Running back Aidan O’Neal is among a list of 40 players named last week to the all-star roster, selected from those who competed at this summer’s under-18 national tackle football championship, the Football Canada Cup, in Winnipeg, Manitoba.
Aidan said he was surprised when he heard the news from his dad, who is also head coach of the Tantramar Titans as well as a member of the Team NB coaching staff, when he called to congratulate him for making the team. He said he’s excited for this opportunity.
“Team Canada is something I’ve joked around about in the past but the fact that I actually made it is super awesome and I’m honoured and grateful to have stood out enough, being from New Brunswick and all, to have been selected,” said Aidan.
Coach Scott O’Neal said his son has worked hard for this chance to compete at a national level.
“I’m just excited for him,” he said. “He’s being rewarded for the putting the work in.”
Playing for Team NB’s U18 squad this summer, Aidan was named special teams MVP of the Football Canada Cup tournament and was also selected as offensive MVP in one of the games.
“He had a really good tournament,” said Scott. “He played the way he knows he can play . . . he performed really well in the games so he’s got a lot of confidence right now.”
Offensive lineman Charles Lavallee of École L’Odyssée is the other New Brunswick standout to make the national team.
Junior national team head coach Steve Sumarah said the Canada Cup continues to be “an important football showcase tournament in our country.”
“The level of competition was extremely high and continues to improve year after year, making the selection process extremely difficult,” said Sumarah. “To be named a Football Canada Cup all-star is quite an accomplishment and all those who participated in Winnipeg should be very proud.”
The 40 players named all-stars are invited to represent Canada where they will compete against USA Football’s national team as part of the 2017 International Bowl series. Dates and locations for the international series between Football Canada and USA Football have yet to be announced.
Sumarah said the 2017 International Bowl marks the beginning of the push towards the 2018 IFAF U19 World Championship.
“The International Bowl is a tremendous opportunity to get our top players from across the country together and involved in the national team program,” he said. “Being part of the national team program is more than participating in a one and done game, it’s about training in the off-season to be ready to represent your nation on the world stage and being involved in the program for multiple years leading up to the world championship.”
After capturing gold in China, Canada will enter the 2018 world championship as the defending champions.