National Flag Football Program of Ireland hosting International Series this weekend

Following on from the Irish Senior squads exploits on International duty a few short weeks ago, the Irish American Flag Football program will be hosting their first international tournament this Saturday.

The 6 team round-robin style tournament takes place in Gormanstown, County Meath and several flag teams from across Europe will be taking part.

Other teams participating, along with the National side of Ireland:

Team Great Britain Silver Lions 2nd’s team, Two Swedish teams mixed with both first and developmental players, the Dutch Lions 1st team and the Ramstein Mayhems from Germany will all compete.

The tournament will run over a single day, with each team playing 4 games stretched over 4 rounds.

The concept of flag football has been in existence for some time, but it’s gradually becoming more and more popular across the world. Flag Football is a strategic but fun game that caters to all shapes, sizes and genders.

Team Ireland pose for their squad photo. Photography by Terence McCann

Team Ireland pose for their squad photo. Photography by Terence McCann

Over the last two years, the Irish American Football Association has helped improved the sport as a whole in Ireland with flag football reaping the benefits. The IFFL (Irish Flag Football League) was founded in October 2014 and has since completed two years worth of regular season action.

Teams from across the country are split into a 4 division tier (Dublin, Munster, Midlands and Ulster) with the winners competing in a playoff format to win the coveted national title, the Emerald Bowl.

With the success of its opening league campaigns, the time was right for Ireland’s national set-up to push ahead with a number of the chosen players being selected from the local teams.

As the tournament gets closer, we spoke with the IAFA’s Director of Flag Football and Team Manager, Guillaume Poznanski about the squads preparations for Saturday.

‘We started the national programme for flag back in January and February’, Guillaume explained. ‘We held 3 tryout sessions to gauge as many potential players as possible with 75 hopefuls. We then drilled it down to 35 and within the course of 4 months and several training sessions we came up with the final squad of 16.’

Guillaume (pictured left) coaching the fundamentals of flag football.

Guillaume Poznanski (pictured left) coaching the fundamentals of flag football.

This isn’t Ireland’s first taste of competitive football, but it will the first game in an Irish shirt for a number of the players. They have spent the last few weeks training at Three Rocks Rovers Club in Dublin in order to be ready.

‘All the players are eager to play for Ireland and they have shown it through their commitment and desire to do good. I would be lying if I said that we could take on anyone, we lack the experience of playing international squads, but they are all determined to show what Ireland can do and make their mark on the sport in Ireland and internationally.’

Expectations are high in the camp, but Poznanski knows that it’s all about improving.

‘I speak for the coaching staff and management, we think we can do very well but this is a learning experience for us all and regardless of the result; We will use this as a basis to progress upward.’

American Football in Ireland has the potential to grow tremendously. People are actively encouraged to join in in what’s becoming the fastest growing sport in the world. The hope is that football can generate enough publicity, that anyone with a desire to be apart of such a movement can be involved. Tournaments such as these will have great benefits to the promotion of football in Ireland as a whole.

‘Flag Football is a very small fish in a big pond of team sports in Ireland compared to the likes of GAA (Gaelic), Rugby and Soccer. The goal behind creating the national programme for flag was to try and put the sport on the front scene and expose it to a wider audience.’

ireland-team-ireland-flag-terence-mccann-photo-2

Team Ireland training ahead of the tournament. Photography by Terence McCann.

Poznanski is ambitious, much like the rest of the Irish American Football League. Plans are in place to push this minority sport further in the forefront of the sporting spectrum. With handwork and a bit of luck, those goals can certainly be achieved.

‘Playing for your own country is, I believe, an honour for anyone who is given the chance to do so. I hope that the tournament will increase interest and hopefully our membership overall. The long term goals and progression of the programme is set over three stages. First, put a team together to play international friendlies which then leads to Stage Two; to enter an Irish team into the EFAF European Flag Championship in Prague in 2017. The third stage is two-fold, hopefully qualify for the World Championship in 2018 and create an all-women National team to compete in the European championship in 2019 (for which we will bid to host in Ireland).’

‘It seems quite ambitious at first but the tournament this weekend should help us move forward on our plans to put Ireland on the map. The tournament would also help us showcase the sport as fun and approachable to anyone. The range of potential players goes from kids, youth to female and even programmes geared for disabled athletes.’

Saturday will be yet another momentous occasion for Irish American Football, and everyone is encouraged to come to the tournament this Saturday at Gormanstown, County Meath at 10am.

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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