IAFL Week 14: Game Previews
Not long left until the regular season comes to an end and teams across the country will be eyeing the finishing line, just over the horizon. Much of the final rankings were already decided by this stage in 2014 but with only a number of games left there are division titles, playoff spots and the dreaded relegation battle still to be decided.
Only the Belfast Trojans have made it to the promise land after clinching the North Division title last Sunday, but there are a number of sides looking to join them this weekend.
‘Game of the Week’
Two of Irelands most historic sides will clash heads in Limerick this weekend as we expect a physical game of football between two juggernauts of the IAFL. Many important games in the past have been decided by these two, but this could be the biggest match both teams have faced-off in since the 2011 Shamrock Bowl.
It’s unusual to see the Rebels with a negative record this late into the season, but after two opening defeats to TCD and UCD, they briefly turned their fortunes around before the heavy defeat suffered at the hands of the Trojans. It’s been a long three weeks for the Dubliners to get their chance of making amends, but they will have the opportunity of unleashing all their frustrations on arguably their fiercest rival in the clubs history.
The Vikings were cruising atop of the SBC South before they suffered a 22-3 defeat to Trinity College in Week 12. The loss is a setback, but the title is still far from decided and victory against the Rebels would set them back on the right course.
The last time these two met was at the beginning of last season, when the Rebels scored with seconds left on the clock to win 14-13. The Dublin outfit were on the receiving end of a late comeback by Trinity early in the campaign, but Limerick will be looking to inflict a bigger blow by putting the Rebels playoff hopes in serious danger. Two major losses for both sides as Quarterback, Andrew Dennehy is unavailable whilst Running-Back, Adrian Garvey underwent ACL surgery on Friday. With so much at stake and the significant history between these sides, I’d expect nothing less than a ferocious game of football that could go down to the wire once again
Fun Fact: Both last seasons match-up and Shamrock Bowl 2011 were decided by 14-13 score-lines in the Rebels favour. Who would bet money on it happening again?
Two sides on opposite ends of the IAFL-1 spectrum, one unbeaten and the other winless. Victory for Cork would increase their lead at the top, whilst Mullingar are still searching for their first win of the year.
Cork took top spot of the IAFL-1 with a 22-7 victory over title challengers the Tyrone Titans. They now hold the advantage and as the final flurry of games arrive, it’s difficult to see who will be able to stop them from going unbeaten. Steve Hayes and his receiving corp have had a fantastic season so far and although their run game hasn’t been as effective, they’ve still scored 118 points in 4 games, averaging 30 points a game against some of the divisions best defences.
In comparison, Mullingar have struggled to live up to their performances of last season as with only 5 touchdowns to their name, with Niall Folan the leading scorer, the Minotaurs have only mustered 34 points whilst conceding 128. That statistic won’t fair well in keeping up with the free scoring exploits of the Cork offence. With three games left to play, it will be a daunting end of season stretch for the Mullingar boys with two tough road games against Dundalk and Meath yet to come. They have surrendered the most points by a considerable distance so it will need to miraculous turnaround if they hope to avoid the dreaded 0-8.
Cork defeated the Minotaurs 35-13 in the previous outing and since have laid waste to every opponent they’ve come up against. This is Mullingar’s last home game of the season so improvement on previous performances is greatly needed, but worryingly they’ve scored more points in away games than they have at home this season. The Admirals have rarely been challenged this year, but the Minotaurs do posses a talented team and the visitors must be wary of a good performance that Mullingar are capable of producing.
Fun Fact: In the previous 3 games between these clubs, the Cork Admirals have won 2 and lost 1 against the Minotaurs, including the 16-9 win in last years IAFL-1 semi final.
Both Dundalk and Tyrone must be getting sick at the sight of each other. Both teams have suffered losses of late in their pursuit of playoff football, so which one will be able to overturn their recent fortune?
Dundalk, despite back to back defeats against the Wolves and Bulldogs can still mathematically catch the pairing in the race for third. It will ultimately come down to the head to head victories between the three, but the Mavericks still have their game in hand against the Admirals to play and then host both Mullingar and the Wolves at DKIT in a few weeks time; so all is not lost! Although they currently sit inferior in the W/L column, they do have the 3rd highest points difference with +12 and are tied on 3rd most touchdowns with the Wolves, so defeats aren’t damaging their performances.
The Titans suffered their first loss in 11 games at the hands of league leaders the Cork Admirals 2 weeks ago and will be looking to get back on track to securing 2nd spot in the division. They can still claim 1st, but they would need a major slip-up from the Admirals in order to sneak ahead of them in the rankings. Any loss is hard to take especially when a long winning streak has been broken, but the Titans put up a good performance against Cork and should take the positives into this weekends game.
The last outing was a much closer game than the previous fixtures that these teams have faced. The Titans took away a narrow 8-0 win back up North in what proved to be an incredibly defensive battle. Tyrone have been clinical through the air this season with QB Daniel Mullan and WR Ryan Brolly striking up a potent partnership. Meanwhile the majority of Dundalks offensive production has came courtesy of dangerous QB Mathew Hagan, the divisions leading rusher. So plenty of talented players on show in this clash and as Omagh RFC is a hot spot for high scoring games; lets hope for better than a 8-0 scoreline.
Fun Fact: The Dundalk Mavericks and Tyrone Titans have played 4 times in the last two years including in the IAFL-2 Bowl game; The Titans have won all of them.
SKS and the Vipers are still very early in their tenures as clubs, but even a years extra experience can prove crucial when it comes down to it. The Soldiers experience overcame the spirited Vipers two weeks ago, will it be a similar outcome this weekend?
South Kildare have already improved dramatically from their debut season in the IAFL-2 in which they finished 1-5. One year later and they are sitting 2nd in the table, only behind the resplendent Trojans 2nd’s and their points difference is looking much much healthier. The Trojans are a big task for anybody, but wins against a talented Vikings team as well as the Vipers have shown that the Soldiers are a match for everyone else in the division. QB Eoin Whelan and RB Dara Moran are having solid seasons and are a huge part of the teams success of late and with two games to go, the Soldiers have a great chance of finishing with a 0.500 record or better this year.
Three losses might not look too promising in the table, but the Vipers are a new outfit to this league so it will take time for them to reach their full potential. On the plus side, they have improved tremendously since their ‘induction’ back in April. Two games against the Trojans isn’t going to do wonders for your points difference, but they did tally 20 against Belfast and then a further 26 against the Soldiers, so the league minnows are starting to go places. There is still plenty of opportunities for the Vipers to increase their scoring tally, and with the Soldiers on Sunday and a Galway Warriors double header too look forward to, they could improve their W/L record too.
For those who attended Cill Dara two weeks ago will have been blessed with a scoring extravaganza! and no doubt those making the journey up North will be praying for a similar experience. The Soldiers could go positive at (3-2) for the first time in their clubs history, whilst the Vipers will do anything to earn their first win of the season.
Fun Fact: The Soldiers 54-26 victory over the Donegal/Derry Vipers is the highest scoring game in the IAFL this season!