As the 2018 season approaches, with game 1 for the Cowboys tomorrow, we spoke with Club President Jo Buchanan to find out a bit about the behind the scenes work in the off season and his thoughts on the upcoming IAFL 1 season.
As the 2018 season approaches, I’m sure it is a relief to finally be on the verge of some football with a lot of hard work gone on in the background at the Cowboys?
“Yes definitely, everyone can’t wait to get back to it tomorrow. As disappointing as the IAFL 1 Bowl loss was last year, we had to immediately switch our attention to 2018 – such is the nature of football! It has certainly been a busy off season, between planning, rookie camp and training. But the board of management and the committees have all worked hard to improve the club as a whole and we are certainly in a great position going into this season.”
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."
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!
With the flag season starting soon, we caught up with Flag Team coach, Niall Quinn to talk about the 2015/16 season and preparation for the upcoming season, Emerald Bowl III.
Emerald Bowl II was a great accomplishment for the club, did you think that you could win it all before the season started?
"During the regular season, we faced two rookie teams to the sport, in our division. Although they provided tough opposition, we felt that winning the division was an achievable goal. Once we made the playoffs, we thought we would struggle against other division winners in the playoffs – but that turned out not to be the case."
Success in the Emerald Bowl brought the opportunity to compete in Denmark, tell us about your experience at the Champions Bowl.
"The Champions Bowl was a fantastic experience for the whole team. Essentially, we play flag for fun and really enjoy the games win or lose. So the chance to play flag football in Copenhagen against the best in Europe was an exciting challenge. We weren’t expecting any success but learned a lot and really enjoyed the opportunity to play at European level."
The season is set to start on 22nd October, how is the team looking for the upcoming season?
"It’s hard to say how our season will go until our first game. It’s important everyone continues to train as much as possible and be prepared the best we can. We have a tough division that will be a challenge to win. We will have fun anyway, winning always adds to that."
Flag is a great way of playing American football without the contact, focusing more on speed and skill. What advice would you have to anyone thinking of starting to play flag?
"Flag football is a great way to start American football. It teaches you the basic fundamentals of the sport and gives a great boost to players’ confidence. It’s a great team sport where every player has their job to do. As many training sessions as possible is a must for newcomers to prepare for their first game in a very fast and exciting sport."
The flag team is open to both males and females over the age of 16, and we are still recruiting! Check out our Flag Team page for more info and contact us on Facebook to start playing!
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