For Saugus High football alum Jaelin Kinney, Ireland was a mixture of the familiar and the foreign.
There was McDonald’s, but it was treated as a delicacy. There was football, but it was against a completely new type of opponent.
Kinney spent the week of April 1-8 on the Emerald Isle as part of the American Football Worldwide Elite International Team.
His tour began in Galway, then moved to Limerick where he and his team played a football team comprised of all Irish players, and finished up in Dublin.
He met his 33 teammates from across the United States at the start of the trip, but Kinney, who was a senior defensive end this past season for the Cents, said it took a while to create some chemistry.
“I think at first it was kind of weird because we all came from different backgrounds, we didn’t really know each other too well or know each other at all,” he said.
“After our first scrimmage I think is when the team started to unite together, but we actually started becoming close after our game on Saturday.”
In that game, Kinney and his teammates took on an Irish roster comprised of students from the University of Limerick.
The final score was 55-6 with the Americans on the winning side, but the score was a minor detail in the experience.
“They were happy and I think at the end of the day, they just wanted to see how it was to play Americans,” said Kinney. “And they came out ready to play, we came out ready to play and at the end of the day, it was more of a unifying game more so than a competition.”
The Irish had varied experience: Some had played for only a week, others for over a year.
“You could tell fundamentally they were still learning how to play the sport,” Kinney, who holds the Saugus record for career sacks. “They were more hardnosed for sure.”
The Americans traveled to Dublin with the Irish to finish the final days of the tour, taking in the scenery and eating plenty of Irish potatoes.
Kinney finished his senior season at Saugus with 61 total tackles and 10.5 sacks. He will continue his football career at Claremont McKenna College in the fall and wants to travel abroad in the future.
“I think I’m definitely going to go back … if they do allow me to do an overseas program,” he said. “I’m probably going to go to the university that (we visited) because they’re very fun and the culture is very similar to ours.”