Downpatrick Saints Prepare For American Football Season

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Downpatrick Saints, the County town’s first American football team, look forward to a fun season for 2021.

American football is an action packed sport. In recent years it has been played across the globe. Ryan Flynn is the head coach of Downpatrick Saints and chats to Down News writer David Boden.

David Boden:  Hello Ryan and thank you for your time. Tell me how you became interested in American football.

Ryan Flynn: “Like many I became interested when I began watching the NFL on television around 2013. I am a supporter of the San Francisco 49ers. The Downpatrick Saints is made up of supporters of my many different teams in the league such as Pittsburgh Steelers, New England Patriots , New Orleans Saints and Arizona Cardinals”

The Downpatrick Saints: Back row – (left to right) Barry Kearney, Ross O’Neill, Ryan Flynn, Patrick Carvill, Michael Flynn, Cathal Caldwell. Front row, Oisin McQuoid, Daniel McConnell, Callum Jones, and Eoin McMullan.

David: Watching the NFL was part of my childhood. I was first introduced to it by my older brother and have recently rekindled my interest in it. My favourite team is Seattle Seahawks. How did Downpatrick Saints begin ?

Ryan: “Around 2015 I found out that there was an Irish American football league. Since then I really wanted to create a team seeing as there were no teams in my local area.

“In 2019 American Football Ireland were creating a new league called ‘The Glas Bowl’. They were in search of new teams to compete in the new league which would work as a second division to the pre-existing Emerald Bowl. This seemed like the perfect opportunity to set up a team.”

The Downpatrick Saints are part of an All-Ireland American Football League.

David: Apart from not wearing helmets what are the differences and similarities between flag football and fully-kitted American football ?

Ryan: “In flag football there are no line scrimmages. In fully kitted football, it’s 11-a-side and we play 5-a-side here. To make a tackle you must take a flag from your opponents belt as opposed to fully-kitted football where you would just run after the ball and there is contact in that form of the sport. But flag football has no kicks or punts. We just have touch downs, interceptions or turn overs on the downs. Flag football is basically non-contact.

“The similarities are also there with the contact version though. There is a good mix of skill and athleticism. Players still have to run, pass, catch and defend. As the coach it is my responsibility to draw up plays and get my players open and active.

“Flag football is also very low cost in comparison to setting up a fully kitted American football team. That would require quite a bit of sponsorship or funding from somewhere.”

David:  Does American football compare in any way to rugby ?

Ryan: “I thought rugby was a great game until I discovered American Football. I wouldn’t say there’s much comparison to rugby to be honest. Our version is based on the concept and rules of American football but we play a non-contact version of the sport. There are much less injuries and it’s quite demanding.

“So far it has been great! We play in an All-Ireland league and in our short period as a team we have played against teams from Coleraine, Cork, Craigavon, Dublin , Derry and Donegal. It’s brilliant to have the opportunity to play against such talented teams across Ireland.”

Action in an American Football match with Downpatrick Saints.

David: Are there any female leagues or any all-female teams in Ireland ?

Ryan: There are no female leagues or teams. However, female players are most welcome and fully encouraged by all teams across the league.

David: What’s your verdict on last weekend’s Superbowl Final ?

Ryan: I thought it was a great game. I really enjoyed it. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers beat the Kansas City Chiefs 31-9.

“I thought Patrick Mahomes for Kansas was really unlucky. He was definitely missing his two offensive tackles and was under a lot of pressure on a lot of his drop backs. Tampa Bay were excellent though, particularly in defence. They played in the own stadium, a first for the Superbowl.”

David: I agree it was a great game but I had trouble staying awake after half-time as it was on so very late. Admittedly Patrick Mahomes had quite a battle on his hands being head-to-head with Tom Brady, a seven times Superbowl winner, who’s still in his prime and quite consistent for a player in his 40s whereas most of his peers are retired and are now in management.

David Boden: What advice would you offer to anyone wishing to take up the sport ?

Ryan: “It’s a great sport! If anyone is interested in American Football, or simply willing to try it out, they are very welcome to come to a session. We also have a fundraising committee if anyone wants to get involved with fundraising and administration.

“We welcome everyone regardless of their knowledge or experience with the sport. Our aim is to enjoy the sport and the craic.”

David Boden: I first heard of Downpatrick Saints when I saw Causeway Giants on Facebook advertising for new members when Covid is done and dusted. I told them I live in Castlewellan so I asked them if they knew of any teams in my locality, and that’s when I found out about Downpatrick Saints.

Ryan: “Yes. We are likely to be the closest team to those residing in the South Down region. Covid permitting, we will resume our training around May and our season of weekend matches will hopefully be in August or September.

” We are currently on Facebook and Twitter and will most likely be on Instagram by the time we return to our training season. We promise we will update all our social media platforms as soon as we are aware of changes. This will include times dates and location of training and games. ” 

Check the Downpatrick Saints out on Facebook at:

https://www.facebook.com/Downpatrick-Saints-American-Football-Team