Belfast American Football Writing

I write a column on American Football for a local paper - here you can read the reports a couple of days before they go in print; and my confused waffles...

Friday, March 24, 2006

Bulls seek revenge

THE Belfast Bulls are out for revenge tomorrow when they face the Dublin Rebels team that narrowly beat them in last year’s Shamrock Bowl season closer.

They will also seek to shake off the memories of their 20-0 defeat at the hands of University of Limerick Vikings two weeks ago.

When Belfast kicks off at 1pm in Deramore Park tomorrow it will be the defence led by safety Mark Helferty who will need to step up to contain the Rebels, but crucially the offence will have to break their season’s duck against a side that can rack up points.

Having clocked up 78 unanswered points in two games the Vikings host the Dublin Dragons tomorrow, confident of achieving another win.

Last week the Limerick university side cruised to a win in the first ever American Football intervarsity game, in which they faced league debutantes Dublin City University Saints.

The Vikings are feeling confident after their early successes and should do well against the Dragons, but the real question will be how they handle road games later on in the season.

Debuting earlier today (Saturday) were be the Dublin City Marshals. They take on the Derby Braves in a friendly match in aid of Temple St Children’s Hospital.

Last week in NFL Europe there were wins for Cologne, Berlin and Rhein. This weekend sees Rhein go to Berlin, Hambueg travel to Frankfurt and Cologne host Amsterdam.

In the NFL one of the big stories of the free agency moves is the decision of running back Edgerrin James to leave the Indianapolis Colts to join perennial strugglers the Arizona Cardinals. This marks the end of a six-year tenure with the Colts in which he topped 1,000+ years in all but two injury-hit seasons.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Vikings look to capitalise on good start

THE University of Limerick Vikings are looking to build on their win last week over the Belfast Bulls when they take on debutante team, the Dublin City University Saints.

The DCU Saints are new to the IAFL for 2006. Most of their players are rookies, but they have experienced coaches including Phil DeMonte (Team Ireland), Darrin O’Toole, (ex-Rebels) and Carsten Wonderlic (ex-German league).

They appear to be very well drilled and have a large enthusiastic squad. It will probably take a couple of years before they gain enough experience to contend for the Shamrock Bowl, but do not be surprised if they cause a few upsets in 2006.

But they will be hard-pressed to upset the Vikings. The Limerick side have undergone that journey of being a rookie team and now appear to have emerged stronger.

Last week's shut out of the Bulls proved Gavin Grace's team has emerged as a potentially real force in the Irish American Football League. Tomorrow's (Sunday) game on their home field should be another step in their development.

This weekend also sees the kick-off of the NFL Europe league.

Today Cologne visit the Hamburg Sea Devils, Berlin Thunder go to the Amsterdam Admirals in a World Bowl XIII re-match and Frankfurt Galaxy travel to Rhein Fire.

The transfer market is also open this week in the NFL - as teams prepare for the draft the free agency period is open with 470 players listed as free agents.

There are both restricted and unrestricted free agents, and the formulae that apply to this complex transfer system would bewilder anyone who doesn't hold a maths degree!

When a sport has dozens of paragraphs just explaining the transfer system in a press release, it's clear that the beauty of American Football on the pitch isn’t replicated by the tortuous nature of player contracts and team owner's business aspirations.

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Bulls stumble

SCORELINE: Belfast Bulls 0 20 University of Limerick Vikings

THE Belfast Bulls opened the Irish American Football season with a defeat to the University of Limerick Vikings.

Last year’s Shamrock Bowl finalists fell at the hands of an organised Vikings side, who showed defensive grit as well as a strong running attack.

Andrew Gordan, Vikings running back had a 100-yard plus game including a 50-yard fourth quarter run that broke the back of any Belfast defiance.

Mark McGrath’s effort in the third quarter showed the Bull still have the weapons on board for the rest of the season, but ultimately lacked the cutting edge to blunt the Vikings, who rewarded new coach Gavin Grace with his first victory.

Friday, March 10, 2006


THE Irish American Football season kicks back into action tomorrow (Sunday) when the Belfast Bulls journey to the west of Ireland to take on the University of Limerick Vikings.

The season-opener sees the Bulls begin their journey that they hope will once again lead to a Shamrock Bowl appearance, after last year’s debut in the league’s showcase game.

Belfast was the most improved team in the IAFL in 2005. They finished top of the IAFL league standings and were narrowly defeated in the Shamrock Bowl.

Their progress is impressive considering that 2004 was their first full season. Like the Rebels, they will have to replace some departing starters this year, but the increased profile of the team seems to have helped with the recruitment of new players.

Safety Mark Helferty will again lead a tough defense including defensive lineman Carl Ward and Andrew Neeson.

The Bulls have the biggest offensive line in the IAFL which should aid running backs Mark McGrath and Kris Donaghy. Like last season, the starting quarterback will not be decided until just before the first game of the season.

They face a Limerick Uni side which finished in fifth place with a 3-5 record.

They have a new head coach in Gavin Grace. The UL Vikings are boosted this year by the arrival of American QB Chris Bassitt.

He, along with returning running back Andy Gordan are expected to be their key offensive weapons. Their offensive line also appears to be solid, led by centre Jamie O’Brien.

Defensive back Liam Ryan is established as one of the best in the IAFL and along with linebacker Liam Hayes will lead the defence.

As with previous years, the influx of transfer students from the US will in evidently turn up some good football players thus making the Vikings and unknown quantity. Vikings will be hoping to make the semi-finals in 2006.