Early Irish American Football Development Timeline August 1983-April 1986

Timeline of Significant Events

Flag Football
19 August 1983Redskins v Yankees game at Banbridge between two teams of specially-trained Rugby players
October 1984Dublin Celts formed by Sean McAlinden and Joe Moore
December 1984Coleraine Chieftains formed by William Armstrong
January 1985Tyrone Tornadoes formed in Omagh by Steve Stacher
March 1985Belfast Blitzers formed by David Freland
March 1985NIAFA (Northern Ireland American Football Association) formed at meeting of three existing clubs
April 1985Ballymena Wolfhounds formed and joined NIAFA
April 1985Bangor Buccaneers formed and joined NIAFA
28 April 1985Tyrone Tornadoes defeated Coleraine Chieftains in Flag Football match at Omagh, Co. Tyrone
Mid-Summer 1985Craigavon Cowboys joined NIAFA
Summer 1985Tyrone Tornadoes, having internal problems and with a number of GAA players having left to play their own game during the summer disbanded and formed the IAFRA (Irish American Football Referees Association) headed by Steve Stacher
late 1985Craigavon Cowboys defeated Belfast Blitzers in Final Flag Football Game of 1985
late 1985Dublin Celts had become fully kitted and declined to play unkitted Belfast Blitzers team
January 1986Jordanstown Jaguars formed
January 1986Belfast Blitzers played Jordanstown Jaguars in Friendly Match
January 1986NIAFA and IAFRA decide to affiliate with IAFA (Irish American Football Association), which was founded by Aiden Prendergast
March 1986Ballymena Wolfhounds withdraw from NIAFA due to internal problems
Kitted American Football
October 1985Dublin Celts defeat Bristol Packers 32-0
March 1986Belfast Blitzers, Coleraine Chieftains and Cragiavon Cowboys announce they will become fully kitted and no longer play unkitted teams
March 1986Dublin Celts defeat Wirral Wolves
March 1986Belfast Blitzers defeat Craigavon Cowboys in first fully kitted game featuring two Irish teams
April 1986Dublin Celts defeat Newcastle Senators
April 1986Carrickfergus Cougars formed and join NIAFA
April 1986Belfast Spartans formed and join NIAFA
[References: 1-2]


Early Irish American Football really begins with the formation of the Dublin Celts in late 1984. There was a previous game played in August 1983 between two teams of specially-trained Rugby players, but it was a one-off game for an All-American Festival in Banbridge.

In December of 1984 Coleraine Chieftains were formed and in early 1985 the Tyrone Tornadoes were formed as were the Belfast Blitzers, these three teams forming the NIAFA (Northern Ireland American Football Association) and playing the first ever match between two Irish teams: Tyrone Tornadoes defeating Coleraine Chieftains. These early teams and games were all unkitted and later Ballymena Wolfhounds, Bangor Buccaneers, Craigavon Cowboys, Jordanstown Jaguars, Carrickfergus Cougars and Belfast Spartans were to join.

By October 1985 Dublin Celts became fully kitted and announced they would only play other fully kitted teams, defeating the Bristol Packers 32-0. In January 1986 NIAFA joined up with the IAFA and by March 1986 Belfast Blitzers, Coleraine Chieftains and Craigavon Cowboys announced they were fully kitted and only going to play other fully kitted teams.

The first match between two fully kitted Irish teams took place at Shane Park between the Belfast Blitzers and Craigavon Cowboys with the Blitzers winning. The first Irish American Football League season started later that year, in May 1986, featuring Dublin Celts, Belfast Blitzers, Craigavon Cowboys, Coleraine Chieftains and Carrickfergus Cougars.


[1] Anon. (1983) “Shoot-out at Rifle Park”, Belfast Telegraph. Wednesday, August 17, 1983. pg. 34 [Past editions of the Irish Newspaper Archive are available to view online at: https://www.irishnewsarchive.com/ ]

[2] Steve Stacher (1987) “AN OFFICIAL HISTORY OF AMERICAN FOOTBALL IN IRELAND” Receiver, 1987. pg. 25.


Thanks to David Turner (Belfast Blitzers) and Anton “Pippo” O’Grady.


Researched, compiled and written by Enda Mulcahy for the

Eirball | Irish North American and World Sports Archive

Last Updated: 5 September 2021

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