IAFL-1 Final Preview.
With the IAFL-2 Preview done and dusted, we swiftly move onto the IAFL-1 clash between the Cork Admirals and the Waterford Wolves. In what we shall christen as “The Munster Mash”, or maybe a more serious name such as the ‘Munster Bowl’, will see the division leaders do battle against the semi-final winners. Both sides have faced against each other already this season, as Cork came out 33-6 and 42-0 victors, however all past results go out the window when competing in a final!
The Cork Admirals finished IAFL-1 leaders with a commanding (7-1) record as they rarely looked like surrendering their lead as the premier team in the division. The Admirals sailed to a great start, putting up on average 30+ points in their opening 3 games with victories against the Wolves, Minotaurs and Bulldogs, a points average that continued throughout the campaign. By this stage they had established themselves as the firm front-runners in the race for the playoff’s. The midway point of the season brought up some tough encounters, including the game against the Tyrone Titans that they won 22-7, but the Ad’s continued to bask in their form. Their only defeat of the season came against the Meath Bulldogs, but despite a minor setback the men from Cork comfortably sealed top spot in the division.
One of the prime candidates and key reasons for Cork’s success fell on the shoulders of Quarterback, Steve Hayes. Hayes quite simply has had a terrific year up to this point despite being an unknown quantity before the season commenced. He has featured heavily in our ‘Team of the Week’ articles, and for good reason too. The signal-caller threw an impressive 25 touchdowns this season to various targets in his receiving corp. Nick Coffi, Paul O’Driscoll and Simon O’Keefe contributed to a cool 24 TD’s in 8 games, with O’Keefe finishing as the top receiver with 10 touchdowns. Their defence can get somewhat overshadowed by the offences prowess, but they aren’t too bad either. They only conceded 78 points, whilst scoring 3 defensive touchdowns and 2 safeties.
Standing on the opposite sideline will be familiar foes in the Waterford Wolves. The ‘Wolf Packs’ season was met with mixed results and a concern for a lack of consistency, however as the season progressed and the playoff’s loomed, the Wolves were soon hunting! Defeats one week were met with victories the following as Waterford ground out key wins against the Mavericks and Minotaurs early in the campaign. They didn’t necessarily blow teams away on the scoreboard, but they did just enough to scrape threw and thats what counts! They did win 3 of their remaining 4 games, all of which were against playoff contenders. Huge performances against the Titans and Bulldogs secured them playoff football, in which they defeated the Bulldogs 13-9 to book their spot in the final.
Despite coming second overall in the IAFL-1, the Wolves finished with the second worst points difference
with -54 as they scored only 66 points whilst surrending 120. The offensive production has always been a problem for the Waterford men, but their blood thirsty defence more than makes up for it. QB/CB Ryan Byrne has been a standout performer, coming up with several big plays that has altered the Wolves path this season. He’s scored 7 times consisting of passing, rushing and defensive scores making him an all-round playmaker. His partnership with Mark Dunphy has brought plenty of success recently and the Wolves will need big performances from the pair on Sunday.
When it comes down to it, the Cork Admirals will be considered strong favourites this weekend, considering their superior record this year and past results against the Wolves. However the Wolves have had the best form in the division in recent weeks and will be feeling very confident heading into Navan. The Admirals will need to click into gear quickly unless they fear a repeat performance against Meath, whilst Waterford will struggle to keep up with Cork if they get into their flow. Both teams have been rather quiet in regards to rushing threats this season, so it appears the battle will be done through the air. Cork have easily the best receiving trio in the division, maybe even the country, but the Wolves secondary is littered with ball-hawks so this will be an interesting showcase. Let the battle for Munster commence!
Can’t make the game? Never fear! The expert commentating of Greg Barret has you covered! He will be joined by special guests Neil Graham of the Belfast Trojans and South Kildare Soldiers own Shane Farrell at ringside.
Listen to the game live this Sunday on the OpenTempo sports app for iOS and Android, or you can follow the game via the link www.opentempofm.com and click on the “listen” sports link!