The Flag Years 1995-1998
The Dublin Rebels were founded in the summer of 1995. Phil Woodyard, a seasoned Irish American football player met with Marcus Naylor and Andrew Flynn late at night to tell the two Irish lads his football tales.
Marcus and Andy were keen to put together a team, but Phil wasn’t interested in managing. Working with him, Marcus and Andy decided to put together a team to enter the 1995 Irish Flag Football League.
Under Phil’s coaching the Rebels, nearly Wolverines, began to train in a small park in Greystones, Co. Wicklow. The initial roster was 10 players who were mostly new to the sport. The highlight of the season was a draw against the reigning champions, the Dublin Devastators. The draw cost the Devastators a playoff spot and a chance at repeating. The Rebels earned the Best Newcomer Team that season.
The 1996-97 season included a summer tournament with a 3rd place finish. Gaining players, the Rebel team split into a 2nds flag team, led by John Durrad, called the Dublin Gladiators. The goal was for both flag teams to keep growing and eventually have a combined full contact squad. During the off-season, Al Kelly was appointed the Rebels Head Coach. Phil Woodyard took a role as a Team Captain.
The third season 1997-98 was more successful. Coached by Al Kelly the Rebels secured the top spot in the league. The Rebels won the semi-final against the Drimnagh Cyco’s. The Dublin Pirates won the Final by one touchdown. Marcus Naylor won the League MVP award for the league for the 1997-98 season.
The 1998-99 season was the beginning of the full contact team. The two flag teams combined to play one season of full contact. The team finished in the middle of the standings in their first year of contact football. The league closed for the 2000 season.
2001 IAFL Rebirth and First Shamrock Bowl
The Kitted league returned to Ireland in 2001. Four teams made up the reformed league.
- Carrickfergus Knights (Northern Ireland)
- Dublin Dragons (now South Dublin Panthers)
- UL Vikings
- Dublin Rebels
Coach Al Kelly started an intense 3-month pre-season and recruitment program in June onwards. Michael Kelly was added to the staff. Players from rival teams that couldn’t reform also joined. The enterprise worked, and only a couple of weeks later there were 30 Rebels players for the season.
The 2001 season started 2-0 with wins against the UL Vikings (42-0) and Dublin Dragons (12-0). A road trip to the Carrickfergus Knights netted a last minute 16-12 win. The UL Vikings were the victim in game 4, a 35-0 win after a slow start. The Dragons were the opponent in game five and the scoreline was extended on the first game (18-0). The Knights visited Dublin in the final regular season game and took a hard-won victory, 20-14, holding off a late charge. The Knights and Rebels finished 1-2 in the regular season and earned a rubber match in the Final.
The 2001 Shamrock Bowl Final was in Carrickfergus on 16 December 2001. The game started with a 95yd kick return from the season MVP, Brian Dennehy. The game was much different from the close regular season games. The Knights couldn’t get into a rhythm and only managed 7 points. The final was 28-7 to the Rebels.
2002 – First International Irish Wins
The 2002 season was one of rebuilding. With many players leaving, the club only managed 1 win in the year to finish 1-5. The Rebels did represent Ireland in the Charleroi tournament in Belgium in June 2002. A small Rebels squad plus three of the Dublin Dragons traveled, playing 2 matches, winning both and the Tournament.
These were the first Irish American Football team win on foreign soil. The Rebels returned home victorious with the Charleroi Tournament Trophy. Marcus Naylor was awarded the tournament MVP and Fearghal O’Donnchu finished top scorer.
The 2003 season saw the Rebels squad increase back to 2001 levels. The season started auspiciously, with a close loss in the opener to the Knights, 20-14. From there the team went on a 9 game win streak, including the return of the Shamrock Bowl to Rebel possession. Included in the 9 game win streak was the Charleroi Trophy defense in international competition for the 2003 tournament.
In 2004, recruiting again paid off with many rookies contributing heavily to a solid team performance. The win streak continued from 2003, eventually stretching to The Rebels set the record for most points in a game against the Cork Admirals at 88-12. The Rebels scored 300 points on the year and finished 7-1. This was the first Regular Season League Title for the Rebels, besting the Knights who finished 6-1-1 on the year.
The Final was another rematch against the Knights. The teams had again split during the regular season, each handing the other their only losses in 2004. The Rebels trailed by 18 points at halftime, but turned the game around in the second, eventually winning 24-22.
The 2005 season saw the Belfast Bulls attempt the first undefeated season. Their final game was a visit to the Rebels to cap the undefeated regular season title. The game didn’t go their way, ending 26-0 to the Rebels. This win also secured the Rebels second place in the standings.
The Shamrock Bowl final pitted both teams against each other, with the Belfast Bulls hosting in Belfast. The Rebels again prevailed, 26-19 in Shamrock Bowl XIX. This tied the Rebels with the legendary Dublin Celts with 4 Shamrock Bowl titles. It was also a fitting send-off for veteran running back Brian Dennehy. After 15 years in the IAFL, Dennehy announced his retirement.
The 2006 Season is the most important of our first run. This was the first undefeated season in the current IAFL. The 42-12 win against the UL Vikings in Shamrock Bowl XX was also the team’s 4th in a row. Currently, only the Belfast Trojans have accomplished the same feat. This win also raised the bar, as the win pushed the Rebels past the Dublin Celts with a 5th Shamrock Bowl title.
The 2007 season saw the end of the 15 game win streak with a 12-6 loss to the Belfast Trojans in game 2. The season seemed to turn after a last minute win over the Cork Admirals. In the remaining 5 games, the Rebels scored 218 and allowed only 18 points. The winning streak secured our third regular season league title. The playoff semi-final against the Cork Admirals was a defensive affair. Cork’s defense held and the Rebels lost 8-6.
The Rebels reloaded with a heavy recruiting class to supplement the returning vets in 2008. The regular season’s only loss came in game 3 against the Cork Admirals (6-0). The Rebels won their fourth regular season league title, defeating the UL Vikings to earn the tiebreaker.
The Rebels earned a bye to the semi-final. Cork won through and the game was reminiscent of the 2007 playoff game, with the score 6-2 to Cork entering the 4th quarter. The game opened up a bit in the 4th, with a Rebels defensive score making the final difference, 19-12 for the Rebels.
Shamrock Bowl XXII was played in CIT Stadium, Cork and was a defensive affair. With the score 14-12 to UL in the 4th quarter, the Vikings held off a late rush by the Rebels. On a Field Goal attempt for the lead, the kick was blocked. The Vikings earned the win and won two Shamrock Bowls in a row.
The 2009 season was another strong showing for the Rebels. Two rematches against the UL Vikings had differing results. The first resulted in a 12-7 win, the second a 14-14 tie. The team would regroup and win 5 in a row scoring 215 points and concede only 19. A 7-0-1 regular season earned the Rebels their 5th Regular Season League Title.
A 38-0 win in the Semi-Final versus the DCU Saints secured a rematch with the UL Vikings for the Shamrock Bowl, hosted in Cooke RFC in Northern Ireland. This was the first modern day Shamrock Bowl to go to overtime, with the Vikings earning the 9-6 win.
Following on from the heartbreak of the two previous Shamrock Bowl losses the 2010 preseason was frantic with recruitment, changing systems/personnel/coaches etc. The Rebels, usually a slow starting them, aimed to hit the ground running for the new season. The first four games saw the 5-time champions dismantle the opposing Dublin teams. 4-0 start scored 182 and only conceding 12. Next up a trip to the home of the champions, once again the Rebels came out on top in the regular season game 28-19. Game 6: 49-0 at half time and DCU didn’t play on.
Another two wins against the Knights and Rhinos in the final regular season games confirmed a second consecutive year undefeated in the regular season. The Rebels had only lost 5 games in the regular season from 2003-10. Ten TD’s and a 65-0 win in the Playoff semi-final set up a chance for revenge and a third bowl in-a-row against the UL Vikings. 2010 was a year which saw the Offense and Defense obliterate all that stood before them. It was fitting that fan favorites Barry Flinn and Sam Hodgins both scored TDs either side of an Ian McDonald field goal, in a game that saw the stingy Rebels Defense dominate UL from start to finish. Finally, the Rebels had ended UL’s streak and won Shamrock Bowl #6. Final Score Rebels 15-00 UL.
2010 Perfect season record
- Played 10 games
- Won 10 games
- Points For: 415
- Points Against: 44
- Defensive shutouts in 33 of 40 quarters.
They say success comes with a price and this was never so true in 2011. Many of our star players had left the club, some through retirement and a number of recruitments to the semi-pro level of the German football league. Having missed out by a score of 6-3 in game 1, the Rebels won 2 games before facing a tough trip to Carrickfergus, 21-7 to the Knights. 3 wins in the next 4 games secured a final regular season record of 5-3 and a rematch with the Knights in the playoff semi-final.
As had been the case in many of the IAFL seasons moment was gathering and the team was peaking at the right time. A 22-6 reversal of the previous match saw the Rebels return to the Shamrock Bowl Final for the 9th time in 11 years. UL Vikings would be the opponent for the 4th consecutive year.
For the Dublin Rebels and UL Vikings, adversity had become a given in recent years, irremovable from the goal. This year’s Bowl was no different. In fact, it highlighted the ferocity and competitiveness more than any other final. The Rebels went into halftime trailing 13-6. In the second half, individuals stood out. Game MVP Marcus Naylor shifted momentum with an impossible diving interception, Andy Dennehy remained calm to marshal his offense to score again, this time through Sam Hodgins.
The defense was simply frightening, and it was fitting that their two-point contribution from a 3rd quarter safety proved to be the difference. Just one point separated the teams at the final whistle, the Rebels stealing the 2011 title with a 14-13 win.
The 2012 title defense began at home in Sportslink against a new look Cork Admirals followed by a trip to Trinity and then a visit from yet another college team UCD. Game 4 saw the Rebels face the Rhinos. As always between these two teams, there was no love lost and the result could have gone either way but a massive defensive effort on their own goal line from the Rebels ensured they would get through the first half of the regular season unbeaten after coming out on top 12-7.
In game 5, the Rebels traveled north for the first time in 2012 to face the Carrickfergus Knights as the main event in a doubleheader at Shorts R&R Club, Belfast. The game certainly lived up to the billing and laid a legitimate claim to the game of the year as the sides served up a slobber knocker of a contest with scores galore. Luckily for the Rebels, they were on the right side of the scoreline coming out 40-34 victory, leveling the Vikings at 5-0 atop the summit of the IAFL South.
The month of May saw the two undefeated sides clash at the UL Sports Complex with the prize being the sole possession of first place in the division and the inside track to a home playoff berth. The Vikings came out on top with an impressive 29-0 victory. 2 weeks later the Rebels traveled to Tullamore where some confidence was restored with a less than impressive 20-0 victory. Game 8: The Rebels welcomed the Belfast Trojans to Santry both sides put on a show with the Rebels claiming a 2 TD deficit in the second half only to fall short to the away side 27-20 to finish 6-2 on the season and facing a wildcard game against cross-town rivals TCD.
Rebels overcame Trinity 28-6 and progressed to the semi-final where they would face the Belfast Trojans for the second time in a month. However, before their semi-final game the Rebels had a different kind of challenge before them in the form of the 2012 EFAF Atlantic Cup in Lelystad, Holland. As 2011 Shamrock Bowl winners, the Rebels had earned the right to represent Ireland and the IAFL in a weekend tournament which also featured teams from Holland, Belgium, Luxemburg. In their semi-final the Rebels faced the host team, however, were simply not good enough on the day and went down to an athletic Commanders team 65-20. The next game faired a little better, a commanding performance was put in against the Luxemburg Steelers with national pride restored after a 44-0 victory.
Back to Ireland and the IAFL semi-final where the Trojans had the home field advantage. Despite a strong start from the Rebels, the Trojans began to pull away at the start of the second half with the toll of the grueling postseason schedule beginning to show on the Rebels sideline. The Trojans 67-38 winners and advance to Shamrock Bowl XXVI which they would eventually win, for the first time in their own history.