Peter Loughran: ‘I believe we are capable of challenging for the Shamrock Bowl’
We have now reached the business end of the 2015 IAFL season. Whatever has happened over the course of the last eighteen weeks no longer matters, it’s a fresh start as teams prepare for their quest to headline Shamrock Bowl 29
This weekend will see the first set of playoff fixtures, as the wildcard round prepares to take center stage. The first of three matches this Sunday will take place at Seapoint RFC, as the Criagavon Cowboys head South to take on hosts, the Dublin Rebels.
Both sides have had a strong season up to this point. The Dublin Rebels were able to clinch automatic qualification to the playoff’s as they finished second in the SBC North, despite a slow start to the campaign. The Cowboys clinched post-season football courtesy of their superior points difference and although the inclusion may have been fortuitous and controversial, their end of season run more than deserved playoff football.
In order to get a taste of what’s to come, we were able to chat with two players who will be on opposite sidelines prior to kickoff and whom have aspirations of keeping their Shamrock Bowl dreams alive; first up, it’s Peter Loughran of the Craigavon Cowboys.
The Cowboys proved that quality outweighs quantity as their small squad conquered the odds and booked a place in this years wildcard round. Key victories against the Rhino’s, Panthers and a late comeback against the Knights were enough to see the men from Portadown steal the remaining slot away from the Reapers and finish with a (3-5) record.
The Cowboys have been Shamrock Bowl champions twice in their history, in 1986 and 1992. However their last appearance in the playoff’s came in 2011, when they defeated the Belfast Trojans 17-14 at the same stage. Since then it’s been a period of rebuilding for the ‘Boy’s’, but with playoff football on the horizon, its an exciting period in the Craigavon camp.
‘It feels great!’ explained Peter, ‘I’ve been struggling to sleep with the excitement. I’m finally happy that my ankle is back up to scratch and we can take part in the playoff’s.’
Despite losing their opening two games and back to back defeats against the Trojans, the Cowboys fought their way back into playoff contention and finished the season in solid fashion.
‘We had a nervous start to the season, but after improving the offensive line and moving Conrad Smith to Tight-End, the offence began to flourish. Defensively we were shaky in places but I have seen big improvements as the season went on.’
‘Jonny Martin and Joe Buchanan stepped up and led the defence, providing some much needed organization. There were a few games I felt we should have won, but we have developed well on the fly and hopefully it will carry on into the post-season’.
The playoff’s often occupy the best teams in the country and in order to be considered a genuine title contender, you need to play your best football. Peter knows the Cowboys still have plenty to improve on, but is adamant the quality in the squad is there to compete.
‘Simply, we need to improve our consistency. We have the weapons and the plays to do very well in the playoffs but we need to execute on every play. Our comeback against the Knights for example, that final 5 minutes wasn’t luck or anything special, it was simply each player on the field doing their job to perfection.’
Peter is the epitome of a coaches dream. He can play every down and at every position. Although he can play as both receiver and linebacker, Loughran had a tremendous season as the Cowboy’s signal-caller. He tallied 10 passing touchdowns whilst adding 5 rushing scores, making him the second highest scoring Quarterback in the Shamrock Bowl Conference.
For a man who can do it all, Peter still feels there is a lot he can improve on.
‘I would like to decrease the number of interceptions although I’m fairly happy with this year. My O-Line stepped up hugely to protect me when I was injured, only allowing 2 sacks that allowed me to develop as a pocket-passer.’
For a current squad that has little playoff experience, Sunday’s game will not be a typical encounter against the Dublin Rebels. The Cowboys will have to play to the best of their ability to overturn what must be considered a losing spell against their opponents. This will be a big occasion, but Loughran spoke highly of his team and believes they are capable of battling the best.
We might not have played our best football and it will take something special to win, but I think we shown this season that we have that something. We just need to execute and get a full roster available on the day. I believe we are capable of challenging for the Shamrock Bowl, I really do!’
Match details: Craigavon Cowboys @ Dublin Rebels: Seapoint RFC, Dublin. 2pm.