Paul Grogan: ‘This is why we play football!’

Paul Grogan: ‘This is why we play football!’
The Dublin Rebels are Ireland’s most successful American Football team. Founded in 1995, the Rebels have gone on to win 7 National Champions and several European accolades on their way to greatness.

This Sunday at Seapoint Rugby Club, they will be hoping to take one step closer to a record 8th Shamrock Bowl win when they take on the Craigavon Cowboys in the wildcard round.

We have already spoken to Cowboy’s star man, Peter Loughran about how he feels heading into the game. Now we will hear from Rebels Tight-End, Paul Grogan who will be lining up on the opposite sideline in this crucial divisional knockout game.

The Dublin outfit started the season off in similar fashion to the Cowboys, as they suffered narrow defeats to University pair, Trinity College and UCD. However victories against the Cowboys, Panthers and Vikings helped propel the Rebels into the post-season with a respectable (5-3) finish.

Their opening losses to the year effectively saw the Dubliners lose touch of the Trojans in the race for the division title, but the Rebels set themselves high expectations and we will expect better of themselves come the playoff’s.

‘On the face of it we’ve had a mixed season. Going 5-3 during the regular season suggests that. We have a young squad with a large influx of rookies, who are now all contributing greatly across the squad. When it comes down to it we were two individual plays away from being 7-1 on the season.’

‘As it is with every season, the Rebels making the playoffs is the absolute minimum. That has been achieved so I would say a lot done, a lot more to do’.

The playoff’s offer a fresh start for many teams. It allows for the opportunity to evaluate previous performances and make necessary adjustments that will prove crucial in the long run. Paul knows exactly what the Rebels need to improve on going forward.

‘Execution! We were two plays off being 7-1 this season and that came down to execution. A lot of football has been played since then, a lot work put in, fine tuning. If we can execute to the level we are capable of, we are a match-up nightmare!’

Paul has seen a lot of success during his playing career. He has played a part in two of the Rebels championship wins since he joined in 2007, whilst also winning a state championship in Australia with the Perth Blitz. Despite his own personal accolades, he’s always happy to see his team succeed.

‘Well, obviously I think I’ve been spectacular all year, as I’m sure I will attest to. I’m sure anyone that’s watched our games would give you a less biased, more accurate summation. Really for me it’s all about the team first and if I’m doing my job well, it means that the plethora of other weapons we have can shine, as they have done!
I’ve seen a lot of extra coverages on me or teams putting their best player on me and I take that as a huge compliment, but like I said, team first’.

The Rebels lost a number of key players during the off-season, particularly offensive weapons like Chris Purdy and Simon Mackey. However players like Sean Leamy, Sean Douglas and Kevin Finnegan have all stepped up to fill the void and have performed exceptionally over the course of the season. With that in mind, Paul is adamant that the Rebels will be in strong contention for the Shamrock Bowl this summer.

‘As I mentioned before, making the playoff’s is an absolute minimum. This squad is not only capable of making the Bowl game, but more than capable of winning it all. We have absolute ballers on both sides of the football and between Andrew Dennehy and Ross McCooey, we have two of the best football minds Ireland has produced. They’re not bad players either’.

Before they can think about appearing in the final, the Rebels have the small task of two games to win, starting with the Craigavon Cowboys on Sunday. Two of oldest sides in Ireland have clashed hundreds of times over the course of their clubs lifespan, and Paul knows exactly what to expect from his opponents this weekend.

‘In short, it won’t be different. With the Cowboys, you know exactly what you’re going to get. A tough, physical, old-school slug fest! They’re going to run the football right at you, and tell you “try to stop us”. More recently they’ve added a very good passing game to their playbook, with a number of good pass-catchers.

 

‘Of course you guys have talked about Peter Loughran several times, I think everyone in the league knows how good he is, and in order to beat the Cowboys, you have to stop him!’

Two very physical and experienced sides that know everything there is to know about each other will go head-to-head this Sunday, with the definite goal to progress to the semi-finals. It’s a simple case of do or die now and for either the Cowboy’s or the Rebels, one teams season will live to fight another day, whilst the others hopes will be crushed.

‘It’s going to take four full quarters of punishing football that could go right to the final whistle. As the Cowboys proved, they are capable of making late comebacks, with their late showing against the Knights. Couple that with the fact we dropped two games that we were controlling in similar fashion, means that this game could come down to the wire’.

‘ However, this is why we play football! We’re prepared and ready, and I can’t wait!’

Wildcard game: Craigavon Cowboys @ Dublin Rebels: Seapoint RFC, Dublin – 2pm.

Peter Loughran: ‘I believe we are capable of challenging for the Shamrock Bowl’

Peter Loughran: ‘I believe we are capable of challenging for the Shamrock Bowl’

We have now reached the business end of the 2015 IAFL season. Whatever has happened over the course of the last eighteen weeks no longer matters, it’s a fresh start as teams prepare for their quest to headline Shamrock Bowl 29

This weekend will see the first set of playoff fixtures, as the wildcard round prepares to take center stage. The first of three matches this Sunday will take place at Seapoint RFC, as the Criagavon Cowboys head South to take on hosts, the Dublin Rebels.

Both sides have had a strong season up to this point. The Dublin Rebels were able to clinch automatic qualification to the playoff’s as they finished second in the SBC North, despite a slow start to the campaign. The Cowboys clinched post-season football courtesy of their superior points difference and although the inclusion may have been fortuitous and controversial, their end of season run more than deserved playoff football.

In order to get a taste of what’s to come, we were able to chat with two players who will be on opposite sidelines prior to kickoff and whom have aspirations of keeping their Shamrock Bowl dreams alive; first up, it’s Peter Loughran of the Craigavon Cowboys.

The Cowboys proved that quality outweighs quantity as their small squad conquered the odds and booked a place in this years wildcard round. Key victories against the Rhino’s, Panthers and a late comeback against the Knights were enough to see the men from Portadown steal the remaining slot away from the Reapers and finish with a (3-5) record.
The Cowboys have been Shamrock Bowl champions twice in their history, in 1986 and 1992. However their last appearance in the playoff’s came in 2011, when they defeated the Belfast Trojans 17-14 at the same stage. Since then it’s been a period of rebuilding for the ‘Boy’s’, but with playoff football on the horizon, its an exciting period in the Craigavon camp.

It feels great!’ explained Peter, ‘I’ve been struggling to sleep with the excitement. I’m finally happy that my ankle is back up to scratch and we can take part in the playoff’s.’

Despite losing their opening two games and back to back defeats against the Trojans, the Cowboys fought their way back into playoff contention and finished the season in solid fashion.

Team of the Week
Peter threw for 1o touchdowns in 8 games, 2nd most in the SBC. Photo by Ariane Boudias

‘We had a nervous start to the season, but after improving the offensive line and moving Conrad Smith to Tight-End, the offence began to flourish. Defensively we were shaky in places but I have seen big improvements as the season went on.’

‘Jonny Martin and Joe Buchanan stepped up and led the defence, providing some much needed organization. There were a few games I felt we should have won, but we have developed well on the fly and hopefully it will carry on into the post-season’.

The playoff’s often occupy the best teams in the country and in order to be considered a genuine title contender, you need to play your best football. Peter knows the Cowboys still have plenty to improve on, but is adamant the quality in the squad is there to compete.

‘Simply, we need to improve our consistency. We have the weapons and the plays to do very well in the playoffs but we need to execute on every play. Our comeback against the Knights for example, that final 5 minutes wasn’t luck or anything special, it was simply each player on the field doing their job to perfection.’

10492592_471539522980491_4740436547924099533_nPeter is the epitome of a coaches dream. He can play every down and at every position. Although he can play as both receiver and linebacker, Loughran had a tremendous season as the Cowboy’s signal-caller. He tallied 10 passing touchdowns whilst adding 5 rushing scores, making him the second highest scoring Quarterback in the Shamrock Bowl Conference.

For a man who can do it all, Peter still feels there is a lot he can improve on.

‘I would like to decrease the number of interceptions although I’m fairly happy with this year. My O-Line stepped up hugely to protect me when I was injured, only allowing 2 sacks that allowed me to develop as a pocket-passer.’

For a current squad that has little playoff experience, Sunday’s game will not be a typical encounter against the Dublin Rebels. The Cowboys will have to play to the best of their ability to overturn what must be considered a losing spell against their opponents. This will be a big occasion, but Loughran spoke highly of his team and believes they are capable of battling the best.

We might not have played our best football and it will take something special to win, but I think we shown this season that we have that something. We just need to execute and get a full roster available on the day. I believe we are capable of challenging for the Shamrock Bowl, I really do!’

Match details: Craigavon Cowboys @ Dublin Rebels: Seapoint RFC, Dublin. 2pm.

NFL-Ireland’s Week 19: ‘Team of the Week’

NFL-Ireland’s Week 19: ‘Team of the Week’

The IAFL regular season has now come to an end and unfortunately, so too has our ‘Team of the Week’ rundown. We have had the pleasure of witnessing some fantastic performances this year from the leagues most promising players and quite simply, this was our way of showing them some appreciation!

After a few weeks of rest, the offseason will soon commence for many players and teams in preparation for 2016. However if you are one of the few sides that have made it into the postseason, we congratulate you!

This is the last taste of ‘Team of the Week’ for 2015; that is of course until our ‘Team of the Year’ segment!! Week 19 everybody!!

Photography by Declan Forrest
Photography by Declan Forrest

Quarterback: Steve Hayes
Cork Admirals thumb_CAlogo

Hats off to Quarterback, Steve Hayes as he finishes the regular season’s top scorer with a magnificent 25 touchdowns! Hayes has been a constant presence in our TOTW articles, but credit must be given where it’s due. Steve completed his scoring with 3 passing touchdowns in the Admirals 40-6 win over the Mavericks, making him the top scoring QB in the country. His quality has helped guide his Cork side to a (7-1) record and a place in the IAFL-1 Bowl Final.

Photography by Donatas Paliskis
Photography by Donatas Paliskis

Running Back: Pete McMahon
Meath Bulldogs Bulldogs

McMahon’s two touchdowns in Sunday’s win over the Tyrone Titans proved enough to secure Meath’s passage into the IAFL-1 semi-finals. Pete had one receiving and one rushing touchdown in the 20-6 win at Navan RFC clinching him the overall top spot in the rushing charts with 5 scores. The tough running-back has been instrumental in the Bulldog’s progress this season and will look to continue his fine form into the playoff’s.

Photography by Declan Forrest
Photography by Declan Forrest

Wide Receiver: Simon O’Keefe
Cork Admirals thumb_CAlogo

O’Keefe’s 3 receiving TDs against the Dundalk Mavericks have seen him secure top spot in the receiving charts pipping teammate, Nick Coffi, to the title by one score. O’Keefe finishes the regular season on 10 touchdowns. The trio of Hayes, Coffi and O’Keefe have been devastated opposition defences all year long, making them arguably the lands most threatening aerial unit. O’Keefe will be hoping to add more scores to his collection when the Ad’s face either the Bulldogs or Wolves in the IAFL-1 Bowl on the 2nd of August.

Photography by Donatas Paliskis
Photography by Donatas Paliskis

Offensive-Line: Meath Bulldogs Bulldogs

The Bulldogs headed into Sunday’s game knowing nothing less than victory would secure them playoff football. The tie-breaker system needed some deciphering but none of this effected the Bulldogs men in the trenches getting the job done in their 20-6 win against their playoff rivals. The offensive-line aware of the job they faced performed expertly in setting up scores for the offence, contributing to 1 passing and 2 rushing touchdowns whilst also preventing a single sack.

Photography by Dean Cullen
Photography by Dean Cullen

Defence: Donegal/Derry Vipers Vip

Many around the league have been impressed with just out how well the Vipers have been improving game after game. To come into a new season and suffer big losses against experienced sides is a steep learning curve for anyone, but the men from the North battled on and showed great determination and character. Their hard work this season paid off on Sunday as they earned their first ever win in the IAFL, dispatching the Galway Warrior 17-6. The Vipers only conceding late on and showed great composure on defence to hold onto their lead. They have made huge strides this year and look like a changed outfit from Week 1.


Honourable Mentions

Tyrone Titans – To lose only three games in your opening two years is unheard of. Not long ago winning three games in that period would have been seen as a great success. The Titans have set a new bar for young teams and with a strong recruitment push will see them knocking on the door of the SBC very soon.

Alan Harvey FB Meath Bulldogs  The Rookie Full back capped off a strong close to the regular season with a score on Sunday. Harvey is tied with Mathew Hagan of the Mavericks and Daniel Mullan of the Titans for 2nd place in the IAFL1 scoring charts. An impressive outing in his debut season and bringing much need balance to the Bulldogs using attack.

Declan Mulvihill Dundalk Mavericks –  One of the founders of the club and an ever present on both offence and defence for the Mavs, there is little Mulvihill doesn’t do in Dundalk. Another impressive outing on Sunday brought him high praise and despite the loss carried the Mavs into the off season with a solid platform to launch their 2016 campaign from.

Cork Admirals Defence – The focus of most has been on Corks impressive passing attack this season but their no name defence has gone about an fine season with little fuss. A league leading 78 points allowed. Couple this with the pressure of spending more time on the field than most defences in what still is a run first league the Admirals defence has been all the more impressive.

Finally, a tremendous thank you to all the players, coaches and club officials for indulging us this season as we put together this series. Every single player that straps on a helmet, every coach that is working well before and well after practice ends and club officials who spend more time on football than at work we thank you. We hope we have highlighted the very best and brightest performers this year and if we missed anyone let us know. The overwhelmingly positive response to this series is something we are extremely proud of. Well done to all who featured and we’ll see you all in 2016, for now it’s on to Playoff, Team of the Year and the MVP race.

Scott & Steve

NFL-Ireland’s Week 18: ‘Team of the Week’

NFL-Ireland’s Week 18: ‘Team of the Week’

…..and that’s all she wrote! The final weekend of the SBC regular season has officially finished and we now have a firm (albeit confusing!) look at the six sides left standing for a place in the Shamrock Bowl Final in August.

Congratulations to the Belfast Trojans and Trinity College for winning their respective divisions, the Dublin Rebels and UL Vikings for clinching second and the Craigavon Cowboys and UCD for sealing the remaining wildcard spots. Commiserations must also be said for the North Kildare Reapers who narrowly missed out on the playoff’s and to the West Dublin Rhino’s who will now make home in the IAFL-1 next season.

The IAFL-1 and 2 still has a further week remaining, but we had a huge helping of 6 games on Sunday where many fates were decided. Let’s see who stood out in the most pivotal week of the IAFL season to date!

 

Photography by Dave Bradshaw
Photography by Dave Bradshaw
Quarterback: James McKelvey
thumb_BTlogo Belfast Trojans

The veteran Quarterback finished the regular season as the top passer in the Shamrock Bowl Conference with 20 touchdowns, as he guided the Trojans to yet another (8-0) season with a convincing 56-8 win over the Cowboys. McKelvey connected for 4 touchdowns in the rout, 3 to his number one target (who we will get to shortly!) whist also adding a trademark QB sneak to his collection. James is in strong contention for MVP honors this season, as he finished 10 passing touchdowns ahead of his nearest challenger in the scoring charts whilst also notching 4 rushing TD’s.


 

Photography by Alan McNeice
Photography by Alan McNeice
Running Back: Gareth Millar
thumb_CKlogo Carrickfergus Knights

Gareth Millar was the standout running back on Sunday as he spearheaded the Knights offence, racking in 4 rushing touchdowns and a 100+ yard game in their quest for survival. In the defining encounter of the season, Millar stepped up to the plate and caused countless problems for the Reapers defence that couldn’t contain him all game. In what has been a roller-coaster ride for the Carrickfergus Knights this season, The ‘Black and Gold’ won in dominating fashion with a 39-0 victory over the North Kildare Reapers, sealing not only their SBC safety but ending the Reapers hopes of playoff football in the process. When backs are against the wall, that’s when true character shows and the Knights produced easily their best performance of the season when it mattered most.


 

Photography by Dave Bradshaw
Photography by Dave Bradshaw
Wide Receiver: David Richardson
thumb_BTlogo Belfast Trojans

Last season’s top scoring receiver maintains his crown, as David Richardson reeled in a hat-trick of touchdowns in the Trojans win at the weekend. The leagues top receiver has made a habit of being the go-to guy in the passing game for the Trojans offence and is proving increasingly difficult to stop every year. His connection with QB James McKelvey has brought endless success on the field as they hope their partnership will guide them to another Shamrock Bowl triumph this summer. Richardson finishes the regular season with 11 receptions and another consecutive year as the best receiver in the IAFL.


 

Photo by Terry McCann
Photo by Terry McCann
Offensive Line: Dublin Rebels thumb_DRlogo

Word from a spectator at the Rebels versus Panthers game mentioned that the 7 time champions were quite simply superb to watch, as they marched to a 38-6 win over their Dublin rivals. The offence led by Andrew Dennehy made 9 trips to the endzone, scoring 4 rushing, 1 passing touchdown and several rushing 2PAT’s on their way to a (5-3) season. The Rebels O-Line is one of the most disciplined units in the league and their experience contributed to 168 points and 19 touchdowns this year.


 

Photography by Dave Bradshaw
Photography by Dave Bradshaw
Defence: Belfast Trojans thumb_BTlogo

The Trojan juggernaut continues to set the standards in the IAFL as for the majority of Sunday’s game, they were able to stop a strong Cowboys side that have tallied 16 touchdowns this year and rank 4th in that category. The Defence will be disappointed they didn’t shut-out the ‘Boys’, but they did capitalize on several Craigavon errors. Safety, Scott Fischaber claimed an interception and there were fumble recoveries for both Andrew Wright and Andrew McGorman. The defending champions secured themselves the best defensive record within the country, only conceding 30 points throughout the regular season.


Honourable Mentions:

– Meath Bulldogs Defence The Bulldogs posted a shutout this weekend on defence (Mullingars score was a recovered fumble) the Bulldogs have now scored 4 pick-6’s in 2 games after Paul Clarke took one to the house Sunday. They’re the highest scoring defence in the IAFL1

-Mark Dunphy Waterford Wolves in tight games it’s often the team who keeps their nerve is the team that triumphs. Along with everything else he does for the Wolves Dunphy held his nerve and put the only score of the game on the board by way of field goal and put the Wolves in the playoffs

-Tom Donovan QB UCD put up 3 scores Sunday in the loss to Trinity. Donovan has scored 10 passing tochdowns and 5 rushing this season, as he led UCD to the playoffs.

-Carrickfegus Knights knew that a loss meant relegation and posted their highest total points of the year and a shutout on defence. There’s showing up when it matters and there is this, congratulations to them.


IAFL Week 17: Game Previews

IAFL Week 17: Game Previews

Five games to concentrate on this Sunday with the season grinding down to a halt. There is still an extra week of IAFL-1 and 2 action beyond Week 18, but more implications on how the post-season will pan out could be decided this weekend.

Trinity College and the Cork Admirals could confirm their spots as the top ranked teams in their respective division as the Wolves, Bulldogs and Warriors continue their hunt for a taste of life in the playoffs. Meanwhile we could find out the future of the Rhino’s position within the SBC and more…
Shamrock Bowl Conference

thumb_TCDlogo Trinity College (5-1) @ West Dublin Rhinos (1-6) thumb_RHlogo    – Castleknock College, 2pm.

The biggest game of the weekend will take place in Castleknock College in this all SBC South encounter. TCD can march their way to the top of the division as the Rhinos need to win at all costs in order to salvage their season.

The Rhino’s have only mustered one win all season, but it came against the Carrickfergus Knights who have been dragged into the relegation dog fight in recent weeks. As the West Dubliners hold the crucial victory over their rivals, the Rhinos could still survive the drop even if they suffer defeat against Trinity, providing the Knights lose to the Reapers. It’s hard to believe that a potential (1-7) team could avoid relegation, but victory on Sunday would guarantee them safety for another season at the expense of the Knights. It will be a tough ask for the Castleknock side, but they overcame the odds last year and need to do so again.

Bademosi will look to add to his tally of 7 touchdowns this season. Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao
Bademosi will look to add to his tally of 7 touchdowns this weekend. Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao

Trinity College on the other hand have no such issues. Their opening defeat of the season against the Vikings feels like a distant memory as the students have now gone on an impressive 5 game win streak. Some of the games they have scraped through, but if anything it has showed grit and determination that has proven necessary in their quest to make another Shamrock Bowl Final appearance. Trinity’s H2H advantage over the Vikings means victory against the Rhinos this weekend will claim them another South division title, with a game to spare no less.

Trinity are the next best in-form side in the SBC, second only to the Trojans. Running-Back Ola Bademosi has been influential in recent weeks and with Dan Finnamore and Rob McDowell in the backfield, it will be difficult for the Rhino’s defence to contain them. Since the Knights win, the Rhinos have suffered a heavy loss to the reigning champions and now must face another equally impressive offence. It will require a real team effort and their best performance of the year on Sunday if they are to achieve the ‘great escape’.

 

IAFL-1

30 Meath Bulldogs (2-3) @ Cork Admirals (6-0) thumb_CAlogo  – Dolphin RFC, 2pm.

The Bulldogs make the dreaded trip down south to take on the league leaders in the Cork Admirals. The Admirals can take one step closer to the title and eventual bowl game with victory at Dolphin RFC, as the Bulldogs start the first of three straight weekends of football.

Meath will be feeling frustrated that their game with the Tyrone Titans a few weeks ago was postponed. The formalities surrounding the game being called-off are still clouded, with the pitch being deemed unplayable and player safety concerns the main talking points. Regardless of that, Meath must now contend with back to back games to finish off 2015, very much similar to their end of season run last year. Tricky games still await them and fatigue could prove troublesome but a loss here will leave the gate open for the Wolves to pounce on 3rd spot.

Steve Hayes has 20 TD's this season, more than any other QB. Photography by Declan Forrest
Steve Hayes has 20 TD’s this season, more than any other QB.
Photography by Declan Forrest

There’s not much that can be mentioned about the Admirals that hasn’t already been said. They top the rankings in every imaginable way from the scoring charts to the IAFL-1 leaderboard. Their offence has been exceptional with Steve Hayes at the helm as he and his receiving corp go from strength to strength. To justify how well they are doing; they’ve totalled 28 touchdowns this year, the 3rd most in the entire IAFL only behind the Trojans. Six wins, division supremacy, a sure-fire Bowl appearance and a potential unbeaten season? What’s it going to take to stop them!

The Bulldogs will have their work cut out in Cork as their hard as nails defence try to prevent an onslaught on their end-zone. The Admirals ran out 28-13 winners last time these sides met as Meath proved arguably their toughest opponents this season. However since then Cork has put up 91 points in 3 games, numbers the men from Navan simply can’t compete with. The Bulldogs have only scored 5 touchdowns all year so trying to stop the Admirals offence as well scoring themselves will be enough to think about.

 

thumb_TTlogo Tyrone Titans (5-1) @ Waterford Wolves (3-3) thumb_waterfordlogo  – Waterford RSC, 2pm.

One of the longest road games in the country. The Titans must make the long journey south to take on the Waterford Wolves in a bid to secure 2nd in the IAFL-1 with the Wolves hoping to make their trip a forgettable one.

Waterford find themselves in the thick of the action as they bid to make an immediate return to the Shamrock Bowl Conference. So far things are looking good for the ‘Wolf Pack’ as they currently sit 3rd in the division with only a few games to go, but they can’t afford to slip up with Meath and Dundalk hot on their tail. The Wolves form has been inconsistent to say the least, good performances one week are met with slip-ups the next and with season defining games against the Mavericks coming up and the Titans visit this weekend, they need to maintain consistency in what is a crucial remaining few weeks of their campaign.

The Titans most recent fixture came against arch-rivals the Dundalk Mavericks in a 10-6 win, however that was 3 weeks ago. Since then, as we previously mentioned their travels to Meath were short-lived with the game being postponed and many of the players still itching to make a statement when their unbeaten streak went up in smoke at the hands of the Admirals. They face the challenging task of tackling two away games to finish off the regular season and with their away form questionable, this will be a true test of character with the semi-finals looming.

These sides could well meet in the post-season come July 19th, so this may be an early taster of what’s to come in the summer; that is ofcourse if both Tyrone and Waterford can secure their respective positions. The Titans have been solid this year although they haven’t displayed as much conviction in putting teams away that they showed in the IAFL-2. The Wolves on the other hand have struggled in regards to points, having the second lowest on points scored and the second highest on points against. So there is still plenty of work be done before either get to have a pop at the Admirals again.

 

IAFL-2

thumb_BTlogo Belfast Trojans 2nd’s (4-0) @ South Kildare Soldiers (3-2) SKS  – Cill Dara RFC, 2pm.

It will be first versus second in the IAFL-2 as the Belfast Trojans make the return journey to face the South Kildare Soldiers. The Kildare outfit has been improving considerably from last year and have picked up decisive wins against the Vipers and UL Vikings. Offensively they have progressed well scoring 84 points in their 5 games, of which 54 of those came against Donegal/Derry.

Jonah Siri has scored 4 Special teams and 7 rushing touchdowns. Photo by Paul Talbot Photography
Jonah Siri has scored 4 Special teams and 7 rushing touchdowns. Photo by Paul Talbot Photography

The Trojans have dominated the IAFL-2 and already qualify for the Bowl game, where they will be much fancied to take the crown. The division hasn’t really posed a threat to the rookies, but I guess if your training week in week out with players who represent the national team and receiving top coaching from the Irish champions, you wouldn’t expect anything less. 255 points scored and 27 against in only 4 games is just insane!

This game mathematically won’t concern the Trojans too much with top spot sewn up, but don’t expect them to consider it that way. The match could have a huge bearing on how SKS finish up however as defeat to the Trojans could see Galway steal 2nd from the Soldiers if they were to win out. We don’t like to be drawn into pre-game assumptions, but it looks rather perilous for South Kildare and they could well be holding their breath in the hope the Warriors slip up.

 

thumb_ULlogo UL Vikings 2nd’s (0-1) @ Galway Warriors (2-1) 10968328_827634113959732_1746668201097951904_n  – St. Mary’s College, 2pm.

We have hardly spoken at all about the Vikings 2nd’s this year, considering they have only played one game. They have however played a vital part in the resurgence of the first team, so although they’ve been quiet in the IAFL-2 they have been playing regularly against SBC calibre opposition. The Vikings and Rhino’s 2nds were never going to be competing for a Bowl game with the limited games they’d be playing, but any opportunity to play football will provide valuable experience for these future players.

The Warriors have more realistic goals and similar to their division veterans the South Kildare Soldiers, they have improved greatly as the seasons worn on. Galway recently held onto a 21-15 win against the Vipers to keep their momentum pushing forward and with two games left on their schedule, the bowl game is certainly a possibility.

At this stage of the season it’s hard to judge how competitive the Vikings 2nd’s will be seeing as we haven’t seen much of them and there is little to play for but pride, but they will be excited to return to the field again! The Warriors have been playing all season and won’t take the Vikings lightly with a lot riding on this match. Two teams, notorious for hard-hitting defences, I would anticipate a low scoring game in this one.

NFL-Ireland’s Week 16: ‘Team of the Week’

NFL-Irelands Week 16: ‘Team of the Week’

We had a range of results this weekend as Week 16 has now came and gone. The UL Vikings and UCD put on a show in their respective games, coming out convincing winners as the SBC South took another twist. The Rebels edged out the Knights in a hard-fought game in Dublin that guarantees them 2nd spot in the North division.

Whilst around the IAFL-1 and 2, the Mavericks clung on to a 9-0 win against the Minotaurs as the Vipers late comeback wasn’t enough as Galway added another scalp to the league newcomers.

Here’s the best of Week 16 in the IAFL!

Photography by Jason Toher
Photography by Jason Toher

Quarterback: Ian Cahill
thumb_ULlogo UL Vikings

The former Defensive End now turned Quarterback had an excellent day at the office as he helped his side to a resounding 55-0 win over the South Dublin Panthers. Cahill passed for 5 touchdowns, more than any other QB on Sunday, as the Vikings finished off their regular season in style! Whether it will be enough to clinch the South division title remains to be seen but Cahill has fitted seamlessly into his new role and will be a key asset to UL’s Shamrock Bowl hopes.

 

Photo by Laszlo Geczo
Photo by Laszlo Geczo

Running Back: Conor Hanrahan
thumb_UCDlogo University College Dublin

The students clinched a decisive victory in Kildare last weekend in the race for the wildcard spots. They ran out comfortable winners by a 48-0 scoreline against the Reapers that gives them the crucial head-to-head advantage over their division counterparts. Running-Back, Conor Hanrahan was one of a few scorers on the day but his one reception, one rushing and 2PT conversion was enough for him to get the nod this week.

 

Photography by Jason Toher
Photography by Jason Toher

Wide Receiver: Sean Goldrick
thumb_ULlogo UL Vikings

The Vikings are blessed to have a number of seriously talented players on their roster and Sean Goldrick is one of them. The receiver scored a hattrick of touchdowns against the Panthers, reeling in 3 receptions from partner in crime, Ian Cahill. UL’s aerial attack was in full flight on Sunday as the Panthers secondary struggled to contain an irresistible Vikings offence. Goldrick now jumps up the scoring rankings to second with 5 touchdowns.

 

Photo by Laszlo Geczo
Photo by Laszlo Geczo

Offensive Line: University College Dublin thumb_UCDlogo

UCD overturned three straight defeats to get back to winning ways in a pivotal point in their season. They were able to fire 48 points past the Reapers with the O-Line having a particularly good day. Two different QB’s and two different RB’s all got on the scoreboard and naturally the plaudits will go to them. However the O-Line consisting of RT Eoin Feely, RG Larry Doyle, (both Feely and Doyle are the starting Linebackers!) C Harry Maguire, LG Dylan Carrig and LT Ben McLarney should all get great satisfaction from contributing to UCD’s highest scoring game of the season.

 

Photography by Jason Toher
Photography by Jason Toher

Defence: UL Vikings thumb_ULlogo

Not only did the Vikings register 55 points but they earned a shut-out in the process. The Vikings and Panthers have been two of the in-form defences this season, but the Vikes were the better on Sunday. They were able to create turnovers from forced fumbles and interceptions on their way to victory in an all-round dominating performance from the Limerick outfit.

 


Honourable Mentions:

thumb_DRlogo – Rebels Quarterback, Andrew Dennehy threw for 2 touchdowns against the Carrickfergus Knights in their 28-13 home win. Dennehy has now scored 9 touchdowns so far, hitting 6 different receivers.

thumb_ULlogo – Running Back, Shane Gleeson of the Vikings has now regained top spot of the rushing charts with his single touchdown against the Panthers.

thumb_UCDlogo – Two of the top performances of the week goes to UCD’s, Dave Bennet and Tom Donovan. Bennet had a 100 yard rushing game and 2 picks on defence, while Donovan passed for 4 Touchdowns before coming out of the game then calling the plays for Back-Up Kevin Duffy (who also got one)

Vip – Vipers signal-caller, Nic Young proves once again to be the main outlet on the Vipers Offence. Young passed for a touchdown and scored a 2pt attempt in a heroic second half performance against Galway.

thumb_DMlogo1 – We mentioned the capabilities of Dundalks, Matty Hagan in the game previews as he scored the only touchdown that aided the Mavericks to a 9-0 win over Mullingar.

thumb_mullingarlogo  – Praise must given where it’s due, especially when a team with limited numbers must play iron man football for 4 quarters. That’s what the Mullingar Minotaurs did. It wasn’t the result they were hoping for but their effort should not go unrecognised. Credit to them!

NFL-Ireland’s Week 16: Game Previews

NFL-Ireland’s Week 16: Game Previews

The countdown begins! Three weeks for teams to secure their future whether it be to clinch a playoff berth, a division title or simply to avoid the dreaded fate of relegation. From here on out; it’s do or die in the quest for post-season football.

Winning is everything, but even that may not be enough as we enter the stage of the season when complicated head-to-head tie-breakers come into effect. We will do our best to keep you in the loop as things progress but there is plenty to be determined over the coming weeks as the end to the regular season draws ever closer!

thumb_ULlogo UL Vikings (5-2) @ South Dublin Panthers (2-4) thumb_panthers  – Garda RFC, 2pm.

The Vikings will be heading to South Dublin the face the Panthers this Sunday looking to improve on their recent defeat to the Rebels, whilst the Dubliners need a victory to keep their own ambitions alive!

After a strong start to the season, the Vikings ship has started to capsize after suffering back-to-back defeats to both Trinity College and more recently, the Dublin Rebels. They looked odd’s on to clinch their first division title since 2012 but those defeats have left the title wide open for Trinity to grasp. TCD hold the tie-breaker advantage over UL with a superior points difference over the two games, so victory for the Vikings in Dublin would merely put pressure on the students to win all their remaining games.

The South Dublin Panthers defeated UCD 15-8 two weeks ago, which now looks to be a crucial outcome in the wildcard standings. Both sides rest on a (2-4) record, but the Panthers now hold the all-important H2H over the students. We’ve mentioned in the past the difficulty of the Panthers schedule, and their end of season run couldn’t be much tougher. The men from Westmanstown need to beat both the Vikings and the Rebels in their last two games and hope other results go their way in order to reach the playoff’s.

The Vikings will be heading into Sunday looking to overturn their disappointing defeats. They have welcomed back dynamic duo Alvaro Martinez and Marc Ashworth in recent weeks that will add great quality to the squad as the look to head into the post-season on winning form. The Panthers need two massive performances to improve their playoff chances and with UL on a downward slope, this could be their chance to steal a crucial win.

thumb_UCDlogo University College Dublin (2-4) @ North Kildare Reapers (3-3) thumb_reapersLogo2  – North Kildare Sports Club, 2pm.

Few weeks ago it seemed these two sides were better situated to reach the wildcard round, but considering recent results it looks more likely that victory for one team could have damaging consequences on the other.

UCD’s tremendous IAFL-1 form last season has failed materialize to life back in the Shamrock Bowl Conference. Home wins, including the giant killing against the Dublin Rebels and the 13-0 point swing over the struggling West Dublin Rhinos, has been met with three defeats on the trot that now leaves their playoff chances hanging in the balance. University rivals Trinity College await them in Week 18 with their own goals in mind so last years Shamrock Bowl finalists won’t be doing them any favours. That makes this Sunday’s game in Kildare pivotal as once again the H2H tie-breaker will become important.

The Reapers defence will be tasked of stopping the high powered UCD offence. Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao
The Reapers defence will be tasked of stopping the high powered UCD offence. Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao

Out of all the sides within touching distance of the wildcard spots, you’d have to say the North Kildare outfit are in the most advantageous position. The Reapers could book their place in the playoffs this weekend if they win against UCD, no questions asked. Alternative methods include; (1) losing to UCD, but defeating the Knights, or (2) fail to win both games, so long as the Cowboys don’t beat the Trojans and the Panthers fail to win both of their remaining games. Of course, aiming to win on Sunday would be a much simpler approach.

Overturning defeats so late in the season is a tricky task with so much at stake. There is a strong possibility that two South division sides could take both wildcard spots, but that will be dependant on the outcome of this game. Whoever takes home the ‘W’ will be in a much better place to make that final jump into the promise land, however the losing side will have an agonising wait on the final day.

thumb_CKlogo Carrickfergus Knights (1-5) @ Dublin Rebels (3-3) thumb_DRlogo  – Seapoint RFC, 2pm.

Hard to believe that two teams predicted to compete for at least 2nd place in the North division are siting uncertain in their current positions. The Rebels are yet to seal the automatic playoff spot whilst the Knights will be praying they can seal their SBC status.

The Knights will be aiming to outscore the Rebels on Sunday. Photography by Ariane Boudias
The Knights will be aiming to outscore the Rebels on Sunday. Photo by Ariane Boudias

It has been a long a 12 weeks since the Knights picked up their only win against the Cowboys in an impressive 34-12 performance back in March. On the contrary, last Sunday was a sight to behold as the ‘Black and Gold’ surrendered a 22 point lead within the final 5 mins against the aforementioned Cowboys. That win would have given Carrickfergus some breathing room over the Rhinos; now the chances of slipping into IAFL-1 have greatly increased. The only way to stop the rot is to win, starting with the road trip down south to face fierce rivals, the Dublin Rebels.

As mentioned, the Rebels currently reside in 2nd place but their position is not yet confirmed. Defeating the Carrickfergus Knights would secure that spot without any doubt, but defeat would leave them looking over their shoulder. Mathematically, only the South Dublin Panthers could steal second away from them on the H2H rule, but they would need to beat UL first and then defeat the Rebels by 10 points or better. The Rebels recently defeated their historic counterparts the Vikings 21-14 two weeks ago and will be feeling confident ahead of the Knights visit.

The opposing sidelines will be feeling very different levels of pressure on Sunday. The Rebels will know that a win will see them make yet another playoff appearance, but they will still be cautious of a Knights side fighting for survival. Carrick on the other hand will need to go for it! They MUST win against either the Rebels or Reapers if not both to remain in the top tier, as the Rhino’s hold the H2H stakes. It really is all or nothing for the Carrickfergus Knights.

thumb_mullingarlogo Mullingar Minotaurs (0-6) @ Dundalk Mavericks (1-4) thumb_DMlogo1   – DIT, 2pm

It’s a case of 5th versus 6th in the IAFL-1 as the Mavericks host the Minotaurs in the only match in the division this weekend. Dundalk will be looking to clinch a victory that will just about keep them in contention for third. Mullingar will be aiming to end their chances.

Dermot Corroon could be the difference maker for the Minotaurs. Photo by Declan Forrest
Dermot Corroon could be the difference maker for the Minotaurs. Photo by Declan Forrest

The Minotaurs have had a tough time of it this year. They have struggled with numbers and have lost several players to injury and other commitments throughout the course of the campaign. Their goals for the season crumbled a long time ago, but with two games left in their schedule there is still time to earn a consolation victory. The Minotaurs have been steadily improving game after game, so maybe this is the weekend they put a win on the board.

The Mavericks have a flurry of games on the horizon, as they play 3 matches over the next 4 weeks. The Wolves and Admirals will provide tough challenges, but if they can get the better of Mullingar at DIT then they will set themselves up for a showdown with the Waterford Wolves in their last opportunity to make a 3rd place finish. Matty Hagan has been an explosive weapon for Dundalk this season and their defence has been fairly sound, but it’s the physical battles that have got the better of them recently with their last two games being decided by 4 points or less.

This game on paper should be closely contested, but the talent that both teams possess could also make it a high scoring encounter. The Mavericks home form this season has been stagnant whilst the Minotaurs have had similar struggles on the road, but something has got to give. Both teams are in desperate need of wins for one reason or another so this match is just as important as any they have faced this season.

10968328_827634113959732_1746668201097951904_n Galway Warriors (1-1-1) @ Donegal Derry Vipers (0-4) Vip  – Londonderry YMCA, 2pm.

Londonderry is the site for the only IAFL-2 game this weekend as Galway make the journey north to face the Vipers for the first time.

The Warriors have had mixed fortunes in their first 3 games. They overcame challengers the South Kildare Soldiers before going toe-to-toe in a 0-0 tie with the West Dublin Rhino’s 2nds. Their most recent contest took place in Belfast, when the Trojan 2nd’s put on a masterclass showing as the Warriors suffered an uncomfortable 60-7 defeat to the division leaders. Minus the heavy scoreline and the Warriors should feel content with their progress. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done on both sides of the ball, but they have half of their fixture still to play so plenty of time to keep improving.

The Vipers have come a long way since their first game of the season. They have improved at a tremendous rate and are starting to show the IAFL-2 what they are capable of. Their performances have shown grit and determination and the only thing that is missing now is the first win in the books. Quarterback, Nic Young is having a terrific debut season as he leads the team in offensive production. They may have conceded 198 points in 4 games, but 125 of those came against the all-conquering Belfast Trojans 2nd’s. Everyone else in the division has suffered the same fate so it is nothing to be ashamed of. The plus side however is the Vipers are scoring plenty of points of there own, totalling 53.

Both teams have a few games between them to make one last push towards a strong end to the year. When you take the Belfast Trojans out of the equation, as well as the much improved South Kildare Soldiers a third place finish for either side is a distinct possibility and should be considered an achievement in a tough division. These sides are very evenly matched on paper and should provide a more balanced outcome, rather than the typical blowout we’ve come to expect. The return leg takes place in July so this will be a great opportunity for this pair to improve their ‘W’ columns.

NFL-Irelands: ‘Team of the Week’ Double Header

NFL-Irelands ‘Team of the Week’ Double Header!

Unfortunately last weeks ‘Team of the Week’ article had to be delayed, as the world of work got the better of us. Thankfully, we don’t have such problems this week and in return for your patience we have brought you a double dosing of TOTW for both Week 14 and Week 15! Yay!

Hopefully you’ll be able to jog your memories back to just over a week ago, but if you’ve forgotten some of the performances from Week 14, we have you covered! The standout players from Sunday are also included as we picked the best from what proved to be an exciting and pinnacle week on the IAFL calendar.
Week 14:

 

Photography by Ariane Boudias
Photography by Ariane Boudias

Quarterback: Andrew Dennehy
thumb_DRlogo  Dublin Rebels

Andy is one of the most experienced Quarterbacks in the country and arguably the best pure passer of a football in the league. The Rebels form has dipped in and out this year, but the quality of the Dublin offence is hard to ignore. The signal-caller connected with both Kevin Finnegan and Peter Keely as the Rebels overcame the always tough UL Vikings 21-14 at St. Muchens College. The Vikings D currently tops the SBC South and only conceded 46 points before Sunday, so the Rebels win was all the more important as they look to seal up 2nd in the North Conference.

 

Photography by Greg Barret
Photography by Greg Barret

Running-Back: John Buckley
thumb_CAlogo  Cork Admirals

Talk about making an entrance! John competed in his first ever taste of American Football on Sunday as he kitted up for the Cork Admirals in their 27-7 victory away to Mullingar. John had a stellar debut in the red and white of Cork as he broke numerous tackles on his way to his first touchdown of his career, whilst also totalling 116 rushing yards throughout the game. Cork’s offence is brimming with talent and now they can add John to the ranks.

 

IMG_6088
Photography by Declan Forrest

Wide-Receiver: Nick Coffi
thumb_CAlogo  Cork Admirals

This was a difficult position to choose this week with a number of receivers tallying 1 touchdown apiece last weekend. However we decided to go with Nick Coffi of the Admirals for this weeks award, with the Admirals win swinging it in his favour. The Frenchman bagged another touchdown to take his total to 5 on the season as he continues to prove himself to be a favourite target of QB Steve Hayes. With the IAFL-1 Bowl appearance all the more likely, Coffi could well be the key asset to Cork’s potential success.

 

Photography by Media 401 Productions
Photography by Media 401 Productions

Offence: Dublin Rebels thumb_DRlogo

Cork scored the most points of any team in the IAFL with 27, but the magnitude of the Rebels/Vikings clash made the Rebels performance so impressive. The 7 time champions were able to find balance across their offence with two passing scores to the previously mentioned duo of Finnegan and Keely as well as adding a rushing touchdown courtesy of Sean Leamy, who also added a 2pt try to seal the game. The Rebels move to 3-3 as the Offence now holds the third most points scored in the SBC.

 

Photography by Ariane Boudias
Photography by Ariane Boudias

Defence: Tyrone Titans thumb_TTlogo

The Titans were able to close out a 10-6 win over their bitter rivals the Dundalk Mavericks, who they’ve now defeated 5 times on the trot. However the dual between the two sides this year has become increasingly close unlike the high scoring games in the IAFL-2. Only one score has separated the last two fixtures with the Titans defence stepping up when it needed too most. Excluding the Admirals scoreline, Tyrone have only surrendered 3 scores after Sunday, earning two shut-outs in the process. They also conceded the least amount of points last weekend too.


Week 15:

 

Photography by Declan Forrest
Photography by Declan Forrest

Quarterback: Steve Hayes
thumb_CAlogo Cork Admirals

Steve has proven week after week that he is a fantastic talent in the IAFL and he’s becoming a regular in our TOTW’s too. Hayes has led the scoring charts for much of the season as he and the Cork Admirals storm their way through the IAFL-1 Conference. He put up dominant numbers against the Waterford Wolves, throwing for 5 touchdowns amounting 247 yards in the process. The signal-caller has now reached the 20 touchdown mark on the season and is a serious contender for MVP honours.

 

Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao
Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao

Running Back: Ola Bademosi
thumb_TCDlogoTrinity College

It’s been consecutive appearances for Ola Bademosi in our TOTW column as his performances continue to standout amongst those in his position. He’s arguably been the most in form player in recent weeks as his two rushing touchdowns were enough to help Trinity oversee rivals UCD 23-14. His recent surge of form now lifts him to top spot in the rushing charts with 7 touchdowns, as his blend of speed and strength is proving difficult to contain.

 

11407085_981508368548689_1593733863621589929_n

Wide Receiver: Luis Alberto
thumb_CClogo  Craigavon Cowboys

This game will live long in the memory! Suffering from a 22 point deficit, the Cowboys miraculously pull the game back with 5.04 left on the clock, to somehow win 23-22 on the last play of the game. There have been a number of comebacks over the years, but perhaps this is the best of them? Receiver, Luis Alberto was the savior of the game as he reeled in 2 clinical touchdowns and a 2 PT conversion to put Craigavon within touching distance. It was then Luis who stepped up to take the pressure kick that ultimately won the game for the ‘Boys’ with seconds to spare. Incredible scenes were met at the full time whistle and much of the credit should be given to Luis’ heroic performance.

 

Photography by Dave Bradshaw
Photography by Dave Bradshaw

Offensive Line: Belfast Trojans thumb_BTlogo

The North division champions continue to dominate the IAFL and the West Dublin Rhino’s were the latest victims in the Trojan onslaught. The offence tallied 30 of Belfast’s 49 points on Sunday as the O-Line consisting of Matthew Vance, Mark Davidson, Michael Bradford, Chris Harte and Mohammed Ramadan helped contribute to 2 passing and 3 rushing touchdowns. The Trojans still have one game left of the regular season, but they’ve scored 293 total points so far; 210 of which have been scored by the offence.

 

Photography by Declan Forrest
Photography by Declan Forrest

Defence: Cork Admirals thumb_CAlogo

We’ve talked in past about the teams that rank amongst the leagues best defences; the Belfast Trojans, UL Vikings, Trinity College to name a few. How about adding the Cork Admirals to that list? Sundays comfortable 43-0 win against the Waterford Wolves maintained how good the Cork offence is, but what about the defence? 6 forced fumbles (4 recovered) 3 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 lateral passes, 1 defensive touchdowns and a shut-out. Impressive numbers! The DMVP performance came courtesy of Chris Allen who had 13 tackles, 4 TFL’s, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble and he scored the touchdown. That’s as good a defensive performance as any in the league this season.


Honourable Mentions:

thumb_CClogo  – Peter Loughran is a phenominal all-round player in this league, but that’s probably the best 5mins of football he’s ever played! 2 passing touchdowns and 1 rushing TD of his own were enough to give the Craigavon Cowboys the greatest of comebacks in IAFL history; 3 touchdowns in 5 mins? #clutchgenes

thumb_CAlogo – Many teams in the IAFL have a star receiver, the target man, the go-to guy. The Cork Admirals have a number of them. It’s hard to mention Nick Coffi (2) without naming partner in crime Simon O’Keefe (3) as the pairing totaled 5 touchdowns between them against the Wolves. Luis Alberto was our top receiver this week, but O’Keefe’s 3 Td’s and 160 yard game could have taken the spoils on another day.

 

IAFL Week 15 Previews!

Week 15 Previews

Games, seasons and futures can be decided in moments this time of year. Teams certain of security can make one slip and be facing the IAFL 1 quick sand. Teams wondering who their playoff opponents will be get caught looking the wrong way and their football is done for another year.
This weekend 6 SBC teams seasons will tilt one way or the other, in the IAFL 1 opportunities for the chasing pack are dwindling in the fight overcome Tyrone or Cork and uncertain of what the future of their division will hold, IAFL 2 teams just compete for the purest of motivations…victory.

Belfast Trojans 6-0 v West Dublin Rhinos 1-5

Preview
Mc Kelvey leading all scorers Photo by Dave Bradshaw

The Trojans find themselves, yet again, free from any of the above concerns. Another fine season draws to a close and the Trojans have never looked like they’d stumble. 30+ points in all games bar one (which was called early) and never more than 1 score given up in any game. They lead the way in points scored and in defence. James McKelvey and David Richardson sit atop their respective scoring charts by some margin and with Neil Montgomery within reach of the rushing title the Trojans could sweep the regular season in every imaginable way.
The Rhinos, it’s no disrespect to say, have struggled this year. An offence that never got moving and a defence that couldn’t possibly be expected to take up that much slack. Serious discussions were needed and action facing potentially certain relegation after only 6 games. A change at Quarterback is more than just about the play of the passer himself. It’s an indictment of an offence when the leader of it is replaced. It forces all men on the downfield side of the ball to hold their own performances to account and ask the question of themselves, have I done enough? It worked! Stephen Mooney stepped under centre and with their heels teetering off the edge of the SBC cliff they fought back and although it may only be a stay of execution, they saved their SBC status for another game at least. It still looks as though the men in Castleknock will go down, as the Knights have 3 games left and will consider at least one of them winnable.
This is the exact wrong time for the Rhinos to be facing the Trojans but if they are to go down they will be looking to go down swinging or to put it another way –
Why does it matter how a man falls, when the fall is all that left, it matters a great deal.

Carrickfergus Knights 1-5 v Craigavon Cowboys 2-4

To view the Knights in person and then on the league table would leave you confused. Live and up close, a large well organised professionally run outfit that exudes confidence and considered preparation. On paper, only 1 win. It’s difficult to say the least to mould a large group of men into a football team competing in all three phases of the game and while at times this season the Knights offence has rolled along, the defence as let them down. Other times when the defence was lock down the offence couldn’t capitalise. The league position is explained by a lack of consistency rather than a team that flatly ins’t able to compete. If the loss to Rhinos didn’t shock some in the Knights organisation to life, they could be in serious trouble. We mentioned above that the Knights will see some of the remaining three games as winnable, they should, at this point, know that seeing a game as winnable and actually winning it are a different story. If the game was played on paper the Knights should be 3-2 and looking to cement a play off spot. The IAFL 1 poses it’s own challenges and is not easily escaped and a season or two down there without progress could be devastating to a teams future. This is why in their remaining 3 games, (Cowboys, Rebels and Reapers) at least one win is essential. This squad is capable of better but to hold it together, if they achieve that one win, it could prove to be a defining moment in the life of the Knights.
Outside of the Cowboys; expectations were low. Often times, the first game of the season and the squad size you arrive to it with will determine what people think of your chances. After not being particularly impressive in the reverse fixture on the opening day the Cowboys slipped the notice of most people. They have thrived as the underdog this season and now must legitimately be considered that which they aim to be…the wildcard. The offence behind their enigmatic leader, Peter Loughran, have been racking up points this season. They pose several issues for defences tasked with stopping them. The aforementioned Loughran is one of the best pure football players in the league, placing him anywhere between the white lines will get you results, be it on defence or under centre. Conrad Smith is a beast at tightend and finding someone to match up with him in most defensive backfields is no easy task. Where the Cowboys have suffered is on defence, ranking near the bottom. The Knights have hardly lit up the scoring charts this season with the bulk of their 51 points coming on that opening day. If the Cowboys defence can elevate their performance on defence just a little, their offence has the tools to win the game and give them an iron grip on 3rd place in the SBC north and the Wildcard status they so crave.

University College Dublin 2-3 v Trinity College Dublin 4-1

Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao
Ola Bademosi making his mark Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao

Trinity started the season a little out of sorts and carrying injuries from an impressive but punishing campaign in 2014. UCD beat them in the College Championship and had the season opened with this game like it was supposed to things could be a looking a little dimmer for the scholars at this point. Fortuitously that game was called due to the weather and now is the closing fixture rather than the opening. Trinity suffered defeat early in the season to a surging Limerick side and the Panthers got a little closer to them that they would have anticipated. Since those early hiccups and a long break for exams Trinity look themselves again. Rob McDowell appearing in a multitude of positions and Ola Bademosi emerging as one of the most punishing runners in the league. After turning the head to head points difference around on Limerick and the subsequent loss by the Vikings to the Rebels, the SBC South is now Trinity’s to lose.
More accurately perhaps, the SBC South is UCDs to take from Trinity. The Boys from Belfield make up two of the three games remaining for their South Side neighbours and although UCD can’t claim the SBC South for themselves (unless they win out and Limerick forfeit their game at the Panthers next week) they can prevent Trinity from winning it. Motivation enough for these colours games. Tom Donovan truly is one of the most exciting players to watch in the IAFL and would give the celebrated Rob McDowell a run for his money in breakout ability. Eoin Feely on the UCD defence is consistently making game changing plays and with weapons elsewhere both sides of the ball UCD will most certainly feel they have the tools to upset their rivals. UCD maybe would feel they should be sitting on a better record than 2-3 but playoffs are most certainly within reach for the students. 3rd place in the SBC North is not guaranteed to have a better record than 4th in the SBC South and the Reapers still on their schedule, there is certainly more than one way they can make the post season. At least one positive result against Trinity would place them in an extremely strong position and with the Reapers game to come they have every opportunity keep their season going throughout July.

Cork Admirals 5-0 v Waterford Wolves 3-2

Hayes having an MVP season Photography by Declan Forrest
Hayes having an MVP season
Photography by Declan Forrest

Cork look destined for the SBC. It would be an upset if they didn’t find themselves in possession of the IAFL1 title at the close of the season. Although praise has been heaped upon them from all corners, including this one, this season they are not perfect just yet. Winning teams are often built on a precarious balance of mentality and ability. There are teams in the IAFL1 with the ability but perhaps not the winners mentality and there are some teams riding high in this and other divisions with the mentality but perhaps not the ability of their lower ranked rivals. When you go in search of a perfect season, the belief you possess the ability to do it but never the disregard for your opponents ability to stop you are vital ingredients. Cork are relatively young following their rebirth and now mentality as much as the much heralded ability of their squad will determine their perfect season.
Waterford are reconstructing their confidence, game by game, play by play, inch by inch. It was clear following some of the sentiment coming from the South East following their victory over Meath last time out that possession of a winning record once more was a milestone for this group. They will be in no humour to give it up easily. There is tremendous enthusiasm for the Wolves in Waterford and they are among the best supported teams in the land. The drive to repay that faith can often overcome any deficits verses more talented opposition. Games, seasons and futures can turn in moments in football and if Waterford can overcome cork suddenly the prospect of bouncing straight back into the SBC will edging closer to reality. Cork must now maintain mental discipline and belief in their ability or the wolf pack could devour their perfect season.

Meath Bulldogs 2-3 v Tyrone Titans 5-1

IAFL 1
Meaths scorers facing a big task. Photo by Ariane Boudias

The Bulldogs have never had a losing season at 11s football and with Tyrone, Cork and Mullingar to come that record is under threat. With the IAFL 1 bowl on their home turf in Navan again this year the Bulldogs hopes of playing in it are also still very much alive. The Bulldogs were sucker punched in the opening game of the season verses a Titans team that proved to be more potent than most had anticipated them to be in their debut IAFL 1 season. It would be uncharacteristic of the Meath men to not remedy that lapse in the intervening months. A 15 point reversal is required for the Bulldogs to stand a chance to over throw the Titans team that look odds on for the 2nd spot in the IAFL1. This is no small task against a team that, with the exception of their Cork game, have conceded no more than one score in any game this season. Meath possess some of the most consistent offensive performers in the last number of years in the IAFL1 and each of them will need to show up to challenge the stingy Titans defence.
The Titans will have always believed in their ability to win this division and at this point in their development to have a realistic shot at the SBC is a huge feat. To have only lost 1 game since their formation is unprecedented. Built on a strong defence, relying on a mix of experience and explosive playmakers they count among their ranks the players to perhaps make this one of the truly great defences in the country. Still less than a year in the tutelage of new offensive co-ordinator Gary Carr the offence has fired in spots and stumbled in others but something that has been consistent has been the results. Meath play a particular brand of hard hitting football and late in the season when bodies are sore and will is tested to the limit, the character of a team is revealed. If Tyrone truly hope to not only play in but win the IAFL1 bowl game games such as this can’t be let slip. A game that won’t be pretty but a battle that will be won and lost in the trenches.

IAFL Week 14: Game Previews

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’

thumb_DRlogo  Dublin Rebels (2-3) @ UL Vikings (5-1) thumb_ULlogo  – St. Munchins College, 2pm.

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?

thumb_CAlogo  Cork Admirals (4-0) @  Mullingar Minotaurs (0-5) thumb_mullingarlogo – Harbour Field, 2pm.

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.

thumb_DMlogo1  Dundalk Mavericks (1-3) @ Tyrone Titans (4-1) thumb_TTlogo – Omagh RFC, 2pm.

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  South Kildare Soldiers (2-2) @ Donegal/Derry Vipers (0-3)  Vip – Londonderry YMCA, 2pm.

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!