IAFL Week 17: Game Previews
Five games to concentrate on this Sunday with the season grinding down to a halt. There is still an extra week of IAFL-1 and 2 action beyond Week 18, but more implications on how the post-season will pan out could be decided this weekend.
Trinity College and the Cork Admirals could confirm their spots as the top ranked teams in their respective division as the Wolves, Bulldogs and Warriors continue their hunt for a taste of life in the playoffs. Meanwhile we could find out the future of the Rhino’s position within the SBC and more…
Shamrock Bowl Conference
The biggest game of the weekend will take place in Castleknock College in this all SBC South encounter. TCD can march their way to the top of the division as the Rhinos need to win at all costs in order to salvage their season.
The Rhino’s have only mustered one win all season, but it came against the Carrickfergus Knights who have been dragged into the relegation dog fight in recent weeks. As the West Dubliners hold the crucial victory over their rivals, the Rhinos could still survive the drop even if they suffer defeat against Trinity, providing the Knights lose to the Reapers. It’s hard to believe that a potential (1-7) team could avoid relegation, but victory on Sunday would guarantee them safety for another season at the expense of the Knights. It will be a tough ask for the Castleknock side, but they overcame the odds last year and need to do so again.
Trinity College on the other hand have no such issues. Their opening defeat of the season against the Vikings feels like a distant memory as the students have now gone on an impressive 5 game win streak. Some of the games they have scraped through, but if anything it has showed grit and determination that has proven necessary in their quest to make another Shamrock Bowl Final appearance. Trinity’s H2H advantage over the Vikings means victory against the Rhinos this weekend will claim them another South division title, with a game to spare no less.
Trinity are the next best in-form side in the SBC, second only to the Trojans. Running-Back Ola Bademosi has been influential in recent weeks and with Dan Finnamore and Rob McDowell in the backfield, it will be difficult for the Rhino’s defence to contain them. Since the Knights win, the Rhinos have suffered a heavy loss to the reigning champions and now must face another equally impressive offence. It will require a real team effort and their best performance of the year on Sunday if they are to achieve the ‘great escape’.
The Bulldogs make the dreaded trip down south to take on the league leaders in the Cork Admirals. The Admirals can take one step closer to the title and eventual bowl game with victory at Dolphin RFC, as the Bulldogs start the first of three straight weekends of football.
Meath will be feeling frustrated that their game with the Tyrone Titans a few weeks ago was postponed. The formalities surrounding the game being called-off are still clouded, with the pitch being deemed unplayable and player safety concerns the main talking points. Regardless of that, Meath must now contend with back to back games to finish off 2015, very much similar to their end of season run last year. Tricky games still await them and fatigue could prove troublesome but a loss here will leave the gate open for the Wolves to pounce on 3rd spot.
There’s not much that can be mentioned about the Admirals that hasn’t already been said. They top the rankings in every imaginable way from the scoring charts to the IAFL-1 leaderboard. Their offence has been exceptional with Steve Hayes at the helm as he and his receiving corp go from strength to strength. To justify how well they are doing; they’ve totalled 28 touchdowns this year, the 3rd most in the entire IAFL only behind the Trojans. Six wins, division supremacy, a sure-fire Bowl appearance and a potential unbeaten season? What’s it going to take to stop them!
The Bulldogs will have their work cut out in Cork as their hard as nails defence try to prevent an onslaught on their end-zone. The Admirals ran out 28-13 winners last time these sides met as Meath proved arguably their toughest opponents this season. However since then Cork has put up 91 points in 3 games, numbers the men from Navan simply can’t compete with. The Bulldogs have only scored 5 touchdowns all year so trying to stop the Admirals offence as well scoring themselves will be enough to think about.
One of the longest road games in the country. The Titans must make the long journey south to take on the Waterford Wolves in a bid to secure 2nd in the IAFL-1 with the Wolves hoping to make their trip a forgettable one.
Waterford find themselves in the thick of the action as they bid to make an immediate return to the Shamrock Bowl Conference. So far things are looking good for the ‘Wolf Pack’ as they currently sit 3rd in the division with only a few games to go, but they can’t afford to slip up with Meath and Dundalk hot on their tail. The Wolves form has been inconsistent to say the least, good performances one week are met with slip-ups the next and with season defining games against the Mavericks coming up and the Titans visit this weekend, they need to maintain consistency in what is a crucial remaining few weeks of their campaign.
The Titans most recent fixture came against arch-rivals the Dundalk Mavericks in a 10-6 win, however that was 3 weeks ago. Since then, as we previously mentioned their travels to Meath were short-lived with the game being postponed and many of the players still itching to make a statement when their unbeaten streak went up in smoke at the hands of the Admirals. They face the challenging task of tackling two away games to finish off the regular season and with their away form questionable, this will be a true test of character with the semi-finals looming.
These sides could well meet in the post-season come July 19th, so this may be an early taster of what’s to come in the summer; that is ofcourse if both Tyrone and Waterford can secure their respective positions. The Titans have been solid this year although they haven’t displayed as much conviction in putting teams away that they showed in the IAFL-2. The Wolves on the other hand have struggled in regards to points, having the second lowest on points scored and the second highest on points against. So there is still plenty of work be done before either get to have a pop at the Admirals again.
It will be first versus second in the IAFL-2 as the Belfast Trojans make the return journey to face the South Kildare Soldiers. The Kildare outfit has been improving considerably from last year and have picked up decisive wins against the Vipers and UL Vikings. Offensively they have progressed well scoring 84 points in their 5 games, of which 54 of those came against Donegal/Derry.
The Trojans have dominated the IAFL-2 and already qualify for the Bowl game, where they will be much fancied to take the crown. The division hasn’t really posed a threat to the rookies, but I guess if your training week in week out with players who represent the national team and receiving top coaching from the Irish champions, you wouldn’t expect anything less. 255 points scored and 27 against in only 4 games is just insane!
This game mathematically won’t concern the Trojans too much with top spot sewn up, but don’t expect them to consider it that way. The match could have a huge bearing on how SKS finish up however as defeat to the Trojans could see Galway steal 2nd from the Soldiers if they were to win out. We don’t like to be drawn into pre-game assumptions, but it looks rather perilous for South Kildare and they could well be holding their breath in the hope the Warriors slip up.
We have hardly spoken at all about the Vikings 2nd’s this year, considering they have only played one game. They have however played a vital part in the resurgence of the first team, so although they’ve been quiet in the IAFL-2 they have been playing regularly against SBC calibre opposition. The Vikings and Rhino’s 2nds were never going to be competing for a Bowl game with the limited games they’d be playing, but any opportunity to play football will provide valuable experience for these future players.
The Warriors have more realistic goals and similar to their division veterans the South Kildare Soldiers, they have improved greatly as the seasons worn on. Galway recently held onto a 21-15 win against the Vipers to keep their momentum pushing forward and with two games left on their schedule, the bowl game is certainly a possibility.
At this stage of the season it’s hard to judge how competitive the Vikings 2nd’s will be seeing as we haven’t seen much of them and there is little to play for but pride, but they will be excited to return to the field again! The Warriors have been playing all season and won’t take the Vikings lightly with a lot riding on this match. Two teams, notorious for hard-hitting defences, I would anticipate a low scoring game in this one.