SUNDAY 8th MAY 2005



The Adrian College Bulldogs from Michigan USA won the second annual Celtic Classic game against a spirited Ireland team at Greystones RFC. The victory by Adrian College was not unexpected, as the Bulldogs would be regarded as superior opposition as they play in the NCAA College football in the USA. However there were some fine performances from the Irish players against athletes who train on a daily basis. The Ireland team was chosen from the 6 amateur teams which make up the Irish American Football League.

Running back T.J. Williams was the star of the Adrian College side scoring three rushing touchdowns including the Bulldogs opening two scores in the first quarter of the game which came on the Bulldogs first two possessions. The Bulldogs scored their third touchdown towards the end of the quarter - a 22 yard run by Matt Jonston. The Irish team managed to move the ball in the second quarter with quartbacks Stephen McDowell of the Carrickfergus Knights and Andrew Dennehy of the Dublin Rebels (who were rotating) completing some passes to tight end Alan Connolly (Dublin Dragons) and receivers Paul McKillop (Carrickfergus) and Marcus Naylor (Dublin Rebels). However they failed to score against a strong Adrian College defense which was led by defensive lineman Joe Howland, linebacker Matt Spangler and cornerback Steve Gauthier. Adrian scored their first passing touchdown in the second quarter with an 11 yard pass from Eric Himich to Corey Hardcastle. Blake Childs intercepted McDowell on Irelands next possession and the Bulldogs capitalised with a 3 yard run by Williams, his third of the game. Later in the quarter, Ireland were stopped on downs by the Bulldogs after having picked up some yards on the ground via Carrickfergus running back David Wright. On the Bulldogs next possession, Ireland & Belfast Bulls defensive end Erin Wagner produced the best individual play of the day when he caught Adrian College scatback Matt Jonston from behind after it seemed that Jonston had broken a run for a touchdown. The Bulldogs scored once more before the half with a 5 yard run by John Servoss.

The second half was a more even affair as the Ireland team got more used to the pace of the Bulldogs and began to make plays on both offense and defense. Irish linebackers Alan O'Carroll, Warren Thompson and Gareth Millar began to stop the Bulldogs and even managed to get some tackles for loss. However the Bulldogs did manage to put two more scores on the board, both coming late in the quarter. The first was an 11 yard pass from Mike Akrawi to Cory Hardcastle. After stopping the Irish on their next possession, the Bulldogs scored again, this time a 9 yard pass from Akrawi to tight end Mike Lyall. However, the Irish had the better of the final quarter as their defense began to get on top and their offense finally clicked into gear. Carrickfergus defender Spencer McDowell and Belfast linebacker Chris Weir had a couple of sacks and tackles for loss and Irish defensive backs Mark Helferty of Belfast and Darragh Farrell of the Dublin Rebels made some good plays. Midway through the quarter, the Irish got a break when Belfast's Warren Thompson recovered an Adrian College fumble, however the Irish failed to convert it into a score in spite of picking up some first downs through the air. Ireland's best performance came on the final drive of the game when the moved the ball 90 yards in a drive of close to 20 plays. Ireland Coach, Phil DeMonte took the unusual step of putting both his quarterbacks in the backfield and got results when Andrew Dennehy caught two passes for first downs. Ireland receivers Paul McKillop (Carrickfergus) and Conor Ryan (Dublin Rebels) also had some catches from McDowell and the Ireland team managed to get a first and goal in the final minute of the game. However, the Adrian College defense put up a brave goal line stand to prevent the Irish from scoring - on the final play of the game, Stephen McDowell was stopped less than a foot from the goal line after trying to punch in a quarterback sneak. After the game, Coach Jim Lyall was presented with the Celtic Classic trophy which is on its way to Michigan.

Aside from the result, the game proved very positive as it gave players and coaches from both sides a chance to meet and develop contacts. A least one of the Irish players is expected to get a chance to play permanently in the USA as a result of the contacts made and it is hoped that the Global Football organisation, who ran the game in partnership with the IAFL, will bring more teams to Ireland in future years.

Venue: Greystones RFC, Co. Wicklow.

SCORERS (All Adrian):
1st Quarter: Williams 3yd run (6-0); Williams 3yd run (12-0); Jonston 22yd run + Lindsay 1xpt (19-0).
2nd Quarter: Musielevicz 44yd pass from Himich, Lindsay 1xpt (26-0); Williams 3yd run, Lindsay 1xpt (33-0); Servoss 5yd run, Lindsey 1xpt (40-0).
3rd Quarter: Hardcastle 11yd pass from Akrawi (46-0); Lyall 9yd pass from Akrawi + Lindsay 1xpt (53-0)
4th Quarter: No scoring.