Editor’s Note: Author Ciaran Boylan was born and raised in Dublin. He played for UCD and now the Dublin Avengers, the ILL All-Stars, Dublin Riggers and the Eire (Irish Development) team. WILC 2015 will be his first time playing for an Irish National Team. He’s also been selected for the men’s team for the U19 worlds next summer. We think Ciaran is well-qualified to update us on the topic of Ireland men’s lacrosse.
Ireland U19 Men’s National Team
This July saw tryouts for the first ever Irish U19 Men’s National Team in preparation for the U19 World Lacrosse Championships in British Columbia in Summer 2016.
As this is the first time that Ireland has participated in an U19 tournament, we are looking to avail of a special dispensation that is provided by the FIL for new teams to include U21 players (who are resident in Ireland) on the roster. This is providing an amazing opportunity for the young players of the University College Dublin (UCD), Queen’s University Belfast & National University of Ireland (NUI) – Galway lacrosse teams; as well as the youth players in our program.
More than 40 players, based all over Ireland, the US and Canada, attended the tryouts. Irish-based standouts includes Ause Abdelhaq-Braike, Josh Appel and John McKeague. After just confirming my own spot on this team, I am more proud than words can describe to be a part of this historic moment for lacrosse in Ireland.
Mike Kennedy, CEO of Ireland Lacrosse, explained the process to me:
“After several years of planning, we are eagerly looking forward to having our Irish men’s U19 team make its debut at the 2016 World U19 Championships in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada. This team has taken several years of planning – it all began with queries that we got from players within that age group. As the number of queries grew, we kept a list of the names and contact details, and when we hit critical mass (ie more than your typical 23-man roster) we reached a tipping point where we could say – ‘OK, we can do this!’
The tryouts for this team were also another first in that we held them at the outstanding sports facilities at the University of Limerick, on the west coast of Ireland. Dublin has typically been the ‘hot-spot’ for lacrosse in Ireland, based largely on the big population there in comparison with other Irish cities, but with active teams in Galway and Belfast, and new teams forming in Cork, Waterford and Carlow, we thought it would be important to try to spread the game further to Limerick by holding these tryouts there, especially given the top-notch facilities that they have recently put in place there.”
Now that we have a stable and consistent Irish Lacrosse League for men and women – entering its 7th season in 2015-2016 and consisting of college-age and post-collegiate players – the time has come to get down to the youth level, and the men’s U19 team is a perfect representation of that.
We have also developed and begun to deliver a Coaching Certification program which was devised with the assistance of the English Lacrosse Association and with Coaching Ireland, and have trained many of our players to become coaches, so that we can start delivering clinics and other training sessions to kids and schools throughout Ireland. As such, we’ve been progressively putting all of these pillars in place, so that we can be confident about our strategy for growing the game in Ireland.
Next up will be a women’s U19 team, hopefully in time for the 2019 World U19 Championships, and the development of more teams, including and especially at school level.
Ireland Indoor Lacrosse Team
The Irish National Indoor Lacrosse team will be competing in the World Indoor Lacrosse Championships being held in Syracuse this September. The team is made up of a wide mix of players. Professionals Stephen Keogh (Rochester Knighthawks) and Andrew McBride (Calgary Roughnecks) join Ireland Lacrosse veterans Sean Gibson, Mike Kennedy, and Ryan Doran as well as fresh faces Ciarán Boylan, Conor O’Brien & Tadhg Bolger.
View our National Team Preview to learn more about the squad head to WILC 2015!
With 12 domestic based players on our 23 man roster, this tournament is providing a key role in the further development of the game in an Irish context.
I got the chance to ask the Men’s Indoor Development Director and transition player Sean Gibson about how the growth of the box game has impacted both on the skill level of Irish players.
“Ireland Lacrosse has incorporated box lacrosse into its program for development since 2005. Since 2005, we have also grown from a single travel team (Dublin Riggers) to now having a domestic league (National Indoor Lacrosse League), an elite travel team, and our National Development Team, the Emerald Islanders. These additions have paid dividends to both our field program and our international box program. We have seen a dramatic improvement in the individual quality of players. Specifically, our domestic based players stick skills and physicality has vastly improved in the 8 years for those who take part in both the NILL and our travel teams. This is put down to the amount of skill (Passing, Shooting, Dodging) repetition under pressure that only box lacrosse can consistently provide our players.
Individually, we have seen a dramatic increase in the number of players that make the national field teams (including at World Championships) who have box lacrosse experience. In Denver (2014), 16 of the 23 members of that National team had prior indoor lacrosse experience with 12 of those being based in Ireland representing 100% of the domestic players with prior experience playing indoor domestically. In Manchester 2010, there was a total 13 of 23 players on the men’s national field team. Seven of the 12 domestic based players in 2010 having had prior box lacrosse experience. If we look back at London (CA) ’06, only 6 of the 23 man roster had prior box lacrosse experiences. It should be noted that 5 of the 7 domestic players in 2006 had begun playing box lacrosse the previous year when it was introduced into the Irish Lacrosse scene.”
Development of Lacrosse in Ireland
In terms of growth of the game at a domestic level, the difference between when I started to play in 2011 and now is stark. When I started playing the game, there were four teams; NUI – Galway, UCD, Dublin Lacrosse Club and the Dublin Bay Prawns (with a Queen’s University Belfast team in the works).
This past year alone, Queen’s has been able to put out a squad to compete in the Irish Lacrosse League, Gearoid and Ruairi Dunbar, an American Irish duo from Las Vegas have started a team in the midlands at Carlow IT, and Tony Devine, longtime Ireland Lacrosse player with UCD alum Arthur Cullinan making a grassroots effort to start a team in Cork. Dublin Bay Prawn attackman Paul Murran similarly has begun working on setting up a team based out of Waterford IT in the South-East.
Our players are starting younger and younger – gearing up for a generation of rapid growth. I first picked up a stick when I started university. I can only imagine what some of the new 15-year-old players who have recently started playing with the Dublin Lacrosse club will be able to gain exposure to the game from a younger age. The development of our U19 program gives these guys something to strive for. With our first primary school program up and running full-time at Loreto Grange Road primary school in Dublin, the future of women’s lacrosse is just as bright.
Our national teams being composed of both domestic and non-Irish based players has helped us to elevate the skill level in our domestic leagues. With strong participation in both field and box teams by non-Irish-based players, our players who’ve learned in an Irish context are able to learn from their peers, and improve their own game to a level that would be impossible without this support.
Students who study abroad in Ireland during university have also helped with this, with particularly strong participation by players in from St. Mary’s College in Maryland studying abroad in the program in UCD. Honourable mentions here (as a UCD alum) include Matt Carney and Michael Lofrese (Trinity College, Connecticut) in 2014, and Tim Perugini, Eric Simon & William Lerch in 2013.
Thanks are also due to great coaches, and those at an administrative level have both taught us how to play the game and facilitated our international campaigns as well as national leagues.
Domestically, Mike Kennedy and Sean Bodie have contributed massively to the growth of our player base. The coaching selection for the men’s European Championships in 2016 is currently underway, and I’ve no doubt that the organisation will pick the best person for the job. Trials for this team take place in Dublin from Friday the 23rd to Sunday the 25th of October.
Mike Kennedy had this to say on reflecting on the past few years for Ireland Lacrosse;
“When I first got involved in Irish lacrosse, there were no teams in Ireland. Now, the annual schedule is jam-packed with events that we are constantly working to balance and co-ordinate. It’s still not enough though – the Irish public (including the Irish diaspora) takes tremendous pride in the achievements of its sports teams including rugby, soccer, gaelic football and hurling, cricket and boxing (women’s boxing especially!) and we’d like to see lacrosse at the same level as these sports in terms of public recognition but also, more importantly, in terms of grassroots participation!”
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And on that note, if you think there’s any way in which you could get involved, help grow the game, or contribute to our programs, please get in touch. I’ve had a fun four years playing lacrosse here in Ireland, and at the rate we’re growing I can only imagine what scale we’ll be at after the next four.
If you’ve any questions on any of the above, feel like you could help us grow the game, or are in Ireland looking to play some lacrosse, hit me up at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow me on Twitter.