This Saturday sees the Ireland American Football team, the Irish Wolfhounds take on the Belgian Barbarians in Ireland’s first international game in two years. With four University of Limerick Vikings on the panel, Niall Houlihan spoke to Head Coach Ciaran O’Sullivan about playing at home and the competition for places.
“It’s the first international home game since the 1990’s so it’s very rare. Football has grown in leaps and bounds since the last home international, even since we played Holland in 2016,” Ciaran says.
“We are suiting up 45 guys on Saturday, but we started with 120. A different day and a different coach we could have had a different 50 guys out there.
“No doubt we will have those players back fighting for places in 2019. The standard of football is increasing,” he adds.
It’s been two years since Ireland has put a team onto the international stage, after their game against Holland two years ago was called-off mid-game due to a storm.
Since then, Ireland has seen change and development with U-20’s teams playing elite highschool teams in the past two years.
When asked about the state of International Football and how they have been planning for the game against Belgium, coach O’ Sullivan said: “International football is so sporadic at the moment. Belgium played in 2017 but they have a new coach and new philosophy, so I expect they will change with their new coordinators.”
“When we get into regular football like European championships we should see more games and footage for scouting and that’s how you improve the game. Currently we are playing for pride, but we look forward to playing in competitions in the future.”
The 45-man roster contains four University of Limerick Vikings senior panellists: Sean Sheehy, Finn Kearns, Richie Cronin and Adrian Garvey.
“Competing at international level is always seen as one of the peak achievements in sport. I’ve been lucky enough to experience this previously with this sport, but this time around is different,” says Adrian, who is the two-time Shamrock Bowl MVP.
“As the sport continues to grow so too does the level of competition for a chance to be selected and this group are extremely talented. I wouldn’t have discovered the sport only for a chance encounter in the University of Limerick and 10 years later I’m still playing and competing,” he adds.
With the game approaching fast, Coach O’ Sullivan conveyed the teams excitement at hosting such an international.
“Hundreds of people are coming from around the country to Navan to see the game and it will be great to put on the best show possible from both countries.”
The game takes place in Navan RFC, Co. Meath at 6.30 pm on Saturday October 20th. You can get tickets here. As most clubs are starting their preseason now is the perfect time to start playing. You can find your local team on the IAFA website or you can contact the University of Limerick Vikings directly via their Facebook Page