Friday, 28 June 2013

Atlantic Cup Preview: Belfast Trojans' Drew Mikhael

Yesterday's Atlantic Cup Preview brought you Trinity's David Barker. Today we head to the other Irish team taking part in the competition as we (DC) spoke to the Belfast Trojans' Head Coach, Drew Mikhael (DM):

Drew Mikhael getting the traditional soaking - photo by Dave Bradshaw (

DC: Firstly how would you reflect on the Trojans' SBC regular season? You've shown yourself as the powerhouse of Irish football, what challenges come with that?

DM: Am very happy with our with regular season record, I feel that we have taken the right steps to consolidate our efforts from last year and continue developing of all levels of the club. 2 major challenges come from good results, 1: Complacency 2: Raised expectation.  The way we try to deal these challenges is to develop an ethos that we don’t settle for ‘just good enough’; that we are a club that is always striving to find ways to evolve and improve...  and there is plenty of room for improvement!

DC: You'll be facing off against unknown quantities in the Atlantic Cup. Bearing that in mind how have you gone about preparing for your game against Holland's Amersfoort Untouchables?

DM: Our approach is to take an ‘inward’ view, to look at our own fundamentals and schemes and ask: ‘How can we get better?’ If we can find a way to better our technique, then we’ll give ourselves the best chance of winning.

DC: How are the Trojans outfitted to play two games in two days? How have you been preparing for that challenge?

DM: I think it is fair to say that, in comparison to most clubs, we have an advantage in that our squad is larger than most. But it doesn’t really matter if you have 50+ players if only 20ish are getting the reps in practice and games. Our preparation for this competition has been to give each player the chance to develop equally by giving them valuable reps in games and scrimmages. This creates great competition for places and promotes the ‘next man up’ approach, which is vital if we want to succeed this weekend and beyond.

DC: You then have the Shamrock Bowl Semi-Final match against the UL Vikings just seven days later. Will the Atlantic Cup not be a distraction from that particular goal?

DM: No, it may sound trite but we’re a ‘one game at a time team’. We knew that we had the Atlantic Cup commitments long ago and we took that challenge head on. We have done our level best to put the squad in position to be able to win both competitions, hopefully it will be enough.

DC: What were your aims coming into the season as Champions and knowing that you'd participate in the Atlantic Cup? Have those aims changed as the season has progressed?

DM: I didn’t set the aims, the players did.  I asked most of the squad on an individual basis what their aims were (as players and as a team). They stated clearly that they wanted to win the Shamrock Bowl and the Atlantic Cup. My own aims wouldn’t have counted for much if the players weren’t willing, but they were, and they have put the effort in to give us a great chance of fulfilling those aims.

DC: Who will be the players you look to to lead on the field in the Trojans' first ever European game?

DM: It would easy to name names, but the truth is I expect every Trojan to be fighting to take on the responsibility of winning, to be the guy that the other team says to themselves: ‘we have to block/tackle/cover that guy’. If that desire isn’t there from every man, it will be a long weekend.

DC: With no disrespect to other teams in the Irish division but you've yet to be run close in any game this year so far. Do you see this as an opportunity to show the rest of Europe what the Trojans can do? Do you believe you should be able to participate in the EFAF Cup or Eurobowl?

DM: We always want to put our best foot forward no matter the opposition, there is no doubt the opportunity to play European teams is very exciting as we get to test ourselves, learn and get better because of the new experience. As for the EFAF/Eurobowl, we just aren’t at that level. The majority of this current Trojan squad has played the game less than 5 years (22 rookies last year), it just wouldn’t be possible to complete right now. However, if we keep taking the club forward, developing on and off the field in all aspects, why rule it out as a possibility in future years?

DC: Finally, it's been a meteoric rise for the Trojans. You were only formed in 2007. What plans do you have for the long term? How do you continue to build on successes and what are your goals for future years as a team?

DM: For a start, past performance does not guarantee future results, so we should be mindful that the gap can close very quickly, one would only need to look at Trojan history as evidence! 3 years ago we were 3-5 and if we are not perpetually seeking ways to better ourselves, we see that record again. We have a great committee that is always trying to find ways to better our situation off the pitch through sponsorship and other avenues. On the pitch we have to keep improving the theory and practice of coaching by focusing on a central question: What is the best way to develop players? If we can continue to develop player’s skills with the means at our disposal then we’ll be in good shape. As for the goals, if we continue to get better, I’d love to see how we would shape up to some of the teams in the Premiership. By doing that we can see if we may be good enough to take things further, you have crawl, walk then run!

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