Craigavon Cowboys welcomed an old nemesis in the West Dublin Rhinos this past Sunday as the two sides met for the first time outside the SBC. These games have been very even down the years with the home team usually coming out on top and this match proved to be no different. The Cowboys approached the game looking to protect an unbeaten record while the Rhinos where on the back of an impressive 51-14 win over the South Kildare Soldiers so both teams where optimistic of taking the W in Portadown.
Both teams started off in stuttering form in their opening drives, being forced to punt with the Rhinos looking dangerous and the Cowboys defense bending but not breaking. Then the Cowboys took a hold of the game as the offensive line started opening up holes for Andy Herron & Peter Loughran to notch up consistent yards before QB Josh Marchbanks was able to sneak up the middle and stretch the ball into the end zone. A missed 2PAT left the game at 06-00 to the 'Boys. After some tough tackling defence from Jason Duddy and Jo Buchanan, the half time whistle blew with the home side in the lead but not comfortable.
The second half started with the Cowboys receiving the ball and they got to work straight away, Herron scorching through some terrific O Line blocking for a 50 yard run which set up Marchbanks to find Ben Fallon through the air for another 30 yard gain. The Cowboys meant business and slammed the ball home through Shayne Mone as he waltzed through his open lane. Another failed 2PAT left the scored at 12-00 to the Cowboys.
Any Rhino reply was soon halted through a terrific tackle for loss by Gavin McConnell and the resulting punt was fumbled by the kicker and recovered by the onrushing Jonny Martin. The Cowboys took full advantage of the field position and ran the ball home through Loughran from 26 yards out. The 2PAT was converted this time as Marchbanks found Fallon open in the end zone bringing the score to 20-00.
After a Rhinos 3 and out, the Cowboys had one of the highlight plays of the day, Herron found himself in space but looking at three Rhino defenders waiting to swallow him up, a swing of the hips and in a flash he was outside them as all three lay on the ground still looking to the running back as he made a 28 yard gain. The drive stalled which gave the opportunity for the Rhinos to march down the field as they turned to a pass heavy offence, two long pass plays seen them within 2 yards of the Cowboys end zone but the 'Boys where not ready to give up a score that easy. Some huge plays from the defensive line and linebackers seen the Boys shutout the visiting offence and force a turnover on downs from 2 yards out.
The defense where not finished there as Gareth McShane managed to intercept a trick play pass and returned the ball to the three yard line. The Cowboys once again took the advantage of generous field position and pounded the ball in through Marchbanks as the offensive line blew up huge lanes and the QB walked into the end zone. A failed 2PAT brought the scored up to 26-00 and that is how the game would finish. A successful day for the Cowboys seen their record extend to 4&0 for the season and a big day for the defense, the second game in a row that they have not let their opponents score a point. Next up is a long road game as we travel to Gorey to take on the Wexford Eagle in what promises to be another entertaining game.
We caught up with former Cowboys coach and player Charles Ebron, also known as Chuck, to find out a bit more on the Cowboys in the 80/90s.
You had a great history within football how did you start out before Craigavon Cowboys?
“Public school, college at Delaware State College, try out with the Jets in 76, then 5 years semi pro in the NY Metro League with the Huntington Giant's for 1 season and the Jersey Oaks for 4 seasons.”
You came to Ireland when it was a very early in the development of the game, what was the football like back then?
“Very good, but I was blessed with a team full of raw talent that I was very honored to coach and play along side. Not a bad word about any of them or any regrets. They ARE the best.”
What is your favorite memory of coaching the Cowboys?
“After the first game that I coached against the Spartans. Cowboys lost to them the week before and they came to our place that next week. We won 49 - 0 and the refs approached me after the game to ask if we were the same team as last week. I said “I wasn't aware of any roster changes, why?”, “Because your players never argued with us one time during the whole game”. You see why it was such a pleasure to coach them, they not only listened to me, but they also trusted me.”
Our Current Head Coach Greg Loughran played under you back then, what was he like as a player?
“Very good player, always done whatever was asked of him and oh, he could hit!! Anyone of that team he played in could have been a really good football coach.”
You obviously had a big impact on the culture and the ethos at Craigavon Cowboys with your early coaching, what would you say is important to being a Cowboy?
“That they have to be FAT to make it: Faithfull, Available, and Teachable.”
If you could say anything to the current crop of players what would it be?
“I'll be down to see you guys some time and trust that you will work hard and also LEAVE THE REFS ALONE. As for Da (Greg Loughran), you guys can encourage him by your ever increasing quality of performance. Look after each other on and off the field and you'll be great. Take care.”
Thank you Charles for taking time to talk to us. Sundays game against the Rhinos will kickoff at 2pm, with a post match reception at the Parkside Inn, everyone welcome!
The Cowboys Flag Team will depart for Vienna, Austria on 23rd June to compete in this years Champions Bowl. The two day tournament see's the best teams from around Europe battle it out to become champions of Europe. In June 2016, the Cowboys traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark to compete in the 7th edition of the tournament. Whilst results did not go our way, a lot was learned which the team this year will hope pays off. Indeed the draw has thrown up a rematch with the Red Lions from Switzerland, who the Cowboys lost out to in 2016. Tough group for the 'Boys, who will play everyone in the group once. Two teams from the host nation will prove tough to beat as they have home advantage, whilst the Armadillos and Wanderers are powerhouses of flag football in their respective countries. With only 6 weeks to go, the team are training hard whilst competing domestically for the Emerald Bowl.
Want to play flag football? Find out more information here.
First home game of 2017 for the Cowboys and it will be up against unfamiliar opponents again in the form of Wexford Eagles. The visitors are a young side with this only being their 2nd competitive season in IAFL but they have started with a bang. Their opening season seen them soar through the regular season 6-0, only to see their unbeaten streak ended in a thriller of a Bowl Game, losing to Derry/Donegal Vipers 33-29. An impressive debut campaign was followed up by an opening day loss to the Westmeath Minotaurs as they entered IAFL1. Many thought that the Eagles had found their level but they came storming back in their second game to defeat the tipped West Dublin Rhinos 21-7. An impressive win for the Eagles and has put them right back into the playoff hunt, they will be coming to Portadown hoping to carry the confidence from that win and take on the Cowboys on their home turf.
As for the 'Boys, it feels like an eternity since the last game when they traveled to Mullingar to take on the Minotaurs and won convincingly 31-6 despite an early stutter. After struggling to find their feet early in the game, a combination of defense giving good field position and offence clicking together they got the job done and went home on the bus happy. While Cowboys went into their last game not knowing much about their opponents, they go into the next one knowing even less, but no doubt expecting a tough encounter against a team who has an all time record of 7-2. This team is used to winning, the Cowboys will be hoping to chip away at that this Sunday.
Impressive debuts for the Cowboys in their last game from Ben Fallon, Josh Marchbanks, Thomas Pollock and Sean Byrne and they will be hoping to carry that confidence through to their first home game. The Cowboys will be hoping to get repeated consistency from their experienced players like Jakub Kowalczyk and James Loughran up front to spearhead their attack. A thrilling game is expected this Sunday, both teams will be out hunting for that win, the Eagles are looking to notch into a winning record while the Cowboys are looking to stretch themselves further in front of the chasing pack.
Matchday Sponsors: Chip Wagon Portadown & Laverys Filling Station. Many thanks for your support!
The Craigavon Cowboys entered their first regular season home game on Sunday as they welcomed the Eagles from Wexford to People’s Park, Portadown. The Cowboys got on the front foot early on, receiving the ball and marching down the field in rapid fashion with Andy Herron running the ball hard and Ben Fallon dangerous in the passing game but it was a long pass from Josh Marchbanks to Peter Loughran that opened the scoring from 43 yards out. Herron was able to convert the 2PAT for a positive start by the 'Boys. Although, in a response of their own, the Eagles got back in the game straight away with a touchdown and a successful PAT leaving the score at 8-7. The see-saw battle kept going with Cowboys offence clicking well, marching again and scoring from a similar range only this time it was A. Herron carrying the rock into the end zone from 45 yards out. The attempted 2PAT was no good.
It was the home side who got on the score sheet next as they found more joy on the ground through A. Herron and J. Marchbanks until they found themselves with a 3rd and short on the opponents 26 yard line, up stepped P. Loughran to smash the ball through the middle before jinking passed the secondary and walking into the end zone. Another missed 2PAT seen the score sit at 20-7. A response from the visitors again as they were able to march the field through some exotic reverse sweep plays and help from the Cowboys defense giving away some key penalties, they managed to score but missed their PAT as Jackub Kowalczyk blocked the kick attempt. The Cowboys weren't finished there for the first half though as they marched again to allow P. Loughran to run the ball in from 6 yards followed by a successful 2PAT pass from J. Marchbanks to B. Fallon leaving the score at 28-13 at half time.
As the Eagles attempted to mount a 2nd half come back, the Cowboys defense decided they were having none of it and stopped the visitors with a turnover on downs, allowing the Cowboys to stretch their lead through the hardnosed running of A. Herron, scoring from 24 yards out. In bizarre fashion, the 2PAT was intercepted and ran the length of the field to give the Eagles an extra two points, leaving the scores at 34-15.
Any thoughts of that interception being a turning point was soon whipped out as J. Marchbanks found B. Fallon through the air for a 6 yard passing TD, B. Fallon getting finger tips to catch a jump ball in the corner of the end zone. The Cowboys then started to show some versatility among the squad as A. Herron found P. Loughran in the end zone for a passing 2PAT. 42-15 to the hosts. All credit must go to the Wexford visitors as the big deficit did not see their heads go down as they showed resilience and guts when they went back into the well and were able to claw back some points scoring a TD but the resulting 2PAT was intercepted by Cowboys Safety Lawrence Ruddock.
The Cowboys tried to push late on for the final score of the game but could not convert on 4th and goal on the 4 yard line. A resounding win on the Cowboys first home game in 2017 seen the 'Boys win 42-21. An end to end game which seen the Cowboys score on each offensive drive but the last, there is no doubt the spectators got a treat with some wonderful running and highlight reel catches.
Thank you to Chip Wagon Portadown & Laverys Filling Station for sponsoring the match and to our season sponsors (First Stop Solutions NI, D-Signs & Displays, Dynamic Nutrition and RichGrill) for your continued support.
Next up for the Cowboys is another home game on the bounce as we welcome the Louth Mavericks (1&0) to People’s Park, Portadown this Sunday coming at 2pm. In the meantime the Cowboys are right on track, notching themselves to a 2&0 record for the season.
On Saturday 8th April 2017, 18 months of hard work came to the fore as Team Ireland U20s took on the AFW Elite USA in a hard fought game at the National Sports Campus in Dublin, on what was a glorious day. The game would finish 53-6 however this does not truly reflect the effort that the young Irish team put in. The talent on show for all to see proved that football in Ireland has a bright future. 6 Cowboys earned their first cap: Gavin McConnell, Scott Buchanan, Bartholomew Burzynski, Anton Nulty, Reuben Larmour & Ryan Prunty. Congratulations to the guys and to everyone involved in the programme – hopefully this is the start of more international fixtures for the U20s!
With the big game tomorrow, we finish our interviews with lineman Bartholomew. Team Irelands U20s take on USA AFW Elite Team at the National Sports Campus in Dublin, kick off scheduled for 1pm. Admission is free, be sure to get down and see the next generation of football stars in Ireland!
You joined the Cowboys after a successful recruitment campaign within the local schools in Co. Armagh, what was it attracted you to try out for the Cowboys and what made you fall in love with the sport?
“I joined the Cowboys after an open day at the SRC in Banbridge. I decided to give it a try after talking to Conrad Smith, he really made it sound like this sport is for me and that there is a position for everyone, and he was right!”
You played in the Cowboys Junior team that won the Championship in 2015, what was so special about that squad that seen you pick up the medals?
“I got an opportunity to play with the Cowboys Junior squad for the 2015 season which was my first year of playing. 2015 was really special to me as it was the year I was introduced to football and when I found my passion for football. Most importantly it was the year that the Cowboys Junior team became the junior champions of Ireland which was a great honour.”
You will be making the step up this season to Senior Kitted football with the Cowboys, how has that been in pre-season so far and what do you expect from your first Senior season?
“This year I'm stepping up to senior kitted football, I think I'm ready for it as junior football got me well prepared for it. I'm a Cowboy with all my heart and I believe that this team can achieve great things. I truly believe that this year we have great squad full of new blood and talent, who have every chance of being successful.”
If you were given the task of encouraging someone to try out for the Cowboys and give American Football a go, what would you say?
“If I had the chance to encourage anyone to play football I would do it by saying you can achieve great things like my team and I have. And also it doesn't matter what size are you are - big or small, football is for everyone, it all just depends on your love for the game.”
Team Ireland Juniors, how much of an honour is it to be picked in the squad of the best young players in Ireland?
“2016 was a great honour being named a defensive captain with the Cowboys but being selected for Team Ireland U20s is the biggest honour to give to any player in any sport as it is the very top level. Thinking of this is overwhelming sometimes but I can promise everyone that on the 8th April I will give all I have to help my team win the game.”
Today, we speak with Scott Buchanan about his football journey so far. At 17, he hasn't yet played senior football but has played 2 junior seasons and is on the Cowboys executive board as the club Youth Representative.
Scott, you have been around the Cowboys in an off the field position for a few years but made your debut last season as part of the Cowboys Junior squad in 2015 Season, winning the Junior Championship. Talk through what that experience has been like.
“It has been a great experience. At the start of the 2015 season, we set our goals, what we wanted to achieve and we got to work. The commitment from the boys was superb, and we got the result we wanted, with the help of the coaches of course.”
You have played rugby most of your life, did you find the transition to American Football difficult?
“I wouldn't say difficult but it was a bit challenging for me. Football is more technique based, which I wasn't used to, but I enjoyed learning the different little techniques you don't see very clearly on TV but you notice it improves your game.”
What have you found the main difference between the two sports?
“The main difference I'd say would be your mentality. In rugby, it is about getting the ball and scoring points. In football, while the aim is to score points, your mentality is 'what is my job'. You have to focus on what your job is, whether it’s passing, blocking, sealing off a gap or running a route, and have trust in your teammates to do their job as well to make that drive a successful one.”
You have yet to make the step up to Senior Football but hope to in 2018, are you looking forward to making that step up?
“Yes, of course. Playing junior football is great, but I like challenges, I like to test myself, to see what I can do and what I need to improve on to up my game, which I feel making the step up should help me with.”
Playing for Team Ireland Under 20s, how much of an honour will that be?
“It's an immense honour for everyone involved, especially the rest of the junior Cowboys that are selected. It's a great feeling to get recognised for the work you put in on and off the field, and personally, I can't wait to put on that jersey with the rest of the TI boys and go to work on April 8th. To represent your country with your mates, around you, what more could you ask for.”
You have been putting in a lot of hours on the road travelling to training with TI, finally you will be able to kit up and welcome a team from USA. What are you expecting from this match up?
“I'm expecting nothing less than a war. Both teams are representing their country, and I can guarantee that neither team is going to go down without a fight. I'm looking forward to this game, to play for Ireland and to show that Irish American Football has a bright future ahead.”
Following the announcement of the Team Ireland U20s squad to play this Saturday, we are proud of our 6 Cowboys who have made the squad and will take on the USA AFW Elite Team at the National Sports Campus, Dublin. Kick off is scheduled for 1pm. We caught up with Gavin McConnell, who came through the Cowboys Juniors system and now competes for our seniors:
You have been around the Cowboys for a number of years, learnt the sport, and captained the Cowboys Junior sides before making your long awaited debut in Senior Kitted football last season. How good was it to finally put on that lid and play for Cowboys Seniors?
“It was something I’ll remember for the rest of my life, being involved with the club for a long time it was all I had wanted to do from the age of 14, I was nervous, excited and proud.”
You captained the Junior Team and had a big role to play in Junior Football in Ireland, how big a role does Junior Football play?
“I joined the club the club in 2012 and junior football basically didn't exist back then but seeing how far along it has come is unbelievable, it gives teams a constant rotation of the next generation of football players that will be dominating the league in years to come, I just hope to see more junior teams start up all around Ireland.”
You have played a number of different positions for the Cowboys - Linebacker, DB, Full Back and Slot Receiver. What do you think is your best position or does your versatility set you apart from other players?
“I'm really not sure, I just like to be as involved as much as I possibly can so for me the best position is the one that has me on the field the most, although if I was 6 inches taller I'd be the best receiver in Europe (dream on), but I'd love to get more action at fullback just because I love hitting guys who are supposed to be hitting you.”
What makes being part of the Cowboys Family so special?
“I’ve never been involved with a more welcoming group of lads in my entire life, they aren't just people I play football with they are my extended family, no matter what's going happening in your life on or off the pitch they are always there to pick you up and have a bit of craic with you, I really can’t imagine having another team like the Cowboys.”
On to Team Ireland Under 20s, how does it feel knowing you have been selected in a squad for the best young players in Ireland?
“I have missed a lot of the training sessions because I moved over to Liverpool for a while in 2016 so I haven't been as involved as much as I would have liked to have been with the squad but it's an amazing feeling to get that recognition from some of the top coaches in Ireland, I've always considered myself to be a hard worker on the field so it nice to know that other people can see that.”
You guys go up against a visiting team from USA, how tough will that be and what do you hope to gain from it?
“We will be competing against some really good football players who have probably been playing since they learned how to run but for me it doesn't matter if I'm playing the Carrickfergus Knights or the Green Bay Packers I’ll give every team respect and go out and try to play like I know I can and do my job regardless of who is in front of me, I just really want to use this experience to see what level I'm really at and to see how I can take the next step and continue to improve my playing ability.”
The Cowboys hit the road for their regular season opener to Co. Westmeath to take on the Minotaurs in Mullingar, the trip seemed to effect the Cowboys as they got off to a slow start on defence. The hosts got good starting field position with a weaving kick-off return before some steady running (including a 4th & 1 conversion) and a 15 yard pass got the Minotaurs to the 3 yard line before punching it in. The PAT was missed after pressure from Jakub Kowalczyk. The Cowboys were still mentally on the bus and turned over the ball straight away on their first offensive play but the defence where able to stuff any potential extension of the score.
The game then turned on an interception by Peter Loughran as he read and jumped a route but could only advance the ball 10 yards before being tackled. It then started to click for the Cowboys in the 2nd quarter and they opened the scoring with a 25 yard pass as Josh Marchbanks found Loughran in the back corner of the end zone with a catch over his shoulder. PAT was converted by Conrad Smith to give the Cowboys the lead at 6-7. The Cowboys where back on the march and extended their lead through Marchbanks' arm again, this time finding debutant Ben Fallon on an in route before evading a tackler and running the ball in for a 65 yard TD. PAT was missed to close out the half 6-13 to the visitors.
The second half started and it didn't take long for the Cowboys to assert their dominance again with some hard hitting defence through tacklers like Jo Buchanan and Shayne Mone, along with some key pass break ups from Kowalczyk & Thomas Pollock on the outside. The Cowboys offence stalled on the host’s 36 yard line and where facing a 4th and 4, they decided to risk it and go for it which seen Loughran run untouched into the end zone from 36 yards out. The PAT was missed, leaving the game at 6-19.
Cowboys went on the march again with some great elusiveness from Andy Herron gave Marchbanks to chance to find some joy through the air and he did again finding Fallon in the end zone. 2PAT was missed leaving the score at 6-25. The Cowboys were able to turn over the ball again after a QB sack from debutant Jason Duddy and interception from Pollock, after some inside pressure from Anthony McArdle. Pollock returned the ball 8 yards before being grounded. Loughran would then find a deep pass that bobbled through three sets of hands before finding a grateful Fallon who stiff armed a tackler before beating another for pace. 6-31 to the Cowboys and the full time whistle went.
A scintillating debut from Fallon with three receiving TDs and Marchbanks with 3 passing TDs, but the Cowboys will be happy in general with their opening game to the 2017 season. Still plenty to work on for the ‘Boys from Craigavon and some big hurdles to overcome but this start is exactly what was wanted. Next up for the 'Boys is a few home games starting off with the Wexford Eagles visiting People's Park, Portadown on 23rd April!