As the season draws closer, we talk with Cowboys President Jo Buchanan to get his thoughts on the team’s preparation for this season, work going on off the field as well as his objectives for this season and beyond.
You took over the Presidency of the Cowboys in August last year, what has been your primary focus coming into the role? Any long term goals?
“The primary focus is to have a successful 2017, not just with the senior team but across all three teams. There are many different projects being worked on at the minute to get us back to winning ways. An extensive rookie recruitment over 7 weeks at 6 different locations at the end of 2016 was key to kick starting this, of which we have picked up a number of enthusiastic rookies. Our preseason training started earlier than usual to allow more time for the rookies to learn the sport and settle into the team. Long term, we want to be back in the SBC and be consistently competitive, whilst improving our junior and flag programmes and increasing participation numbers.”
This season will see some change for the Cowboys now competing at IAFL1 Level - has there been much adapting to do off the field or is it business as usual?
“A change in division does not mean any match will be easier. Our preseason training is even more intense than it has ever been. If anything, IAFL 1 allows us to rebuild, go back to our fundamentals and create a foundation to build on. Our coaching staff, led by head coach Greg Loughran, have been very busy preparing for this season and ensuring the players are ready for the challenge that IAFL 1 will bring. What happened last year has given our players real determination to be successful this year. The Executive Committee has been working harder than ever before to work out issues and provide a platform for the senior team to excel.”
The Cowboys are always looking for volunteers, be it as players, coaches, referees or game day volunteers. Why should someone come on board with the Cowboys and what makes being a Cowboy special?
“Our club is rather unique, in that we are the only team in Northern Ireland to consistently compete in the senior, junior and flag leagues, and one of only 3 teams to do so in all of Ireland. We have one of the longest histories in American football in Ireland, with our initial creation back in 1986, of which have been very successful: 3 Shamrock Bowls, 2 Junior Championships, a DV8 title and 2016 Flag Emerald Bowl champions. A club we may be but we are very much a family. We have many opportunities for anyone looking to come on board with the Cowboys – whether it’s for experience for a CV or a hobby, there’s a place for everyone at the Cowboys.”
The club has been one of the fore runners for Youth Football in Ireland and have twice been crowned Irish Youth Champions in the three years of youth football, do the Cowboys see that as a key part of the club and if so why?
“Very much so, we will hopefully see a real benefit of it this year as there are a number of juniors stepping up to seniors. Juniors gives our guys an opportunity to learn the sport and improve their abilities without having to play veterans with 10+ years’ experience. Hopefully the 2017 season will see even more clubs start junior teams and provide a wider range of opposition. We have a number of the junior team currently training with Team Ireland U20s, and who are up for selection for Team Ireland U20s first ever fixture scheduled in April. Everyone at the Cowboys would like to wish our guys the best of luck with selection and to Team Ireland U20s in this historic occasion.”
Before the regular season starts, the ‘Boys are hosting a preseason doubleheader on Sunday at Lurgan RFC, what is the key aim of this game and this seasons overall objective?
“This will be a great opportunity for all 4 teams involved to assess how their preseason training has gone and areas that need further improvement. For us, this game is very much about getting the fundamentals right, giving our rookies valuable game time and our seniors the chance to play with the new schemes. We have our first regular season game on the 19th March so getting the basics right at this stage is key, then we can begin to build on that through the season. This season, we will be expecting to make the playoffs at the very least. We have made vast improvements in the offseason and preseason, to a point where we are in the best shape we have been for quite some time. Exciting times ahead!”
The NI Razorbacks take on the Antrim Jets in the first game on Sunday at 11am followed by the Cowboys taking on the South Kildare Soldiers straight after, scheduled for 2pm. These games will be hosted at Lurgan RFC, where a full bar will be open from 1pm and food available from the club house. Entry is free!