Livescore Tuesday, April 23
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Down GAA goalkeeper Charlie Smyth has signed for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints on a three-year contract.

The 22-year-old will have the chance to fulfil his American football dream with the 2010 Super Bowl champions.

Smyth joins the Saints as a kicker after impressing at trials and will aim to make the active roster.

The Mayobridge goalkeeper has made his eye-catching move through the NFL’s international player pathway (IPP) programme.

New Orleans confirmed the deal for Smyth on Friday, as he swaps Gaelic football for American football.

Tadhg Leader, who is a kicking coach for the IPP and was integral in bringing Smyth into the IPP programme, said he was “lost for words”.

“I first met Charlie 6 months ago,” Leader posted on X.

“He and his family put their trust in me. Then we embarked on a journey into the unknown. Thanks to Charlie’s talent and work ethic, we found a way.”

Leader added: “He’s rightly buzzing but already talking about training next week. Ireland couldn’t have a better ambassador in Charlie.”

Paul Sheehy, president of the ProStar Sports Agency which acts for Smyth, posted on X that he was “having a toast in the office to Charlie Smyth on his signing with the Saints”.

The IPP is a 10-week crash course for international players designed to teach the required skills to succeed in the NFL.

Smyth impressed scouts at the NFL Combine and pro-day trials, earning an invitation to the Saints’ training facility.

What’s next for Smyth?

Smyth joined Monaghan goalkeeper Rory Beggan, Wicklow’s Mark Jackson and former Connacht rugby player Darragh Leader at the NFL Combine in early March as the four players attempted to earn a contract as a kicker.

Smyth, Beggan and Leader were then signed to American football agency ProStar Sports and took part in the pro-day trials in Florida, watched by NFL scouts.

Down Under-20 Ulster Championship winner Smyth landed eight of his 10 kicks – including one from 60 yards. That showing led to interest from the Saints.

Although he has now joined the Louisiana franchise, Smyth is not guaranteed time on the field.

Over the summer he has the opportunity to compete with last season’s kicker Blake Grupe.

NFL franchises can have 90 players on their roster throughout the off-season and that number is cut to 53 right before the start of the regular season, which will be the team’s active roster.

Those who miss out are either released or retained on the practice squad, where players can still earn sizeable salaries and be promoted to the active roster during the course of the season.

From the 2024 season, which begins in September, all 32 NFL teams can have an additional spot on their practice squad for international players, including those who have come through the IPP, which aims to discover new talent and expand American football’s global reach.

Wales rugby union star Louis Rees-Zammit, who has signed with Super Bowl champions the Kansas City Chiefs, is another high-profile name from this year’s IPP programme.

In January, Green Bay Packers punter Dan Whelan became the first Irish-born player to play in the NFL playoffs for 41 years.



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