The Irish American Football League (IAFL) is an American Football League… in Ireland. That’s right, the name sums it up perfectly. No reason to needlessly lengthen this introduction.
The first American football game played in Ireland was in 1942. Two teams composed of U.S. servicemen competed in Belfast. The next game was in 1946, also a match between U.S. servicemen. This helped to ensure that Irish spectators really felt they were watching American football, and not some sort of second-rate, devastated-by-WWII, European version. Yes, the U.S. military ensured there was plenty of Americanicity to go around… And they probably impregnated a lot of women, too.
Then, in 1984, a breakthrough: the first Irish team was formed – The Dublin Celts. In 1985 they beat a “premiere” British League team in Dublin. Violence and looting ensued. The first Irish-on-Irish action also took place in 1985.
In 1986, the battle for the first ever Shamrock Bowl began. The Celts were a clear favorite to go all the way after winning the Jack Daniel’s Summer Bowl, but it was not to be. The Celts lost a heart-breaker to Craigavon Cowboys, 6-0. In 1987, 11 teams created what we know to be the IAFL. For the next five years, the Celts would dominate the scene, winning the Shamrock Bowl (the league’s championship game) four times, including three in a row from 1987-1989. Sadly, their overwhelming success landed them in the heart of The Troubles, and the team found itself stationed at the border with Northern Ireland. Equipped with only their pads and their helmets, the team was quickly shot to pieces by British machine gun fire. The Republic’s plan to reunite the island of Ireland through football had too quickly failed.
Sadly, Liam O’McNeill did not stand a chance
against Britain’s famed “Death on Wheels”
In 1993, a major shift in power occurred in the IAFL. Dave Curran, the coach of the Dublin Celts, left the (then) legendary team to coach the Dublin Tornadoes. The Tornadoes went undefeated in the following season, defeating Curran’s former team in the Shamrock Bowl. Despite this, many in Ireland still cared more about The Troubles.
The Tornadoes went on a tear. The team did not lose a game in three seasons and won three consecutive championships. In 1996, the era of their supremacy ended after they lost to a second-year team, the Dublin Lightning, 26-8 in the Shamrock Bowl. Many of the players committed suicide because of this defeat, and the Dublin Tornadoes were no more.
From 1997-1999, many of the teams left the league. The need for American football was waning as peace came to Ireland. Many did not think football really served a purpose beside pre-conditioning potential paramilitary troops. In 1999, only three teams competed in the league, forcing the league to look elsewhere for survival. In 2000, the Mount St. Joseph’s high school team from Maryland, USA, won the Shamrock Bowl, being both the first American team and the first high school team to do so. Their unquestioned dominance and tendency to run up the score “even when [they're] not trying” lead to them being voted off the island of Ireland in a Survivor-like manner.
2001-2003 were rebuilding years for the league, which now has nine teams in its elite division. From 2003-2006, the Dublin Rebels won four consecutive league championships, including Shamrock Bowl XVIII, highly regarded as the best Shamrock Bowl of all time. In it, the Rebels defeated the Carrickfergus Knights 24-22. In the first quarter, a 75 yard reverse by Carl Faichney gave the Rebels an 8-6 lead, but two more scores by the Knights gave Carrickfergus a 22-8 halftime advantage. In the fourth quarter, trailing 22-16, Mark Kelly caught a 17 yard pass from quarterback Andrew Dennehy. Brian Dennehy’s 2 point conversation gave the Rebels a 24-22 edge. With little over a minute to play, however, the Knights drove to the Rebels’ 23 yard line and attempted a field goal. The kick was up… and good. But, the Knights had cheated. That’s right, cheated. They had 12 men on the field, which, according to the rules, breaks them. A penalty ensued and ultimately, a victory was had by the Rebels. Both sides proceeded to drink heavily after the game.
Above: Rebels QB Andrew Dennehy prepares to- What the fuck? Why is that guy wearing a powder blue helmet?!
In 2007, the Rebels again looked poised to capture the championship having tied for the best record in the league, but those damn meddling kids over at the University of Limerick took that away, thinking it’d be better if they won the Shamrock Bowl instead. What a bunch of self-centered assholes. Pfff… Vikings, go figure.
So far this year, the Rebels seem determined to recapture the glory, having gone 2-0 and having outscored their opponents 82-0. However, those damn UL Vikings are also 2-0, though their victories do not look as impressive. But perhaps both of these teams have another, more troublesome opponent to worry about than themselves. That’s right, I’m obviously talking about the Cork Admirals, who in two games have outscored their opponents 164-0. They sound like they’re twice as good as the Dublin Rebels! We’ll I’ve got news for you, folks, the Rebels are squaring off against the Admirals today (April 20th)! I’ll be sure to post the winner once I bother figuring out who it is. My guess? Uh, the Admirals trump the Rebels, 82-41.
But the real winner is the people of Ireland, who have finally found a way to be violent towards each other without setting everything on fire. See you at Shamrock Bowl XXII, Land o’ Ire!