The IFFL is approaching the end of its inaugural season. On the 9th August in Dalymount Park, the Mullingar Minotaurs will be taking on the Dublin Vipers in the first ever Irish Flag Football National Championship, the Emerald Bowl I.
Flag Football, as a sport, has been in Ireland for a good few years now, but has never been organised on a national level. In October 2014, the Irish American Football Association (IAFA) gathered teams keen on seeing a more official, competitive and permanent league rather than the backyard games they were used to.
The league is in its infancy, but interest is growing because of the success it has seen so far. Most people involved are originally either involved in kitted football or just fans of American Football but not willing to take on the physical side of the sport. Flag Football has every aspect of a dark horse, unknown but with great potential and eager to prove itself a real contender. The sport has never really been promoted before last year and most teams involved are originally kitted clubs with a few exclusively flag teams. All in all, we’ve seen 19 teams taking part 2015, but interest is growing and more teams intend to be part of next season along with more kitted teams.
The league is split into four regional divisions; Dublin, Midlands, Munster and Ulster. Each division has a number of teams competing based on an NFL-type of schedule, with each team playing every other team in their division twice, and at least two inter-divisional games during the season.
The league is split into two seasons, winter (October to February) and summer (March to August). Each season produces a champion, and they compete in the national championship, the Emerald Bowl.
The two teams who made it to the Emerald Bowl I are the Dublin Vipers and the Mullingar Minotaurs. The Minotaurs have been solid all season and have refined their game over time from a kitted-based style to a more focused flag style. The Dublin Vipers are the favourites with the best record overall. They are an exclusive flag team, with players having played together for the last three years. They also play a clean and efficient style of flag, which tends to make them the favourites in most match ups. Both teams have played each other twice this past year with the Minotaurs succeeding both times which will make the Emerald Bowl I a very tight and interesting game to watch.
The plans for the future growth of the league are to develop it further by fostering other initiatives such as an all-female league, youth league and school programs, and ultimately to compete on the international level within the next two to three years. We need to see the league grow well enough to have access to a sufficiently large pool of talent.
We would also start working with our neighbouring countries as some of them have years of experience in running successful flag football league. In that mind set the IFFL will be are holding an open tournament on October 10th, with teams from the UK flying over to test the Irish game style. This will also be mark the first anniversary of the league. If all goes well, we would make it an annual event, which would be a good way to test the international waters and build relationships in the long-term.
Some believe that Flag Football is very much in the shadow of kitted football which is rather a misconception. Both sport show a love for the sport American Football in different ways. Anyone who likes the strategies and tactics but not necessarily the physical part of the sport but with a very big dose of fun then Flag Football is the sport for you.
IAFA Director of Flag Football