Year 3 of, what it can now be fair to say, has been the hugely successful IAFL 1. Tier 2 has provided some of the most entertaining and competitive football in the land for the last few years, due in large part to it’s unpredictability. The Reapers winning the inaugural year of the Championship in their debut season and a reformed Cork outfit surprising all with a bowl run last year being among the pleasant surprises offered up so far. So with all that said, we are going to attempt to predict the outcome!
The Admirals were an impressive unit after a successful reformation last season. Cork have some imposing Offensive talent to call on in the shape of QB Steve Hayes, WR John Madden & RB Shane Cullinan but something that goes unnoticed is the quiet way in which the Ads defence dominates. The Admirals shipped 104 points in 8 games last year, more than half of those in the first game against UCD, who racked up 54 points. While that isn’t exactly and advertisement for a great defence that was the first game the Admirals had played in nearly a year, a year in which the club had been entirely rebuilt. Through the remaining 7 games the Admirals never allowed more that 1 touchdown per game. They’ve also beefed up along the Offensive Line heading into 2015 and giving Hayes, one of the most promising talents around the country, even more time to dissect defences.
2014 was a tale of 2 seasons for the Bulldogs. Through the first 4 games the Bulldogs were uncharacteristically lethargic. A team with 4 years experience and most of the key parts intact expected better results against Cork & Mullingar and after an impressive Defensive outing in game 1 against UCD; folded to a 44-8 loss less than 2 months later. Half way though the season saw a coaching change with Head Coach and Team Founder Garland Drake departing. Racking up 3 wins in the remaining 4 games and Bulldogs work horse Pete McMahon firing into life topping the IAFL 1 scoring charts showed that this team certainly had the talent to challenge all along. In 2015, with new Head Coach Peter Smyth in place and a host of new talent added to the already strong roster the Bulldogs will likely consider anything less than a bowl appearance as a failure. This 3rd prediction isn’t a 1st or 2nd prediction because there is always uncertainty with a new system and coaching staff but if the Bulldogs excel in even the very basics they will be right in the shake up come July.
Dundalk were a cut above Galway & South Kildare in 2014 but fell a notch short of Tyrone. Dundalk are brimming with raw talent. Declan Mulvihill is a terror on both offence and defence, Matthew Hagan has immense speed and impact potential and Rob Shevlin is all impact. The Mavericks were born out of the belief that they could forge their own path and they will need to continue with the progress made in their rookie year. A major step up for Dundalk will come in the form of physicality; Mullingar, Meath, Cork & Waterford are far from soft and squad size and injuries play a greater role when the physical demands are stepped up as they will be on Dundalk this season. Dundalk do posses great experience as mentioned above but the true test will be on those players that played their rookie season last year. They will believe they are up to it and if they are they have all the assets needed to hold their own in this unpredictable division.
Mullingar didn’t get off to the powerful start that the Reapers and Wolves did in their inaugural season but the leap that was made between Year 1 & Year 2 was monumental. Mullingar were a power in 2014. The Minotuars season was 2 touchdowns away from the Bowl Game. Unfortunate to meet a possessed Bulldogs team, fresh off losing their Head Coach, on the 4th of July and narrowly losing by a score to Cork, reversals in those games would have seen a much different hue on their 2014 season. If the Minotuars replicate the off season improvement of 2014; the 2015 edition of Mullingar won’t fear any challenge. Mullingar do need more production on offence and Coach Paddy Lally will be well aware of where the improvement is required. Best placement of their talents will be key in 2015 and perhaps weakening an impressive defence to better balance the strength on offence will be something facing Coach Lally. Mullingar have the potential to dominate in the trenches on both sides of the ball and if they do, the Bowl Game awaits.
Hard to tell how any team will respond to the step up in standard as we mentioned earlier but best placed will be Tyrone. Coach Paul Braniff worked this largely under experienced group into a powerful football team in 2014. They would most certainly have competed in IAFL1 last season and they totally dominated in IAFL2. They have kept the vital components of that team together and boast some of the best young talent out there. Daniel Mullan and Ryan Brolly are two of the brightest talents we have on the Island. The Titans haven’t spent too long congratulating themselves in the off season and Coach Braniff hasn’t wasted a breath in adding to his Coaching staff. Former Craigavon Cowboy and IAFL Legend Bobby ‘Moose’ Murray has joined as Defensive Coordinator and former Trojan Gary Carr has joined as Offensive Coordinator. The Titans will certainly have a new look in 2015 but if they maintain their commitment to excellence that saw them soar above all others in IAFL2, more than a few in IAFL1 will find themselves on the unpleasant end of a beating from the North Westerners.
Harsh to suggest that a team that could reasonably considered favourites, will finish 4th? As with all predictions there has to be a certain amount of ‘ifs’ you take as certainties. If Waterford replicate their aggressive and fast moving pace of play they displayed in 2013 we will be wrong! If the lethargy with which some of their performances in 2014 were put together repeat, we will be right! 68-0 embarrassments should never happen, short of the opponent being comprised of high level American College football players. 0-8 seasons are damaging for the psyche and the response to them can be difficult to predict. Faced with a lower standard of over all opponent this season, if Waterford expect an easy time of it, hoping to face the standard of the teams they did 2 years ago a terrible shock awaits. IAFL1 is stronger now than it was when Waterford racked up 6 wins in 2013. If the drubbing that was 2014 acts as a motivator and sees efforts redoubled with the aim of handing out some beatings like the ones they were on the receiving end of last season, the Wolves have the ability and the talent to top the division.
The IAFL 1 is immensely difficult to predict and if the inverse of all of these predictions result nobody here will be surprised. With a Bowl Game and International games looming at the end of the season the motivation for excellence has never been higher in the second tier. We for one are