Mark McGrath: ‘We’re champions and we will fight for that title’.
Three consecutive Shamrock Bowl titles is an impressive feat but for the Belfast Trojans, they have bigger aspirations. Today, they enter Dalymount Park with only one thought in mind; to win again. Victory today would see them surpass the UL Vikings in Shamrock Bowl wins as the Trojans look to put themselves into the elite status of football in Ireland. Ahead of the game, we got chatting to Head Coach Mark McGrath about the teams preparation ahead of kickoff.
The Trojans have looked unstoppable at times this season, showing clinical production on offence coupled with the ever reliable shutout defence. It’s been their third unbeaten year in the last four and signs are already pointing to more success in the future. The defending champions are itching to get going!
‘The squad is feeling excited and impatient about the final’, said McGrath, ‘We have our game plan in place and can’t wait for kickoff!’
The ‘Green Machine’ have had terrific depth in their squad for the last number of years, stacked in quality and Irish National team calibre players. If the past teams were good, it’s scary to think of the potential this years team possesses. Mark, who plays on both offence and defence, claims that compared to the other successful rosters in the past; the 2015 squad could be the best one.
‘In my opinion this years squad is our strongest to date. We have good depth in our squad, our D is formidable but what makes us different this year from others is how well our O has performed.’
The Trojans came out victors in last years final 7-0, overcoming the rain and gruesome weather to narrowly defeat this weekends opponents, Trinity College. Although they won the game, there is still plenty to be learnt from last seasons showpiece as Connor Whitla’s pick 6 was all that could separate the sides in difficult conditions, as the game so easily could have had opposite fortunes for the defending champions.
‘The main thing I have taken from last years final, and the regular season games before it, is that Trinity cannot be underestimated. We will need to bring our A game to beat them. We will be looking for our defence to step up again and play as well as they did last year. As for the offence, we moved the ball well in tough conditions last year but we will be hoping to put points on the board this year regardless of the weather’.
Belfast go about business in commanding and professional fashion. They set the bar high for rival teams to reach their standards year after year. With the upcoming rookies clinching the IAFL-2 trophy last weekend, the winning mentality established within the team has already worked its way through the entire squad. However, for a team that has had great amounts of success in recent years, how do you motivate a winning team to keep going?
‘Complacency is a big problem to fight, fortunately our team is full of very competitive guys who will push each other, which makes my job as Coach much easier. We try to keep training fresh and interesting and having an extra six games for our rookies to play in has really helped keep the squad focused. At this stage of the season it’s win or go home and my guys don’t need much motivation from me. We’re champions and we will fight for that title because it’s who we are.’
Trinity College will post as difficult opposition to face, as the last two encounters between the pair have proven. It’s been a terrific year for reigning champions, but it all comes down to one game to prove they are the best in the country. Both sides will be filled with emotion, nerves but a lot of optimism and so they should be. They have had great seasons up to this point, but only one team can take home the biggest honour in Irish American Football.
Mark knows what his team is capable of producing, as his side enter the battlefield ‘one more time’.
‘Obviously, Trinity are a very talented outfit but keys to victory for me are to play Trojan football. If we play our brand of football, there isn’t a team on this island that can beat us. This game, like the 3 before it is in our hands to win or lose and I personally can’t wait until the game to see my team lift another Shamrock Bowl!’
The Shamrock Bowl kicks off at 3pm today from Dalymount Park, Dublin.
Rob McDowell:I genuinely couldn’t be prouder of this TCD squad
One of the most iconic American Football players in the IAFL, Rob McDowell has amazed us with his fantastic footballing ability for the last six years as his speed and skill have made him arguably the best player in the country over recent times. He has achieved plenty of recognition during that period, from national team call ups to the 2014 MVP award. Despite all that he has achieved, there is still one accolade that alludes him; the Shamrock Bowl trophy.
Trinity College enter Sunday on the back of a solid (7-1) campaign that included the 22-0 victory over the Dublin Rebels in the semi-finals. The students started 2015 slowly, but quickly turned on the jets that eventually saw them defend their SBC South crown.
After enduring 5 games in 8 weeks to complete a busy end to the regular season, fatigue may be slowly starting to settle in, but there is an air of excitement throughout the TCD camp ahead of the final and everyone is ready for the task at hand.
‘Physically? I feel terrible! I think I actually felt better with a torn ACL at the end of 2013 than I do now [ha]. Mentally, great. I’d be lying if I said there are no nerves, but mostly I’m excited. It’s great to get to play infront of actual supporters in a game that really means something.’
‘I think this season has been the most impressive performance by a TCD team in the 6 years I’ve been playing. Things weren’t exactly looking great at the start, To lose three in a row – Shamrock Bowl, College Championship and the season opener to the Vikings – was not how we pictured launching this campaign. But in hindsight I believe it was the start we needed.’
‘We didn’t really have to fight last year; but in the game with the Rebels we had to claw our way back, and it really bonded us – we gained a huge amount of trust and confidence in each other and it’s carried through the entire season.’
This weekend’s encounter will be only the second time the students have reached the coveted Bowl game, having fallen to this weekends opponents the Belfast Trojans 7-0 last year. Trinity were much fancied for last years title after a blistering season and although this year has proving seemingly more challenging, Rob still feels this team can go all the way.
‘Last season things just clicked for us in a way we couldn’t have expected going into it. That unbeaten run, taking down the Trojans away, beating the Rebels for the first time in club history to clinch our first ever playoff win, it was a lot. Any team that has traditionally been a mid-tier contender and on the end of a lot of heavy beatings is going to be proud of those achievements and unfortunately I think as a team we carried a little bit of hubris into the finals and even into the two losses that followed.’
‘We’ve been through a considerably tighter season than last year but its built a much more effective team. It will be a tough game undoubtedly but I’d expect nothing less from a side like the Trojans.
‘Our defence in particular is a massively overlooked strength of the team. We don’t post as many shutouts as the Trojans do, but when it comes to the big games and we have our full D out there, it’s scary! Brian O’Driscoll (CB) knows as much, if not more about football than anybody in this league and he brings it to bear as the Defensive Captain. He studies tape more than anyone I know and it pays off.
‘You just have to look at the numbers – at total of 8 points scored against our D in our last 3 postseason games, 0 points conceded against the Trojans offence in our last two match ups. They are a great unit, pretty much nameless and deserving of far more recognition than they garner. But thats fine by me because they all play with a chip on their shoulders and its fun to watch (and occasionally join in with).’
The talent that McDowell possess allows him to be a threat in every facet of the game. Primarily known for being the star running-back, Rob also features as the safety on defence and the dangerous returner on special teams. However, this season he has adopted the more unfamiliar Quarterback position, something he is still getting used to. Understandably, he receives a lot of attention for his ability on the field but he was quick to praise the players around him for helping him improve his game.
‘It’s been interesting. You have to approach the game so differently than you would at RB. I actually only played a total of 3 games at QB. I started the season at RB but after racking up a lot of minor injuries, we sat me for the better part of 3 games midway through the season. When Ola went in as the starting RB he absolutely tore it up – 7 touchdowns in three games with 4 or 5 of them scored against two great defences in the Vikings and UCD. There was no point in keeping Ola (and subsequently Brian DuToit: 5 touchdowns in two games) on the bench. Dan Finnamore makes for a great target out wide; he has the size and reach to box out any DBs in this league, so we figured QB was a logical spot to put me in to allow us to keep our best athletes on the field, and keep me somewhat healthy.’
‘I know the O-line were apprehensive about putting me in there though. They’re great pass blockers but I had twitchy feet and tended to bail out of the pocket before it had even formed, and then potentially run back into it 5 or 6 seconds later [haha]. After a while I got used to it and stopped thinking so much like a RB. It helps when you’ve got the receiving core that we have too – a great mix of size, speed and catching ability which really gives a QB a lot of confidence.’
Tomorrow is a huge occasion for football in Ireland, the showpiece that determines the best team in the country. Trinity came incredibly close to winning that honour last year and the misfortune still lingers. One of the defining moments of the game came at the expense of Rob, when the ball was forced from his grip and recovered by the Trojans that ultimately secured Belfast the title. Rather than let it affect him ahead of the game, Rob sees the lighthearted side of it and knows things could be different this Sunday.
‘Bring a lot of towels. Be adaptable. Carry the ball with my outside arm [haha]. In all seriousness though, last years final was a disaster. A huge portion of the team was playing every phase of the game and we never had a moment off the field to discuss what was going wrong and how to fix it. I think an air of panic set in when we hadn’t scored by the half and having no established coach last season to calm us down was a serious handicap. With Coach Drake on our sidelines this year we’re a much more focused team. He brings a calmness to the group that we desperately needed.’
The weather was a distinct struggle for both teams last year, with torrential rain and lightning making the pitch almost impossible to play on. The forecast is expected to be much better this Sunday, so we should expect a fantastic game of football in the season finale. It’s going to be a true battle this weekend and with memories of last years final still fresh in thought, both sides will know what they need to do to win.
‘Play hard, clear eyes, full hearts, yards and inches and stuff, etc… The gameplan is for us to know and the Trojans to figure out.’
Rob McDowell has proven himself to be a gifted athlete when it comes to American Football. Whether he is bursting out blockbuster runs with tremendous pace or evading would-be tacklers with his elusiveness, he has always been able electrify games with his playmaking ability. He admits he is unsure what the future holds for him, but the man dubbed the ‘Human Highlight Reel’ will always be remembered as a great IAFL player, regardless of the decision he chooses to make. He will look to finish this season on a high by helping his side lift their first ever Shamrock Bowl trophy in Dalymount Park on Sunday.
‘I don’t say it to them a whole lot, but I genuinely couldn’t be prouder of this TCD squad – the guys who were here at the start of the season, and those who stepped up to fill their spots when the inevitable summer turnover came around, the 1st year players and the veterans that are left.. every single one of them helped us get back to the Shamrock Bowl. It’s a special team and win or lose I am incredibly grateful to have spent my final season playing with this bunch of guys.’
Dalymount Park is the 2015 venue for the Championship game and will see the defending champs and three time winners, Belfast Trojans take on their 2014 Bowl Game opponents, Trinity College Dublin. The Trojans squeaked a 7-0 win last year, but who will take the honours this weekend?
Both sides are entering the game on the back of tremendous seasons. The Trojans went undefeated with a perfect 8-0 record and Trinity College overcame some early jitters and impressed with an excellent, 7-1 record. Reversing roles on 2014, it will be the Trojans entering the game undefeated with the students looking to cause an upset.
Belfast’s path to Shamrock Bowl 29 rarely looked like derailing, with comfortable wins against division rivals the Dublin Rebels and Carrickfergus Knights, the champions steamrolled their way to the top of the SBC North unthreatened. Their passage into the playoffs would see them tied against familiar foes in the UL Vikings in the semi-finals. Despite a close, physical battle the Trojans came out on top with a narrow 10-0 victory that would see them headed for their fourth consecutive Shamrock Bowl.
Trinity on the other hand started slowly, losing to the Vikings in the season opener. However they quickly worked their way through the gears to ultimately top the SBC South with key wins against UCD and then the Vikings in the return leg, as they went the rest of the campaign without a loss. They faced the Dublin Rebels in the semi-finals, were they came out 22-0 winners and booked themselves another showdown with the Trojans for the Waterford Crystal Bowl this Sunday.
Both teams are entering Dalymount in excellent form, mounting strong tallies on both offence and defence throughout the regular season. The Trojans topped the Shamrock Bowl Conference in all aspects, scoring well over 300+ points whilst only conceding 30 over an 8 game span. They averaged 38 points per game with the offence controlling every match from the outset as the defence went about their usual business creating several turnovers and compiling 4 shutouts.
Trinity had a strong showing too throughout, tallying 202 points for and only 92 against. They averaged 25 points per game as the offence started to come into its own at the midway stage and although their defence couldn’t salvage any clean sheets, they did however keep most teams at bay as their average points conceded per game over the year was only 9. The Trojans may have topped the majority of statistical charts, but TCD weren’t far behind in second place.
Despite the strength of the Trojans line-up, one key absentee will be that of star receiver David Richardson, who was ejected against the Vikings and will miss the final as a result, a huge loss to the offence. Quarterback, James McKelvey will need to turn to other targets in the passing game, with more responsibility now being added to the shoulders of Running-Backs, David Colvin and Neil Montgomery to carry the workload.
Trinity College will be coming into the game with a new look offence that has served them well this
season, as injured Quarterback Dan Finnamore moves to Wide-Receiver, allowing the dynamic Rob McDowell to move under centre. Having both McDowell and leading rusher Ola Bademosi could prove a dangerous tandem with their big play ability, so the Trojans defence will need to stay focused.
In regards to Sunday, both teams and sets of fans will be hoping the difficult Irish weather remains at bay, so it isn’t a repeat performance from Mother Nature of last year. Providing the weather is kind to us, supporters will be able to witness the full potential and talent that both sides have to offer in a great game of football. With the IAFL season drawing to a close, it’s only fitting that the best two sides of recent years contest the showpiece that is Shamrock Bowl XXIX.
Belfast Trojans versus Trinity College – THE REMATCH!
To give you a taste of what to expect this Sunday, here is a highlights package courtesy of Media 401 Productions of last seasons epic final!
We now turn to the men in the trenches, the guys up front that notably get overshadowed but are as equally, if not more important than anybody on the offence. They are key to all offensive production and without them, the quarterbacks, receivers and running-backs of this world wouldn’t get the praise they do! Dear Linemen….we thank you!
Team White:Belfast Trojans
The men in green from Belfast have racked up some serious points on offence this year. They averaged 30+ points per game and scored a whopping 349 in total, 325 of which were on offence. McKelvey and Richardson topped their respective scoring charts, but the guys battling in the trenches helped facilitate that. The O-Line consisting of Matthew Vance, Michael Bradford, Mohammed Ramadan, Mark Davidson and Mark McGrath, with Chris Harte, Simon Cherry, Barry Keil, Jeroen Egge, Greg Gibson and Stephen Cheevers deputising at one point or anther too all have contributed to easily the best offensive unit in 2015.
Team Green:Trinity College
It’s not quite the blistering heights of last years breakout offence, but the students still got the job done on their path to another Shamrock Bowl Final. The O-Line was still as clinical as ever in both the passing and run game as they led TCD to 200 points and 28 touchdowns. The offensive line may not have the height advantage, but they are quick, nimble and very athletic and can more than hold their own against the best defences. Jack McKenna, Tom O’Hara, Kieran Coughlan, Dan McCarthy-Edwards, Jan Tamas and Barry Lysaght have ensured that Trinity remains one of the best offences in Ireland this year.
Most Honourable Mentions
Dublin Rebels – The Rebels have endured many changes over the years to both sides of the ball but despite the numerous new faces, the Rebels Offensive Line has remained one of the best front 5’s in the business. Their pass protection is second to none, which is why you rarely see QB Andrew Dennehy being sacked. They can get upfield too and provided pairing Sean Leamy and Kevin Finnegan with clear running lanes in which they can show their talent. They are smart, well-drilled and communicate well across the line which is a testament to the a very strong Rebels offence. Sunday (Fergal O’Hanlon), Paul Kirkwood, Tom Telford, Lewe O’Connor, Ross McCooey and at times Steve Walsh are one of the best there is.
Cork Admirals – The Admirals have proven themselves to be an offence to be feared, despite the lapse against the Wolves in the IAFL-1 final. They scored an incredible 225 points over the regular season, surmounting 33 touchdowns, the second best of all IAFL teams. Their is a reason Steve Hayes, Nick Coffi and Simon O’Keefe get the attention they do, but they can only be as good as their offensive line allows them to be, and based off this seasons performance, Cork are one of the better ones around.
We are gradually coming to the end of our ‘Team of the Year’ selection, so it’s now time to turn our attentions to the defensive side of the ball. Defence ruled in 2014, however this year the offences have started to take centre stage in the bragging rights with a number of high scoring and one sided games. There have been of course a few shut-outs and defensive battles to name, but few and far between compared to recent years. The teams named below have been the best defensive units in the league this year, not only because they are a talented bunch, but they have also been the best equipped in dealing with the high-powered offences this season. Everyone loves a good defensive battle!
Team Green: Belfast Trojans
The Trojans very own ‘Walls of Troy’ has been standing tall for the last 4 years. Only Trinity College has been able to get the better of the tormenting defence in that timespan, as the defending champions boast the best defensive unit in the league for another year. They conceded only 30 points in 9 games and delivered 5 shutouts in the process, including the Vikings in the semi-final. They’ve been able to get on the scoreboard too, with Chris Mikhael, Connor Whilta and Chris Weir all bagging defensive touchdowns, with Neil Graham and Christophe Perret penetrating the backfield to create safeties. From the D-Line, to the Linebackers, to the DB’s the Trojans are well equipped in all areas.
Team White: UL Vikings
Not too far behind the Trojans in the defensive conversation would be the UL Vikings. They are tough as nails, and possess one of the most frightening run-defences in the IAFL that get to ball quickly and in numbers. Their secondary is quite scary too, with Sean Sheehy and Craig Switzer possessing excellent coverage skills and are solid in run-support. The Viking’s D surrendered only 67 points, consisting of 3 shut-outs and have proved difficult to break down all season long. The semi-final against the Trojans optimised what defensive football is all about, two notorious units going head-to-head in a lockdown battle. The Vikings have always been stellar on defence, and that looks set to continue. Ray Burke, Blake Farbe, Mark Kiniry, Darren Gleeson and the best kept secret in the IAFL Darragh O’Callaghan, to name but a few of this teams sensational stoppers.
Most Honourable Mentions
Cork Admirals – As good as the offence has been, the defence has been doing a top notch job at the other end. The Admirals suffered only 1 loss during the regular season, thanks in part to the exploits of their defence that created numerous turnovers that greatly helped the offence. Its always nice to have an offence that can’t stop scoring, it’s even better to have a defence that can add to that. The Admirals delivered 1 shut-out this year against the Wolves, whilst scoring three touchdowns courtesy of Chris Allen, Paul Farrell and Ayodele Mumuni. Chris Allen also scored a safety as the Admirals finished the IAFL-1’s highest scoring defence as well as holding the best defensive record.
Tyrone Titans – The Titans didn’t quite have the stamina to go the distance in the playoff race, but their defence was a primary reason for not only their IAFL-2 triumph last season, but their 11 game unbeaten streak. Tyrone started the season off very strongly, picking up where they left off in 2014 and when their offence struggled, their defence held firm. They did however manage the second best defensive record in the IAFL-1, allowing only 84 points. They also managed two shutouts against the Minotaurs and Mavericks as they held 2nd spot for most of the campaign. Kyle McAneny was the only contributer in regard to scoring with a safety, but for a team that the most points conceded in a single game was 22, and 4 of which were 10 or below; thats a strong place to start ahead of next season.
Thank you for staying with us. Now we’ve arrived at the Running Backs. The IAFL has adopted a run first approach for many years as a number of the leagues top rushers dominated the scoring charts year on year; Simon Mackey and Rob McDowell being the standouts from 2014. As times change, this year in particular has seen Irish Football slowly transcend to a more passer-friendly league, but that doesn’t mean the backfield has any less importance.
The Running-Backs are often the workhorses that earn those extra inches and relieve pressure from the Quarterback and we are blessed to have many talented backs with different running styles in the IAFL. A combined total of 177 rushing touchdowns were scored across all divisions during the regular season, however who stood out the most too us in this very competitive rushing class.
Team WhiteShane Gleeson UL Vikings
Gleeson is was the workhorse of a very dominant Vikings run-game. When Adrian Garvey went down earlier in the year, much of the work fell to Gleeson and he became the number 1 threat for the Vikings offence. His tough, physical down-hill running style coupled with his Madden Truck Stick ability to break tackles he secured top spot of the SBC rushing charts with 8 touchdowns, as he helped the Vikings progress to the semi-final stages.
Team GreenNeil Montgomery Belfast Trojans
The Trojans are blessed to have so much talent in the backfield, but Montgomery offers a different style and dimension to the others. Neil is a physical football player that loves contact and it’s a very tough task for anybody to bring him down. He can fight for those much needed extra yards, whilst also bursting out big yardage plays that make him an ideal running-back to have at your dispense. His consistency and work ethic have made him a top back in this league, as he finished the regular season with 7 rushing TD’s.
Team White Sean Leamy Dublin Rebels
Leamy’s move from the Reapers to the Rebels during the off-season added a much needed boost to the Dubliners backfield with the loss of Simon Mackey; and Leamy’s performances didn’t disappoint. He struck up an impressive backfield tandem with Kevin Finnegan, as the pair caused all sort’s of problems to opposing defences. Leamy is a quick, elusive and dangerous running-back in open field that can also assist in the passing game. Sean came up clutch in numerous 2PT attempts, whilst also scoring 7 rushing and 2 passing touchdowns. His stock is on the rise very quickly in the IAFL.
Team Green Ola BademosiTrinity College
Usually when talking about TCD running-backs, one name springs to mind. However with Rob McDowell moving to QB, it freed up Ola Bademosi to make an impact. Often the understudy, Bademosi soon became to go-to guy of the Trinity offence as he scored a handful of touchdowns in as many games. Ola offers a mix of both power and pace, a dangerous combo that had defences struggling to contain him as he rushed in for 7 touchdowns this term. His performances were the turning point in Trinity’s season that saw them clinch the south division title and a place in this years Shamrock Bowl Final.
Green v White
QB James McKelvey
RB Neil Montgomery
RB Ola Bademosi
QB Stephen Hayes
RB Shane Gleeson
RB Sean Leamy
Most Honourable Mentions:
Jonah SiriBelfast TrojansThis guy is untouchable, I mean like properly untouchable! Siri topped the IAFL-2 rushing charts with 10 touchdowns, 2 ahead of is equally talented teammate Matt Armstrong, whilst also bagging 3 in the SBC. As good as his rushing ability is, his return threat on special teams is something to behold! He scored 8 touchdowns from both kickoff and punt returns, the most special team touchdowns scored by anyone this year. His return ability was noted by the Vikings in this years semi-finals, who deliberately kicked the ball out of bounds on Punt’s to avoid him. Say’s it all for a man better known as ‘Cheat-codes’.
Pete McMahonMeath BulldogsPete stakes his claim as the top scoring running-back in the IAFL-1 for the second consecutive year. Along with FB Alan Harvey, brother Eddie and Erin Kelly, they spearheaded the Bulldogs attack which saw them reach the semi-finals against the Waterford Wolves. Although Meath are mostly recognised for their defensive prowess, it was their running-back core that clinched them third in the division. Pete has delivered a number of big performances that kept the Bulldogs in the running and he once again proved himself to be the top back in the division with 5 rushing touchdowns and 2 receiving TDs.
Gareth Miller Carrickfergus Knights The Knights season didn’t go exactly as they had planned. They were staring relegation in the face for much of the year after their season began to derail following a loss to the Panthers and injuries in key places. It took a while to get going but the Knights were in a playoff for relegation several times in the last number of weeks and it was Millers stellar close to the season that may have just saved them. A late season push saw him rack up a total of 6 TDs for the year and more important than the final number was how important each of those scores was. The Knights awarded him the offensive MVP because when the chips were down, Miller came though.
David Colvin Belfast Trojans Did anyone notice Colvin scored 8 touchdowns this year? Not at the top of the rushing chart or receiving chart but one of the most productive players out there! Colvin has been the leader of the Trojan rushing attack for years now and as Neil Montgomery, Matt Armstrong and Even Johnathan Siri has seen their carries and scores go up, David Colvin has continued to make significant contributions to a team loaded with talent on offence and defence. Sometimes the guys that do it all suffer on lists like this one since they’re not the top in any category but if you were putting a team together from scratch David Colvin would be an extremely good start
With the IAFL-2 Preview done and dusted, we swiftly move onto the IAFL-1 clash between the Cork Admirals and the Waterford Wolves. In what we shall christen as “The Munster Mash”, or maybe a more serious name such as the ‘Munster Bowl’, will see the division leaders do battle against the semi-final winners. Both sides have faced against each other already this season, as Cork came out 33-6 and 42-0 victors, however all past results go out the window when competing in a final!
The Cork Admirals finished IAFL-1 leaders with a commanding (7-1) record as they rarely looked like surrendering their lead as the premier team in the division. The Admirals sailed to a great start, putting up on average 30+ points in their opening 3 games with victories against the Wolves, Minotaurs and Bulldogs, a points average that continued throughout the campaign. By this stage they had established themselves as the firm front-runners in the race for the playoff’s. The midway point of the season brought up some tough encounters, including the game against the Tyrone Titans that they won 22-7, but the Ad’s continued to bask in their form. Their only defeat of the season came against the Meath Bulldogs, but despite a minor setback the men from Cork comfortably sealed top spot in the division.
One of the prime candidates and key reasons for Cork’s success fell on the shoulders of Quarterback, Steve Hayes. Hayes quite simply has had a terrific year up to this point despite being an unknown quantity before the season commenced. He has featured heavily in our ‘Team of the Week’ articles, and for good reason too. The signal-caller threw an impressive 25 touchdowns this season to various targets in his receiving corp. Nick Coffi, Paul O’Driscoll and Simon O’Keefe contributed to a cool 24 TD’s in 8 games, with O’Keefe finishing as the top receiver with 10 touchdowns. Their defence can get somewhat overshadowed by the offences prowess, but they aren’t too bad either. They only conceded 78 points, whilst scoring 3 defensive touchdowns and 2 safeties.
Standing on the opposite sideline will be familiar foes in the Waterford Wolves. The ‘Wolf Packs’ season was met with mixed results and a concern for a lack of consistency, however as the season progressed and the playoff’s loomed, the Wolves were soon hunting! Defeats one week were met with victories the following as Waterford ground out key wins against the Mavericks and Minotaurs early in the campaign. They didn’t necessarily blow teams away on the scoreboard, but they did just enough to scrape threw and thats what counts! They did win 3 of their remaining 4 games, all of which were against playoff contenders. Huge performances against the Titans and Bulldogs secured them playoff football, in which they defeated the Bulldogs 13-9 to book their spot in the final.
Despite coming second overall in the IAFL-1, the Wolves finished with the second worst points difference
with -54 as they scored only 66 points whilst surrending 120. The offensive production has always been a problem for the Waterford men, but their blood thirsty defence more than makes up for it. QB/CB Ryan Byrne has been a standout performer, coming up with several big plays that has altered the Wolves path this season. He’s scored 7 times consisting of passing, rushing and defensive scores making him an all-round playmaker. His partnership with Mark Dunphy has brought plenty of success recently and the Wolves will need big performances from the pair on Sunday.
When it comes down to it, the Cork Admirals will be considered strong favourites this weekend, considering their superior record this year and past results against the Wolves. However the Wolves have had the best form in the division in recent weeks and will be feeling very confident heading into Navan. The Admirals will need to click into gear quickly unless they fear a repeat performance against Meath, whilst Waterford will struggle to keep up with Cork if they get into their flow. Both teams have been rather quiet in regards to rushing threats this season, so it appears the battle will be done through the air. Cork have easily the best receiving trio in the division, maybe even the country, but the Wolves secondary is littered with ball-hawks so this will be an interesting showcase. Let the battle for Munster commence!
Can’t make the game? Never fear! The expert commentating of Greg Barret has you covered! He will be joined by special guests Neil Graham of the Belfast Trojans and South Kildare Soldiers own Shane Farrell at ringside.
Listen to the game live this Sunday on the OpenTempo sports app for iOS and Android, or you can followthe game via the linkwww.opentempofm.comand click on the “listen” sports link!
Navan RFC will be host to the first championship games of the year as the IAFL-1 and IAFL-2 winners will be decided this Sunday. The IAFL-1 leaders, the Cork Admirals will face off against last years SBC outfit, the Waterford Wolves in the 4pm kickoff.
Before that takes place, the IAFL-2 final will take centre stage. The undefeated Belfast Trojans 2’s will take on the division veterans in the South Kildare Soldiers. The Trojans currently hold the bragging rights over their opponents, but the Soldiers wont back down from a challenge in a game that will decide who wins the war of the IAFL-2.
The Soldiers regular season performances showed solid improvement, picking up a few extra wins than they achieved in their debutant year. They started off in excellent spirit too, dispatching a dangerous UL Viking’s side in convincing fashion. They couldn’t translate that form into their next two games however, as last seasons sparring partners, the Galway Warriors handed them their first defeat of the season, which was followed by a 63-0 demolition job by the Trojans. They did finish out the year strongly however, winning 2 of their last 3 games. Both victories came against the Donegal/Derry Vipers, including the 54-36 score-fest at Cill Dara, the highest scoring game in the entire IAFL this year.
The Soldiers finished (3-3) a good effort in a much improved division. They narrowly ousted rivals the Warriors in the race for second, due to Galway losing their last remaining game; they have the Vipers to thank for that! The highest scoring player for the Soldiers was QB Eoin Whelan, who threw for 6 passing touchdowns as well as rushing for 4 touchdowns this season. Wide Receiver Lee Moore also contributed to 3 receptions as the Soldiers rounded out their 6 games with 97 points for and 157 against, a good sign of progression.
The Trojans have a roster stacked in ability that has easily translated over to the IAFL-2. The rookies and second string players have made strong cases for first team selection as they swept aside every challenger they faced in the division. They went about their business in commanding fashion, showing complete dominance in every aspect of the game by winning each of their 6 games (including the Rhinos which was considered a forfeit) as they eclipsed an unbeaten regular season, similarly to their teammates in the SBC. They have accomplished what’s been asked of them, so lifting the IAFL-2 trophy would cap off a terrific season.
The seconds accumulated a staggering 315 pts, averaging a mind-blowing 52.5 points per game. They
only conceded 40 points over that span, with the Vipers scoring 20 of them. Quarterback, Kris Donaghy connected for 9 touchdowns whilst the quartet of Jonah Siri, Matt Armstrong, Peter Robert and Donaghy contributed to 25 rushing touchdowns between them. Tight-End Tom Montgomery also came in with 4 receiving scores. Arguably the most electrifying player in sports entertainment, (not the Rock this time!) was Jonah Siri, who scored 5 special teams TD’s and proved seemingly untouchable.
The Belfast Trojans ‘B’ team will hoping to add to the clubs honours, by adding their first IAFL-2 title to the growing trophy collection. A win would also bring great momentum heading into the National Championship game on August 9th. The South Kildare Soldiers, a much rejuvenated side from last season will no doubt have the odd’s stacked against them but football can be very unpredictable, particularly in a final, so don’t expect them to bow down to their fierce enemies this Sunday. Anything is possible!
The road to Shamrock Bowl XXIX stops off in Belfast on July 26th, as the defending champions the Belfast Trojans host the semi-final double header at Deramore Park.
The Trojans won the right to host the semi-finals due to their #1 ranking during the regular season. The fixtures will see the Belfast Trojans, UL Vikings, Trinity College and Dublin Rebels lock horns for the right to headline the final at Dalymount Park on August 9th. Belfast Trojans vs. UL Vikings – 4pm
The reigning champion Belfast Trojans face familiar foes in the UL Vikings, who have now met at the semi-final stages in the last three consecutive years.
The Trojans proved throughout the regular season that they are the team to beat as they went unbeaten for a third time in four years, finishing with an 8-0 record. The men in green dominated from start to finish, outgunning and outplaying every opponent they came up against.
The Belfast side averaged 43.6 points per game, racking up 349 in total whilst only conceding 30 all season. Quarterback, James McKelvey topped the division with 23 all-purpose touchdowns, throwing 11 to David Richardson who topped the receiving charts.
The current holders have won the Shamrock Bowl the last three seasons, proving throughout the 2015 campaign so far that they have no intention of relinquishing their crown. Dominant performances against rivals the Carrickfergus Knights and Dublin Rebels have displayed their superiority as they clinched the North Division title with considerable ease.
Their opponents on Sunday will be none other than the UL Vikings. The Vikings booked their place in the semi-final courtesy of a 20-12 victory over University College Dublin in the wildcard round. Limerick finished the regular season with a solid (6-2) effort, falling just behind rivals Trinity College into second.
UL had a very strong start to the year, defeating the aforementioned UCD and Trinity College on their way to a 5 game win streak. However back-to-back defeats against Trinity in the return leg and the Dublin Rebels cost the Vikings in the race for the SBC South division.
The Vikes have been solid performers all season, finishing second to the Trojans in much of the scoring statistics. They amounted 24 touchdowns during the regular season, whilst allowing only 67 points in 8 games. The transition of defensive pairing, Ian Cahill and Shane Gleeson to offence proved hugely successful for the Limerick side. The strong duo contributed to a powerful run-game that had opposing defences struggling to cope, as Gleeson finished the Shamrock Bowl Conferences leading rusher with 8 touchdowns.
The battle between these two juggernauts has always provided a tough, physical affair. The Trojans may have won the last three outings, but each game has been decided late in the 4th quarter. These two are both incredibly strong sides that pride themselves on shutdown defences and are both highly capable of putting up big scores as well.
The Vikings arguably have a much better squad than in recent years, so this could be their best opportunity to de-throne the champions. Belfast on the other hand will know they are in for a war on Sunday, but their preparation, quality and home-field advantage could be key in the outcome. The Trojans took the spoils in a 28-6 score-line last season, so the Vikings will be focused on enacting some revenge this weekend.
Semi Final Preview: Dublin Rebels @ Trinity College
Dublin Rebels @ Trinity College – 1pm.
The first game in the double header is a replay of last years showdown between Trinity College and the Dublin Rebels, that saw the students reach their first ever final with a 47-8 victory over their Dublin foes.
Trinity College started the 2015 campaign in unusually sluggish fashion, as they fell victim to a 14-0 defeat against the Vikings in the opening game. It appeared the after-effect of last seasons Shamrock Bowl loss threatened to derail the student’s season, however it only sparked the finalists into life, as they won their last 7 games to finish (7-1) and defend their South Division title.
Their defining victory of the season came in their league encounter with the Rebels, when the students came back from from 3 scores down and win 29-28!
Once they found their feet, Trinity’s performances proved irresistible. Converting 202 points, 28 touchdowns and surrendering only 92, they quickly began to show signs of their unbeaten 2014 form. Dynamic duo, Dan Finnamore and Rob McDowell couldn’t quite reach the dizzying standards they set last term, however their offence is still brimming with quality, with Running-Back Ola Bademosi have a particularly good year as he finished the teams top scorer with 7 touchdowns.
The Dublin Rebels will occupy the other sideline this weekend as they clinched second spot in the SBC North, before defeating the Craigavon Cowboys in the resulting wildcard bout. The 7 time champions put in their best performance of the year in the playoff game, as they showed why they are the most successful team in Irish American Football, winning 62-19 against a spirited Cowboys outfit.
The Rebels endured a mixed season, finishing (5-3) and losing to two of the other semi-finalists during the campaign. However solid victories against the South Dublin Panthers and fellow divisional rivals put them in commanding position to secure their playoff spot.
On paper, the Rebels rank lowest out of the four playoff sides but never underestimate the quality that they posses. Veteran Quarterback, Andrew Dennehy was effective as ever, connecting for 10 touchdowns this year whilst the backfield tandem of Sean Leamy and Kevin Finnegan combined for a total of 12 rushing scores. Offensive production was fluent as always, as the Dubliners scored 168 points over 8 games, however defensive struggles saw them leak 132 during that period.
The Rebels have one of the most experienced sides in the league and have been contesting for the Shamrock Bowl since they formed in 1995. They set themselves high standards every year, so expect them to do whatever it takes to reach the final this August.
Last season’s result was a blowout victory for Trinity, however the match-up earlier in the campaign would suggest that this semi-final will be more closely contested. Both sides won their recent games in convincing fashion and will enter the fixture in promising form. The Rebels and Trinity have never been short on quality and their squads will give them plenty to be confident about. Starting quickly could be the difference in this match as neither can afford to go too far behind early on. This will be an interesting fixture to spectate, but who will come out on top? Will it be the experienced Dublin Rebels, or the speed and quickness of Trinity College?