Shamrock Bowl XXIX semi-final previews

The road to Shamrock Bowl XXIX stops off in Belfast on July 26th, as the defending champions the Belfast Trojans host the semi-final double header at Deramore Park.

The Trojans won the right to host the semi-finals due to their #1 ranking during the regular season. The fixtures will see the Belfast Trojans, UL Vikings, Trinity College and Dublin Rebels lock horns for the right to headline the final at Dalymount Park on August 9th.
thumb_BTlogo Belfast Trojans vs. UL Vikings thumb_ULlogo – 4pm

The reigning champion Belfast Trojans face familiar foes in the UL Vikings, who have now met at the semi-final stages in the last three consecutive years.

McKelvey threw for 20 touchdowns this season. Photography by Dave Bradshaw
McKelvey threw for 20 touchdowns this season. Photography by Dave Bradshaw

The Trojans proved throughout the regular season that they are the team to beat as they went unbeaten for a third time in four years, finishing with an 8-0 record. The men in green dominated from start to finish, outgunning and outplaying every opponent they came up against.

The Belfast side averaged 43.6 points per game, racking up 349 in total whilst only conceding 30 all season. Quarterback, James McKelvey topped the division with 23 all-purpose touchdowns, throwing 11 to David Richardson who topped the receiving charts.

The current holders have won the Shamrock Bowl the last three seasons, proving throughout the 2015 campaign so far that they have no intention of relinquishing their crown. Dominant performances against rivals the Carrickfergus Knights and Dublin Rebels have displayed their superiority as they clinched the North Division title with considerable ease.

Their opponents on Sunday will be none other than the UL Vikings. The Vikings booked their place in the semi-final courtesy of a 20-12 victory over University College Dublin in the wildcard round. Limerick finished the regular season with a solid (6-2) effort, falling just behind rivals Trinity College into second.

UL had a very strong start to the year, defeating the aforementioned UCD and Trinity College on their way to a 5 game win streak. However back-to-back defeats against Trinity in the return leg and the Dublin Rebels cost the Vikings in the race for the SBC South division.

Gleeson finished the SBC's leading rusher. Photography by Jason Toher
Gleeson finished the SBC’s leading rusher. Photography by Jason Toher

The Vikes have been solid performers all season, finishing second to the Trojans in much of the scoring statistics. They amounted 24 touchdowns during the regular season, whilst allowing only 67 points in 8 games. The transition of defensive pairing, Ian Cahill and Shane Gleeson to offence proved hugely successful for the Limerick side. The strong duo contributed to a powerful run-game that had opposing defences struggling to cope, as Gleeson finished the Shamrock Bowl Conferences leading rusher with 8 touchdowns.

The battle between these two juggernauts has always provided a tough, physical affair. The Trojans may have won the last three outings, but each game has been decided late in the 4th quarter. These two are both incredibly strong sides that pride themselves on shutdown defences and are both highly capable of putting up big scores as well.

The Vikings arguably have a much better squad than in recent years, so this could be their best opportunity to de-throne the champions. Belfast on the other hand will know they are in for a war on Sunday, but their preparation, quality and home-field advantage could be key in the outcome. The Trojans took the spoils in a 28-6 score-line last season, so the Vikings will be focused on enacting some revenge this weekend.

Published by Scott Morrow

Scott is an aspiring sports writer and has previous publications with Double Coverage, Touchdown Europe and American Football International. He has played football for both the Belfast Trojans and Dundee Hurricanes and currently lives in Scotland. He is also a fan of the Green Bay Packers!