5 Questions For Team Ireland Coach Ciaran O’Sullivan

This weekend, the Dutch Lions, Holland’s national American football team, will play Ireland in a historic game as it will mark the first time that Team Ireland will play in an international contest.

Dutch American football writer Ferry Jainathsingh sat down with Ireland’s head coach Ciaran O’Sullivan to find out more about his team but also about the development of American football in Ireland.

(Translated from the Dutch)

In Ireland, rugby, Gaelic football, hurling and soccer are very popular. How did an Irishman end up in the world of American football?

I lived in America for eight years and was always fascinated by the sport. When I was there, I attended many games at high schools, and colleges and I went to NFL games too. Back in Ireland, I missed the sport but I eventually found out that there was also a league in Ireland. I contacted the federation and asked where and how I could get involved in the game.

In response I was told that “the easiest way to set up your own team.” So that’s what I did. Together with a friend, I founded the Cork Admirals. At the beginning of this millennium we had eight players. Now, we have 40 players and last week the Admirals became the champions of the Irish 2nd division for the first time.

Next season the team will compete in Ireland’s top division.

Ireland has only recently formed a national team. Why was there such a long wait?

In the past Ireland did have a national team, but more in the form of an all-star game. There was no national team program and we also did not participate in the European competitions. The games were against teams from the UK or against NCAA Division III college teams who were visiting.

With the growth of the sport it was a logical next step to start a national team program. There are currently 24 teams in Ireland, divided into three divisions. Quite a large number for a population of 4 million while also facing competition from other popular sports.

Twenty-four teams from 4 million people is a lot. How do the clubs find their players?

There is currently no youth program for American football, but it is high on the agenda of the Irish American Football League. Youth tackle is too small now in Ireland. It is true that we have promoted flag football in high schools. In this way we are trying to introduce young people to the sport.

In addition, there are three ‘college teams’ who play in the top division. These teams also provide new recruits for the clubs. After completing their training in college, many players play for their local associations.

What are the current goals of the national team?

In the short term, the goal is to build a good foundation. This will be the first time that we take a team ‘overseas’. Now we will put theory to work. We want to play different types of teams to see how the players handle it, and to teach them and apply their knowledge. How will the team deal with a road game? How the organization will handle the logistics involved? These will all be learning moments.

After the game against the Dutch Lions, we will know where we stand as a country, not only as a team but also as a federation. From there we can build.

What is the strength of your team?

At present it is difficult to say because we have not played a game yet. What we always hear from both European and American opponents, is that we play very physical. The players never give up. It has always been clear that we want to play real football.

Original article in Dutch from Dutch Lions website.

The Dutch Lions will face Team Ireland Saturday August 27 at Mandemakers stadium in Waalwijk, Holland.