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."
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