Week 3 in the IAFA and the 2 O’Clock kick offs are back and with it; 5 games! IAFL 1 tops the bill with 3 and the Rebels and UL get underway for the first time this season in the SBC.
IAFA Week 3
South Kildare Soldiers @ Cork Admirals
Both winners in Game One after the Ads dismissed the Wolves and the Soldiers got life in IAFL 1 off to a positive start. The caveat, on both of those results, the opponents weren’t at the peak of their powers. Not intending to disrespect the Titans or Wolves but both would admit they have work to do this season to get back to the level they were at last season.
For the Soldiers, this will be an interesting test in how far they have really come. Cork put Waterford to the sword and were firing in all three phases, the Titans were not. To be a winning team, rather than one that wins occasionally, you have to be able to do what Cork did and punish teams for their mistakes. The Soldiers came out well ahead in the turnover ratio vs the Titans and perhaps should have made more of their opponents weakness. Corks error won’t be as frequent so capitalising on any will be vital for the Soldiers.
Cork were hugely impressive in Game One. Winning in devastating fashion and looking every bit the outfit that seemed to be coasting to 8 wins last season. The Ads weren’t undone last season by not respecting their opponents and there is no reason to believe that they will underestimate the Soldiers here. This game can get tricky if they allow it. The Soldiers have a depth of experience their ‘new club’ status belies. We’re guiltier than most about waxing lyrical about the impressive Stephen Hayes but encouraging for Cork, the performance of the defence and the establishment of the run game. The Admirals looking more and more like the complete article every week.
Westmeath Minotaur @ Louth Mavericks
Game One for both of these teams and a big season ahead. The Mavs travelled all the way to Castleknock only to have the rug pulled by a no show (or a no book, depending who you ask) ambulance. The Minotaurs frankly had a disastrous season last year and 2016, whatever it brings, can’t start soon enough.
Zero wins, averaging 25 points allowed per game and only offering a measly 6 in return. 2015 needs to be consigned to the history books and those books burned with fire until they are gone! Every new season offers new opportunities and them Minotaurs haven’t been idle waiting for them to present themselves. They’ve spent the off season restructuring, expanding their base and (the 4th team in as many years) renaming! (Why is everyone changing their name by the way?) Hanging around and hoping things improve isn’t in the DNA of the Westmeath outfit. Born of a desire to forge their own destiny in midlands, the Minotaurs have every reason to feel they can achieve better this year. Feeling it and doing it are different things though.
The impressive work behind the scenes in Louth continues and although no off field organisation ever won a football game, they put football players in the best situation to win them, just ask the crowd a few more miles up the M1. That is a way off for the Mavericks just yet but all the signs look good. We said a few weeks ago in our preview that consistency was key now for the Mavs and that still holds true. A team that have flashed brilliance and a team that have baffled on occasion. This game will be one they will look to as they push for the play offs. Focus has to be here and now, look past the Minotaurs at your peril.
Belfast Trojans 2s @ Tyrone Titans
The Trojans 2s annihilated everyone last year and perhaps they expected the same in IAFL1 but it was not to be. Trojan teams of all descriptions have only lost 3 games in 4 years so that’s not a small deal. The Titans seem to have imploded in the off season and on their first outing the worst seems to have been realised.
The Titans turned the ball over a lot (a lot a lot) vs the Soldiers and while that is bad, the fact those turnover resulted in only 3 scores is some conciliation. That kind of defensive resilience could be vital this year to stop it turning to disaster. This could be the wrong game at the wrong time in a number of ways. The Trojans didn’t win last time out but blooding their rookies and those same rookies spend the next few weeks at practice with the best around; we could see them in the mood to do some damage vs a weakened opponent. Sometimes the job of an offence is to play smart and possess the ball keeping the defence as fresh as possible. There can’t even be a few turnovers in this game because the Trojans, rookies or not, will punish them in way the Soldiers didn’t.
Winning isn’t an accident and you don’t have streaks like the Trojans do without an appropriate response to losing. We expect to see that this weekend. The 1s haven’t played yet so we could see a few make an appearance here as the trip isn’t as far as it was to Meath. This team will be expected to win the IAFL1 and that will not be lost on them. Another small motivator here, though for which team we cannot say, the Titans former Head Coach Paul Braniff is now the roving the sidelines for the Trojans.
Dublin Rebels @ South Dublin Panthers
The Rebels were beaten by a point in both their opening two games last year, they recovered from the opening wobble but ultimately never fired on all cylinders the way they know they need to to win a bowl game. The Panthers showed promise, wins against Carrickfergus and UCD coupled with close games vs Trinity, the Rebels and Cowboys suggested things could be finally moving the right direction for the rebranded Dragons.
Two bad losses at the end of 2015 seems to have had a hangover effect into 2016 as the Panthers lost their opening game to the Knights. There was positives to be seen but losing to team that you beat last year can’t help but be seen as a step backwards. After comfortably winning the last game between these two the Rebels can be forgiven for feeling the same should be on the agenda and the Panthers will need to rediscover their forward momentum early on to prevent it. Every team in the SBC should believe playoff football is a possibility and with the weather set to be rough the Panthers will have to contain the Rebels explosive run game and another duck egg just won’t cut it.
The Rebels can ill afford early slips this season. The last bowl win is a while ago now and none associated with the Rebels will think that acceptable. Trinity have proven the playoff stumbling block the last two outings and with an ultra competitive SBC South, the Rebels won’t want to arrive in the playoffs only half cooked. Starting hot and keeping the momentum all the way through could see them break down the Semi Final barrier that has scuppered them the last two seasons.
UL Vikings @ Trinity
UL were supposed to open the season with a blockbuster home game but instead are opening it with a trip to Dublin. Trinity are already a quarter way through their year!
It’s been a mixed bag for Trinity so far. It’s hard for a team with the most explosive offence in recent years to stomach a zero, regardless of the final result, and the UCD game would have been hard for them to accept. The improvement vs the Cowboys saw the offence come to life but the Craigavon unit made them earn it and the result was in doubt all the way to the 4th quarter. UL present a similar challenge to that of the Cowboys. Physicality and power is what the UL offence is based on and the Trinity defence is still finding it’s feet, allowing 3 touchdowns in both outings. It takes some time to shake the cobwebs, if you’ve got any, and Game 3 is usually where we see teams still waking up, fire into life.
UL open 2016 without excuses. They’ve run Belfast closer than most in the last few times and now a slightly more settled and expanded offence could be the push they need. They need to win the South and avoid another Semi Final against the Champions. Getting that bye week and a chance to rest at a vital time in the year could be much of the difference they need. Trinity and UCD must be conquered and as much hype as there was (and we added to) about the intended opener, this game is more important. There can be no slips, there can only be results if the 5 in a row is to prevented.