Week 11 comes to IAFL 1 & 2 with varying degrees of importance. In the IAFL 1, three teams move to the midseason point, and in IAFL 2 the Vipers look to for some improvement over their first game, any improvement at all.
Meath Bulldogs (1-2) @ Dundalk Mavericks (1-2) – DKIT Sports Grounds 2PM
After Meath lost to Cork it was all doom and gloom as another season looked to be slipping away. What promised to be a season of rebuilding was threatening to be a season of demolition. The difference a week makes. By defeating Waterford the Bulldogs have put themselves atop the chasing pack behind the Titans and Admirals. The three 1-2 teams will slug it out for the 3rd placed spot in the IAFL 1 and with it a chance at playoff redemption. As much as points total will play in this fight, the head to head record will be vital to have in your favour and Meath sit with the best opportunity for exploiting that. Waterford have already defeated the Mavs and now with the short hop to Dundalk ahead of them, if Meath win on Sunday they will have a firm grip on third and awaiting the return legs against both Cork and Tyrone to see if they can’t perhaps do better.
Dundalk might be the worst placed of the three in terms of head to head but the remedy to that is simple. Just win. The Mavs get another crack at Waterford in a few weeks and having only lost by 3 points it is likely if they win that game, they will overturn the points total too. The Mavs will only get one shot at Meath this season and before they start thinking about turning around points deficits a win here is essential. A loss would pin them behind the Bulldogs almost inescapably and trying to catch one team is bad enough but if the best Meath achieve is third the Mavs will definitely be on the outside looking in at the playoffs.
Both of these teams have break out threats, Dundalk in QB Mathew Hagan and Meath in Running Back Pete McMahon but perhaps Meath shade the numbers game with some alternative offensive weapons to turn to. Defensively the Mavericks have been very good but they haven’t played the free scoring Admirals yet which skew the figures slightly in their favour since Meath shipped 28 points that day. An interesting game with huge ramifications for the winner and their playoff aspirations.
Waterford Wolves (1-2) @ Mullingar Minotaurs (0-4) – Harbour Field, Mullingar 2PM
The Wolves first season back in IAFL1 has been a mixed bag so far. The Admirals are sweeping all before them and many at the Wolves, after Game One, would have been searching for differences between the SBC and the IAFL1. Things got back on track with what might prove to be a vital success against the Mavericks before the Bulldogs shut them out at home in their last outing. The identity of the Wolves 2015 incarnation is yet to be forged, yet, here they are well placed to challenge for a playoff spot. Someone in the Bulldogs/Mavericks game is going going 2-2 and the Wolves need to ensure they keep pace with who ever that turns out to be. Should the Wolves win they will be facing down return legs with both teams involved in Dundalk with either a better or equal points total, those games will shape the Wolf packs year but this one has to be put in the bag first. Fail here and the Wolves could make a gift of 3rd place to who ever wins in Louth.
Mullingar showed signs of life making life hard for the Titans at the end of April. That promise was short lived as they capitulated only two weeks later. Now sitting winless at 0-4 it’s hard to believe that much can be salvaged from this season more than pride. Niall Folan has been the lone bright spark this season for the Minotaurs causing constant threat to opposing defences but no offence can last on only 1 dimension and Mullingar will need to manifest itself a rushing threat soon. The Wolves are far from insurmountable as they too are still searching for answers on offence and although 3rd is probably too much to hope for winning breeds confidence and confidence often breeds winning. With four games to go and nothing too lose, the Minotaurs have the ability to upset all teams in this league expecting an automatic W but that threat will only last as long as their will and their pride sustains.
Donegal/Derry Vipers (0-1) @ Belfast Trojans (2-0) – Deramore Park 4PM
The second game of a double header at the excellent facility that is Deramore Park. Game one was brutal for the Vipers. The number of lessons learned or development achieved on the wrong end of 72-0 bludgeoning are questionable but the Vipers will have had to have learned some if they hope to avoid the same fate. Good news for the Vipers is that this game comes immediately following a Trojans SBC game and they will likely face none of the Trojan starters. What ever modicum of consolation the Vipers choose to find in that is up to them. The Vipers, perhaps because of location, are still somewhat of an unknown around the league but one would hope they’ve reached out to for some assistance in the intervening weeks on some of the basics. Be they a Belfast Trojan or a South Kildare Soldier, they’re all going to score a lot if you can’t tackle them correctly.
As for the Trojans ‘2nds’ there are some valuable reps available for those that don’t normally get them. There will be Dublin Rebels and Carrickfergus Knights that will attest that Matt Armstrong is deserving of SBC reps and Jonathan Siri is as difficult a man to bring down on special teams as any out there. Perhaps the greatest benefit for the Trojans playing at this level is getting back up QB Kris Donaghy under centre. James McKelvey is having a fantastic season but a sound succession plan is vital for continued success and although the majority of ‘2nds’ scores thus far have been on the ground, getting Donaghy going through the air could prove to be a wise coaching decision should he be needed to stand in for #1.