Interview with Ireland u20 Head Coach, Russell Kerley ahead of America’s Elite team visit.

On Saturday, April 8th a team of selected American High School players will travel to Dublin to face Ireland’s very own u20 side in an international friendly.

The USA AFW (American Football Worldwide) Elite team have spent the better part of the last week on Irish soil, travelling around the country seeing the sites of Ireland. Despite this being a football vacation, the American team will be extremely focused on Saturday’s game with many players having playing experience at a high level.

On the opposite sideline at the National Sports Campus ground will be the Ireland’s u20’s squad. The team comprises of several players from the North and South of Ireland that compete in both the Irish American Football League (IAFL) and other leagues across the UK. The u20’s last fixture came in 2013, when they dispatched Canadian side, the Greendale Falcons 22-20. Saturday’s game will provide a fresh challenge against formidable opposition that will give a number of the current squad a taste of football at a level they’ve never encountered before.

Leading the young Wolfhounds out on Saturday will be one of Ireland’s most inspiring coaches, Russell Kerley.

Coach Kerley has spent the last year mentoring, nurturing and motivating his squad for the game to come. Soon he will see his game-plan implemented on the field with his big expectations laid out for his team.

“I expect to see a great level of execution on the day from all 3 phases of the game. The last few practice sessions, the attainment level has really impressed me. As for our visitors, the name of their team speaks for itself “AFW Elite” and they will be just that, well drilled, well organised and extremely competent.”

This will be Coach Kerley’s first game in charge of the Ireland set-up as he and his team build their excitement up for game-day. But when the dust of the occasion settles; it will be all business come kickoff.

“The game-plan is simple; Know and Do YOUR Job, Play Hard and Play Fair, but most of all enjoy the experience. This is a huge fixture and as some of us seasoned vets know, these opportunities do not happen every week. So grab it with both hands!”

Kerley, who has had former stints coaching with the Drogheda Lightning and South Dublin Panthers has taken a lot of inspiration from a number of colleagues and friends throughout the years. A close friend of Russell’s, former IAFL great Terry Lynch who sadly passed away a few years ago, had the dream of starting up the u20’s team. Come Saturday, his dream will become a reality and it will be Russell who will live out that dream for him.

‘The U20’s was Terry’s Dream’, Coach Kerley explains.

“It’s been a tough few years after loosing Terry, another close friend in John Whelan and then my Dad late last year. I considered stepping away from the game, but knew if I did, then all three of them would be bitterly disappointed. I just hope I do each of their legacies proud on Saturday, I know the lads will. This is the first football milestone without my Dad. He got me into the sport, as a founding member of the Metropolitan police team. We played together and I even got to throw him a touchdown back in 1991. He helped coach in Drogheda during his frequent visits to us. I’m just gutted he won’t be there for my International coaching debut.”

Saturday’s game is just the first step of an exciting future ahead for the Ireland national program. With the senior squad getting their first taste of international football last August in the Netherlands, the match with the ‘AFW Elite Team’ will provide a learning curve that everyone involved with the Ireland set-up can develop from. Russell and his fellow coaches have done a tremendous job preparing for the match ahead. All the hard work, dedication and sleepless hours will soon payoff.

‘To be asked to be a Head Coach of any National program is a tremendous honour. I hope that I do and have done the position justice. I have worked with some of the brightest young coaches, and it has been an absolute pleasure watching them grow into a competent and cohesive unit. It’s just brilliant! The players are now a solid united TEAM. It is great to sit back in quiet moments and watch these things happens. Our program is all about the future, and the future for the National program on the field looks very bright indeed.’

The Ireland u20’s game with the USA AFW team takes place at the National Sports Campus, Blanchardstown in Dublin. 1pm kickoff. 

Scott Morrow
Scott is an aspiring Sports Journalist who enjoys writing about all things American Football. He is a regular contributor to AFI Review and also writes for both NFL Ireland and Double Coverage, and currently plays for the Belfast Trojans. He also supports the Green Bay Packers.
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