2024 NFL International Player Pathway Spotlight: 4 Irish specialists included

In this year’s edition of the NFL International Player Pathway, Ireland has more representation than every country excluding Nigeria, as both nations are featured four times.

The four Irishmen included in the program will all be trying their hand at special teams as kickers and punters – the first class of specialists included in the IPP, as kickers and punters previously were featured.

Let’s take a look at the potential NFL specialists:

Mark Jackson

Mark Jackson is a former Gaelic football goalkeeper for Wicklow County and will be taking his skills to the gridiron.

The 25 year old is one of the top talents in the game, and is renowned for his long range scoring. Jackson is just the third inter-county goalkeeper to ever surpass 100 points, and he was on track to become the highest scoring keeper of all time had he continued in the sport.

Rory Beggan

Rory Beggan is another of the three Gaelic football keepers in the 100-point club. The Monaghan stopper surpassed the milestone in 2020, and has recorded 113 points in 113 games. 

The All-Star and two time Ulster champion will be training alongside Jackson at Leader Kicking.

Charlie Smyth

Smyth is yet another Gaelic goalkeeper known for his free taking abilities. 

The 22 year-old has been training at Leader Kicking with his fellow IPP athletes since October.

“I have been a huge fan of the sport for the last seven or eight years, and when I first went to try it out the pathway hadn’t even opened, but I tried it out because I thought that if I was good enough, maybe I could get a college scholarship and go that route.”

Darragh Leader

Darragh Leader is a rugby union player who has been a solid full-back primarily with Connacht Rugby. Known for his reliable play at the back and adept kicking skills, Leader is aiming to make it as a punter.

Leader’s ties to kicking go a little further than the three Gaelic stars – his big brother Tadhg is the owner of the aforementioned Leader Kicking, as well as being a former professional kicker in American football. Tadhg played for the European League of Football’s Panthers Wroclaw in 2021 before being signed to the Hamilton Tiger Cats practice squad during the 2022 offseason.

A current student at Bournemouth University as well as a quarterback with eight years of playing experience. Brad's goal is to be a part of the growth of the game around the world through journalism and media.