University College Dublin’s (UCD) American Football team recently announced the appointment of former UCD player Larry Doyle as their new head coach for the upcoming season. The College Tribune spoke to the new coach about his goals for the season ahead, should the season continue after COVID-19 restrictions ease up.

Doyle came to UCD to study in 2007 and took up American football in the college after his fresher’s week. Thirteen years on, Doyle is an experienced American football coach and player, and has seen it all in the UCD setup; from its founding, to its rise to being one of the top Irish teams to play the sport.

With an eight-game season usually spanning from March to August, the players in UCD were forced to miss the 2020 season due to COVID-19 restrictions, but there is some hope that the 2021 season will go ahead. “I’m hopeful, like everybody else in club sports, regardless of the sport, that it will pick up for the 2021 season,” Doyle said.

He went on to explain that UCD have prepared for the season to go ahead as usual. “We’ve got plans set up where if we have to train in pods of 15, we can do it. All we need is the green light from UCD and from American Football Ireland [Irish National Governing Body].”

Doyle has spoken with the players and “they are itching to go” as far as he could tell. After around 13 months since their last fixture in November last year, Doyle seemed happy with the training completed over the lockdown period. “A few of the lads took the initiative to do their own fitness and the lads are playing an awful lot of flag football as well.”

Doyle has been coaching in the UCD setup since about 2010, when he took on a role of defensive co-ordinator. Since then, Doyle has been a large part of UCD’s defence strategy and performance, and still works alongside Darragh Farrell (current defensive co-ordinator) in these aspects of the game. Doyle “is lucky” to have many coaching staff in the UCD structure that micro-manage different parts of the team’s performance as well as overseeing operations himself.

“We’ve got a crew of either current or former players, along with coaches who would have played with external teams, who are essentially coaching each position.” With all this help, Doyle stated that “my role as head coach is very much ensuring that they have all the pieces that they need, in order for them to coach successfully.”

With a more widespread responsibility amongst the respective coaches, Doyle intends to carry on playing on the field along with offering his coaching expertise off the field. “I don’t think I’m finished yet,” Doyle revealed with his eyes on future successes with UCD.

Doyle also took time to give credit to his predecessors, Dave Murphy and Andy Dennehy, for what he has learned from them over the years and for what the team can take into the future with the lessons they taught them. “We’re not changing anything. The culture is going to be the same,” Doyle said.

He alluded to the strengths UCD flex as a college team, with younger students perhaps not as large as players from other teams, but with more of an adaptive mindset. “The lads are able to adjust on the fly a lot faster,” Doyle said. Along with the fast-absorbing learning nature of the team, Doyle also attributed speed as one of the primary weapons of the UCD American football team.

Doyle suggested that the best thing about American football in UCD was the camaraderie that players develop. “You will develop lifelong friends,” Doyle said, “from all ages and backgrounds”. The team trains twice weekly on a regular schedule and matches take place on Sundays. With about 60 players registered to play last season, the social aspect of this UCD panel can’t be understated and Larry encourages anyone of any age, interest or affiliation, to come and play.

“It is a unique sport,” Doyle added. “American football is a sport where all 11 players have to be on the same page.” It is an incredible sense of “community” and this is what is so special about American football in UCD.

Alex Smith – Sports Writer