IAFA 2014 Season Review

IAFA 2014 Season Review:

Another year of American Football in Ireland has drawn to a close. A record 19 teams took part in competitive contact football this term that will help set the standard and continued growth of the sport. Due to the increase of new teams, the IAFA set up a new league structure, consisting of three tiers of football, the inaugural Shamrock Bowl Conference, the continuation of the IAFL-1 and the newly formed IAFL-2.

For the first time in the leagues history, every team completed a full season of fixtures, with no matches being forfeited or cancelled. This is a huge step for football in the country and great credit must be given to every team involved in maintaining a 100% match completion record. This will no doubt bring great confidence and positivity that the league can once again expand for the upcoming season. Not too mention that this season was the commencement of the first official ‘Friday Night Lights’ games in Ireland, hosted by the Belfast Trojans at Deramore Park and Meath Bulldogs at Navan RFC, since the originally dubbed ‘FNL’ match between UCD and Trinity back in 2012. Those games pulled in huge attendances and will no doubt be making a swift return next year!

So, as the IAFL season has concluded and with only the Croke Park Classic between Penn State and UCF on August 30th remaining in Ireland’s month of football, it gives us a chance to recap on how the 2014 season unfolded.

Shamrock Bowl Conference

The Belfast Trojans won their third National Championship by defeating Trinity College Dublin, 7-0 in the Shamrock Bowl XXVIII Final. Linebacker Connor Whitla, the eventual MVP, scored the only touchdown of the game as the reigning champions overcame the previously undefeated students in a close encounter.

The historic Dublin Rebels (7-1) and University of Limerick Vikings (6-2) continued to prove their strength and dominance in the league by once again making it to the semi-final stages, only to be defeated by Trinity College and the Belfast Trojans respectively.   The Carrickfergus Knights (3-5) again established themselves as a genuine playoff team by making into the wildcard round for another season. They were joined by the West Dublin Rhinos (3-5) that made their first appearance in the playoff’s since 2010. However, respective defeats to the Rebels and Vikings ultimately ended these teams hopes of reaching the semi-finals.   After the Cork Admirals and DCU Saints folded last season, coupled with UCD dropping down a tier. The Shamrock Bowl Conference welcomed 3 newly promoted teams from last years IAFL-1, The Dublin Dragons, North Kildare Reapers and Waterford Wolves.   The 3 promoted sides fought commendably in their first season in the top flight. The North Kildare Reapers (3-5) narrowly missed out on the playoff’s. The Craigavon Cowboys campaign ended with a (2-6) record despite some promising performances. The Dublin Dragons finished (1-7) on their return to the SBC, whilst the Waterford Wolves sadly finished (0-8) without a win. However they performed admirably and will be preparing themselves for their return to the IAFL-1.   SBC Scoring Charts: Regular Season: via Double Coverage (http://dblcoverage.com/)  Passing: Dan Finnamore – 18 TD’s (Trinity College) Rushing: Simon Mackey – 19 TD’s (Dublin Rebels) Receiving: David Richardson – 6 TD’s (Belfast Trojans) Daniel Murphy – 6 TD’s (Trinity College) Defensive Scores: Aaron McNaughton – 2 TD’s (Carrickfergus Knights) Craig Switzer – 2 TD’s (UL Vikings) Jon-Erik Talvio – 2 TD’s (Belfast Trojans) John Mullen – 2 TD’s (UL Vikings)   Kicker: Conor McGinn – 21XP’s & 3FG’s (Trinity College)   IAFL-1   University College Dublin and the Cork Admirals battled it out in this years IAFL-1 Bowl game, with UCD proving the victors with a 40-0 score-line. The students will now return to the Shamrock Bowl Conference as champions, and will be looking to add experience to an increasingly strong South Division.


After the misfortunes of folding last term, the Cork Admirals (6-2) have made a miraculous return. Extensive work in the off-season has helped them field a strong team with a very high-octane offence. As one of the longest running teams in Ireland, their return to the football scene was welcomed by all and after an appearance in the bowl game, they will be looking to go one step further and make a return to the SBC.

The Mullingar Minotaurs have greatly improved since their first season of competitive football. The young outfit finished the season on (4-4) narrowly missing out on the Bowl with defeat against the Admirals. They are improving year on year and after their exploits this term, they may fancy themselves to make the Bowl game next time round.

After delays to a series of their games, the Meath Bulldogs clawed their way back to a (4-4) record. With a victory in their opening game against the high-flying UCD, the Bulldogs failed to continue their early season momentum due to games being postponed. However, with 3 wins in their last 4 outings, the Bulldogs will be hoping to build on their end-of-season form in preparation for next year.

Drogheda Lightning (0-8) never really got their season going this term as they finished the year without a solidarity win. They have struggled to maintain consistent numbers over the years since their days in the DV8’s league, with Dan Finnamore their latest high profile exit. ‘The Bolts’ will be aiming to brush this season aside and start again where they will no doubt be making a big push to re-establish themselves in the IAFL-1.

IAFL-1 Scoring Charts: Regular Season via Double Coverage (http://dblcoverage.com/

Passing: Dave Murphy – 13 TD’s (UCD)

Rushing: Pete McMahon – 8 TD’s (Meath Bulldogs)
Receiving: Paul Geraghty – 8 TD’s (UCD)
Defensive Scores: Michael Ring – 2 TD’s (UCD)
Kicking: Conor Hanrahan – 20PAT’s (UCD)


4 newly established teams made their first steps into competitive football this year by competing in the first ever IAFL-2 division. The Tyrone Titans, South Kildare Soldiers, Dundalk Mavericks and Galway Warriors played out a full season of fixtures with each team playing 6 games, home and away. Despite their being some significant travelling involved, all the teams were able to field strong sides and have done themselves proud with their efforts this year! Well done!

The Tyrone Titans became the first team to win the IAFL-2 Bowl by defeating rivals, Dundalk Mavericks 20-7 in Navan RFC as part of the IAFL-1 Bowl double header. The Titans went the entire season undefeated with a (8-0) record and have played some great football throughout the campaign, only conceding 14 points all year. They can now look forward to the increased challenge of competing in the IAFL-1 next season.

The Mavericks finished their first season with a very respectable (4-2) record after losing narrowly to the Titans in the Bowl game. Dundalk, boasting one of the largest squads in the IAFL-2 will be hoping to add to their numbers ahead of next year, and after victories against Galway and South Kildare, they will feel their team will be in a strong position to compete once again.

South Kildare Soldier’s and Galway Warriors finished their seasons (1-5) as they both were able to pick up their first competitive wins. Both sides have been mentioned for their hard-hitting displays on defence, but their struggles to score on offence ultimately ended their chances of reaching the Bowl in the early weeks. However, with plans in place for the off-season, there is already plenty of promise that these sides will improve upon this years’ performances.

IAFL-2 Scoring Charts: Regular Season via Double Coverage (http://dblcoverage.com/)

Passing: Daniel Mullan
– 13 TD’s (Tyrone Titans)
Rushing: Daniel Mullan – 6 TD’s (Tyrone Titans) Steven Harkness – 6 TD’s (Tyrone Titans)

Receiving: Ryan Brolly – 7 TD’s (Tyrone Titans)
Defensive Scores: Daniel Mullan – 2 TD’s (Tyrone Titans)
Kicking: Matthew Hagan – 6XP’s & 2FG’s (Dundalk Mavericks)

2014 has been a season to remember in the IAFL. We have had a record number of teams competing in the league with a 100% game completion record, expanded over three tiers of football. Several teams have walked away with trophies this year, including the Belfast Trojans, UCD and Tyrone Titans. Their has been a number of standout performances from individual players including Simon Mackey, Dave Murphy and Daniel Mullan, who set the scoring charts alight in their respective divisions. Rob McDowell picked up the SBC MVP of the year award, and several others made their name in Double Coverage’s Team of the Year.

Over the course of the year, many people have helped spread the word of football in Ireland by volunteering their time to help improve the publicity of the sport.  A special thanks should be made to those who contributed to the season just passed. Nathan Sharrocks, the head writer of Irish Football at Double Coverage has created match reports, weekly previews and power rankings that have helped establish the Irish game across both the UK and Europe. The guys over at OTWolves with their live commentaries of games, especially the Shamrock Bowl final, that has helped add something extra to the league this year. Greg Barret, who entertained us all with his weekly podcasts detailing the weekends games and interviews with some of the players and staff from around the league, that listeners looked forward to every week. So many people have made an impact on the game this year, and so many people have helped make the Irish League what it is.

The standard of football in Ireland is on the rise, more and more teams are applying to join the league, there is more funding available to IAFA and the level of quality in teams is greatly increasing. The 2014 IAFA season has been incredible, and although the season may be over, thoughts will already be turning to what the year 2015 has in store for Irish Football! At least the NFL Season is only round the corner…

Shamrock Bowl XXVIII Final Match Report

Shamrock Bowl Final: Trinity College Dublin 0 – Belfast Trojans 7


The coveted Waterford Crystal Bowl made its way back to Belfast as the Trojans overcame a tough and spirited Trinity College side, as the defending champions grinded out a 7-0 win in front of 1,500 fans in Tallaght Stadium, Dublin this Sunday.

The Trojans were aiming to clinch their third consecutive title whilst the undefeated students were entering their first appearance in the Bowl game, hoping to claim victory in their debutant year. However, amidst the lightning strikes and the torrential rain, a pick-6 from Connor Whitla was all that separated the sides as the Green Machine headed back up North as champions once again.


The game as a whole proved to be a defensive battle throughout with both offences struggling to produce any concrete chances, as possession swung back and forth in the opening stages. Each team started very cagey with the nerves of the occasion perhaps getting the better, as the wet conditions created fumbles and turnovers that would halt any forward momentum.

Trinity’s Offence, consisting of the talented duo of Quarterback, Dan Finnamore and Running-Back, Rob McDowell tried to get the ball moving up field, but the hard-working and persistent Trojans Defence snuffed out any danger possessed by the leagues top scorers. The pressure created by the Trojan’s D was beginning to pay off, as Finnamore was intercepted by both Andrew McGorman and Rick Duffield as Belfast’s defensive-backs shut-down Trinity’s passing game early on.

On the other side of the ball, James McKelvey was avoiding pressure of his own from the likes of Dylan Green and Eoghan Hurley on the Trinity D-Line, finding receivers David Richardson and Andrew Wright for some quick-fire receptions. With the conditions worsening, the Trojans resorted to keeping the ball on the ground, with Neil Montgomery and Dave Colvin fighting for hard yards. However, despite plenty of possession the Trojan Offence couldn’t make their efforts count as Trinity’s Defence, containing the likes of Alex Gurnee and Stephen Carton who were terrific all game, held them firm.

Midway through the second quarter, the dark clouds that started to fill the skies over Dublin forced the teams into a 30 minute interval, with lightning and torrential rain brining an abrupt halt to proceedings. Although the break was somewhat distracting and interrupted momentum, if gave each side the chance to reflect on the opening exchanges and once they returned to the field, the game exploded into life.

With the match still scoreless, both sides gave it their all in an attempt to break the deadlock. The water on the pitch was proving troublesome as it made tackling and gripping even more difficult with the Trojans and TCD struggling to gain consistent first downs. It looked as though this game was going to be won on the defensive side of the ball, and that’s exactly what happened.

After finding themselves deep inside their own 20; Finnamore, looking for one of his receivers over the middle was intercepted by Linebacker, Connor Whitla who expertly jumped the route to rush in for a 20-yard touchdown, much to the delight of the Trojan faithful. Rick Duffield converted the PAT that gave Belfast a slender 7-0 lead heading into the final quarter.

The last 12 minutes was exciting and intense, with differing emotions on the opposing touchlines. Trinity knew they had to go for it all whilst a few big stops from the Trojans would see them reclaim their crown. As the game entered the final stretch, Duffield sent an excellent punt downfield to pin TCD within their own 20 with little under 2 minutes left. For the students, it was all or nothing.


In what proved to be the defining play of the game, the ball was handed off to Rob McDowell who scampered past would-be tacklers down the near sideline. It looked as though this would be the play to bring Trinity back into the game, until a fantastic tackle by Neil Graham forced a fumble, that Andrew McGorman happily pounced on to give possession back to the Trojans and bring them within touching distance of an historic treble.

With no timeouts remaining for Trinity, The Belfast Trojans kneeled out the clock to claim a 7-0 victory, earning themselves yet another Shamrock Bowl triumph much to the relief and joy of the travelling supporters. The heroics of Connor Whitla won him the inaugural Terry Lynch Memorial MVP trophy, for his excellent performance throughout the game. The Trojans battled one of the toughest opponents they have ever faced in Trinity College, who did themselves proud with an outstanding effort that on perhaps another day, could well have seen them leave with the trophy.


Meanwhile, The Belfast Trojans keep adding to their impressive trophy haul after successfully defending their title as the best team in Ireland. The game was played with fantastic effort from both teams and their performances over the season will provide a great testament for football in Ireland. The Trojans can now celebrate winning their third straight National Championship! The ‘three-peat’ is complete!

Shamrock Bowl XXVIII Preview

Shamrock Bowl Final Preview:

The biggest game in Irish American Football is nearly upon us. This Sunday, two of the countries best teams will compete for the Shamrock Bowl at Tallaght Stadium, Dublin to be crowned the 2014 National Champions. Who will prevail?

The reigning and defending Champions, The Belfast Trojans will be heading to Dublin to take on Trinity College Dublin in a battle that will determine who leaves with the coveted Waterford Crystal bowl in their hands. These two sides have built a competitive rivalry over the last two seasons, with the Trojans defeating the students in the Atlantic Cup Final last term, and with Trinity ending the Belfast sides unbeaten run earlier in the season. Over the course of the year, these sides have proved they deserve their place in the final, but ultimately, only one team can be crowned champions!

The Belfast Trojans

McKelvey and his offence. Photo by Alyssia McAnee


Season Results: (7-1)                                                           Scoring Charts:

A: Carrickfergus Knights– W 28-13                   Passing: James McKelvey – 14 TD’s

A: Craigavon Cowboys– W 28-0

H: Craigavon Cowboys– W 56-0                        Rushing: David Colvin – 5 TD’s

A: West Dublin Rhinos– W 19-6

H: Trinity College– L 18-0                                   Receiving: David Richardson – 6 TD’s

H: Dublin Dragons– W 35-0

A: Dublin Rebels– W 34-19                                  Kicker: Rick Duffield – 5 XP’s  1 FG

H: Carrickfergus Knights- W 50-0

Semi Final: UL Vikings– W 28-6                           Defence: Jon-Erik Talvio – 2 TD’s


QB James McKelvey will be looking to get his players fired up for the final and with key weapons Dave Colvin and David Richardson back having missed the last encounter, the Trojans will be extremely strong on offence. With the mix of experience and young blood on the offensive line that have been very impressive in their first year, coupled with the variety of aerial and rushing threats, the offence has plenty of fire power heading into the final.


Intensity, desire, commitment; there’s no shortage of words to describe the leagues best defence. With numerous shutouts, interceptions and defensive scores this term, the Trojans ‘D’ are a threat all over the field. Their defensive line is disruptive, their linebackers are hard-hitting and with their ball-hawking secondary, the defence has all the ingredients to stop a rampaging Trinity offence.

Trinity College Dublin

Rob Mc Dowell & the impressive Trinity O-Line. Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao
Season Results: (8-0)                                                      Scoring Charts:

H: UL Vikings– W 34-9                                     Passing: Dan Finnamore – 19 TD’s

H: West Dublin Rhinos– W 27-0

H: Carrickfergus Knights– W 27-18                  Rushing: Rob McDowell – 20 TD’s

A: Craigavon Cowboys– W 25-6

A: Belfast Trojans– W 18-0                              Receiving: Daniel Murphy – 7 TD’s

H: North Kildare Reapers– W 52-21

A: Waterford Wolves– W 34-0                         Kicking: Conor McGinn – 26 XP’s 3 FG’s

A: West Dublin Rhinos– W 53-6

Semi Final: Dublin Rebels– W 47-8                Defence: Alex Gurnee – 1 TD



Trinity’s offence has been dominating teams all season. Finnamore topped the passing charts in his first season in Trinity colours, and Rob McDowell reminded the league why he is the top running back in the league. The young, yet disciplined offensive-line has been excellent, providing Finnamore with time in the pocket to pick out his array of receivers. Trinity has been scoring points for fun this term, and it will take a lot to stop them this Sunday.


The limelight that has shone on the offence this year has somewhat overshadowed Trinity’s efforts on defence; but they have been equally as impressive. They have conceded no more that 78 points all season, backing up their offence with a defence that can stop some of the best teams in the league. They will have a huge task in stopping the Trojan’s ‘O’ from scoring, but their talent across the field is capable of matching anybody on their day.


Shamrock Bowl XXVIII sets the stage for the best two teams in Ireland, when either the Belfast Trojans or Trinity College Dublin will walk out National Champions. This game has got the makings to be something special; its First versus Second, South Division Champions versus North Division Champions, the leagues best Offence versus the leagues best Defence, the Students versus the Green Machine. Will the 2-time champion’s the Trojans defend their crown? Or will Trinity win their first Shamrock Bowl in the clubs history! It is going to be an exciting final!

Kick-off: 3pm at Tallaght Stadium, Dublin on August 10th.
Tickets are available on https://shamrockbowl28.eventbrite.ie/

– €8 for adults, €5 for children
Alternatively, tickets can be purchased from your local American Football club.

Shamrock Bowl Breakdown Part 4: Dublin Rebels

7 time champions, Dublin Rebels in action against the Craigavon Cowboys. Photo by Media 401 Productions

The Breakdown series has reached the last chapter of the semi final previews, but it is by no means the least. The fourth and final team competing for the Shamrock Bowl this year is none other, than the Dublin Rebels.

As the most dominant and prestigious side in Irish Football history, the Rebels have won the Bowl a record 7 times, to become the iconic face of the Irish game. With 2 European trophies to their name and being one of the longest running clubs in Ireland, the Rebels have stayed competitive in the league for more than a decade. Their most recent appearance in the final came last year, as they were defeated 48-18 by the Belfast Trojans. Can they go one step further this season and win the Bowl for an impressive 8th time?

Regular Season

The Rebels started their campaign with a difficult game against the UL Vikings, when a touchdown in the last 7 seconds of the game helped the Dubs to a 14-13 victory. Since the opening game, the Rebels continued to win putting in strong performances against the Waterford Wolves and fellow North Division rivals, the Carrickfergus Knights and Craigavon Cowboys. Although they weren’t performing to their own high standards, they were still able to put teams away. Their first defeat of the season came against Shamrock Bowl Champions, the Belfast Trojans when a hard-hitting battle culminated in a close 34-19 victory for Belfast. Despite this, the Rebels would close out their regular season with an impressive 7-1 record and set up a wildcard tie with the Knights once again.

Key Players

RB: Simon Mackey: What else is there to say about the guy? He’s a Beast! Topping the rushing charts with a tremendous 19 TD’s, Mackey’s ground and pound running style is proving near impossible to stop!

QB: Andrew Dennehy: One of the most experienced Quarterbacks in the game. Dennehy’s poise and accuracy has guided him into the top 3 for another year, as he passed for 10 T’Ds during the regular season.

TE: Paul Grogan: The Dublin side have a mix of experience and youth in their receiving corp, and with 3 T’Ds this term, Grogan will be a vital asset to the Rebels offence in the post season.

K: Ger O’Leary: At this stage of the competition, all points will be crucial. With 18 extra points converted and 2 field goals, the Rebels know they can rely on the steady boot of O’Leary when called upon.

WR: Chris Purdy: Purdy’s form for the Rebels has improved year after year. With some magnificent catches and 3 T’Ds to his name this season, QB Andrew Dennehy won’t be afraid to throw it to one of his trusted receivers.

Post Season

The Rebels have been to this stage of the playoffs countless times through their illustrious history, so they will know what it takes to win. They faced off against an equally experienced Knights side in the wildcard round, prevailing with a hard earned 24-0 victory. This sets up a nicely poised game, as the Rebels will take on their opponents, Trinity College in a replay of last years semi final. Billed as the ‘MackDowell Bowl’, pitting two of the best running-backs of this era against one another, this game will be one to watch!

The Rebels beat the students at this stage last season, but will it be the same outcome this time? To find out, head down to Garda RFC in Westmanstown, Dublin for an action packed day of Irish American Football. July 27th, kickoff 3pm.

See part 1 on the Belfast Trojans here, part 2 on the University of Limerick Vikings here and part 3 on Trinity College Dublin here

Shamrock Bowl Breakdown Part 3: Trinity College Dublin

Rob McDowell & Dan Finnamore in action in Santry this season. Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao

With the first semi final preview done and dusted, we move swiftly  on to the remaining two teams, beginning with the undefeated, Trinity College Dublin. TCD have had a terrific year, winning each of their 8 games and putting up some impressive scores on offence. They have tallied up 270 points this season, averaging over 33 points a game, helping them seal the number 1 seed heading into the playoff’s. With a young, quick and athletic side, Trinity have a squad capable to match anybody and will prove to be the team to beat this year.

Regular Season

Trinity started with the annual College Bowl game when they defeated rivals, UL Vikings 34-9 in a tough season opener. Hard fought victories against the Rhinos, Knights and Cowboys put TCD in a strong position before their journey up to Belfast to take on the reigning champions, the Trojans. A close encounter was separated by 3 blockbuster touchdowns, by none other than Rob McDowell, who guided Trinity to an 18-0 victory against the current champions. Dominant displays against Waterford Wolves and the North Kildare Reapers put Trinity on pace to top the division and claim the top seeding in the Shamrock Bowl Conference.

Key Players

RB- Rob McDowell: With 16 rushing TD’s, 2 Special Teams TD’s and numerous MVP awards, the newly christened ‘Human Highlight Reel’ had a season to remember!

QB- Dan Finnamore: Finnamore’s move from Drogheda Lightning transformed Trinity’s offence this year. In his debut season, he topped the passing charts as the highest scoring Quarterback with 18 TD’s.

WR- Daniel Murphy: Trinity posses several threats at receiver, with Alex Gurnee and David Lunn contributing to numerous scores. However, Murphy finished top out of the TCD receivers with 6 receptions.

O/Line: The offensive line worked tirelessly all season. They have played a key role in Trinity’s performances, allowing Finnamore consistent time in the pocket and should be credited for their efforts as a unit.

Post Season

By clinching the Southern Division, Trinity bypassed the wildcard round and went straight through to the semi final stage. The second game on July 27th will pit two of Dublin’s strongest sides against each other as TCD take on the Dublin Rebels in Westmanstown. After impressing throughout the regular season, there will be a strong belief in the Trinity College camp that they can transfer their good form into the playoff’s, to ensure they reach their first ever Shamrock Bowl final. The Rebels will prove to be a difficult opposition, but if Trinity can perform to the level they have been playing all season, then this game could swing in the students favour. The game kicks off at 3pm, at Garda RFC in Westmanstown, Dublin.

Shamrock Bowl Breakdown Part 2: University of Limerick Vikings

QB Glenn Carr in action against the West Dublin Rhinos. Photo by Dexter O’Thuithear

The second part (see part 1 here) of the Shamrock Bowl Breakdown series looks at the historic and talented, University of Limerick Vikings. The Vikings booked their place in the semi-finals with a hard fought 20-6 victory against a tough as nails, West Dublin Rhinos side. The Vikings have made it to the final eight times in their history, winning on three occasions in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Their last appearance in the Shamrock Bowl came two years ago when they lost against the Trojans in a close contest. Can they make a return to the Bowl game this year?

Regular Season

After starting the year 0-2, with defeats against Trinity College and a heartbreaking 14-13 loss in the dying seconds to the Dublin Rebels, the Vikings soon hit form and went on to win their remaining 6 games in the regular season. The Vikings talent across the offence began to click as they averaged over 30 points a game in their remaining fixtures, whilst only conceding 36 points on defence. With dominant victories over IAFL-1 graduates, the Dublin Dragons, North Kildare Reapers and Waterford Wolves, the Vikings proved that they have the quality and experience of being one of the top teams in the IAFL. They finished the regular season 6-2 and are one of the form sides coming into the playoffs.

Key Players
Receiver Sean Goldrick in Action. Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao

QB- Glen Carr: Standing in for the mid-season departure of Marc Ashworth, Carr has stepped u admirably at Quarterback, contributing to 4 TD’s thusfar.

RB- Adrian Garvey: Garvey’s powerhouse running earned him a top 5 spot in the rushing charts with 5 TD’s this term.

WR- Sean Goldrick: With a wealth of talent the Vikings posses on the wings, Goldrick finished as the highest scoring receiver with 6 TD’s in total.

LB- Craig Switzer: The multi-talented Switzer made some huge plays on defence this term and contributed to the scoring with 3 TD’s, including a strip-sack against Waterford’s QB, which he took to the house himself.


As previously mentioned, The Vikings defeated the Rhinos in the wildcard round to set up a semi-final clash with their nemesis, the Belfast Trojans. The Vikings have suffered defeat at the hands of the Trojans in their last two outings and will be looking to claim victory at the third attempt. After bowing out at this stage last term, UL will be up for this one and will not want to be defeated at this stage of the playoffs again. They are a hard-hitting and explosive side and could be the dark horses for the Shamrock Bowl. Kickoff is 12pm, July 27th, Garda RFC, Dublin.

Shamrock Bowl Breakdown Part 1: The Belfast Trojans

Neil Montgomery fights his way through the Rhinos defence. (Cover Photo by Dave Bradshaw Photography)

Once again we reach the pinnacle stages of the Irish footballing calendar, where four teams will battle it out to cement their place in the biggest game of the year; The Shamrock Bowl. This four part series will look at the teams vying for a spot in the final and how they faired during the regular season, on their way to the knockout stages. So without further ado, first up we have the current champions; The Belfast Trojans.

The Green Machine entered the season on the back of a very impressive year, by claiming their second consecutive Shamrock Bowl and adding the Atlantic Cup to their trophy haul. This season may have stopped short of their personal best, but the Trojans know what it takes to win and will always prove to be a difficult team to stop.

Regular Season

The Trojans started the season in typical fashion, as they picked up where they left off last term by defeating Northern rivals, the Carrickfergus Knights and Craigavon Cowboys comprehensively. The second half of the season for the Belfast side would prove to be more challenging however, as their unbeaten run came to an end against the number one seed, Trinity College in an 18-0 defeat. This only sparked a new fire in the Trojan camp as they went on to beat North Conference challengers, the Dublin Rebels before putting an emphatic 50 points (for the 50 states!) past the Knights on Independence Day. The Trojans finished the regular season with a 7-1 record, one win shy of going another regular season unbeaten. That record was enough to finish atop the Northern Conference and avoid a wildcard match with the Knights in the process.

 Key Players

QB- James McKelvey: With a strong receiving corp, McKelvey was able to produce 13 TD’s in the regular season, adding  3 rushing scores himself!

WR- David Richardson: Another good year for the receiver as he topped the SBC receiving charts with 6 TD’s.

RB- Neil Montgomery: The hard yards by Montgomery were rewarded with 5 TD’s, expect him to add more in the post season.

LB- Neil Graham: One of the top players in his position, he leads the team with the most tackles this year averaging over 8 tackles a game.

CB- Jon-Erik Talvio: The former Jyvaskyla Jaguars player has rallied in with numerous interceptions and has scored 2 TD’s in his first year.

Post Season

The Trojans will face off against the University of Limerick Vikings in the first of two semi-final double header in Dublin. These two sides met at the same stage last season as the men from Belfast defeated the Vikes 14-0 last year in a cagey affair on the way to their Shamrock Bowl triumph. The Trojans will also have fond memories of beating the Vikings 16-14 in SB26 when a field goal was all that separated the sides on the day. A lot of love has been lost over the last two years and when these sides meet this Sunday, expect an intense battle that neither side will want to lose. Kickoff is at 12pm, at Garda RFC, Dublin on July 27th.

Defence wins Championships

Trojans Defence fighting their way to 3rd Successive Shamrock Bowl – Cover photo by Dave Bradshaw Photography

As the saying goes, ‘Defence wins Championships’ and there is no shortage of people who would agree with such a statement. Great teams are built on a productive offence and a solid defence; with these two ingredients coming together, you have the makings of a team capable of challenging for a championship. This is certainly the case with the Belfast Trojans.

The Trojans have established themselves as being the most dominant team in recent Irish football. The reigning Shamrock Bowl champions consist of a team made of up quality and quantity, often dispatching teams with a flurry of running and aerial assaults on offence, complemented by an organised and well disciplined defence that opposing teams struggle to cope with. The Belfast side once again find themselves attacking the summit SBC North Conference with a 4-0 record this season and show no intentions of letting up anytime soon.

Having firstly defeated the Carrickfergus Knights, the Trojans followed that up by securing victory in both clashes with the Craigavon Cowboys and on the road at the West Dublin Rhinos. The likes of QB James McKelvey, RB Dave Colvin and WR David Richardson can be found sitting atop of the scoring charts on a weekly basis and when a team is consistently able to put points on the board, it’s no surprise that the offence will be in the limelight.

However, what about the defence? So often overshadowed by an offence’s performance it is easy to forget the contribution made from a defensive perspective. When an offence is struggling, they must know they can rely on their defence to step up and rally the team. That kind of trust in your teammates ability has flourished throughout the Trojans squad this year. So, as the offence continues to make waves, what kind of impact is the defence making on the other side of the ball?

The Trojans have conceded only 19 points from their opening four games this year, including two shutouts against fierce rivals, Craigavon Cowboys.  Linebacker trio Neil Graham, Connor Whitla and Chris Weir have racked up in excess of 70 tackles between them, an impressive total in just four outings. The defence have also found the end zone on two occasions this term, courtesy of touchdowns from Rick Duffield and Jon-Erik Talvio. On top of that, the pressure caused to opposition quarterbacks has lead to multiple sacks this season, so it’s no surprise that this defence is to reckoned with.

So what is it that makes the Trojan’s defence one of the most complete and dominant units in the league? Linebacker, Connor Whitla shares his views.

I would say that, while on paper our defence has performed well, recording two shut-outs in three games, we are never content with our performance. The emphasis week in, week out is always on improvement, both personally and as a team. I think it has been this mentality that has allowed our defence to really step up.” – Connor Whitla.

As Whitla explains, the team’s mentality is to perform to the maximum of ones own ability and to not rest on their laurels. A defence striving on being the best and recognising there is always room to improve.

“Absolutely we can improve. There is no such thing as a “perfect” team and we are far from that. We aim to be better every single week and put in work in the gym and on the training field in order to achieve that. Evaluating game film and regular player assessments go hand in hand with training in order for everyone to improve as players.”

The Trojans are at the half way mark of their season; but with games against Trinity College and last years finalists the Dublin Rebels on the horizon, the defence will be expecting each individual player to make a significant contribution.

“Each unit on the defence is fiercely competitive and every single player wants to do their utmost to help the team. Going into games this means everyone plays with 100% intensity, and there is a strong sense of responsibility. Everyone relies on and trusts one another to do their job which allows us to play as a much more cohesive defence.”

The unit has performed well thus far, but maintain there is another level that they can reach. The team has benefited from increased competition over the years, spurring the growth of players for the future. As the Trojans prepare for their game against the equally undefeated Trinity College this weekend, Whitla gives us his views on his own personal goals for this season.

“My main goal for this season is to be better than I was last year. To be stronger and faster. To know the playbook inside out and do everything that is expected of me by my teammates.”

The Trojans are once again showing that they have the strength and quality within their squad, capable of extending their recent run of success. The Belfast side will be aiming to prove they are a team to be reckoned with as they strive towards another Shamrock Bowl triumph. The Trojans welcome Trinity College to Deramore Park this weekend, hoping to continue their good run of form; the kind of form that this defence will have no intentions of relinquishing.