The Irish punter for the Saints, Daniel Whelan, the first Irish-born player to suit up in the NFL since 1985?

The Irish punter for the Saints, Daniel Whelan, the first Irish-born player to suit up in the NFL since 1985?

DANIEL WHELAN is a name Irish fans of the NFL might want to look out for in the future, and one that could potentially excite them.

The sport of American Football is one that has continued to experience a rising level of popularity in the country over the years, although it is yet to host an NFL game.

Dublin’s Aviva Stadium will see some competitive action take place in the near future, though, with the upcoming 2022 College Football season seeing Nebraska take on Northwestern at the national stadium on August 27

Could Daniel Whelan become the first Irish-born player to play in the NFL since 1985?

However, when it comes down to the NFL and the professional game, it has been a very long time since we have seen a player to have come from Ireland play in the league. In fact, the last time that we saw a player from this country compete was back in 1985, when placekicker Neil O'Donoghue - who came from Dublin - last kicked in the league after being drafted back in 1977.

Whilst it could be argued that Whelan could have been drafted a year ago if he had made himself eligible, he was selected as an undrafted free agent following the conclusion of the 2022 NFL Draft by the New Orleans Saints.

The punter will now be competing for a spot on the roster ahead of the 2022 NFL season, although he will need to beat out last season’s starting punter, Blake Gillikin if he is to represent the franchise this year. The University of California-Davis graduate, though, could have a decent chance of making it.


Standing at 6’6”, Whelan appears to be a natural kicker, although his previous sporting history may have helped him develop his kicking technique. Whilst still living in Ireland and growing up in Enniskerry before moving to California with his family at 13, he was an avid player of soccer and hurling, as well as rugby, where he was an outhalf and regularly kicked the ball.

"The football coach at high school came up to me after one of my soccer matches and said 'do you want to try out to be a kicker?' I started kicking and I was pretty natural at it," he recalled regarding how he got into playing American Football.

Starting as a placekicker, Whelan managed to kick a field goal for a whopping 72 yards; a distance that would make him the record holder for the longest kick in the NFL. However, whilst playing at the University of California-Daivs on a scholarship, he was advised to become a punter instead.

Now, he will have an opportunity to become the first Irish player since 1985 to play in the league, and he will be hoping to get his career off to a start with the New Orleans Saints in the 2022 NFL season.

Interestingly, he is not the only player from Ireland to be selected this year as an undrafted free agent, though, with James McCourt having been picked up by the San Diego Chargers. Once of the University of Illinois, the Dublin-born kicker will compete for a place on the roster with a highly experienced NFL veteran in Dustin Hopkins; a player who has had an eight-year career in the sport.

The future could be bright for Ireland and the New Orleans Saints

The future seems bright for those representing Ireland and although they have a difficult challenge in front of them in making the NFL as a pro, there will be many that will be hoping that they can make a difference on the gridiron.

Indeed, the Saints will be keen to see if Whelan is able to help their punting game, however Gillikin had a solid debut year in the 2021 NFL season. According to the data available, the punter finished sixth overall in regard to punting average, as he achieved 47.7 yards with each kick that he made. The real issue for the Saints, though, was that he had tied for the second-most punt attempts, having had to make 83 for the season.

Naturally, for fans who would be thinking about whether the franchise would be able to have a good season in which they can challenge for the Super Bowl and potentially place a bet on the organization, they will need to see less of their punter.

Now that the TwinSpires online sportsbook in Louisiana is live and can provide fans with some top betting odds on the NFL, fans will know that the more often that a punter is kicking, it is clear that the team has a problem with moving the ball down the field.

With issues getting the ball down the field, this highlights that the team may struggle to score points to win the games that they need to, which could then ultimately have an impact on the betting options that fans have, especially if they are looking at the total points scored markets.

Will the Saints be able to challenge for honors in the 2022 NFL season?

The team finished tied-17th in the 2021 season in regard to total touchdowns scored, having managed to obtain 43 for the year alongside the Cleveland Browns. They also averaged a total of 21.4 points per game over the season, too.

Nonetheless, with the Saints entering the season for the first time without Sean Payton as the team’s head coach, many are actually believing that the team is one to jump on this year and one that has plenty of promise.

The franchise has managed to fill a number of needs with experienced players, including the likes of Jarvis Landry at wide receiver, and Tyrann Mathieu at safety, whilst also keeping many of the veterans that the team already had on the roster.

Indeed, many expect the team to be able to challenge for the NFL playoffs at the very least, whilst some believe the franchise can challenge for the NFC South title and beat out Tom Brady’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers.

It remains to be seen as to whether Whelan will have an impact or a hand in making that possible this season, but if he does take to the field, you can guarantee Irish American football fans will be cheering every punt that he makes on, especially as he could become the first player from the country i