I’ve been very quiet, I know. Time hasn’t been abundant of late and writing has suffered. Perhaps a slightly more less rigorous schedule will prove fruitful but I am getting back to it. Going to start again.
Truth be told it’ll be a different kind of content than what was previously a quasi imitation of sports news. That’s boring. Well I find it boring anyway. I don’t read sports news so I don’t know why I ever tried to write it. What I am going to attempt to do is write something that interests me, the meat and bones of football, the things that make football. Not the rehashed opinions on who did what in the offseason but more the building blocks of plays and what determined games. So this really should be the wordiest thing you read here. Hopefully everything else will be more about the actual game of football itself.
The game of football is made up of situations each with the possibility of an explosion. Where I find those explosions I’m going to try to show you what happened.
The National Football League
Obviously much of the content we can get, video etc will be the NFL. I can squish those into gifs handy enough and we can show you.
The Irish American Football League
This is going to be a little trickier. Given my place in the IAFL I don’t really feel it’s fair to comment on what goes on elsewhere on the other teams but if there’s something I can comment on and it’s of value I will, and you can give out if you’d like.
So what next…
Well, once a month I’m going to put something together. I hope you like it. I’m not going to do it if I don’t. Absolutely no news.
IAFL 2 is back in IAFA land with what could turn out to be a title decider. Well not really in the world of Bowl Games but this is a top of the table clash. Both of these teams will be in IAFL1 next year and life is tough in that most unpredictable of divisions and games vs teams who are around your level of experience can be the key to getting a good read on your season.
The Vipers progress has been impressive in their year of existence and they set a marker, dismissing the newly founded Razorbacks and they’ll look to continue to assert their will over the division by winning here.
The Warriors have wobbled a bit and are still finding their feet. Some impressive performances last year only to be undone with some hard to explain losses. This season will be pivotal for the westerners as they have an opportunity to establish themselves, alone, in a huge catchment area. Nothing establishes you better than winning.
North Dublin Pirates @ Wexford Eagles
Game One for both of these teams, so who knows! Like the Titans & Mavericks, Reapers & Wolves and Bulldogs & Lightening, games between teams entering the league at the same time offer a good yard stick of progress (or lack of) in the quest to establish a football team. It’s no promise for lasting success but it’s always a positive to get going early. Winning is a habit and winning your first ever game is an opportunity few teams realistically get. Setting foot on a football field for the first time is learning experience, both of these teams would like to be the ones dishing out the lessons Sunday and setting a marker for all future contests! We wish them luck!
Tyrone Titans @ Louth Mavericks
Most Football teams, unlike GAA teams or Rugby teams, are built on imaginary links. They exist because we say they do, there is no club house or field or concrete foundation. They are the will of committed individuals and usually they are only as strong as those bonds. When those bonds break, football teams cease to exist. No where is the better example of this than these two teams.
The Mavericks born from the the now defunct Drogheda Lightning and the Titans holding on to that existence by their fingernails.
The Titans just have to hold on. Things were tough last week vs the Rhinos, a running clock and coming really close to not having the bodies to continue. They did not give up though. No matter how hard it gets, how many games need to be finished with a running clock they just need to endure and know that the fight breed into their team now at their darkest hour will help see them to their finest. More than you think have been in that situation. The Trojans, Rebels and Vikings can all tell you stories of when they looked around, with not too many at practice and wondered, will we survive and they did.
The Mavs have to win here, they should be in the higher echelons of this division this year and can ill afford to assume any victory. The Titans are still capable and are backed into a corner now and a game vs their rivals might be just what they need to get back on their feet. The Mavs cannot allow that. Calm and efficient and fulfilling their potential to be champions. Champions don’t allow mistakes.
Meath Bulldogs @ West Dublin Rhinos
The Rhinos have been busy in recent weeks, this their third game in four weeks. The Bulldogs inversely have had a break between the last Rhinos game as this.
The Bulldogs simply must win here. The tiebreak will be gone for the year and the Rhinos would need to collapse to allow the Bulldogs back in. Expect another defensive affair but the Bulldogs need to get something going on offence as the Rhinos ran up 29 points vs the Titans and will be carrying some momentum into this one.
The Rhinos hold the tiebreak in their hands and realistically only have to not lose by 13 points and they’ll hang onto it. The Rhinos haven’t allowed a score on defence yet and have scored twice to boost their chances. To win here, they need just do what comes naturally in West Dublin, play Defence. All of the Rhinos stalwarts got going vs the Titans and momentum can be key. If Stephen Mooney can keep this offence ticking now it might be IAFL1 and done for the Rhinos.
Carrickfergus Knights @ South Dublin Panthers
What can you say after two thumpings like the Panthers have just received? Only they will know the plan to recover their season from this point but it has to start soon. The Knights opened up well against the Panthers but ultimately failed to carry that good momentum into the Rebels game. Offensive mistakes costing them dearly.
Getting the show back on the road has to be the aim for both in this game. QB Josh Davis was injured vs the Rebels and it took some time but the offence in the hands of usual FB Phil Gunning actually looked in decent shape as the Rebels struggled to contain the power in the 2nd half, the aforementioned mistakes in the form of putting the ball on the ground ultimately prevented that promise being realised in scores. Whomever is under centre vs the Panthers will know the recipe for success here.
Special Teams rarely in this country has seen players as special as Jona Siri and the Panthers got a front row seat to that show last week. Where the Rebels loss was failures is most aspect of the game for the Panthers, the Trojans game really hinged on those special teams errors, so from that point of view the mission is clear for the Panthers, learn to kick out of bounds. They did manage a passing score vs the Trojans and as the league swings towards the passing game more and more that will be an encouragement. The season isn’t lost but a loss here would make life very difficult for the Panthers going 0-4 on the season and the division.
Belfast Trojans @ Dublin Rebels
The Shamrock Bowl 3 years ago, bright and sunny Tallaght stadium, on the opening play from scrimmage, Andy Dennehy lined up under centre and surveyed the Trojan defence. The ball is snapped and the veteran QB turned for the hand off. The rabid Trojans, all 11 of them, came flying off the line of scrimmage bursting like a flood through every conceivable crack in the O-line and swarming the running back; only one problem, no ball. After the longest delay, like a rabbit from his hat Dennehy produced the ball from behind his back and the Trojans DBs, realising they’d been duped, wheeled around to see a Rebels receiver behind them coasting down the sideline. No receiver before or since had been afforded that kind of space in the Trojans secondary and Andy has the arm, the ball came out on a high arc and traveled the distance with ease. Touchdown; guaranteed. The playaction masterful, the dive from the Running back flawless, the throw accurate, 11 Trojans lost on a football field and only one thing wrong. The pass was dropped.
This was the last time the Rebels have truly claimed the edge over the Trojans. It was the changing of the guard. Right there all in one play. The Trojans already had a Shamrock Bowl but it was UL they beat. If they wanted to lay claim to the Crown, it was the Rebels they had to beat and they did. That season and every season since.
The Rebels have opened this season perfectly. They are more talented now than they have been in recent seasons with the addition of Liam Jeter to name but one. Their QB is in arguably the best shape he’s been for a while, nearly RUSHING for a touchdown vs the Panthers. Their defence are yet to allow a score. Things are looking up in Rebels land. If they are to prevent themselves becoming Liverpool to the Trojans Man U, they need to reinstall some competition into this game, soon. The Shamrock Bowl above was 48-18, the season that followed the score was 34-19 and last year it was 43-8. The time is now, before the next generation of Rebels become this generation of Rebels and nobody remembers beating the Trojans.
The Trojans haven’t started badly themselves, 123 points on the board already. James McKelvey has 7 touchdowns in two games, both games he played no part of the 4th quarter. Jona Siri is running riot, McConnell, Whitla & Graham are positively dominant and the Trojans are just being the Trojans generally. In the very fine video below, Trojans HC Mark McGrath can be worryingly heard to say, we aren’t happy with that. ‘That’ was a 63-7 victory. What will you be happy with?
Field position is the whole show for the Trojans. You must keep them in their own half on punts and kick offs and don’t turn the ball over, duh! Until someone can do that, this is going to continue.
The Rhinos got off to a great start turning over the Bulldogs who, in beating the Trojans, didn’t start badly themselves. The Titans are a team undergoing a very serious rebuild and have looked like it, losing out to the Soldiers and Trojans.
A stuttering start for the Dubs, after their first game didn’t happen but it didn’t appear upset them too much and that SBC pedigree we spoke of showed itself vs the Bulldogs. Veteran defenders Barry Bolton and Darragh McDonnell getting the scores. The lack of offensive output in that game has to be a concern but the Bulldogs shutting out the Trojans the week before would appear to indicate that they will a tough challenge for most to score on this year. The Titans unfortunately haven’t been as robust and with so much of offence reliant on momentum the Rhinos need to build some here. Offence hasn’t exactly flowed the last few years for them and this will be an opportunity to get it going. Cork are flying and running up scores, defence alone won’t win this division and the Rhinos have to fancy their chances after such a strong start.
For the Titans, focus has to be on themselves. There is little to be gained treating a game vs the Rhinos different from the Trojans or any other team in this division. Football teams don’t work when they turn the ball over and be it play calling or decision making that needs to be eradicated. When building a house you start from the ground up and so it is with football. 1. Stop the run. 2 establish the run. Priority 1 and 2 for the Northmen. There are 10 Sundays for the Titans to get these two things right and realistically be in a position to challenge next year.
Westmeath Minotaurs @ Waterford Wolves
These teams played two weeks ago and it came down to a failed 2point attempt. This is going to be a statement of who has used the intervening week the best. A win for the Wolves will have given confidence to a team sorely in need of it and for the Minotaurs, a team that didn’t win last year, getting the whiff of victory will have seen their hunger reignite in the hunt for the elusive W.
This series is going to be huge in the make up of the final positions. In all likelihood, neither of these teams are going to the bowl but a playoff spot is possible. The Rhinos, Admirals, Bulldogs & Trojans have set the pace but if any of those teams slip, one of these has to be the one to step up. The Wolves have experience of this as it almost perfectly describes their IAFL1 campaign last year and that ended with a championship. Before focusing on what’s ahead this series has to be dealt with, with so few games the tiebreakers are key and Waterford need put this one in their pocket and attack the rest of the division.
The Minotaurs can lay equal claim to this series, chances are if they win, it will be by more than 2 points. That’s just a statistical reality. So a win, in most forms, puts the Minotaurs in the best position to pick off which ever the weakest link in the leading four teams happens to be. Niall Folan is one of the more prolific receivers in the country, keep throwing him the ball and find ways to make gains on the ground off it, the ingredients are there in Westmeath but can they bake this pie and earn a playoff spot. We’ll find out.
Trinity @ North Kildare Reapers
Trinity are slowly looking like they’re pulling it together. They looked at sea on the opening day but dealing with a tough Craigavon team followed by a close run game with Bowl Contenders UL, will be encouragement for this young side. The Reapers have yet to score on offence in two division games and they’ve allowed 75 points. There is no way to paint that as a positive. Likely the other three teams in this division are headed for the playoffs and the Reapers need to have a different set of goals this year.
The partnership between Stephen Alexander and Conor O’Dwyer is starting to blossom and we’ve said before the students now need to focus on their new strengths rather than try to replicate the strength of old. This combo is that new strength. Kildare have struggled to defend the pass and Trinity should look to exploit that with this new identity. They’re reigning division champions and although they’re behind in the early going they won’t want to relinquish that title without a fight. They can ill afford slips here.
The Reapers need to establish their offence and like we mentioned earlier, that starts on the ground. Losing their OC with just weeks to go to the season is playing out in the worst way possible for the Reapers and it will be a battle all year to overcome that. That said, they’ve shown moments in the run game. The Reapers defensively have to stop the rot here and now. It’s tough if you’re constantly up against short fields but that’s their lot this season and the defence will have to start absorbing the slack as their offence tries to regain it’s feet.
South Dublin Panthers @ Belfast Trojans
The last two games combined for these teams adds up to 128 points. That’s 60% of the points scored in the SBC North. The Trojans stomped all over the Cowboys and the Panthers have had to wash out some Rebels footprints in the last two weeks. These two teams will have very different ambitions this season and this is likely the only time they’ll have to consider each other.
The Trojans opened up in fine fashion vs the Cowboys. Rather than being exceptional in their biggest ever win, they were just themselves and their neighbours paid for every special teams mistake, every turnover and every ill advised 4th down attempt with 7 points on the score board. The Green Machine had to start maybe 3 drives in their own half all day. The Trojans were exceptional in their unspectacular play. If the Trojans managed 62 points without playing extremely well (by their standards) what does that mean for the rest of the conference? What does it mean for the Panthers who are next in the firing line?
There is more to be learned from the Cowboys performance vs the Trojans than there is from the Trojans. Likewise, more to be learned from their own performance vs the Rebels than from anything the Rebels did. Mistakes will end any hope of a competitive game; fast! Realistically there is no plan for beating the Trojans, that starts with anything the Trojans do, focus for the Panthers must be on not turning the ball over on offence, granting McKelvey and co short fields to attack, and special teams play that keeps two of the more explosive Trojan weapons sheathed, Messrs Armstrong and Siri. The Trojans can be better than they were vs the Cowboys, it will be a bad day indeed for the Panthers if they present them any extra opportunities to show it.
UCD @ UL Vikings
Too early in the year for a decider? This game is huge! Both of these teams have already beaten Trinity so chances are one of them is going to be the SBC South Champion. UL are only getting going, whereas UCD are in full flow.
Tom Donovan has scored 10 touchdowns thus far. UL have scored 6. Something UL do excel at is containing your star and forcing the other 10 guys to win the game. The importance of this game cannot be underestimated for UL. It’s been too long since their last bowl appearance and part of that is because they haven’t won the SBC South and keep running into the Trojans in the Semis. A win here puts them in the driving seat in the division. They’d have liked to be clearer winners vs Trinity considering how efficiently UCD handled them but it’s as an encouraging a sign to dig out wins as it is to run up scores. Digging deep is something built into the fabric of this UL side.
UCD have looked good in all phases of the game so far and that’s usually a recipe for success. They’ve only allowed 9 points in 3 games and rather than running up huge scores, have consistently scored 3 or more touchdowns. Why does that matter? Scoring and successfully adding a PAT three times a game wins you 90% of games in this country. Games against UL are a hard hitting slog, especially on a field that ins’t the best around. Without the Trojans on their schedule this is likely to be the toughest game of the regular season for UCD. Win here and a bowl appearance wouldn’t not only be a realistic, it would be the minimum expectation.
We suspect the Mavs will play in the carpark if they have to, this is supposed to be Game three for them! Two games have been postponed on the Louth outfit and football, any football is really overdue at this stage.
Belfast have been a mixed bag so far, shutout vs the Bulldogs and then they stomped all over the beleaguered Titans. Game three is often where a team settles into a rhythm and what that rhythm will be for the Trojan 2nds is yet to be determined. These guys wouldn’t be wearing Trojan green if they didn’t have Shamrock Bowl winning a ability and they looked as though they were reminded of that fact between the Bulldogs and Titans games.
Oddly enough this might be the best game to start with for the Mavs. A Trojan team hitting their stride offers a tough challenge that will force the Mavs to shake off any rust or have it knocked off for them.
Cork Admirals @ South Kildare Soldiers
This is the reverse of the fixtures two weeks ago, with the Admirals coming out 24-0 winners. The Admirals have set the pace offensively for the division so far and they’ve done it rushing the football! Three separate running backs on the charts already. They’re going to need to keep up that offensive output and if rushing the football rather than airing it out is to be the method, the defensive will have to continue to be stingey.
The Soldiers couldn’t get on the score sheet last time out and managed two scores (on offence) vs the Titans (who provided ample opportunity for more) They’re going to need their offence to start producing if they’re to compete in this division. The Soldiers have racked up 17 Touchdowns in their history and Eoin Whelan has had a hand in 13 of those. When oftentimes the best strategy is to put your best athlete at QB we wonder if the move to Wide Receiver is a waste of his talents.
Craigavon Cowboys @ UCD
UCD are starting the year with three home games, this being the last of that run. They’ve looked impressive in winning the first two and to plant themselves firmly in the Bowl conversation they’ll need to clear this tricky hurdle before the game against UL.
The Cowboys will want to purge the memory of last week from their memories quickly. So a quick turnaround could be to their advantage. The Trojans are very good no doubt but the Cowboys presented them with a lot of opportunities to run up that kind of score. Thats not what this Cowboys team is about and they’ll know that better than anyone. UCD have similar breakout ability if presented with opportunities. The Cowboys will need to cut out the mistakes on special teams and get their offence going.
Carrickfergus Knights @ Dublin Rebels
Both of these teams opened their season vs the Panthers and both won. The Rebels by a considerable margin. This game could very well be decided by the defences on both sides. The Knights looked much improved on last year and getting back to that smash mouth football on the back of Gareth Miller and Phil Gunning in the back field they imposed themselves on the Panthers in a way that eluded them in many games last year.
In the preview to the Rebels opener we said they’d be looking to start hot and not arrive in the playoffs half cooked. They certainly did that. Dominant on offence and impressive on defence, they’ll be feeling confident heading into this game. Looking past the Knights would be a mistake though. There won’t be a return fixture and a slip here could have massive playoff implications if they were to give up the head to head.
IAFL 2! Finally! The hugely successful development league is back and with a new team or three in tow. The Vipers will still be feeling those beatings at the hands of the Trojans last year but showed some real spark as the season closed. It takes time to get your feet under you on a football field when you’ve joined an experienced team. When near everyone is a rookie it’s all the more impressive that they have established themselves they way they have. The Vipers need to get themselves IAFL1 ready this year. So getting the essentials right is the name of the game. The essentials will win this division.
The Razorbacks are an interesting prospect. A little like a college team, in that they have closed base to recruit from, a closed base that requires a fitness test to enter in the first place! They’ve brought in some coaches with experience and we’re really interested to see the standard they can achieve right from the off! The popularity of football is still on the rise and the Razorbacks are the 3rd new team in as many years to make it to the regular season from Ulster. Still, football is unforgiving and after being on the receiving end of hidings last year, the Vipers will look to dish some out this season. The Razorbacks opening will be telling in terms of the shape this division will take this season.
Waterford Wolves @ Westmeath Minotaurs
The Wolves didn’t get off to a great start vs Cork and the Minotaurs haven’t started at all! With perhaps some of the cobwebs shaken loose the Wolves will see this as a chance to get themselves back to the kind of form they closed 2015 with. They’re weaker, no doubt, but the Minotaurs are undergoing a rebirth of their own and the Wolves shouldn’t be shy about attacking them while they’re still figuring it out. They might not get another chance. A bad season could spell disaster for the Wolves, confidence and momentum can often be as important as results. The Wolves will need some of all three this year to begin their rebuild.
The Midlanders, like we said last week, have to draw a line under 2015 and move on. All external signs seem to point they have. They have ability and athleticism, anyone who has seen them play can attest to that, but at times they just blow it and nothing works. Getting the simple stuff right will lead to success for the Minotaurs, not winning the division success just yet but winning games. The Wolves might fancy this one but there’s no reason Westmeath shouldn’t for the same reasons. A team that may be reeling and just trying to keep the show on the road. We’re prepared to be slated by the purists for this but the Minotaurs flag team is one of the best around, throw the ball! Cork proved if you can do that consistently teams will really struggle to stop you.
West Dublin Rhinos @ Meath Bulldogs
Are the Bulldogs favourites for this division? They’ve been there abouts for a few years now but never outright favourites from the get go. They’ve beaten the Trojans, Trojan rookies or not, thats not something a lot can lay claim to. If they win tomorrow vs a Rhinos team with a lot of SBC experience, favourites, clear favourites, would be the only description that could be fair. The Bulldogs have never been the sort to run up huge scores but play a brand of hard nosed defence combined with a smash mouth run game that grinds teams down and lends itself to winning late, like they did last time out. If they can score early against a Rhinos team that hans’t been prolific on offence for a number of years they could control this game, the division and invite the rest begin the chase.
Rhinos football finally! The ambulance isn’t really a thing that should be happening to a team that have been around and organised as long as the Rhinos have but it’s done now and football is finally on the agenda. IAFL 1 for the Rhinos is like starting over again, and that’s not such a bad thing. The SBC can be very cruel if the wrong things don’t work out for you and it’s very hard to steady a ship mid season. The Rhinos have a great opportunity to attack this division with a new focus and simpler way of doing things. As tough as the Bulldogs will be this might be just the game to get started with. We used the words ‘hard nosed’ and ‘smash mouth’ to describe the Bulldogs, the very same identity claimed by the Rhinos for years. This is the kind of football they want to play. They’re going to get it and you won’t find anyone in Rhinoland unhappy with that.
North Kildare Reapers @ UL Vikings
Early in the year judging this kind of game can be a lot of guess work. UCD battered Trinity and demolished the Reapers but haven’t played UL. Trinity did well against UL, so are UCD just really strong and Trinity improved vs UL or are UL not as strong as UCD. Our Guess is UL are UL and they’re entire plan is to steam roll everything they meet. The Reapers need to be careful here. They can’t let their season spiral out of control and as we saw last week when the Rebels demolished the Panthers in the second half, control is a hard thing to keep a grip of in the SBC. The Vikings have no interest in playing the Trojans for a 3rd year in a row in the Semi Final. They need to win the division and do it convincingly and this is a division game.
For the Reapers it’s going to be a big ask. This game was 18-0 last year which on the face of it isn’t terrible but that was the game Adrian Garvey went down in and it took time for the UL offence to recover, not only in that game but through the season. UL aren’t in the habit of passing the ball a whole lot so getting after that back field will have to be the name of the game and that includes QB Ian Cahill in the run game. Focus too much on Shane Gleeson and others, Cahill will be gliding past your backside contain and up the sideline before you know what’s happened. Limerick are going to get behind that line and Shane Gleeson and aim to blast everyone they meet off the ball. The Reapers must throw everything into the battle in the trenches to get anything from this game.
Belfast Trojans @ Craigavon Cowboys
The Cowboys really put it up to Trinity and much has been made of what Trinity have lost but they have the joint leading passer in the SBC and one of the more exciting running backs around. The Cowboys ran them very very close. The Cowboys have been building quietly for a number of years now, doubling down no the talent they already have in house and recruiting well. The development of some of the younger guys in Craigavon will be particularly pleasing and a core of players that have been together for some years now is usually the recipe for success. Opening your season vs both of last years Shamrock Bowl teams is a cruel twist of scheduling but the Cowboys will be eager to show that even if they don’t pick up any points they will be ready to take on the rest of their schedule without fear of anyone left on it.
Much like all great teams, it’s getting to the point that a lot of teams are beaten before ever going on the field vs the Trojans. Maybe there is a glimmer of hope here for the Cowboys, David Richardson is still serving his suspension and due to playing last week for the #2s Neil Montgomery won’t be playing. Those are two linchpins of the Trojan offence. Keeping this game close for a stretch could lead the Cowboys to grow in confidence and feel there is something to be had here. But the Trojans have battered the Cowboys at every outing in recent times. 98 net points in favour of the Trojans last season. The Trojan defence will need to keep the Peter Loughran/Conrad Smith combo in check to stop the Cowboys growing in confidence; especially if the offence is taking time to right itself missing their weapons.
UL Vikings star player Adrian Garvey suffered a gruesome injury in 2015. Injuries can be a frequent occurrence in all of sports; particularly those of a physical and violent nature. Within contact sports, the fear of injury is a constant threat but yet in most cases, it remains unavoidable. A so called minor injury can lead to several weeks on the sideline, others are much tougher to overcome.
When Garvey went down during a home game with the North Kildare Reapers, initial reports suggested nothing more than a sprained knee; the test results delivered worse news than expected. Garvey had ruptured his ACL ligament, had tears on both meniscus and suffered stress fractures on his tibia.
After a strong start to the campaign, the veteran running-back was in scintillating form scoring 4 touchdowns in the opening 3 games, it was a difficult moment to realise that his season would be cut short. This would be Garvey’s first serious injury after nearly 10 years in the IAFL. Ahead of this weekends game with Trinity College, Adrian took the time to chat about his experience.
Although the surgery was successful, his long road to recovery was only beginning. The initial weeks were troublesome and frustrating and for someone who put plenty of efforton the field, having to resist training was a constant struggle.
‘Trying not to push too hard too early and let the injury heal was challenging. For someone who likes to be active in sport, I found the initial phase mentally draining. Being isolated to a couple of rooms in your house is something I wouldn’t want to experience again’.
Being inactive from a sport that you love can take its toll on anybody. It’s not only a physical battle to get back into shape; it tests your resolve and mental toughness. Surrounding yourself with the right people can often help you overcome the darker times, and that was the case for Adrian as he explained.
‘It has been a long road to recovery and I owe a lot of thanks to Ciaran O’Sullivan (Irish Head Coach) for helping with my rehab as well as my physio, Colin Lane, for kicking me in the ‘arsenal’ (sic) when needed. As of now I’m itching to get back onto the field. It has been almost a year not playing competitive football, watching from the sidelines. So the desire to be out there is quite high.’
A year can be a long time in a career of an athlete, particularly if you are unable to compete alongside your teammates. Despite not being ready to take part in contact football, Adrian kept himself involved with the game by becoming heavily integrated into the coaching set up with the Irish U 20’s side.
‘Something that I find great reward from is the U20’s squad. I initially started as the running backs coach and due to the departure of Eoin O’Sullivan, a very talented coach, to ply his skills in European Football, I was elevated to offensive coordinator. Football is something I enjoy a lot and if I can be involved in anyway possible, I will.’
This Sunday will see Garvey put on the blue of the Vikings for the first time in over a year as they go head-to-head with fierce rivals Trinity College. Despite being primarily known for his elusive skills in the backfield, he will be starting the season lining up on the other side of the ball, albeit in a familiar role at Inside Linebacker where he started his career. Although he does hope to resume duties at Running-Back later in the year, his sole focus over the coming days is preparing himself for his first competitive game back.
‘For me I’m feeling excited. First game back and looking to put in a good performance. One interesting thing I look forward to is playing against Trinity running-back Ola [Bademosi]. I’ve been coaching him now with the U20’s squad so this would be a good test to see if he has picked up what I’ve been teaching him’.
Setting goals during a long recovery process is paramount to staying motivated. The long term aim may always be to return to the field but staying patient and vigilant in your approach is important. For Garvey, the long wait is almost over and with his sights firmly set, he can now start working towards making his mark in the IAFL once again.
‘One of the main motivators for me was the Irish team. I didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to represent at an international level. Another motivator was the rumours that generally circulate from people in sport that say he will never be the same player. I found great motivation in these statements to prove them wrong.’
There are many highs and lows involved with sport and injuries are certainly one of the lower moments. As is the case with contact sports like American Football, setbacks are inevitable but it’s being able to overcome those obstacles and battle your way through that make it all worth while. So long as your passion remains, then the end goal won’t be out of reach.
‘I guess motivation comes from all areas. Once I got back to being able to train I have found that I still had a strong love for the game. Thankfully, I never lost that.’
Week 3 in the IAFA and the 2 O’Clock kick offs are back and with it; 5 games! IAFL 1 tops the bill with 3 and the Rebels and UL get underway for the first time this season in the SBC.
IAFA Week 3
South Kildare Soldiers @ Cork Admirals
Both winners in Game One after the Ads dismissed the Wolves and the Soldiers got life in IAFL 1 off to a positive start. The caveat, on both of those results, the opponents weren’t at the peak of their powers. Not intending to disrespect the Titans or Wolves but both would admit they have work to do this season to get back to the level they were at last season.
For the Soldiers, this will be an interesting test in how far they have really come. Cork put Waterford to the sword and were firing in all three phases, the Titans were not. To be a winning team, rather than one that wins occasionally, you have to be able to do what Cork did and punish teams for their mistakes. The Soldiers came out well ahead in the turnover ratio vs the Titans and perhaps should have made more of their opponents weakness. Corks error won’t be as frequent so capitalising on any will be vital for the Soldiers.
Cork were hugely impressive in Game One. Winning in devastating fashion and looking every bit the outfit that seemed to be coasting to 8 wins last season. The Ads weren’t undone last season by not respecting their opponents and there is no reason to believe that they will underestimate the Soldiers here. This game can get tricky if they allow it. The Soldiers have a depth of experience their ‘new club’ status belies. We’re guiltier than most about waxing lyrical about the impressive Stephen Hayes but encouraging for Cork, the performance of the defence and the establishment of the run game. The Admirals looking more and more like the complete article every week.
Westmeath Minotaur @ Louth Mavericks
Game One for both of these teams and a big season ahead. The Mavs travelled all the way to Castleknock only to have the rug pulled by a no show (or a no book, depending who you ask) ambulance. The Minotaurs frankly had a disastrous season last year and 2016, whatever it brings, can’t start soon enough.
Zero wins, averaging 25 points allowed per game and only offering a measly 6 in return. 2015 needs to be consigned to the history books and those books burned with fire until they are gone! Every new season offers new opportunities and them Minotaurs haven’t been idle waiting for them to present themselves. They’ve spent the off season restructuring, expanding their base and (the 4th team in as many years) renaming! (Why is everyone changing their name by the way?) Hanging around and hoping things improve isn’t in the DNA of the Westmeath outfit. Born of a desire to forge their own destiny in midlands, the Minotaurs have every reason to feel they can achieve better this year. Feeling it and doing it are different things though.
The impressive work behind the scenes in Louth continues and although no off field organisation ever won a football game, they put football players in the best situation to win them, just ask the crowd a few more miles up the M1. That is a way off for the Mavericks just yet but all the signs look good. We said a few weeks ago in our preview that consistency was key now for the Mavs and that still holds true. A team that have flashed brilliance and a team that have baffled on occasion. This game will be one they will look to as they push for the play offs. Focus has to be here and now, look past the Minotaurs at your peril.
Belfast Trojans 2s @ Tyrone Titans
The Trojans 2s annihilated everyone last year and perhaps they expected the same in IAFL1 but it was not to be. Trojan teams of all descriptions have only lost 3 games in 4 years so that’s not a small deal. The Titans seem to have imploded in the off season and on their first outing the worst seems to have been realised.
The Titans turned the ball over a lot (a lot a lot) vs the Soldiers and while that is bad, the fact those turnover resulted in only 3 scores is some conciliation. That kind of defensive resilience could be vital this year to stop it turning to disaster. This could be the wrong game at the wrong time in a number of ways. The Trojans didn’t win last time out but blooding their rookies and those same rookies spend the next few weeks at practice with the best around; we could see them in the mood to do some damage vs a weakened opponent. Sometimes the job of an offence is to play smart and possess the ball keeping the defence as fresh as possible. There can’t even be a few turnovers in this game because the Trojans, rookies or not, will punish them in way the Soldiers didn’t.
Winning isn’t an accident and you don’t have streaks like the Trojans do without an appropriate response to losing. We expect to see that this weekend. The 1s haven’t played yet so we could see a few make an appearance here as the trip isn’t as far as it was to Meath. This team will be expected to win the IAFL1 and that will not be lost on them. Another small motivator here, though for which team we cannot say, the Titans former Head Coach Paul Braniff is now the roving the sidelines for the Trojans.
Dublin Rebels @ South Dublin Panthers
The Rebels were beaten by a point in both their opening two games last year, they recovered from the opening wobble but ultimately never fired on all cylinders the way they know they need to to win a bowl game. The Panthers showed promise, wins against Carrickfergus and UCD coupled with close games vs Trinity, the Rebels and Cowboys suggested things could be finally moving the right direction for the rebranded Dragons.
Two bad losses at the end of 2015 seems to have had a hangover effect into 2016 as the Panthers lost their opening game to the Knights. There was positives to be seen but losing to team that you beat last year can’t help but be seen as a step backwards. After comfortably winning the last game between these two the Rebels can be forgiven for feeling the same should be on the agenda and the Panthers will need to rediscover their forward momentum early on to prevent it. Every team in the SBC should believe playoff football is a possibility and with the weather set to be rough the Panthers will have to contain the Rebels explosive run game and another duck egg just won’t cut it.
The Rebels can ill afford early slips this season. The last bowl win is a while ago now and none associated with the Rebels will think that acceptable. Trinity have proven the playoff stumbling block the last two outings and with an ultra competitive SBC South, the Rebels won’t want to arrive in the playoffs only half cooked. Starting hot and keeping the momentum all the way through could see them break down the Semi Final barrier that has scuppered them the last two seasons.
UL Vikings @ Trinity
UL were supposed to open the season with a blockbuster home game but instead are opening it with a trip to Dublin. Trinity are already a quarter way through their year!
It’s been a mixed bag for Trinity so far. It’s hard for a team with the most explosive offence in recent years to stomach a zero, regardless of the final result, and the UCD game would have been hard for them to accept. The improvement vs the Cowboys saw the offence come to life but the Craigavon unit made them earn it and the result was in doubt all the way to the 4th quarter. UL present a similar challenge to that of the Cowboys. Physicality and power is what the UL offence is based on and the Trinity defence is still finding it’s feet, allowing 3 touchdowns in both outings. It takes some time to shake the cobwebs, if you’ve got any, and Game 3 is usually where we see teams still waking up, fire into life.
UL open 2016 without excuses. They’ve run Belfast closer than most in the last few times and now a slightly more settled and expanded offence could be the push they need. They need to win the South and avoid another Semi Final against the Champions. Getting that bye week and a chance to rest at a vital time in the year could be much of the difference they need. Trinity and UCD must be conquered and as much hype as there was (and we added to) about the intended opener, this game is more important. There can be no slips, there can only be results if the 5 in a row is to prevented.
The Knights bookended 2015 with two impressive wins. They battered the Cowboys in Week 1 and demolished the Reapers in Week 8. The intervening 6 games were exceptionally forgettable for the Knights. The Panthers set the Carrickfergus season into a tailspin after shutting them out in game two, an ugly loss to the Trojans and a very tight loss to the Cowboys later in the year meant the Knights spent most the season worrying about relegation rather than chasing the playoffs. They will have no intention of repeating 2015’s mistakes and opening vs the Panthers will be seen as an ideal opportunity to right 2016 where 2015 started to go wrong. The Cowboys have been docked two points and there is only 9 teams in the SBC this year so the Knights will see playoff football as a very achievable goal and a double header with the Panthers is the ideal way to secure that.
The Panthers will fancy their play off chances this season for much the same reason as the Knights. No Trinity and no UL on their schedule would on paper mean it should be easier, especially considering the beating they took from UL in Game 7 last year. After victory over the Knights last season, the Panthers felt that their season could have come to more but the aforementioned UL beating and a tough loss to the Cowboys killed the Panthers season; improvements were there to be seen but 2016 will be the answer if those were false starts or genuine signs of progress. The SBC can be a cruel mistress as both of these teams found out last year. Games that they would expect to win were lost and games that others expected them to lose were won. This has the potential to be a transformative for seasons for these teams but probably not both.
Kick off is 1pm at Carrickfergus Rugby Club
Reapers @ UCD
The Reapers were robbed of Playoff football last year on a tiebreak we’re pretty sure Stephen Hawking was hired to figure out. We got it wrong every time we hypothesised about how it would work out. Wrong is something people often are about the Reapers. Often written off and yet they won the IAFL1 in their first year and have won 3 games each time of asking in the SBC. Ask the Cowboys, Knights, Rhinos, Panthers & Wolves how tricky that is. UCD were impressive last week and will probably expect the Reapers to offer less resilience than Trinity, couple that with the fact that they trounced the Kildare men last year, UCD would be forgiven for expecting a win here. UCD have on occasion in the past not performed to their high standard when the win was in the bag on paper.
If the Bowl is the goal (we’re poets) then that worrying trait has to be exorcised. UCD have a lot of the component parts but every game has to be played on grass, not paper. The intensity of performance vs the Reapers will have to match that of last weeks victory or the students could be upset again. Trinity may feel a little hard done by by the margin last week as their 2nd half performance was decent but something worth crediting that often goes unnoticed for UCD was a powerful defensive performance. Excuses will be thrown around but Trinity have only one regular season loss in two years and all of that isn’t down to one player. UCD shut out that powerhouse and never looked like allowing even a field goal. We’ll talk a lot about Tom Donovan and some very promising offensive talent in UCD this year but that defence playing fast and nasty like they did last week will carry this team far even if the offence stutters at any stage. A shut out should be their aim and let the offence do it’s thing.
Kick off is 1pm at UCD Sports Ground
Cowboys @ Trinity
Fans of college football will be used to seeing teams go through cycles. Trinity are beginning a new cycle, that much is clear. A new generation will have to take up the mantle and do it without missing a beat. Wobbly starts aren’t unheard of, they had one last year, but this team will have to find it’s own identity soon and not rely too much on an offence that was built for a different team. Trinity looked good, especially on defence in the 2nd half, last week vs UCD but the offence stalled. Trinity still posses speed, they still posses strength and a grit on the line of scrimmage that other teams would kill for. The Cowboys strength is on that line and inside the #7 jersey. Trinity shouldn’t expect to just turn up, play how they like and walk out with the W, the Cowboys will eat up any complacency and head back north with the Win.
The Cowboys are starting this season behind the 8 ball. They’ve been docked points for a violation last season. Yet they find themselves still with their main parts in tact. In terms of all round skill set, Peter Loughran may be the best player in the country. With that on your team you’ve a chance to beat anyone. Conrad Smith proved an inspired addition to the offence last year and with that in place right from the off this season the Cowboys could find form a lot quicker than they did in 2015. A Cowboys win here could be seen as an upset, by everyone bar the Cowboys.
Ok before we start, has everyone ordered the ambulance and made sure the field isn’t waterlogged?
Good! Lets start…
IAFA Week 2
Admirals @ Wolves
A repeat of the 2015 Bowl Game, this game will be an immediate barometer of each teams off season. The Wolves are still in the division at their own request. So one could only assume they’re significantly weaker than last year. The IAFL1 has the same number of games as the SBC; admittedly a higher standard but SBC games don’t end with ambulances speeding away from games stuffed with players, so we fail to see the logic of Waterford still being in this division. Cork wobbled towards the end of last season and ultimately came up short of what everyone assumed was an automatic bowl win. The Wolves (and Bulldogs for that matter) would argue that Cork didn’t wobble but were figured out and their biggest weapon taken away from them. The plan this Sunday should consist of two words, Stop Hayes.
Stephen Hayes lit up the division last year and drew admiration from across the IAFA community. 25 touchdown passes and it looked like nobody had the answer but a chink in the armour was exposed and Cork were found without a Plan B. Two very impressive seasons since their reconstitution, the time has come. The Admirals have seen what they can do and what teams will do to stop them. They must now evolve and become the complete team to regain their place in the SBC; running the ball and taking some of the pressure off their young QB are the last two strings to this bow and the SBC awaits.
Kick off is 1pm in the Waterford RSC
Titans @ Soldiers
The Titans have probably had the most nightmarish off season in the IAFA. For a minute there, they were no more. Back from the dead and under new management on and off the field, time has been short to get what remains of the Titans in football shape, let alone competitive shape. All that being said, the Titans have been highly impressive in their Freshman and Sophomore IAFA Seasons and its the foundation of that team that remains. Football is often decided by which team has the momentum and from the outside it looks bad, the New Titans have, in the space of 2 months, saved a football team and got it ready for Game 1. Teams have been around for years and never gotten that far. The schedule could have been worse, a Trojans/Admirals/Rhinos opener could undone a lot of good work. The Soldiers are no pushovers but it could have been worse.
The Soldiers took an extra year at IAFL 2 level and this season should be telling as to whether it pays off. There is a depth of experience at the Soldiers and yes, the Titans could have had a tougher start but the Soldiers could smell blood in the water here. Where the Titans are likely weaker the Soldiers should be stronger and an early score could be fatal to a team searching for confidence. Kildare have a big play threat in QB Eoin Whelan and if he can elevate his play in this new division there is no reason why the Soldiers can’t cause some upsets in IAFL1, the the Titans being the first target.
Kick off is 1pm in Cill Dara Rugby Club
Trojans @ Bulldogs
The Trojans 2s swept all in IAFL2 away with ease and now IAFL1 is in their crosshairs. It could be a long time before we see another winner of IAFL1 considering the difficulty SBC teams are having toppling the Trojans. Kilkenny Hurling in years gone by were often said to have both of the best teams in the country, their Seniors and Minors and we suspect the Trojans could make a similar claim. The Trojans play football in a similar style as the Klitschko brothers box, keep it simple and when you make a mistake, smash you. This 2nds team is an advantage that most don’t have. A place to blood new talent in a slightly more forgiving environment, so when their time comes for the 1s they’re less likely to make errors, which is what Trojan football is built on.
In last weeks preview we mentioned the detrimental effects of being stuck in the IAFL1 mud too long and the Bulldogs are facing into their 4th successive season in the division. Only the Minotaurs have the same record. All others have been promoted or folded. This will be the toughest game the Bulldogs have faced in 11 aside football and is a fitting opening to the season that may define the club. The Bulldogs improved to a winning record last season and the effects of Peter Smyths leadership are clear to see after only 1 season at the helm. After a shaky start the Bulldogs finished in perhaps their finest form to date and were unfortunate to come up against an equally resurgent Wolves team as the Meath men would have fancied their chances vs Cork in the Bowl. That form and intensity of effort will be required for every second of every snap on Sunday. The Bulldogs pride themselves on physical football and that philosophy will be tested like never before vs the Trojans. If they can hold it together and not give the Trojans any easy openings, their style lends itself to this being a close game….if