In the build up to our Rookie Try-outs on 19th & 26th November we have been speaking to some of last years rookies to get a feel for how they started up with the Cowboys, next up is Defensive End Sean Byrne.
You started with Cowboys in last year's Rookie Camp, how did you hear about it and what made you come along?
I just happened to see a post on Facebook this time last year advertising the rookie camps. I had only started watching the sport over the last few years and when I seen the post I thought, ‘yeah I'll give that a go’. I looked into the background and history of the club beforehand as well which interested me further.
Was there any nerves about coming along that first time and was it tough the first few times to blend in to the new team?
Yes there was definitely nerves as I didn't know what to expect and also I hadn't played any sport in a few years so I was out of the whole squad atmosphere side of things you know. Those nerves didn't last too long though when I first met the lads. They were great from the get go, from making you feel that no question was silly or that it didn't matter what experience or knowledge you had to making the whole rookie experience relaxed and a good laugh.
You play Defensive End, is that somewhere you knew you would play or where you put there by the coaches?
To be honest, I had no real expectations to play in a certain position. With being relatively new to the sport knowledge wise and having no playing experience I was quite happy to leave it to the coaches to decide what position I was more suited to.
I have to say though I am really enjoying playing Defensive End and the guys have been great from the likes Mark, Jo, Greg, Manny, Vegas and Grylls constantly giving me pointers on how to improve my game which I gladly take on board. Not only that though, all of the guys let you know when you are doing things right as well and that has helped develop us as rookies as it gives us confidence in ourselves and in the sport.
One year in, how glad are you that you took that leap to sign up to the Rookie Camp and followed through with it?
For me personally I’m really glad I took the leap and signed up. I haven't regretted a bit of it. I have gained new teammates and mates, more knowledge of the sport and best of all had a good first season under my belt and I can't wait for the season to start again.
What the best thing about being a Cowboy?
That may sound like an easy question to answer but it's not. There are so many great things about being a Cowboy from the banter on away days, club Superbowl night, testing training sessions that are relaxed and a bit of banter, the list goes on but the main one for me is being part of the Cowboy family. It really has a family feel to it, or even a brotherhood. We all travel from different areas from Belfast to Dromore to Keady and so on and might not see each other from one training session to the next but when we get together for training and Game Day the comradery is there for all to see.
Although the best moment of the season for me was the final play of the Semi-final playoff game at home to Wexford Eagles stopping a touchdown on the 2 yard line to end the game and send us to the Bowl Game, it was a great feeling.
What advice would you give someone who is sitting on the fence about coming along to the next Rookie Camp?
I would say to them to get off that fence, sign up and give it a go. I have been involved in different sports teams over the years but this has a completely different feel to it. You get such a great buzz from it.
Another thing is you won't be alone. When I signed up there ended up a good number of us rookies kept at it and played through the season so as well as being part of the wider team you are also playing in that team with other rookies and that, for me, made everything easier. It's a sport that has you hooked from the word go, especially from the first experience of full contact training. So anyone who is thinking about giving it a go I say do it, you won't regret it.
With our upcoming Rookie Camp on 19th & 26th November we will be speaking to a few of our 2017 Rookies that joined last year and asking them about their experience when joining the Cowboys. First up is Defensive Tackle Anthony McArdle, known affectionately as 'Big Red' (no-one is quite sure why, but it has stuck).
Anthony, you joined the team during last year’s Rookie Camp, how did you hear about the Cowboys and what made you come along and try it out?
I heard of the Cowboys through a friend that plays for the Cowboys and decided I'd love to give it a go and haven't looked back since, absolutely love it!
Was it intimidating to come in to a new team and how long did it take you to settle in?
There's always them first training nerves, after the sumo drill in my first training session that's when I started to really feel settled in, nerves had gone, everyone was there to play football and have fun.
What did you find the hardest thing was about starting out in this new sport?
Learning the different techniques and stances for the Defensive tackle position, although hard they were very fun to see how changing a few things really improves your game
You play in the trenches as Defensive Tackle, what do you find hard about the position and what is your favourite part of playing DT?
Well because I'm a big guy I'm usually never on 1 vs 1 match ups, I'd say going up against 2 guys every play is the hardest part and my favourite part is breaking through them 2 guys and getting the chance to hit somebody.
You suffered an injury a few games into the season which kept you out for a few games, was it hard to watch from the side-line and not be involved?
Yeah I tore my MCL in this season’s third game and it was devastating. When your part of this team you want to be out there every game working hard. Toughest moment was against the Vipers at home in People's Park and not being able to help the boys to a victory.
What advice would you give to someone thinking about trying out with the Cowboys in the upcoming Rookie Camp?
I'd say come along, try it out you've nothing to lose it may end up being the best decision you've made all year. I've made friends for life by deciding to do it last year.
Following the club AGM yesterday, there have been a number of changes on the clubs Board of Management. Peter Loughran and Jonny Hood have stepped down from their roles after 1 year, we would like to thank them for their hard work whilst on the board. Scott Buchanan switched position from Junior Representative to PRO, with Anton Nulty taking his place as Junior Representative. Sean Byrne replaces Peter as the Vice President. Niall Quinn moves to a new position as Flag Representative whilst Jason Duddy replaces him as Development Officer. Christian Cowan has come on board as Assistant Treasurer. Jo Buchanan, Greg Loughran and Manny Bell retain their positions. Best of luck to all!
On Friday 22nd September, the Craigavon Cowboys American Football Club held their annual Awards Night at Portadown Golf Club. A 3 course dinner was followed by a speech from club President Jo Buchanan, who spoke of how successful 2017 was and gave thanks to sponsors, members of the club as well as the golf club for hosting the evening. 10 awards were presented as well as speeches from junior team head coach Manny Bell and senior team head coach Greg Loughran. Congratulations to all the awards winners!
The Cowboys will take to the field with new sports equipment thanks to a donation of £200 from the Asda Foundation, through its Green Token Giving scheme. With three teams in the club – junior, senior and flag – the club caters for both male and female players aged 16 and over, and is one of only seven American football teams in Northern Ireland.
President of the club, Jo Buchanan, explains what the team hopes to achieve using the donation:
“Our goal as Craigavon Cowboys is to bring the community together through American football. We are open to new players of all abilities joining the team, and support from the Asda Foundation will allow us to help more people enjoy American football in the Portadown and surrounding areas.
“We would also like to thank Asda Community Champion, Elaine, for all her help – from organising bag-packs in store to allowing us use of the Asda community meeting room, she is a very important fan of our club!”
Elaine Livingstone, Asda Portadown Community Champion, added:
“Craigavon Cowboys and Asda have a common goal to make a difference, on this occasion through sport, to the lives of people living in our community.
“I look forward to cheering on players from the Cowboys in the coming months!”
We are pleased to announce the shortlist for the Senior Team Awards 2017 as follows:
Overall Player of the Year
Sponsored by CannonMedia.
Ben Fallon | Jo Buchanan | Jonny Doyle-Martin | Peter Loughran | Shayne Mone
Offensive Player of the Year
Sponsored by SB Decor
Ben Fallon | James Loughran | Jonny Doyle-Martin | Josh Marchbanks | Peter Loughran
Defensive Player of the Year
Sponsored by Call A Cab
Gareth McShane | Gavin McConnell | Jakub Kowalczyk | Jo Buchanan | Shayne Mone
Rookie Player of the Year
Sponsored by Jo Buchanan
Anthony McArdle | Anton Nulty | Ben Fallon | Carmine Ficetola | James Rolston | Jason Duddy | Ryan McKenna | Sean Byrne | Shayne Mone | Thomas Pollock | Tiarnan Cuddy
Balls of Steel
Sponsored by Phoenix Modular
Carmine Ficetola | Gavin McConnell | Jo Buchanan | Peter Loughran | Shayne Mone
Terry Lynch Offensive Line Award
Sponsored by Bernadette Loughran
Brain Comaskey | Carmine Ficetola | Emmanuel Bell | James Loughran | Jonny Doyle-Martin | Jonny Magee
Clubman of the Year
Sponsored by Wild Berry
Emmanuel Bell | Greg Loughran | Jason Duddy | Jo Buchanan | Mark Beattie | Niall Quinn | Scott Buchanan | Sean Byrne
With the Clubs Awards Night just over a week away, we will be announcing the shortlisted persons for each award. Today, we start with the Junior team and the shortlists for their 2016 season:
Sponsored by Herald Marketing
Anton Nulty | Jamie Wilson | Matthew Kelly | Scott Buchanan
Sponsored by Summerisland Consulting
Anton Nulty | Jonny Hood | Reuben Larmour | Scott Buchanan
Bartholomew Burzynski | Jamie Wilson | Matthew Kelly | Tiarnan Cuddy
Best of luck to all and many thanks to the sponsors! Senior team shortlists to be announced soon.
In our final interview before Sundays IAFL 1 Bowl, we spoke to rising star Anton Nulty. Anton has reached a Bowl game in his first year of senior football, and will be looking to build on his success from junior football.
Turning 18 during the senior season, you joined the senior roster when most of the guys had already had a few games under their belt. Was it difficult to settle into the team mid-way through the season?
“Not at all actually. I have trained with this squad for a few years meaning I knew all the players who were extremely welcoming, as well as this it meant I knew what plays and schemes we would be running so I fit into the squad perfectly. All this got me extremely excited to start playing senior ball.”
What has been the biggest challenge going from junior football to seniors?
“The main difference is the speed and intensity at which the game is played, this is part in parcel with the size difference between juniors and seniors. Transitioning from going head to head with a small, skinny 16/17 year old to 6'4" 240lb athletes really makes you grow out of a junior mind-set rather quickly.”
A good regular season was followed by a shootout win against the Wexford Eagles in the playoffs. What have you been doing in the time between the playoffs and Sunday coming to prepare yourself?
“Post Eagles match I spent time recovering from the long hard fought match we had just played. Since then I have been going to the gym to make sure I am as physically prepared as I can be. In addition to the tape and training to mentally prepare myself for such a big game I feel I'm in the best shape for the match I could be at this point in time.”
Having been on the side line to watch the last game between the Cowboys and Mavericks, what are the Mavericks biggest threats?
“The Mavericks have some impressive receivers and having witnessed first-hand some of the great catches at the last game we certainly have our work cut out for us. This combined with their QB who is willing to linger in the pocket for an extended period and even take a big hit in order to deliver the perfect pass will certainly make the match an interesting one.”
And finally, what are your predictions for Sunday’s game?
“Both teams have all to play for in this big game, so I'm predicting a tough, hard fought match and a great contest. However having watched and played with our talented Cowboys side I must predict a Cowboys win this Sunday.”
4 days left until the big game on Sunday, we caught up with senior team Head Coach Greg Loughran to get his views on the season so far:
An almost perfect season with the Bowl game to come, what has been the main reason for the success this season?
“We have been able to hold our core of players together and recruited well in the off season. Keeping our core of experienced players together allows us to pick up where we left off last season without having to look at new schemes and bringing in some really talented rookies gives us fresh impetus and shares the load on game day. Our Offensive line has been pretty stable which is a huge advantage and accounts for our ability to keep scoring against strong defences.”
The Cowboys have previously taken on Louth during the regular season, recording a 20-7 win. What are you expecting from the Mavericks on Sunday?
“I don't think that the score fairly reflects our meeting with the Mavericks in May. We dodged a lot of bullets in that they had a number of crucial dropped catches and a score called back. They must be pretty confident following their win against the Vipers but we have been studying and feel confident that we have done our homework and will come out on top.”
Having been beaten at home by a point to the Vipers, the ‘Boys bounced back to force a shutout in a 12-0 win away to the Vipers the week after. Was the loss a wake-up call for the team?
“The Vipers fully deserved their win on the day, we can't take that away from them but I do feel that we were not at our best that day. In the return game we were fully focused on the game and worked hard on ignoring the distractions that hurt us so badly in the first game. I was pretty dismayed that in a Vipers report on the second fixture, they claimed that the highlight of the game was an incident that resulted in one of our players being taken out of the game due to an injury. Not my idea of sportsmanship. Players can get injured in our sport but it is never a highlight nor something to gloat about.”
(Article Referenced: http://www.donegaldaily.com/2017/07/19/picture-special-all-not-lost-for-donegal-derry-vipers-despite-home-game-loss/)
There has been a 4 week gap between the playoff game and the Bowl game, has this been advantageous for the team?
“Such a long gap between games has its benefits and problems. The break gives players time to recover and heal up, especially as we had two tough games so close together before the break. However we had developed strong focus on winning the previous two games and this will have to be rediscovered for the bowl game if we are to win.”
Finally, what advice do you have for the players taking to the field on Sunday?
“I will tell everyone not to be complacent. This is a bowl game and anything can happen.
We are capable of winning this game but we have to prove it.”
With the IAFL 1 Bowl game this Sunday, it’s clear to see the impact of our junior setup on the senior team as there will be 8 graduates from the junior team playing. We spoke to Junior Representative Scott Buchanan to get his thoughts on this years senior season as well as the junior team:
2016 juniors’ season was a disappointment results wise, however most of the roster has returned to play this year. How much will that experience help this year?
“Last year we had a relatively inexperienced squad, most playing for the first time. Most of them are returning, which is fantastic, and the majority of them have been training with the seniors as well, so they've gained some valuable tips and experience from them. With some players being able to play for the seniors this year, like Anton Nulty and James Rolston, this will bring even more experience into the junior setup.”
Training for the 2017 season is well under way and interest has been at an all-time high. Have you been impressed so far with the guys, new and experienced, at training?
“I have been impressed, it's been great to see so many new guys coming down and giving football a go. Even after a few training sessions, I've seen some improvements in stances, route running etc. The guys returning, their mind set and attitude to football has been massively changed, we don't want another season like last year.”
With that in mind, what are the goals for the junior team this year? Have you any personal goals?
“Main aim for the juniors is to get back to where we were 2 years ago, top of the league with the trophy and medals at the end of the season. Personally, I don't want to give up any sacks this season on offense, and if I'm playing defense, get a few sacks...or a fumble...or an interception. Because that stuff is fun.”
The senior team have had a successful season reaching the Bowl game as well as the flag team making the playoffs. Will the juniors be using that as motivation for this season?
“100%. The other parts of the clubs have pulled their weight, and have (deservingly) gained success from it, so we don't want to let the club down. Plus we want some silverware too!”
What are your predictions for Sunday’s game?
“All I'm going to say is a Cowboys win, I don't want to jinx anything! Good luck to the seniors, the juniors will be supporting!”