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WILC 2015 National Team Preview Ireland
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WILC 2015 Nation Preview: Ireland

The World Indoor Lacrosse Championship 2015 takes over the Onondaga Nation next month and in preparation for the historic event we will be taking a deeper look into each of the 13 nations that will be competing for the gold September 18th-27th, 2015!

Let’s start with a nation who boasts a rich lacrosse history, Ireland!

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Irleand Lacrosse 2015 National Team Trials DublinIreland

Box Lacrosse Founded: 2005 (Dublin Riggers)
Governing Body: Ireland Lacrosse
Previous WILC Finish: 7
Twitter: @irelandlacrosse
Instagram: @irelandlacrosse

Preparations for the WILC 2015

Responses by Sean Gibson (Member of 2014 Irish National Team)

What are some of the team/organizer’s biggest concerns of traveling to the United States and the Onondaga Nation?

In general our concerns would be that the event is run well and the teams / players are well looked after and that there is a true sense of community. We want the event to be successful and hope there is a lot of support for the event.

All of our athletes and staff are well versed in international travel and the tolls it can put on the body (changing time zones, altitude, food, etc.) but, our national team program takes steps to off-set these issues by having a pre-tournament camp prior to the event.

Our national team will be heading to Paris, Ontario for a 5 day training camp alongside team Finland. We will have a number of training sessions and get a few games in before taking a bus with Team Finland to Syracuse.

What obstacles are still in the way of your team having the ideal trip to the WILC?

At the moment we have most things in hand (training camp, uniforms, apparel, equipment, etc.). We have been working on this project for nearly two years in order to spread-out the workload. We were able to reach agreement with Gait to come back on board in their final year as our equipment and apparel provider for one final tournament and they have been a great help.

If I were to identify one potential obstacle: like all European teams I would point at sponsorship and funding. We were unable to find a premier uniform sponsor this year and as a trade-off that means the fiscal burden is pushed back on the players. We have had a good lead-up from a fundraising standpoint and with t-shirt sales.

The local Irish community in Syracuse has been brilliant in organizing things for our team as well. But, we are still looking for both a primary uniform sponsor and player of the game sponsors. If you think you can help out in this regard please reach out to us!

Irish Lacrosse History

Responses by Michael Kennedy (Ireland Lacrosse CEO and Historian)

When was lacrosse founded in Ireland? By whom?

The origins of lacrosse in Ireland lie with the establishment of the Ards Lacrosse Club in Newtownards, Co. Down (just outside Belfast) in 1872. Four years later, William George Beers, the man credited with modernizing and codifying the game in his native Canada, led a trip across the Atlantic that included members of the Montreal Lacrosse Club as well as a team of Caughnawaga Indians.

The tour started in Belfast with a number of exhibition games by these teams before moving on to England where, amongst other games, the teams put on an exhibition for the Queen at Windsor Castle. A number of similar trips followed as the game developed further in Ireland, and an Irish Lacrosse Union was formed in 1879 to support this development and to manage the new Irish Men’s National Lacrosse Team.

By 1886 there were 13 active men’s teams, mostly in and around Belfast but also in Dublin, Kerry and Limerick. In that same year, the Irish Men’s National Lacrosse Team traveled to the USA and Canada to play a number of exhibition games over several months. The leader of this team – and of lacrosse in Ireland more generally during this time – was a man named Hugh C. Kelly. Kelly was a graduate of the famous Royal Belfast Academical Institution, a barrister by profession, and Sub-Sherriff of the County Down. By all accounts Hugh C. Kelly was a larger-than-life character – he represented Ireland at rugby (from 1876-81), cricket and lawn tennis, attended the inaugural meeting of the Irish Rugby Football Union in 1879 as president of the northern branch, was co-founder of the Irish Golfing Union in 1891 (the oldest national governing body for golf in the world) and was also a keen yachtsman, having accompanied Sir Thomas Lipton through the entry of the Shamrock in the America’s Cup yacht race of 1899.

How long has box lacrosse been played in Ireland?

The first Irish-based team to play box lacrosse was the Dublin Riggers, who attended the now defunct Harbour LAXTC Box Lacrosse Tournament back in 2005 in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Box Lacrosse began to take hold in Ireland back in 2005 with the creation of the Dublin Box Lacrosse League.

Ales Hrebesky Memorial Dublin Riggers
Credit: Kevin Owens

The DBLL was a 4×4 league and played in a small gymnasium and took place in the middle portion of the Irish Lacrosse League (field) season when the weather is poor. We have to rely on gymnasiums mostly due to the fact that Ireland remains one nation that does not have access to ice rinks even to this day. The DBLL was used as preparation for the 2007 World Indoor Lacrosse Championships.

Since then the league has remained true to its roots and has turned into the National Indoor Lacrosse League (NILL) and is now in its 8th season. The Dublin Riggers are currently in their 11th year as Ireland’s main box lacrosse travel team.

Recently, the Emerald Islanders were created as Ireland’s official National Development Team in order to allow more opportunities for domestic and Irish players from abroad to come together to get more game time in tournaments throughout Europe.

What events has Ireland competed in internationally?

2007 Irish Indoor National Lacrosse Team

The ‘modern’ version of the Irish Men’s Senior National Team has been in existence since 2001. The team has played in the following fully-sanctioned tournaments:

Year Tournament Location Result

  • 2001 European Championships Penarth, Wales 6th place
  • 2002 World Championships Perth, Australia 12th place
  • 2004 European Championships Prague, Czech Republic 7th place
  • 2005 Celtic Cup Cardiff, Wales 1st place
  • 2006 World Championships London, Ontario, Canada 7th place
  • 2007 World Indoor Championships Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada 8th place
  • 2008 European Championships Lahti, Finland 6th place
  • 2009 Celtic Cup Edinburgh, Scotland 3rd place
  • 2010 World Championships Manchester, England 9th place
  • 2011 World Indoor Championships Prague, Czech Republic 7th place
  • 2012 European Championships Amsterdam, The Netherlands 2nd place
  • 2013 Celtic Cup Limerick, Ireland 1st place
  • 2014 World Championships Denver, Colorado, USA 10th place

2015 Players and Staff

Responses from Head Coach Jeff Dowling

In general, how would you describe the players on your national team? What are they like off the field?

The easiest way to describe our group of players is to say that they are very diverse both on and off the floor. Off the floor we have a wide array of individuals ranging from students, Financial Analysts, IT specialists, Chefs, University Administrators to a Nurse and an ER Doctor. On the floor we are every bit as diverse, but with a recognized common goal, every player has a team first approach.

Which key individuals from your country should lacrosse enthusiasts look toward as an ambassador of the game? Why?

We have a number of ambassadors from Ireland that will stand out. First and foremost is the CEO of Ireland Lacrosse, Michael Kennedy, who also happens to be suiting up for his 3rd WILC championships. Michael is Ireland Lacrosse.

Colm Murphy is another one that will stand out as he becomes the first Irish-based player to don the goalie gear for the WILC. Colm was a member of the 2007 and 2011 team as a defender, but as the Indoor leagues in Ireland have grown, he has found himself to be one of the brave (read crazy) souls that is willing to have others pelt him with hard rubber balls.

Sean Gibson is also playing in his 3rd WILC championship with Ireland. A transplanted Canadian, Gibson has been in Ireland for 11 years and has recently become an Irish citizen. Gibson’s arrival in Ireland was a big boost to Ireland Lacrosse’s foray into the indoor game.

Please list your team’s most experienced players:

Offense: Kevin Owens and Brian Gillis are going into their 2nd WILC tournament and were the top two scorers on the 2011 team. Gillis from British Columbia has a lot of experience with the indoor game and currently plays for the Coquitlam Adanacs major team.

The other player with a lot of experience at the indoor game but limited international experience is Syracuse Alum, Stephen Keogh. Keogh has been a consistent goal scorer in both the NLL (Rochester Knighthawks) and the MSL (Six Nation’s Chiefs). Having won 5 championships over the last 4 years between the two leagues, he will be relied on for his experience in big games.

Transition: There are a number of players that will find themselves in this role of Transition player. More experienced players like Mike Kennedy, Sean Gibson and Tim O’Connor will likely find themselves playing both offense and defense and we expect their experience to pay off in transitioning to offense of back to defense taking away opportunities from other teams.

Ben Snider, a new player to the squad is another guy from Western Canada that has a lot of experience in Canadian summer leagues. Snider was an Edmonton Rush draft pick a few years ago and the Alberta native is playing his summer ball for the Nanaimo Timbermen.

Defense: The defense will be anchored by a few Canadian vets. Mike Bradshaw was a member of the team in 2011 and we expect his hard nosed style of lacrosse will frustrate opponents. We have two newcomers to the team this year that have a lot of indoor experience.

Tyler Roche plays JR A lacrosse for the Peterborough Lakers and is one of the tougher defenders in the JR A loop.

We also have added Andrew McBride, an NLL veteran and captain of the Calgary Roughnecks. Andrew is a fierce competitor that will wear his heart on his sleeve and has a never quit mentality. He’s is one of those players that others look up to and want to go to battle with.

Goalie: Mike Cregan is back for his 3rd WILC championships and with Colm Murphy‘s recent change in position to tend goal.

Mike is by far our most experienced goalie. Mike is a passionate player and one that really pumps the team up with his play. All of the players are confident with either goalie in the cage.

Who is your coaching staff, what is their experience?

We are returning 3 of 4 coaches from the 2011 team. Unfortunately, our most experienced international coach Dan Leidl who coached the defense in 2011 cannot attend because of work commitments. We return our Head Coach, Jeff Dowling who has coached at every level in Canada and has a number of years experience at the NLL level as both a head coach and assistant coach, winning the NLL championship in 2004 and 2008.

Tom Howe and Geoff Conn reprise their roles from the 2011 squad. Howe, the Offensive Coordinator, has been involved with the Boston Blazers (NLL) and the Rhode Island Kingfish (PLL). Conn was the video coach for the Calgary Roughnecks from 2003-2008 and will assist Howe with the offense while breaking down film for the players. Clancy Almas has taken on the defensive responsibility. He has been a head coach for the Jr B and Jr C Hamilton Bengals teams and is the defensive coach for the Niagara Lock Monsters semi pro team, winning the league title in 2014.

What is the team’s ratio of Irish to North American born players?

We have 12 domestic based players on our 23 man roster. One of the goals of Ireland lacrosse is to grow the game at home and one of the ways that we do that is by increasing the number of opportunities for our players and coaches to get together.

Ireland Lacrosse 2015 Emerald Islanders

This is often through our National Development Team (Emerald Islanders), the National Indoor Lacrosse League (NILL), and the Dublin Riggers. The progress of the players in Ireland since the 2011 season has been extraordinary. We are excited for the games to begin.

Is there anything else you would like the worldwide lacrosse community to know about your team and your country? Please feel free to share here!

Ireland has a very strong sporting tradition and ethos, and the Irish public loves to get behind its national teams, no matter what sport it is.

The hashtags #COYBIG (Come On You Boys In Green) and #COYGIG (Come On You Girls In Green) help to bring together all of those who support all of the Irish national sports teams. We hope people will help spread the word about Irish lacrosse by using these hashtags in any social media posts or stories that relate to our teams!

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Thanks to Sean Gibson, Michael Kennedy and Jeff Dowling for taking the time for this interview.