IAFA Week 4
PSNI Razorbacks @ Donegal/Derry Vipers
IAFL 2! Finally! The hugely successful development league is back and with a new team or three in tow. The Vipers will still be feeling those beatings at the hands of the Trojans last year but showed some real spark as the season closed. It takes time to get your feet under you on a football field when you’ve joined an experienced team. When near everyone is a rookie it’s all the more impressive that they have established themselves they way they have. The Vipers need to get themselves IAFL1 ready this year. So getting the essentials right is the name of the game. The essentials will win this division.
The Razorbacks are an interesting prospect. A little like a college team, in that they have closed base to recruit from, a closed base that requires a fitness test to enter in the first place! They’ve brought in some coaches with experience and we’re really interested to see the standard they can achieve right from the off! The popularity of football is still on the rise and the Razorbacks are the 3rd new team in as many years to make it to the regular season from Ulster. Still, football is unforgiving and after being on the receiving end of hidings last year, the Vipers will look to dish some out this season. The Razorbacks opening will be telling in terms of the shape this division will take this season.
Waterford Wolves @ Westmeath Minotaurs
The Wolves didn’t get off to a great start vs Cork and the Minotaurs haven’t started at all! With perhaps some of the cobwebs shaken loose the Wolves will see this as a chance to get themselves back to the kind of form they closed 2015 with. They’re weaker, no doubt, but the Minotaurs are undergoing a rebirth of their own and the Wolves shouldn’t be shy about attacking them while they’re still figuring it out. They might not get another chance. A bad season could spell disaster for the Wolves, confidence and momentum can often be as important as results. The Wolves will need some of all three this year to begin their rebuild.
The Midlanders, like we said last week, have to draw a line under 2015 and move on. All external signs seem to point they have. They have ability and athleticism, anyone who has seen them play can attest to that, but at times they just blow it and nothing works. Getting the simple stuff right will lead to success for the Minotaurs, not winning the division success just yet but winning games. The Wolves might fancy this one but there’s no reason Westmeath shouldn’t for the same reasons. A team that may be reeling and just trying to keep the show on the road. We’re prepared to be slated by the purists for this but the Minotaurs flag team is one of the best around, throw the ball! Cork proved if you can do that consistently teams will really struggle to stop you.
West Dublin Rhinos @ Meath Bulldogs
Are the Bulldogs favourites for this division? They’ve been there abouts for a few years now but never outright favourites from the get go. They’ve beaten the Trojans, Trojan rookies or not, thats not something a lot can lay claim to. If they win tomorrow vs a Rhinos team with a lot of SBC experience, favourites, clear favourites, would be the only description that could be fair. The Bulldogs have never been the sort to run up huge scores but play a brand of hard nosed defence combined with a smash mouth run game that grinds teams down and lends itself to winning late, like they did last time out. If they can score early against a Rhinos team that hans’t been prolific on offence for a number of years they could control this game, the division and invite the rest begin the chase.
Rhinos football finally! The ambulance isn’t really a thing that should be happening to a team that have been around and organised as long as the Rhinos have but it’s done now and football is finally on the agenda. IAFL 1 for the Rhinos is like starting over again, and that’s not such a bad thing. The SBC can be very cruel if the wrong things don’t work out for you and it’s very hard to steady a ship mid season. The Rhinos have a great opportunity to attack this division with a new focus and simpler way of doing things. As tough as the Bulldogs will be this might be just the game to get started with. We used the words ‘hard nosed’ and ‘smash mouth’ to describe the Bulldogs, the very same identity claimed by the Rhinos for years. This is the kind of football they want to play. They’re going to get it and you won’t find anyone in Rhinoland unhappy with that.
North Kildare Reapers @ UL Vikings
Early in the year judging this kind of game can be a lot of guess work. UCD battered Trinity and demolished the Reapers but haven’t played UL. Trinity did well against UL, so are UCD just really strong and Trinity improved vs UL or are UL not as strong as UCD. Our Guess is UL are UL and they’re entire plan is to steam roll everything they meet. The Reapers need to be careful here. They can’t let their season spiral out of control and as we saw last week when the Rebels demolished the Panthers in the second half, control is a hard thing to keep a grip of in the SBC. The Vikings have no interest in playing the Trojans for a 3rd year in a row in the Semi Final. They need to win the division and do it convincingly and this is a division game.
For the Reapers it’s going to be a big ask. This game was 18-0 last year which on the face of it isn’t terrible but that was the game Adrian Garvey went down in and it took time for the UL offence to recover, not only in that game but through the season. UL aren’t in the habit of passing the ball a whole lot so getting after that back field will have to be the name of the game and that includes QB Ian Cahill in the run game. Focus too much on Shane Gleeson and others, Cahill will be gliding past your backside contain and up the sideline before you know what’s happened. Limerick are going to get behind that line and Shane Gleeson and aim to blast everyone they meet off the ball. The Reapers must throw everything into the battle in the trenches to get anything from this game.
Belfast Trojans @ Craigavon Cowboys
The Cowboys really put it up to Trinity and much has been made of what Trinity have lost but they have the joint leading passer in the SBC and one of the more exciting running backs around. The Cowboys ran them very very close. The Cowboys have been building quietly for a number of years now, doubling down no the talent they already have in house and recruiting well. The development of some of the younger guys in Craigavon will be particularly pleasing and a core of players that have been together for some years now is usually the recipe for success. Opening your season vs both of last years Shamrock Bowl teams is a cruel twist of scheduling but the Cowboys will be eager to show that even if they don’t pick up any points they will be ready to take on the rest of their schedule without fear of anyone left on it.
Much like all great teams, it’s getting to the point that a lot of teams are beaten before ever going on the field vs the Trojans. Maybe there is a glimmer of hope here for the Cowboys, David Richardson is still serving his suspension and due to playing last week for the #2s Neil Montgomery won’t be playing. Those are two linchpins of the Trojan offence. Keeping this game close for a stretch could lead the Cowboys to grow in confidence and feel there is something to be had here. But the Trojans have battered the Cowboys at every outing in recent times. 98 net points in favour of the Trojans last season. The Trojan defence will need to keep the Peter Loughran/Conrad Smith combo in check to stop the Cowboys growing in confidence; especially if the offence is taking time to right itself missing their weapons.