TIME TO MAKE HISTORY!
On Saturday April 8th 2017, another milestone in Irish American Football takes place. The next group of under-20 athletes from Ireland will make their International debuts. The game will see the Team Ireland under-20s take on an AFW Elite High School select team. The game takes place at the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown with a 1pm kick off.
Three more young Dublin Rebels will make their International bow, Jack Fagan, Cathal Keane and Ciarán Fitzpatrick. Friends since secondary school, Rebels teammates, and now set to make their International debuts together, we caught up with the guys to get their thoughts on the game, and football in general.
Hi Guys, so you all started with the Rebels 4 years ago, what drew each of you to American Football?
Cathal: The combination of skill, strategy and violence is what attracted me to American football. I got hooked on tuning into Sky Sports’ NFL coverage every Sunday, and it was only a matter of time before my curiosity got the better of me and I wanted to have a go at playing the sport myself.
Jack: In secondary school Cathal brought in a football we started throwing it around and it was fun. Started watching some games and soon after found out about the Rebels, came down to one training and after that I fell in love with the sport. I guess I can thank Cathal for introducing me to it.
Ciarán: Before I started playing I had no particular interest in American Football and I didn’t know much about the sport. But like Jack, Cathal convinced me to try it out and I’ve been hooked ever since.
So, all your fault then, Cathal. You host a weekly Podcast with Ciarán and Jack, as well as friend Sean Gorman, how did that come about and where do you see that going in the future?
Cathal: Anyone who knows us is aware of the fact that we spend a disturbing amount of time talking about American football on a daily basis. We are very opinionated when it comes to the NFL, so we figured that it was only right to start a podcast. We like to think of the show as just a regular conversation between the four of us, but with microphones switched on. Down the road, we will be looking to get some former players and notable media figures on to talk with us.
(Check it out here: NFLTalkPodcast)
Do you have a favourite play you’ve had with the Rebels?
Jack: In my first season playing against the Carrickfergus Knights, at Wide Receiver I got the opportunity to crack block a linebacker and knock him down. Nothing more enjoyable in football, than knocking someone on their backside.
Cathal: Scoring the opening touchdown in last year’s Shamrock Bowl, without a doubt.
Ciarán: My favourite play has to be last year’s game winning touchdown in the Shamrock Bowl. We were losing by a point and I was lucky enough to be thrown a great pass to score with only seconds left in the game. That was special.
You each play different positions, what is it about those positions that made you want to play there?
Jack: Playing Quarterback, feeling like you’ve contributed on every play is definitely something that’s attractive about the position, be it handoff or pass. Also, knowing everything that’s going on, on the field, both with your offence and the defence. In the end I suppose I’m just a control freak and a Glory-seeker.
Well you do all play offence, I suppose there’s a bit of that Glory-seeking from all of you!
Cathal: Coming from a GAA background, I felt pretty comfortable catching a ball. Chad Ochocinco was a guy I loved to watch play, so I guess playing Wide Receiver, I wanted to imitate him to some extent. I love the attention to detail involved with playing the position, specifically from a route-running perspective, the slightest head fake or stutter step can be the difference in getting open.
Ciarán: I play Tight End and the reason is when I first started playing it seemed like a position that suited my size and build. Once I started to understand the game I loved the versatility of the position.
Ciarán, you recently went to London to take part in the Jacksonville Jaguar skills camp, tell us a little about that and how it improved your game?
Ciarán: It consisted of three full days of nothing but football where I got to train under veteran NFL players. It gave me an opportunity to hone some skills that I had learned back home and develop a deeper understanding of the position I was playing.
On Saturday you make your International debuts, what does it mean to you to play for Ireland?
Ciarán: I’m excited and proud to be able to represent my country and my sport at such a high level. It’s an incredible opportunity to play a team from the US and I’m looking forward to the challenge.
Cathal: To be able to represent your country in any shape or form is an honour for anyone, and to do so in your chosen sport is an absolute privilege. It is also an opportunity for our team to test ourselves against some of the best competition in the world.
Jack: Representing your national team is an honour and a privilege. It’s also a brilliant opportunity to test your skills against the best in the world. No matter what happens I’m proud to be able to say that I played on the Irish squad.
Jack, you’ve also been chosen as Offensive Captain for the team, how will you prepare for that?
Jack: To me being Captain means two things; being approachable and being respected. You want others on the team to be able to come to you with their suggestions and problems on the sideline, but you also want them to listen to you in the huddle. I hope that my teammates see me that way come game day.
Thank you for your time guys, and we all wish you the very best of luck on Saturday.
Kick-off is 1pm on Saturday 8th April 2017, at the National Sports Campus in Abbotstown. Entry is Free, so please come out and support the guys and the rest of the team Make History, in their first International appearance for Ireland.
Interview by Paul Grogan