Sunday, December 02, 2007

Football scoring a TD in Ireland

What’s the fastest growing sport in Ireland? That would be football, the American one with the oblong, pointy –ended ball that is, not the round one. The first American style football game to be played on the island was played in 1942 in Belfast. And it attracted a large crowd, said to be 8,000 strong, with proceeds from the tickets going to the Red Cross. But the two teams were made up of American servicemen, not Irishmen. Another game was played between American servicemen in Croke Park in Dublin in 1946 and was said to be the first foreign sport ever played there.

For the following 35 years the sport was essentially forgotten in Ireland, until RTE began covering the American NFL, the CFL (Canadian Football League) and American college football. That exposure soon caused an interest in the sport that led to the formation of organized teams. In 1985 - the Tyrone Tornadoes played the Coleraine Chieftans in the first game between Irish teams at Omagh Rugby Club in Co. Tyrone.

In 1986 the Dublin Celts, Belfast Blitzers, Craigavon Cowboys and Coleraine Chieftans played a tournament which ended with Craigavon defeating the Dublin Celts 6-0 in Shamrock Bowl I to become Ireland's first National Champions.

In 1987 the Irish American Football League began its first full season with 11 teams. Interest waned in the late 1990s and the sport nearly died as the league was reduced to only three teams in 1999. The league suspended play entirely in 2000. But starting in 2001 the league began again with renewed vigor and the IAFL has been rebuilt into a 9 team, 3 division league.

This year the University of Limerick Viking defeated the Cork Admirals 22-14 to win Shamrock Bowl XXI. Vikings running back Seamus Hogan won the Most Valuable Player award by scoring all three of the Vikings touchdowns.


Irish American Football League (All graphics courtesy of their website.)

University of Limerick Vikings (team photo, below)

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Played for the Dublin Celts from 86-89. Part of the committee that set up the IAFL.............GREAT MEMORIES. Gannon