The Irish American Football League is kicking off like never before


No Lockout here!!!

The future of the NFL in America may be hanging in the balance as labour negotiations have continue on, but the American Football season in Ireland is just about to kick off.

You don't have to wait until Notre Dame and Navy visit the Aviva Stadium in 2012 to see, or even play in, an American football game in Ireland.

Next weekend UCD and Trinity College will face off at Belfield in Dublin in the opening match of the 2011 Irish American Football League.

American Football dates back to the early Eighties in Ireland and has received a recent surge in interest thanks to tv networks such as Channel 4, Sky and ESPN showing both college and NFL games on a regular basis.

There are 10 IAFL teams across the country that welcome members as long as they are above the age of 18 while a robust grassroots development initiative has come to life in recent times. A flag football program for minors has been developed in schools growing from 4 schools in 2010 to 9 schools ahead of the 2011 season, all of which are situated in Offaly and Kildare.

There is certainly an untapped potential on these shores for American Football to flourish as from this small group an Ireland under 13 team was formed. That group were the runners up in the 2010 European Championships in Rome, losing out to the Dutch team in the final. The beaten finalists won't be too disappointed though as plans are underway to take them to Boston in June to play in Gillette Stadium

Flag football is also available for adults with a tournament scheduled for the UCC campus this year that will feature teams from across the country.

If you prefer to get involved with the full contact level of football but are not yet 18 teams in Cork, Dublin and Craigavon are now actively building teams to support 15-17 year olds and develop them for the senior sides. Players are coached by certified coaches and the games are run by certified officials.

The IAFL season will culminate with the championship game, the Shamrock Bowl, in late July in Tallaght Stadium, Dublin. This is the second year that the Shamrock Bowl will be held there. Last year, the Dublin Rebels defeated the University of Limerick, Vikings in front of 1500 spectators. Expect that number to rise this year with the growing popularity of the sport.

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