For the second consecutive year, the 4 time National Champions of Ireland, the Belfast Trojans will host a visit from an American Football College side in what will present another great opportunity for the sport on the Emerald Isle.
After the success of last years fixture with the Sewanee Tigers of Tennessee, the Trojans have organised a contest with fellow Southern Athletic Association (SAA) team the Centre College Colonels of Kentucky in what will be their second visit to Ireland in 4 years.
This won’t be unknown territory for the Colonels. They have previous playing experience in Ireland as they faced the 8 time champions, the Dublin Rebels back in 2014 in their first visit, a game in which they won 90-0. Following the success of their 2016 season when they finished 8-2 in the National College Athletics Association Division III, the Colonels will be hoping to use Saturday’s exhibition game as pre-season preparation for their upcoming 2017 campaign that commences in September.
Centre College boasts an illustrious history that has stemmed from their inaugural season in 1880. At the end of the 2008 season, the school was ranked 12th with the winningest record across the whole of Division III football with a record that stood at W509-L374-D37. They have won 16 Conference titles, made two NCAA playoff appearances and were crowned the national champions back in 1921.
Under the leadership of Head Coach Andrew Frye, the Colonels have continued to establish a strong tradition of playing excellent football.
Frye has been the Head Coach since 1998 has holds an impressive career coaching record of 118 wins to 63 defeats, making him the most winningest coach in Centre Football’s history. In 2014, Centre 34-7 triumph over Defiance saw Frye surpass 2002 Centre Hall of Fame inductee Joe McDaniel to that feat.
The Belfast Trojans however have had plenty of success of their own. The Trojans won their first national championship back in 2012 and started a transcendence to power that saw them clinch four straight Shamrock Bowl crowns right through to 2015. They have won five division titles and also had success in Europe, winning the EFAF (Atlantic Cup) European competition twice in 2013 and 2015. With the sustained success that has saw them reach the pinnacle of the Irish game, the Trojans will head into Saturdays fixture with an impressive record of their own since 2006, W85-L25-D2.
In charge of the teams recent success has been longtime Trojan, Head Coach Mark McGrath. McGrath has guided his team to new heights of over the course of the last few years, both as a player and a coach. With the team going through a transitional period in 2017, Coach McGrath has shown great leadership and experience that will be pivotal in the Trojans hopes of reclaiming the Shamrock Bowl trophy this summer.
Last May saw the Sewanee Tigers of Tennessee make the trip to Ireland in a similar exhibition style game. Their quality was enough to see them outlast a late Trojans fightback as the then Irish champions showed they could handle the occasion as they fell narrowly by a 27-20 scoreline. The game will be remembered for a special play that mimicked that of the ‘Music City Miracle’ in 2000.
Saturday, May 27th will be a truly exciting occasion for all those involved in the Irish American Football League and spectators are guaranteed an excellent football game. The game kickoff’s at 3pm B.S.T at Deramore Park, Belfast with the game being live-streamed via Facebook live.