IT’S one of the fastest growing sports in Europe and now American Football has finally ‘touched down’ in Derry following the formation of the ‘Donegal/Derry Vipers.’
The cross border team is preparing for its first season in the Irish American Football League (IAFL) this March and ‘the Vipers’ are on the lookout for new members with their first ‘try-outs’ taking place this Sunday.
Established by Donegal men, Cathal Curran and James Fox and coached by Buncrana based American, Jason Brock, the club will play its home games at the YMCA in Drumahoe.
Although still in its infancy, organisers are quietly confident that, given the amount of interest already generated since its formation, they can build a team capable of mixing it with the best in Ireland.
Since 2005 the NFL has played a regular season game at Wembley Stadium in London in front of 80,000 fans and the interest in America’s most popular sport continues to grow steadily on these shores.
The Vipers are just the second American Football team in the North-West area with Strabane’s ‘Tyrone Titans’ (recently crowned IAFL Division Two champions) the only other.
The IAFL plays adult, full contact American Football using NCAA rules - those used in major college football in the U.S.A.
Nine teams are currently playing in the Shamrock Bow Conference which is Ireland’s top competitive league but the Vipers will begin life in division Two in mid-March and will go head-to-head with teams like Dundalk Mavericks, Galway Warriors, South Kildare Soldiers and Drogheda Lightning.
Leading the Vipers charge to the top is Kildrum native, Cathal Curran - an avid New York Giants fan - and he explains how the idea of forming an American Football team in Derry and Donegal came about.
“It was James Fox and myself who came up with the idea of entering the team for many reasons I suppose, but the main one is probably the simplest reason, there wasn’t one here,” he noted.
“The first time we heard of an American Football League in Ireland was while we were students at Letterkenny IT, both of us were studying marketing at the time so were working on a group assignment and we came across a website.
“When we looked more into it we discovered that it was a serious organisation which had a full league structure which also boasted the possibility of playing in Europe.
“I felt it was the right time to try pull a couple of young and old heads together to see if the interest in American Football was there and I can say that answer was a massive yes!
“In the four months since we started work on this project James Fox, myself and my girlfriend, Frieda Gallagher have received well over 150 emails from people looking to sign up to play for the Vipers.
“Our website has over 10,000 views and our promotional adverts on Facebook have gone viral. There are 19 established Irish American Football teams in Ireland. All the tools are here for this to work out as a cross-border club as well, which could possibly open the door to some funding.”
Cathal has a background in rugby and is also a member of Inishowen GAA club, Naomh Colmcille. But it’s the rugby connection which provided Donegal/Derry Vipers with their new home in Drumahoe.
“A couple of the guys involved with the Vipers actually play for the YMCA in Drumahoe. I got in touch with William Lamrock through them and we organised to meet for a chat about the YMCA hosting our home games.
“After speaking to William he agreed that we could use the pitch and he would give us ‘new-bees’ a helping hand if we could help him out by getting them a couple of players now and again.
“I have now played a couple of games for him and I got some members of my GAAclub in Naomh Colmcille and some of the Vipers to give it a try also.”
Cathal claims you don’t have to know the difference between a quarter-back, wide receiver or tight-end to join the Vipers - just turn out at training and coach, Block will take you through your paces.
“The numbers are split almost 50/50 down the middle from Donegal and Derry players and we are hoping to attract players from Letterkenny also.
The Vipers are also on the lookout for sponsorship. Anyone interested should email firstname.lastname@example.org
The first training session will be held in Aileach F.C.’s indoor training pitch, Burnfoot, on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m and will be free, so call down and give it a go!.