Thank you, and goodnight

After two years, I’m hanging up my clipboard and taking a break from Tullamore Phoenix.

I’ve been meaning to write this post for a while. It’s been a crazy couple of weeks with work though which isn’t surprising given that’s the main reason I’m having to put away my coaching manuals for the foreseeable future.

The first person I want to thank is Alison Byrne, who not only managed to hide my bald spot in the picture above, but has also spent the last two years following Tullamore Phoenix around the country and capturing  some awesome images. Alison will also be finishing up with Tullamore but if you’re looking for a photographer for any occasion, I couldn’t recommend her highly enough.

Indeed, better late than never, you can see a slideshow of our last game of the 2012 season here:

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Next I’d like to thank all the opposing coaches and players I’ve come across. Almost without exception they’ve been nothing but forthcoming with encouragement and advice – especially this year as Phoenix adapted to life in the IAFL South. Special mention for Drogheda Lightning coach Russ Kerley who, despite being busy building a dynasty in the Wee County, still found time to offer his services as an assistant when I was coaching on my own for the first time.

Of course, there are too many players in Tullamore to thank individually but you’ve all been great. If it wasn’t for Brian Kirwan and Padraic Merlehan though, I’d have never started coaching so I have to single them out as well as Darren Byrne, who I saw more of than my wife at weekends, and Rory O’Keeffe for finding video evidence that every play I ever conceived had already been done by some high school that nobody, not even the students who went there, had ever heard of except Rory.

I hope to stay in touch with the rest of  you too, as long as you promise to stop drinking so much!

Of course, I can’t write a post like this without saying thanks to my wife Amy too. She’s awesome which is probably why I married her.

Finally, a massive thank you to John Judge. John took a chance on handing over his offence to a rookie coach with nothing more than a head full of dreams and thousands of hours of Madden on his CV. Anyone interested in coaching American football in Ireland should get in touch with John about taking over from me in Tullamore as you’ll learn more from a ten minute conversation with Coach Judge than you will from a hundred coaching manuals.

So that’s enough waffling from me. I’ll hopefully I’ll see you at a game soon.

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Preview: UL Vikings @ Tullamore Phoenix

We don’t often quote the doors around here but this IS the end. Tullamore Phoenix play their last game of the 2012 IAFL season this Sunday when they host perennial Shamrock Bowl attendees, the University of Limerick Vikings.

They may have come out on the wrong end of a 20-0 defeat to the Dublin Rebels last Sunday, but the performance of an injury stricken Tullamore Phoenix side was enough to give everyone involved with the club great hope for the 2013 season.

Of course, with great hope comes great expectation (or something like that – Ed) and Tullamore’s coaches will be looking for a similar work rate and performance against a very strong Vikings outfit in Tullamore Rugby Club at 2pm this Sunday,  June 3.

UL, on the basis of conceding less points than the Belfast Trojans, have been the best team in the IAFL this year and impressed many observers with their ability to control  all three aspects of the game; offence, defence and special teams.

However, this is by no means a dead rubber for the Vikings as they have still to secure the number one seeding for the playoffs and there will be players hoping to catch the eye of Limerick’s coaches for a starting spot in the offseason.

Last week, there were many people predicting that the Rebels would arrive in Tullamore and possibly leave with a record points total. That didn’t happen and, if it wasn’t for a couple of untimely turnovers on offence, the game could have been a lot tighter than the final score reflected.

There will be few observers giving Tullamore a chance in this one too but this Phoenix outfit have a habit of standing tallest when their backs are to the wall and let’s not forget, on any given Sunday, you never know what can happen.

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Gallery: Dublin Rebels @ Tullamore Phoenix

The Dublin Rebels arrived in Tullamore last Sunday looking to make a statement ahead of their playoff game with Trinity. However, Tullamore Phoenix put in a performance they can build on going forward to hold the two-time defending Shamrock Bowl champions to 20-0.

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As usual, all pictures are taken by the brilliant Alison Byrne.

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Preview: Dublin Rebels @ Tullamore Phoenix

Tullamore Phoenix host two-time defending Shamrock Bowl champions, the Dublin Rebels, on Sunday, May 27 in Tullamore Rugby Club.

It has, without doubt, been a very difficult opening season in the IAFL for Tullamore Phoenix. After two years of dominating the DV8s league, we started our first senior campaign with an efficient 19-0 home win over Dublin Dragons.

However, since then, Phoenix have lost four consecutive games and were forced to forfeit a road trip Belfast due to an extensive injury list.

It would be very easy to blame injuries and a difficult schedule (three away games in four weeks) for Tullamore’s struggles this season but excuses are not something this Phoenix team will ever hide behind.

The simple fact is Tullamore have faced better players and better teams this year and everyone involved with the club will come out of 2012 knowing exactly what needs to be done to ensure 2013 is a more successful season.

Over the past few weeks I’ve read various reports that the Phoenix schedule ‘doesn’t get any easier’ facing, as we do, Ireland’s top two teams over the past decade in the next fortnight. That’s correct, but it’s equally true to say the Phoenix coaching staff and players put in all this work over the past three years because we want to play teams like the Rebels and Vikings.

With Coach Judge away on IAFL business, I’ll (Steve) be head coaching this weekend for just the second time ever. I can think of no better opposition I’d like to face for my first home game as HC than the Rebels. They play good football and still need a win to ensure home advantage in the wild card game.

However, I also know what a healthy Tullamore is capable of and anyone coming to the game can expect a hard fought, physical, encounter with some good quality football thrown in for good measure.

If you can make it, kick off is 2pm and you might even get a suntan thrown in.

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Gallery: Tullamore Phoenix @ Trinity

It says everything about this Tullamore Phoenix team that the 18 guys who suited up and – by the end – the 11 guys left standing, didn’t let their lack of numbers get them down, even when they game was beyond them.

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Gallery: Tullamore Phoenix @ UCD

In the words of Ron Burgundy: “Boy, that escalated quickly. I mean, that really got out of hand fast.” Still, at least Alison got some nice pictures.

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We want you: Tullamore Phoenix recruitment drive

Here at Tullamore Phoenix we’re always looking to the future and now is your chance to be involved with the Midlands’ most successful American football team.

We’re currently half-way through our first full season in the Irish American Football League and this year has proven to be a real eye-opener.

Despite success at DV8 level and a relatively large squad, injuries at key positions have cost us this season and so we are currently recruiting players at all positions but especially on the offensive and defensive line.

We are also looking for people interested in coaching an American football team or even just assisting/scouting on game days.

No experience is necessary as full training will be given to new players and staff under the supervision of our very experienced head coach John Judge.

Training takes place each Thursday (6.30pm) and Sunday (12noon) in Tullamore Rugby Club, Spollanstown Road, Tullamore, Co. Offaly.

To help you learn the game on your feet, we’re submitting a team to the IAFL DV8s league this August. This experience will allow you to test your newly learned skills against some of the best up-and-coming teams in Ireland.

If you are interested in taking part, please contact John Judge at 086-8615689 for more details.

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Preview: Tullamore Phoenix @ UCD

Tullamore Phoenix travel to Dublin for their second away game of the season with high hopes of taking their record to .500.

Plotting for victory

Tullamore Phoenix @ UCD
2pm, Sunday April 15, Belfield

Two teams with a 1-2 record meet in Belfield this Sunday as UCD host Tullamore Phoenix in a must win game for both.

Phoenix are coming off the back of a heartbreaking home loss to the Craigavon Cowboys and will look to rectify the redzone inefficiency that has blighted their season so far.

They will also have to cope with the loss of two key defensive players in Rory O’Keeffe and Mark Brolly but head coach John Judge is confident their replacements can fill the gap.

“You know you’re going to have injuries,” says Judge “but I’m more than happy that the lads coming in can step up to the plate. They’ve trained as hard as anyone all season and now is their opportunity to claim a place for the rest of the year.”

Phoenix face a UCD team looking for their first home win of the season following defeats to the Knights and away to the Rebels. Their victory over Cork Admirals on the road marks them as a team to be reckoned with and they will hope their high tempo flexbone offence will overwhelm the Tullamore defence.

It promises to be an exciting encounter for anyone who makes it down.

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Gallery: Craigavon Cowboys @ Tullamore Phoenix

Tullamore Phoenix suffered a heart-wrenching loss to Craigavon Cowboys last weekend in a game that, in truth, neither team deserved to lose. 

The Phoenix defence stop Craigavon's Chris Bondi

Though not quite the tropical conditions experienced earlier in the week, last Sunday’s IAFL clash between Craigavon Cowboys and Tullamore Phoenix was played in near perfect footballing conditions. However, neither team could take advantage of the balmy weather early on with penalties constantly interrupting the flow of the game for both.

It was Phoenix who put points on the board first, capping a long drive with a 25 yard David Maloney field goal. On the ensuing kickoff, a well placed kicked from Maloney pinned the Cowboys’ inside their own five yard line and one play later the Phoenix defence sacked Craigavon’s QB to take the score to 5-0.

On their next drive, Phoenix once again marched their way towards the Cowboys’ endzone thanks to a mixture of accurate passing from Erin Kelly and decisive running from Daire O’Beirne and Darren Byrne in the backfield.

However, on 3rd down, five yards from the Cowboys’ endzone, an interception cost Phoenix the opportunity to build an 11 point lead. Instead, four plays later, Cowboys found the endzone themselves. While they were unsuccessful with their two-point conversion, they still found themselves with a 6-5 lead against the run of play.

Once more, the Phoenix offence put together an efficient drive with David Maloney booting a 40+ yard field goal on the half-time whistle to give Phoenix an 8-6 lead.

Phoenix HC John Judge celebrates David Maloney's long range effort

The lead was short lived though as the Cowboys’ came out a much more effective offence in the second half, turning a two point deficit into a ten point lead before the end of the third quarter, thanks in large part to a blocked field goal that gave the Cowboys’ great field position.

It was, in truth, a frustrating second half for both teams as poor officiating threatened to ruin a monumental tussle between two evenly matched teams. Tullamore’s frustration was compounded by season-ending injuries to key defensive duo Rory O’Keeffe and Mark Brolly.

This wasn’t a Phoenix outfit that was ready to roll over and die though and, with seven minutes to go in the game, the home side reduced the deficit to just four points when Erin Kelly found David Maloney, on for the injured Jordan Reid, on a 25 yard crossing route.

However, any hopes of a Phoenix comeback were dashed as Craigavon showed all their experience to wind down the clock before extending their lead to 12 in the closing seconds of the game.

For Craigavon, it was a much needed win to kickstart their season but it was also a heartbreaking loss for a Tullamore team whose monumental effort in this game did not deserve to go unrewarded.

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Preview: Craigavon Cowboys @ Tullamore Phoenix

Tullamore Phoenix host the Craigavon Cowboys at 2pm this Sunday in Tullamore Rugby Club. Steven O’Rourke previews the game.

Erin Kelly finds an open receiver

It’s already been a rollarcoaster season for Tullamore Phoenix. After an opening weekend win, the Offaly outfit were brought back to earth with a bang thanks to a 38 point defeat to the West Dublin Rhinos.

This weekend they get a chance to bounce back when they face a familiar opponent in the Craigavon Cowboys. The Cowboys haven’t had the best of starts themselves and, following defeats to the Trojans and Vikings, find themselves languishing at the foot of the IAFL North.

However, it is a position that belies a talented outfit many predicted would be playoff bound this season. Well coached, Craigavon are a team that play fast, hard and fair and will know that the season is still in its infancy and that a win this weekend could be just the boost they need.

For Tullamore, the heavy defeat at the hands of the Rhinos could prove to be a blessing in disguise. After two seasons of dominating the development league, Phoenix players and staff now know what it takes to compete at this level. This weekend is their opportunity to prove lessons have been learned and they deserve their place at the sport’s top table.

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