game?

“My advice for the final is the same as every other game – go out and focus on your match-up, win your match-up and the result will follow.”


Head Coach
Mike Zito
Number Name Position
09
Darragh Hogan
WR
12
Adam Keating
QB
20
Andy Lynch
CB
21
Conor Hogan
SS
22
Jonathan Mathon
FB/OLB
23
Cian Minnock
RB
24
Sean Lawlor
FS
27 Gytis Stankevicius
CB
30
William Sebati
OLB
35
Brian Gill
RB
52
Ger O’Brien
MLB
54
Jake Dunne
T/DT
55
Dominic Collins
G/DE
56
Mike Hobbs
DT
66
Michael Cunningham
T
69
Keith Horan
C
80
Shane McGill
TE
81
Jordan Reynolds
WR
83
Rory Smith
TE/OLB
88
Matthew Clarke
WR
92
Dermot McLoughlin
DE
Unavailable
Adam Pyne
Mark McCabe
William Donohoe