By: Lucas Punkari | Posted: Thursday, Oct 16, 2014 11:43 am
Local football fans may have a new team to cheer for next summer, as the Airdrie Irish senior men’s football team looks to join the Alberta Football League (AFL) for the 2015 season.
The team is being put together by 35 year old Matt Squires of Calgary, who has been involved with the AFL’s Calgary Wolfpack for the last decade after playing as a fullback with the University of Calgary Dinos program from 2000 to 2002.
“Our board of directors have been working on this for quite awhile now, but by announcing this to the pubic (on Oct. 6), it lets the other eight teams in the league know of our interest and, to the City of Airdrie, that we will be going ahead with a bid,” Squires said.
“We’re members of the Airdrie Football Society already, and we will be working with the Airdrie Raiders midget program along with the high school teams at Bert Church and George McDougall to tell them about the opportunities for them here with our team,” he added.
The AFL, which had teams in St. Albert, Edmonton, Lloydminster, Fort McMurray, Grand Prairie, Red Deer, and a pair in Calgary during the 2014 season, is a semi-pro league that allows players to continue to play football after their high school, university, or CFL (Canadian Football League) careers have come to an end.
“We had the (Fort McMurray) Monarchs join our league this past season, and it was nice to have another new team in the AFL as it gives us more legitimacy,” AFL President Amos Aldred said.
“To potentially have another team in the Southern region of the province is great, as it will not only be a new location for a team, but may help to distribute the thick talent pool that is in Calgary a little bit more evenly,” he added.
The process of bringing an AFL team into Airdrie began in August of 2013, after the Calgary Wolfpack and the Calgary Gators held a playoff game at Ed Eggerer Athletic Park when Shouldice Park in Calgary was not available for use following that summer’s flood.
“Jon Scratch, who is from Airdrie and plays on the Wolfpack, suggested using the field in Airdrie as a replacement, and it turned out to be great as there was a lot of fans in the stands and it was a bigger crowd than most of the games we have in Calgary,” Squires said.
“Shortly after the game, we talked about maybe starting a team in Airdrie, and things started to roll from there,” he added.
“I’ve been involved in the league for 10 years and I have seen a lot of small market teams do very well, so it seemed like a perfect fit.”
The Irish, which are named after the University of Notre Dame football program in South Bend, Indiana, will be submitting their business plan and expansion bid to the AFL teams at the league’s general meeting, which will be held in Edmonton in either December or January.
Following the presentation, the team presidents will vote to decide if the Irish will be members of the AFL when the new season gets underway in June of 2015.
“My hope is that they are allowed in, but you never know how people will vote,” Aldred said.
“In the past we have seen some bids that weren’t very strong and we don’t want to have teams that are in for one year and then just drop out.”
“However, I think this group has a solid foundation in place, especially as those in charge have been involved in the league for some time,” he added.
The Irish will officially make its first appearance in Airdrie on Oct. 23 at the Toad ‘N’ Turtle Pubhouse & Grill, as the team will host a new player registration night from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.
The cost to play for the Irish is $450, and each player has to provide their own helmet and shoulder pads.