Paul Grogan: ‘This is why we play football!’
The Dublin Rebels are Ireland’s most successful American Football team. Founded in 1995, the Rebels have gone on to win 7 National Champions and several European accolades on their way to greatness.
This Sunday at Seapoint Rugby Club, they will be hoping to take one step closer to a record 8th Shamrock Bowl win when they take on the Craigavon Cowboys in the wildcard round.
We have already spoken to Cowboy’s star man, Peter Loughran about how he feels heading into the game. Now we will hear from Rebels Tight-End, Paul Grogan who will be lining up on the opposite sideline in this crucial divisional knockout game.
The Dublin outfit started the season off in similar fashion to the Cowboys, as they suffered narrow defeats to University pair, Trinity College and UCD. However victories against the Cowboys, Panthers and Vikings helped propel the Rebels into the post-season with a respectable (5-3) finish.
Their opening losses to the year effectively saw the Dubliners lose touch of the Trojans in the race for the division title, but the Rebels set themselves high expectations and we will expect better of themselves come the playoff’s.
‘On the face of it we’ve had a mixed season. Going 5-3 during the regular season suggests that. We have a young squad with a large influx of rookies, who are now all contributing greatly across the squad. When it comes down to it we were two individual plays away from being 7-1 on the season.’
‘As it is with every season, the Rebels making the playoffs is the absolute minimum. That has been achieved so I would say a lot done, a lot more to do’.
The playoff’s offer a fresh start for many teams. It allows for the opportunity to evaluate previous performances and make necessary adjustments that will prove crucial in the long run. Paul knows exactly what the Rebels need to improve on going forward.
‘Execution! We were two plays off being 7-1 this season and that came down to execution. A lot of football has been played since then, a lot work put in, fine tuning. If we can execute to the level we are capable of, we are a match-up nightmare!’
Paul has seen a lot of success during his playing career. He has played a part in two of the Rebels championship wins since he joined in 2007, whilst also winning a state championship in Australia with the Perth Blitz. Despite his own personal accolades, he’s always happy to see his team succeed.
‘Well, obviously I think I’ve been spectacular all year, as I’m sure I will attest to. I’m sure anyone that’s watched our games would give you a less biased, more accurate summation. Really for me it’s all about the team first and if I’m doing my job well, it means that the plethora of other weapons we have can shine, as they have done!
I’ve seen a lot of extra coverages on me or teams putting their best player on me and I take that as a huge compliment, but like I said, team first’.
The Rebels lost a number of key players during the off-season, particularly offensive weapons like Chris Purdy and Simon Mackey. However players like Sean Leamy, Sean Douglas and Kevin Finnegan have all stepped up to fill the void and have performed exceptionally over the course of the season. With that in mind, Paul is adamant that the Rebels will be in strong contention for the Shamrock Bowl this summer.
‘As I mentioned before, making the playoff’s is an absolute minimum. This squad is not only capable of making the Bowl game, but more than capable of winning it all. We have absolute ballers on both sides of the football and between Andrew Dennehy and Ross McCooey, we have two of the best football minds Ireland has produced. They’re not bad players either’.
Before they can think about appearing in the final, the Rebels have the small task of two games to win, starting with the Craigavon Cowboys on Sunday. Two of oldest sides in Ireland have clashed hundreds of times over the course of their clubs lifespan, and Paul knows exactly what to expect from his opponents this weekend.
‘In short, it won’t be different. With the Cowboys, you know exactly what you’re going to get. A tough, physical, old-school slug fest! They’re going to run the football right at you, and tell you “try to stop us”. More recently they’ve added a very good passing game to their playbook, with a number of good pass-catchers.
‘Of course you guys have talked about Peter Loughran several times, I think everyone in the league knows how good he is, and in order to beat the Cowboys, you have to stop him!’
Two very physical and experienced sides that know everything there is to know about each other will go head-to-head this Sunday, with the definite goal to progress to the semi-finals. It’s a simple case of do or die now and for either the Cowboy’s or the Rebels, one teams season will live to fight another day, whilst the others hopes will be crushed.
‘It’s going to take four full quarters of punishing football that could go right to the final whistle. As the Cowboys proved, they are capable of making late comebacks, with their late showing against the Knights. Couple that with the fact we dropped two games that we were controlling in similar fashion, means that this game could come down to the wire’.
‘ However, this is why we play football! We’re prepared and ready, and I can’t wait!’
Wildcard game: Craigavon Cowboys @ Dublin Rebels: Seapoint RFC, Dublin – 2pm.