With the 2021 'Friendly' season finished, it feels only right to update everyone on how it went. Craigavon Cowboys President Scott Buchanan fills in the blanks...
Cowboys President #56 Scott Buchanan trying to catch up with WR #14 Anton Nulty.
Pic Credit: Ian Humes Photography
Football...to think back a year, you definitely wouldn’t have thought you’d hear that for quite a while. But May 2021, we got what we wanted – we got football back. Sunday 2nd May saw the ‘Boys take to the field again, for the first time in over a year, to begin training again with the hope of playing some games. With rookies and vets mixing well, schemes being taught and hopes high, the schedule announcement was an added boost for morale. A 4-game friendly season would see us home and away to both the Belfast Knights and then the Belfast Trojans – a tough test for any team.
27th June saw the first American Football game on Irish soil in over 20 months, with People’s Park hosting the monumental contest with the Belfast Knights. The ‘Boys came out swinging, with Christian Cowan throwing TDs to Liam Devlin and Luis Alberto, with Eoin Hughes adding 1 PAT. Unfortunately, the ‘Boys stalled, and the game ended 13-30 in favour of the Knights. Whilst the scoreboard wasn’t the prettiest, there was some great individual performances and effort from the ‘Boys, particularly from Austin Ramsey, with some big hits and an interception late in the second half.
Cowboys Defence Huddling. Pic Credit: Maynard Collins Photography
18th July saw the return game against the Knights in Malone RFC. A warm day saw the ‘Boys put up another great effort but once again falling to the Knights. Peter Loughran threw a TD each to Eoin Hughes and Christian Cowan, with Hughes picking up 1 PAT, leaving the score 28-13, once again in favour of the Knights. It was David McMichael this time who got an interception. 2 tough tests that gave the ‘Boys a reality check, this is a different level of football than what most of the ‘Boys have ever played.
The ‘Boys returned to Belfast a week later, this time Deramore Park, to face the reigning Shamrock Bowl Champions, the Belfast Trojans. With dropped balls and passing coverage beingan issue in the first half, combined with a 21-0 score at halftime, the 23 strong squad knew it was time to knuckle down if anything was to happen. Enter Peter Loughran. With strong running from Neil Maxwell and combined with catches from Anton Nulty and Hughes and the Offensive Line keeping the pocket clean and opening the running holes, the field started to open up, and Peter Loughran ran in 3 TDs and a 2pt conversion in the second half. The ’Boys were a play or 2 away from taking the lead, but the Trojans rallied and managed to run out the clock, leaving the scoreline 21-20 in favour of the Trojans. Whilst the result wasn’t a win, the ‘Boys proved to themselves they can hang with the best of team in the league and looked forward to Sunday 15th August where they’d get a chance to prove it to everyone else.
WR #13 Eoin Hughes beating a Trojan defender. Pic Credit: Bob Given Photography
With a close game in Belfast, the Cowboys had the belief that they could beat the Trojans and were highly motivated when the ‘Boys hosted the return game in People’s Park. The Trojans appeared to have a depleted squad, with numbers in their 30s, but as the old saying goes, you can only play what’s in front of you. It was a close game, with the score 14-12 in favour of the Cowboys going into the 4th Quarter, but then the ‘Boys changed a gear and ramped up the score, winning the game 41-18 and finishing the friendly season with a W. Peter Loughran threw 5 TDs, 3 to Anton Nulty and 2 to Luis Alberto, with Loughran running one in himself. Hughes added 5/6 PATs on the day. After a tough season, the Cowboys reaped the reward for the hard work by defeating the Trojans for the first time in 10 years.
Overall, a 1-3 record may not look the prettiest but it does not reflect what the ‘Boys gained out of this season. With rookies in Ordhan O’Kane, Eoin Hughes, Andrew Glennie, Seamy Hutch, Austin Ramsey and Richard Lilburn gaining valuable playing time and experience, with 2nd Year WR Neil Maxwell making the somewhat effortless transition to Running Back, a new Offensive Line that only had 2 returning faces from the IAFL1 Bowl victory and new combinations in the Linebacking Corp, this season has been vital in getting everyone back into football and trying out different schemes and positions. This has been a successful season for the Cowboys as we continue to make preparations for our return to the top-flight in Irish American Football.
Center #57 James Loughran identifying the Mike LB. Pic Credit: Maynard Collins Photography
To finish off this season, I’d like to say some thank yous. Firstly, I’d like to thank the Cowboys Board of Management, along with the Covid-19 committee and Officiating Committee for helping us be one of the first clubs to be back on the pitch playing football this year. In particular, massive thanks to Jason Duddy, who we can all agree went over and beyond what was needed to help us get football back. I’d also like to thank all the players and coaches for their co-operation during this Covid-19 enforced friendly season, there was a lot of changes that had to be made due to Covid-19 and everyone adapted well and done what was asked of them. We’ve had a number of players retire this year – James Loughran, Jonny Magee and Lee Parker – who I must thank for all the effort you guys have put in over the years, especially in the trenches. We wish you well in your retirement from playing and hope to see you’s back in November to help coach! Thanks to AFI as well for the help and guidance provided to us to help navigate through these difficult times. Thanks also to Berts Pizzeria, Comfizone, Taboo Donuts, Brookvale Farm and Steven Buchanan Painting and Decorating for your gameday sponsorships, you’ve helped massively with gameday costs, and thanks to our Sponsors for the 2022 and 2023 seasons, Bada Bing Pizza, Dromore Physiotherapy Clinic and Phoenix Homes Ltd, your sponsorship is key for us moving forward for the next 2 seasons! Finally, thanks to all the fans that showed up for the games and who show your support on social media, we all appreciate it and helps push us. Thank you all for being a part of the Cowboys Family.
Our flag training is currently running every Sunday in People’s Park, Portadown from 11am to 1pm, fill in one of our contact forms or message us on Facebook for more info. Also keep an eye out on social media for when we’ll be starting our tryout days for the 2022 season, they’ll be happening before you know it! If you’ve any questions about our club, want to share some memories about days gone by or find out more about American Football in general, get in touch with us, we’d love to hear from you!
Thanks for reading and see y’all back on the field soon!
Craigavon Cowboys President
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