The countdown is well and truly on for the Emerald Bowl III Finals Day, taking place this Saturday! As part of the build-up, we caught up with Cowboys Flag QB Conrad Smith to chat about the positional change, last season, this season and how he thinks Saturday will go.
You made the transition from a Tight End in kitted football to being the Cowboys Flag QB, how did that move come about?
“To be honest no one else wanted to do it. Having played most of my football at TE or DE, I fancied a different challenge so I stepped up.”
You won last year's Emerald Bowl after a slow start to the season, what was that whole campaign like?
“Started slow again, which was frustrating as we wanted to carry our form/experience from last year and the trip to the Champions Bowl. As the season went on we found form, defense has been key with two shut outs last two games.”
After winning Emerald Bowl II, the Flag team traveled to Copenhagen to compete in the Champions Bowl against some of the best teams from all over Europe, what was that experience like?
“It was a completely different level over there. We found out quickly we had to up are game which we did, but even then we were still just hanging on. We are better for the experience and with the new additions to the team we have added speed to the team which will be key if we get chance to go back (maybe stay in night before games might help too).”
You have made the finals day again this year and hope to retain your title but first up is the big match up against the number 1 seeds, Dublin Vipers. Going to be a huge game, how do you see it going?
“It won't be easy, all four teams are there on merit. We have lost a key player in Lawrence Ruddock to injury which is a big blow. If we play defense the way we have been last few games and offence is economical with the ball we will be very hard to beat.”
Flag Football is the non-contact version of American Football, for anyone that doesn't know, what are the benefits of playing Flag Football and why should someone give it a try?
“It is a great way to learn the game, it helps with learning receiver routes and basic defense. Most all it's great FUN.”
Cowboys are scheduled to play the Dublin Vipers in the first game at 10am, followed by the Eagles vs Reapers. The Finals will take place at the Central Sports Area in Craigavon. Admission is free, be sure to get down for what will be a great day of flag football!
Confirmed: Cowboys to host a preseason doubleheader at Lurgan RFC on Sunday 5th March. The first game will see the NI Razorbacks take on IAFL 2 rivals and newcomers Antrim Jets, in what will be the Jets first kitted football fixture. This game is scheduled to kick off at 11am. Following that match, your Craigavon Cowboys will play the South Kildare Soldiers (both IAFL 1), currently scheduled for 2pm. This provides a great opportunity for all teams to get game experience before the season starts, allowing seniors to blow off the cobwebs and the rookies to get vital game time. Admission free with full bar on site as well as food available - be sure to go for a double dose of football!
The Craigavon Cowboys have won the bid to host the EBC III Finals Day scheduled for Saturday 25th February. Following a convincing 40-0 win against 3rd seed Dublin Rebels, the 6th seed Cowboys will take on top seeds Dublin Vipers at 10am in the first semi-final. The 4th seed North Kildare Reapers, who beat 5th seeds UCD 41-39 in the Wildcards, will then take on 2nd seed Edenderry Eagles in the second semi-final, with the winner of both progressing to the final to contest for Emerald Bowl III, scheduled for 12.30. The Finals will take place at the Central Sports Area in Craigavon, known locally as Kernan Playing Fields.
With the date, time and location now confirmed, further details of the event will be released in due course as Cowboys President, Jo Buchanan comments “this will be great for the club and the sport, flag football does not get much publicity up here so to have the Finals taking place here is brilliant. Of course, we hope the ‘Boys can retain the title and hope that many of our club and community members will come to support. We hope to really add to the event with some extras that will be announced in due course. It promises to be a great day for the players and supporters.” Admission is free, a great opportunity to see the best players in Ireland compete for the national title!
Our Seniors are well into preseason training, getting ready for the upcoming season which starts on Sunday 19th March with a home match against the Meath Bulldogs. An extensive rookie recruitment drive has seen many new faces join the Cowboys, while 2017 will see the veterans face new challenges as the team will compete in IAFL 1 this year. We spoke with Head Coach Greg Loughran to see how preseason is going, and his hopes for the team in 2017.
A 7 week rookie try-out campaign in 6 different locations took place towards the end of 2016, how have the rookies settled into the team so far?
“Our rookie try out days in a number of different towns has proved to be a great success, both for our sport and for our club. We have introduced our sport to a lot of new places and picked up a lot of talented players, who are doing really well. Even after we have had the rookie days, we have found that word is still circulating about the Cowboys having been in town and guys contacting us.”
A different league this year with some teams our Seniors have never played before, what challenges are you expecting to face?
“I have always found that every year presents us with a new set of circumstances as regards the opposition that we face. Just because we are in a different division doesn't mean that we will prepare any differently from the previous season. We expect to meet teams that have prepared to play hard ball. There will be no easy games, we will play every game from start to finish like the score is 0-0. We don't quit, that has always been our way.”
What is the main objective for the Senior team in 2017?
“I expect our team to compete and be competitive, no matter who we play or whatever level we will be playing at. We are not playing in the NFL but we don't want to play within ourselves. We have a lot to prove this year.”
While our recruitment drive may be over for this season, new players are always welcome. What advice would you give to someone thinking about giving American football a go?
“If you still want to play for the Cowboys, have an open mind. It is never what you expect. Be prepared to leave your comfort zone, you will be a different person with your involvement in our sport. And most importantly, be prepared to have fun."
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