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INTERVIEW WITH A V…….

ROMANIAN REBEL!

On Saturday November 25th, the 9 time National Champion, Dublin Rebels return to action in the 2017 Atlantic Cup. This will be the fourth time the Rebels compete in the competition, and first time on Irish soil. The opponents for this year are newcomers to the contest, The Bucharest Rebels, themselves 3 time National Champions of Romania.

Unique to this game, one man has played for both teams, Andrei-Vlad Vasilescu. In preparation to the big game, we sat down with Vlad to talk football, and the impending Rebels versus Rebels game.

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Hi Vlad, so you started playing football 10 years ago, what drew you to American Football?

Vlad:     I’ve always enjoyed and played team sports and instantly became a fan of American Football after I watched my first game; Superbowl 36, also, the reason I’m a Patriots fan.

The more time I spent watching the game and understanding the intricacies, the more I loved it.

My grandfather was a great chess player, he taught me to play, and in American football I found a sport where the chess game was brought to the field, where you need to know the strengths, and, weakness of each player, and, how, and where, you should or shouldn’t use it.

 

You previously were with the Bucharest Warriors, followed by this Saturdays opponents the Bucharest Rebels, tell us a little about your time playing in Romania?

Vlad:     I began with the Warriors, the first team in Romania in 2007. We started as a group of guys that met on an online forum and decided we would like to go out in the park and throw the football around.

We progressed into playing kind of a touch football, there was nowhere in Romania to get flags then or now . All of that changed when that summer a guy that had played high-school football in the States joined us and basically told us that there were other teams in Europe that played tackle football and that we should try to form a team.

We ordered our first gear from a store in Germany and by November 2007 we were able to play our first ever game against a team that formed around the same time in a city about 200km from Bucharest. Looking back now it’s actually pretty funny. We had no clue what we were doing, all we knew about American Football was from the one game a week that cable TV was showing, Madden and the movies we saw. People could not believe we were doing that but we kept it up. Our first game jerseys were sewn together by one of the guys’ mother, and we spray painted the numbers and names on the back with stencils. I still have mine.

That might be my favourite jersey story I’ve heard, resourceful!

Vlad:     We won the first 2 Romanian Championships in 2010 and 2011 with the Warriors but then in 2012 when Team Romania played its first, and only up until now, game there was a big disagreement with the management of the Warriors and all players left the team.

We took up the name Rebels, because we rebelled against some concepts that we believed were wrong and did not want to be a part of it. In 2012 the Rebels lost the championship with a point differential after a two game final. In November I managed to get my first major injury when on the first play of a friendly I broke my tibia in 3 places.

At the time I was thinking that that was going to be when I hang my cleats but being on the side lines made me really itch to see if I can play again and so in 2014 started getting back into. We won the Championship for the first time as Rebels that year and I decided the leg was well enough to keep going. I think we went undefeated the next season as well and 2015 culminated with the first game televised on national TV and with the worst score you can have in a game, finishing 2-0 with a safety as the only scoring play.

 

Not the Ideal show for TV. What positions did you play back home?

Vlad:     I started as a Wide-out, being one of the smallest players on the team didn’t actually allow me a wide choice of positions, and also played as a Wing-back in the season where our offensive scheme was changed to a Wing T based one.

I also played Free Safety towards the end of the Warriors period and after I moved to the Rebels. On offense with the Rebels I became a slot receiver as we moved to a spread style offense.

I finished with 4 championships, out of a possible 6, in Romania before moving to Ireland.

 

Not a bad haul, so as you said two years ago, you moved to Ireland, and joined the Dublin Rebels, what were the biggest differences you found from back home?

Vlad:     That’s actually a question I get asked a lot. I think the biggest difference is the experience level the players and coaches have. It’s crazy to see so many players that have been doing this for so long and at a good level from the onset.

League wise the biggest difference I feel is the number of teams involved. But I see a lot of similarities with Romania when it comes to the things that go in the league which I feel encouraging for Romania as it is a much younger league.

Regarding the level of play I see the same intensity, the same passion. I go back to the first point regarding the experience, but I feel the Romanian teams make up with the level of individual athletes that play. I guess we’ll have a first example of the difference, if indeed there is one, on Saturday the 25th

 

You’ve had a couple of nicknames from your football play, are you allowed to disclose their origins?

Vlad:     Hahahahah, the two that I got since playing here are “Lemonade” and “The Impaler”.

Both came about last season. To take them chronologically, “The Impaler” was always floating around since I first joined the team due to my first name being Vlad and the affinity of Irish people and vampires, I still blame Bram Stoker.

But I was told I earned it because of my tackling technique where against bigger guys, which is almost everybody, I get low enough that people have ended up tumbling over their heads or ending up going head first into the ground .

“Lemonade” happened the day before the 2016 Bowl when we went out for dinner with the team. I never drink alcoholic drinks in the week before games and I always try to stay away from fizzy soft drinks so when ordering I asked for Lemonade and having the experience of having been brought Fanta Lemon in the past I may have been a bit too loud in asking for “Freshly squeezed Lemonade”.

 

We ask the hard questions, which one do you prefer?

Vlad:     Most of everybody that knows me from back home knows me as “UFO”, I’ve had this nickname for almost 18 years now, so that will always be my default.

But concerning the Dublin Rebels I can’t really choose as they both mean a lot to me in different ways. “The Impaler” because that represents my on the field persona where I’m not afraid to go against anybody and it shows my teammates know I’ll give everything for them.

“Lemonade” because it represents the family aspect this team means to me and the fact that through all the hard times I’ve had with moving my whole life over 3000kms, the Rebels have always been there to support, to understand and to help.

Very Diplomatic!

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You’ve played on both sides of the ball for the Dublin Rebels, Do you have a favourite play, or even one either side, you’ve had with the Rebels? What about a favourite play with Bucharest?

Vlad:     For the Dublin Rebels my favourite play is by far the pick-6 I had against the Trojans this past season. It happened just as I’d probably imagined it a million times in my head. They ran a play that we had seen before and I had help on the inside from the safety so I knew I was free to try and make a play so when I saw the QB wind up and the receiver plant and turn his body I just broke for the ball. The pass was a little overthrown and so I caught it and all I had in front of me was 40 yards of green grass for a touchdown. It meant a lot for me as I finally felt that the transition to defence was paying off, and scoring is always fun!

For Bucharest, the one that sticks out the most from the last couple of years was in the 2015 semi-final game when I ran a go route and caught a perfectly thrown pass for a TD. It was just one of those plays where everything just clicked, the alignment was just as we hoped with me in the Slot and a LB in man coverage, I had a good get off and enough separation on the bump and the pass came just over the defenders head but high enough that I could track it. The fact that the team considered it the best passing TD in the 2015 campaign made it even sweeter.

 

You’ve now won two National championships with the Dublin Rebels, and get to play in a game you’ve hoped would happen since joining the team, against your home town, Bucharest Rebels, give us your thoughts on that finally happening, and in a European Final no less.

Vlad:     Yes indeed, I’ve been trying to throw small “hints” of making this happen ever since I joined as I felt it would produce a good match-up. The fact that it happens to be in a European Cup Final makes it so much sweeter. I’ve been waiting for the Atlantic Cup since last year when I found out about it I think the week before the Shamrock Bowl.

Really proud of my guys from Bucharest for joining the Atlantic cup even though I know they won’t have a complete squad. It’s a good opportunity for them to develop and I believe they’ll be really motivated about this.

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Who are the Bucharest players to watch out for in the game?

Vlad:     It’s hard to pick but I’ll go for Wide Receiver, number 85, Radu Ene for Offense.

Radu’s the top dog receiver over there with great hands and good route running; he’ll be a great match-up that I look forward to.

On Defence, I’d pick Linebacker, Cosmin Zamfir, no 50. He’s one of the guys that I started playing next to 10 years ago and from the start he’s been known around the league as a “no brakes, hard hitter” and runner when he swaps in at Running Back, on the Offence.

We’ll keep a close eye on those match ups, and thank you for taking the time to chat, and the best of luck on Saturday.

 

Saturdays game kicks off at 1pm in ALSAA Sports Centre in Santry, entry is Free, and the match-up between the Dublin Rebels and Bucharest Rebels to crown the 2017 Atlantic Cup Champions promises to be a great one.

 

Interview by Paul Grogan

Atlantic Cup Poster

ATLANTIC CUP 2017

Going For European Glory – Atlantic Cup 2017

The Dublin Rebels are proud to announce our participation in the 2017 Atlantic Cup competition in Dublin.

The Atlantic Cup is a competition where the Irish National Champions are invited to compete against other European Champions in a mini-tournament format to crown the Champions.

As the 2016 winners of the Shamrock Bowl, the Dublin Rebels return to the competition, having been Irelands inaugural representatives in the competition, and having competed on several occasions previously in Belgium twice, and the Netherlands.

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Opposition

Unfortunately due to flight issues, the French team Les Diables Rouges, had to pull out of the tournament, meaning that this years Atlantic Cup will be a single game final between your Dublin Rebels, and 2016 Romanian Champions the Bucharest Rebels.

Come & Join us

All Details will be available on the event page, and we hope you all can come out and support us, as we look to top off our 2017 season with a second Championship

https://www.facebook.com/events/1958635557710744/

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#RebelBowl
#AtlanticCup

DUBLIN REBELS AWARDS NIGHT 2017

On Saturday September 15th, the Dublin Rebels American Football Club held our annual awards night in The Odeon in the heart of Dublin city. The popular nightspot has played host to our yearly Superbowl party for a number of years, and have been hugely supportive to the success of the club in that time.

The night began with a few words from our Chairman, Vinny Dooley, who then introduced Daniel Meehan, from Shadowman Sports, our clubs main sponsors.

Before the awards were given out, Daniel addressed all in attendance about the pride in the partnership, and also combined success of both, Shadowman Sports, and, the Dublin Rebels over the past season and into the future. Shadowman were kind enough to provide all of the main awards to each of the nights winners.

Rookie of the Year

As is now customary for the Rebels awards night, the first award up was the rookie of the year. The winner here, went to the Offensive Line, and ever present Right Tackle, Caolan O’Neill taking the honors. Playing every snap on offense is an impressive feat in itself, doing so as a rookie, on a defending Champion team is even more so, and Caolan did so, impressively.

Offensive Player of the Year

Next up was the Offensive Player of the Year award. In an offense that is absolutely loaded with weapons at the skills positions, and beasts across the O-Line, this is a hugely competitive award, with the award ultimately going to young Tight End, Ciarán Fitzpatrick. Following his heroics in the 2016 Shamrock Bowl final, scoring the game winning Touchdown, he became a key starter and big time player on offense at Tight End.

Special Teams Player of the Year

The award next up for grabs was the Special Teams player of the year, this award went to Sean Douglas, who was unable to attend on the night. Douglas made a number of highlight reel returns in the kick and punt games throughout the year.

“Boob” of the Year

The awards then took a break as we took a look back through some of the more comical plays throughout the season, with a video package to prove the existence of invisible snipers, stealthy ninjas, and some blatant bonehead plays. The room filled with laughter and cheers, to pick out the most ridiculous play of the year.

Most Improved Player

Back to the main awards, and up next is the Most Improved Player award, this trophy went to Andrei-Vlad Vasilescu, who after making the switch from Wide Receiver to Defensive Back late in the 2016 season, led the league in Interceptions in 2017.

 

Defensive Player of the Year

Defensive Player of the Year Award followed, and as many offenses in Ireland will attest to, unsurprisingly went to Simon Mackey. After missing out on the 2016 season due to injury, Mackey returned to beast through Offensive lines all season long and wreak havoc in backfields.

 

Rebel of the Year

The Rebel of the Year award is one that is not solely based on playing ability but rather coupled with your overall contribution to the club. The 2017 Rebel of the Year award was given to Andy Dennehy. While also playing as the starting Quarterback, Andy is also the Head Coach and Offensive Co-Ordinator for the Dublin Rebels. Oh and he has won a few Shamrock Bowls, he’ll be happy to tell you about.

Play of the Year

As the awards evening was coming towards its penultimate award, the main awards took another break, as we looked back through some of the best plays of the season for the Rebels. A video package showing some of the spectacular plays we had throughout the season. The high-tech clap-o-meter was in action, with everyone encouraged to shout for their favourites.

Hall of Fame

The Dublin Rebels are fortunate to have had some phenomenal players, coaches, and club members since its existence. With every year that passes more legends are created and more players put their name forward for contention in to the Rebels Hall of Fame. Some legendary names make up the current Rebels Hall of Fame, which you can see “here”.

This year the man that enters our Hall of Fame, is responsible for the existence of the Dublin Rebels. This years Dublin Rebels Hall of Fame Inductee is Marcus Naylor. There are not enough words to get across Marcus’ contribution to both the Dublin Rebels and to Irish American Football. A founding member and “THE Boss” of the Dublin Rebels, Marcus played on 7 Shamrock Bowl winning teams, has been Shamrock Bowl MVP, primarily playing Safety and Running Back, but has played snaps at every position on the field for the Rebels, and was a huge part of the re-emergence of the IAFL in 2000.

Retired Numbers

Normally the awards would conclude with the Hall of Fame award, but on this occasion, a unique decision was made by the club. Due to their extraordinary contributions to the club, the founding members, Marcus Naylor (#80), Sunday O’Hanlon (#66) and Andrew Flynn (#45) were honoured by having their Jersey numbers retired.

 

With the conclusion of the Annual Dublin Rebels Award Night 2017, so concludes our 2017 season. In a year where we retained our National Championship, winning for a record 9th time, the season was a great success, and plans are being put in place as we prepare to defend our Championship in 2018. We will soon have news on our upcoming Rookie Days, when we look to find the next group of players with the drive and desire to be a National Champion, the next group of Dublin Rebels.

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2017 SEASON, ANOTHER GOOD ONE!

DUBLIN REBELS 2017 SEASON IN REVIEW

The Dublin Rebels came into the 2017 season off the back of breaking the Belfast Trojans stranglehold on the Shamrock Bowl. Winning the Championship, by scoring the game winning Touchdown with 12 seconds left on the clock. A first title since 2011, and with the promise of competing for National Championships again, was a big draw in recruitment.

The majority of the 2016 team has returned this year, with notable exceptions, Defensive player of the year Kenny McCarthy not returning, and the retirement of Fergal “Sunday” O’Hanlon. With the already returning squad, a strong rookie class, and the return of some veteran players, including human wrecking ball Simon Mackey, the Rebels would set up for a strong run at attempting to repeat the previous year’s lofty heights.

TOUGH START

The opening game of the season brought a trip to UCD, the first meeting in two seasons, the last of which the students came out on top. The Rebels took the victory, with a debut score for RB Pete McMahon, and another rushing touchdown, from Sean Douglas, coupled with receiving Touchdowns from Peter Keely and Cathal Keane thanks to the arm of Andrew Dennehy, the Rebels took home the points, with a final score of 28-13. There were some negatives to the game, as it brought injuries to several key starters on offense, with Wello Omorodion, Sean Leamy and Paul Grogan, all missing future games.

Photo courtesy of Laszlo Gezco Photography

 

Game two brought the first meeting of this year’s two Shamrock Bowl finalists, when the Carrickfergus Knights came to Dublin. The game was a tight tense affair, with the Rebels offense giving up a plethora of turnovers to the resilient Knights. The game remained scoreless until the fourth quarter, when Simon Mackey provided one of the moments of the season, with the infamous “Swan Lake” play, where he leapt and spun into the Endzone to break the deadlock. The game was capped off with Pete McMahon adding another score to close the game out, 12-0.

The next game up was a trip to Kildare to take on the North Kildare Reapers. The game was notable for the emergence of young signal caller Jack Fagan, given the reigns to the offense, after a brief cameo from starting Quarterback Dennehy. A tough heart-filled performance from the home side, caused problems for the traveling Rebels at times, but in the end would succumb to a 37-0 defeat. Andrei-Vlad Vasilescu would continue his run of games with at least one interception through 3 games. It would also see the rare Defensive Tackle Interception, when Paul Kirkwood snagged one from the air. Scorers on the day were again, Pete McMahon and Sean Douglas(2), a first TD throw from Fagan to Ciarán Fitzpatrick, and a thunderous 30 yard run from Steve Walsh.

ADMIRALS SUNK

Up next for the Rebels, was a road trip to Shamrock Bowl Conference newcomers/returners, the Cork Admirals. The game would see the return of Grogan to the offense, and in what would be more impactful on the day, his punting. As this game turned into a strategic battle, field position came at a premium. The Rebels linebacking corps of Matthias Durot, Conrad Cook, Damien McHale, and Raphael Meyer would all rack up 4+ tackles each. The men in black would come away winners after rushing scores from Pete McMahon, and Dave “Rev” McMahon, as well as one through the sky from Dennehy to Fitzpatrick.

Dave McMahon
“#7 Dave McMahon” – Photo courtesy of Trevor O’Connell

At the half way point of the regular season, the Rebels looked to be in good shape for the second half of the season. With strong performers across the board, a number of key players to return and a record of 4-0, there was a lot to be positive about. Further south, the UL Vikings had really set the pace for this year’s Championship. They also boasted a record of four wins from four games, however could also count massive victories over the Reapers and UCD, 92-0 and 76-6 respectively. Despite travelling to Dublin, for both sides next game, meeting the current champions on their home turf, U.L. had a lot to be confident about. At least one of the teams would lose their perfect record on that day.

The game was an exciting affair for the neutral, as both sides clicked on offense, and after long drives, traded scores, and the lead back and forth. Ultimately it was the visitors and league pace setters, the Vikings that came away with the victory 28-22. A Pete McMahon touchdown, coupled with another “Rev” McMahon Touchdown and one more through the air from Dennehy to Keane would conclude the Rebels touchdowns for the day. A welcome sight for the Rebels was the return of Wello Omorodion, who would also get into the Endzone on a 2 point play. Ultimately this showed that the Rebels weren’t going to have it all their own way, and that the Vikings would be strong favourites to win the Shamrock Bowl at this point of the season.

Sitting at 4 and 1 on the season, with results throughout the league, the Rebels next game at home to Trinity meant that a win would guarantee Play-off football for the Dublin side. The Trinity side, depleted from the team they had earlier in the season, were still in the playoff hunt themselves. The Rebels would come away comfortable winners on the back of a strong running game and mean defence. The game finished 38-12, and made sure of the home teams spot in the play offs.

TOUGHER FINISH

With two games remaining the Dublin Rebels sat second in the South Division behind the dominant Vikings. Those final two games would be, first against four time Shamrock Bowl winners the Belfast Trojans, and the return game away, to the Vikings. A tougher run in you will not find to end the regular season.

First the visit of the Trojans to Santry. With the scoreboard deadlocked at zero into the 2nd quarter, up stepped Andrei-Vlad Vasilescu, with another pick, this time doing for 6 points. After a forced fumble on the next drive, taken away from the Trojans, Dennehy would go to the air, hitting Jonas D’Agostin Kubis for the touchdown. The experienced signal caller was in scintillating form, connecting with 7 different receivers on the day. 14-0 down the Trojans rallied, and managed to bring the game to a 14-13 score line with a little over a minute left in the game. Needing to win in order to win the Northern division the Trojans had to go for 2. If they were successful it would have left Dennehy and his offense in the same situation as last year’s Shamrock Bowl final, down by 1 with a minute to go. The Rebels defence stepped up though, and the conversion attempt failed. After recovering the onside kick, the Rebels kneeled out the clock to take the win 14-13.

Kickoff
‘Rebels Kickoff Team’ – Photo courtesy of Charmaeducs Photography

And so, to the final regular season game. A meeting with the UL Vikings, in Limerick, the battle to take the division, and the number 1 seed for the play offs. The stage was set for a phenomenal game, the Rebels needed to win by 7 or more points to win the division, the Vikings would take it with any win, a draw, or even a loss by 6 points or fewer.

While the first meeting of the sides in Dublin saw the Rebels rely heavily on the success of their run game, this game would show just how balanced their offense is. With Andrew Dennehy under Center he would take to the air early, and often, connecting with Grogan, Keane, Fitzpatrick and D’Agostin, each on multiple occasions. While the Rebels defence, who had difficulty in the first match up stopping the Vikings O, began to wreak havoc in the back field, led by Linebacker Robert Smith racking up tackle after tackle behind the line of scrimmage, with the ever present support of Matthias Durot, and the beast that is Simon Mackey. Dennehy had himself a day, connecting through the air for three touchdowns and a 2XP, with Fitzpatrick on one touchdown and D’Agostin on the rest, and rushing for one 2XP himself. Those extra points proved to be the difference in the division. As the clock wound down, the Rebels defence found themselves backed up deep in their own redzone with a minute left in the game. After several defiant stops, the Vikings chose to go for the field goal, knowing the 3 points would win the division for them despite the loss. But the Rebels defence was not to be denied, and burst through the Vikings wall to block the field goal, securing the division, home field advantage, the number 1 seed and a Bye into the Shamrock Bowl Semi Final, where they would end up meeting the Belfast Trojans for the second time this season.

The last time the Rebels and Trojans met in a Shamrock Bowl Semi Final, the two teams combined for a total of 104 points, so this game held the air of promise and lots of scores. It did not disappoint.

The Rebels had no intention of letting up and came out firing on all cylinders. Showing the depth of their ability out of the backfield, the Rebels would jump out to a 24-7 lead, with rushing scores from Wello Omorodion, Pete McMahon and Sean Douglas. The Trojans battled back into the game, managing to get as close as 24-20, the Rebels offense dug in, and not to be outdone by his backfield mates, Dave “Rev” McMahon, would punch in the final touchdown for the Rebels. The Trojans managed to get into the Endzone again, with the score at 32-26, and Trojans ball, the game would end when that man Simon Mackey burst through the line and took down the Quarterback. The Rebels were going back to the show. As the current champions, you always have a massive target on your back, and coming through the season with a single loss in making it to the Shamrock Bowl could be considered a great success. But the Dublin Rebels would only be happy to retain their Championship!

Rebels on 3
Pumped up – Photo Courtesy of Laszlo Gezco Photography

The Dublin Rebels headed into their 12th Shamrock Bowl Final, in search of their record 9th National Championship, against old foes the Carrickfergus Knights. If you want to recall how that turned out you can read the game review “here

GOAT
Title #9 – Photo Courtesy of Terry McCann Photography

By Paul Grogan