NFL-Ireland’s Week 16: Game Previews

NFL-Ireland’s Week 16: Game Previews

The countdown begins! Three weeks for teams to secure their future whether it be to clinch a playoff berth, a division title or simply to avoid the dreaded fate of relegation. From here on out; it’s do or die in the quest for post-season football.

Winning is everything, but even that may not be enough as we enter the stage of the season when complicated head-to-head tie-breakers come into effect. We will do our best to keep you in the loop as things progress but there is plenty to be determined over the coming weeks as the end to the regular season draws ever closer!

thumb_ULlogo UL Vikings (5-2) @ South Dublin Panthers (2-4) thumb_panthers  – Garda RFC, 2pm.

The Vikings will be heading to South Dublin the face the Panthers this Sunday looking to improve on their recent defeat to the Rebels, whilst the Dubliners need a victory to keep their own ambitions alive!

After a strong start to the season, the Vikings ship has started to capsize after suffering back-to-back defeats to both Trinity College and more recently, the Dublin Rebels. They looked odd’s on to clinch their first division title since 2012 but those defeats have left the title wide open for Trinity to grasp. TCD hold the tie-breaker advantage over UL with a superior points difference over the two games, so victory for the Vikings in Dublin would merely put pressure on the students to win all their remaining games.

The South Dublin Panthers defeated UCD 15-8 two weeks ago, which now looks to be a crucial outcome in the wildcard standings. Both sides rest on a (2-4) record, but the Panthers now hold the all-important H2H over the students. We’ve mentioned in the past the difficulty of the Panthers schedule, and their end of season run couldn’t be much tougher. The men from Westmanstown need to beat both the Vikings and the Rebels in their last two games and hope other results go their way in order to reach the playoff’s.

The Vikings will be heading into Sunday looking to overturn their disappointing defeats. They have welcomed back dynamic duo Alvaro Martinez and Marc Ashworth in recent weeks that will add great quality to the squad as the look to head into the post-season on winning form. The Panthers need two massive performances to improve their playoff chances and with UL on a downward slope, this could be their chance to steal a crucial win.

thumb_UCDlogo University College Dublin (2-4) @ North Kildare Reapers (3-3) thumb_reapersLogo2  – North Kildare Sports Club, 2pm.

Few weeks ago it seemed these two sides were better situated to reach the wildcard round, but considering recent results it looks more likely that victory for one team could have damaging consequences on the other.

UCD’s tremendous IAFL-1 form last season has failed materialize to life back in the Shamrock Bowl Conference. Home wins, including the giant killing against the Dublin Rebels and the 13-0 point swing over the struggling West Dublin Rhinos, has been met with three defeats on the trot that now leaves their playoff chances hanging in the balance. University rivals Trinity College await them in Week 18 with their own goals in mind so last years Shamrock Bowl finalists won’t be doing them any favours. That makes this Sunday’s game in Kildare pivotal as once again the H2H tie-breaker will become important.

The Reapers defence will be tasked of stopping the high powered UCD offence. Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao
The Reapers defence will be tasked of stopping the high powered UCD offence. Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao

Out of all the sides within touching distance of the wildcard spots, you’d have to say the North Kildare outfit are in the most advantageous position. The Reapers could book their place in the playoffs this weekend if they win against UCD, no questions asked. Alternative methods include; (1) losing to UCD, but defeating the Knights, or (2) fail to win both games, so long as the Cowboys don’t beat the Trojans and the Panthers fail to win both of their remaining games. Of course, aiming to win on Sunday would be a much simpler approach.

Overturning defeats so late in the season is a tricky task with so much at stake. There is a strong possibility that two South division sides could take both wildcard spots, but that will be dependant on the outcome of this game. Whoever takes home the ‘W’ will be in a much better place to make that final jump into the promise land, however the losing side will have an agonising wait on the final day.

thumb_CKlogo Carrickfergus Knights (1-5) @ Dublin Rebels (3-3) thumb_DRlogo  – Seapoint RFC, 2pm.

Hard to believe that two teams predicted to compete for at least 2nd place in the North division are siting uncertain in their current positions. The Rebels are yet to seal the automatic playoff spot whilst the Knights will be praying they can seal their SBC status.

The Knights will be aiming to outscore the Rebels on Sunday. Photography by Ariane Boudias
The Knights will be aiming to outscore the Rebels on Sunday. Photo by Ariane Boudias

It has been a long a 12 weeks since the Knights picked up their only win against the Cowboys in an impressive 34-12 performance back in March. On the contrary, last Sunday was a sight to behold as the ‘Black and Gold’ surrendered a 22 point lead within the final 5 mins against the aforementioned Cowboys. That win would have given Carrickfergus some breathing room over the Rhinos; now the chances of slipping into IAFL-1 have greatly increased. The only way to stop the rot is to win, starting with the road trip down south to face fierce rivals, the Dublin Rebels.

As mentioned, the Rebels currently reside in 2nd place but their position is not yet confirmed. Defeating the Carrickfergus Knights would secure that spot without any doubt, but defeat would leave them looking over their shoulder. Mathematically, only the South Dublin Panthers could steal second away from them on the H2H rule, but they would need to beat UL first and then defeat the Rebels by 10 points or better. The Rebels recently defeated their historic counterparts the Vikings 21-14 two weeks ago and will be feeling confident ahead of the Knights visit.

The opposing sidelines will be feeling very different levels of pressure on Sunday. The Rebels will know that a win will see them make yet another playoff appearance, but they will still be cautious of a Knights side fighting for survival. Carrick on the other hand will need to go for it! They MUST win against either the Rebels or Reapers if not both to remain in the top tier, as the Rhino’s hold the H2H stakes. It really is all or nothing for the Carrickfergus Knights.

thumb_mullingarlogo Mullingar Minotaurs (0-6) @ Dundalk Mavericks (1-4) thumb_DMlogo1   – DIT, 2pm

It’s a case of 5th versus 6th in the IAFL-1 as the Mavericks host the Minotaurs in the only match in the division this weekend. Dundalk will be looking to clinch a victory that will just about keep them in contention for third. Mullingar will be aiming to end their chances.

Dermot Corroon could be the difference maker for the Minotaurs. Photo by Declan Forrest
Dermot Corroon could be the difference maker for the Minotaurs. Photo by Declan Forrest

The Minotaurs have had a tough time of it this year. They have struggled with numbers and have lost several players to injury and other commitments throughout the course of the campaign. Their goals for the season crumbled a long time ago, but with two games left in their schedule there is still time to earn a consolation victory. The Minotaurs have been steadily improving game after game, so maybe this is the weekend they put a win on the board.

The Mavericks have a flurry of games on the horizon, as they play 3 matches over the next 4 weeks. The Wolves and Admirals will provide tough challenges, but if they can get the better of Mullingar at DIT then they will set themselves up for a showdown with the Waterford Wolves in their last opportunity to make a 3rd place finish. Matty Hagan has been an explosive weapon for Dundalk this season and their defence has been fairly sound, but it’s the physical battles that have got the better of them recently with their last two games being decided by 4 points or less.

This game on paper should be closely contested, but the talent that both teams possess could also make it a high scoring encounter. The Mavericks home form this season has been stagnant whilst the Minotaurs have had similar struggles on the road, but something has got to give. Both teams are in desperate need of wins for one reason or another so this match is just as important as any they have faced this season.

10968328_827634113959732_1746668201097951904_n Galway Warriors (1-1-1) @ Donegal Derry Vipers (0-4) Vip  – Londonderry YMCA, 2pm.

Londonderry is the site for the only IAFL-2 game this weekend as Galway make the journey north to face the Vipers for the first time.

The Warriors have had mixed fortunes in their first 3 games. They overcame challengers the South Kildare Soldiers before going toe-to-toe in a 0-0 tie with the West Dublin Rhino’s 2nds. Their most recent contest took place in Belfast, when the Trojan 2nd’s put on a masterclass showing as the Warriors suffered an uncomfortable 60-7 defeat to the division leaders. Minus the heavy scoreline and the Warriors should feel content with their progress. There is still a lot of work that needs to be done on both sides of the ball, but they have half of their fixture still to play so plenty of time to keep improving.

The Vipers have come a long way since their first game of the season. They have improved at a tremendous rate and are starting to show the IAFL-2 what they are capable of. Their performances have shown grit and determination and the only thing that is missing now is the first win in the books. Quarterback, Nic Young is having a terrific debut season as he leads the team in offensive production. They may have conceded 198 points in 4 games, but 125 of those came against the all-conquering Belfast Trojans 2nd’s. Everyone else in the division has suffered the same fate so it is nothing to be ashamed of. The plus side however is the Vipers are scoring plenty of points of there own, totalling 53.

Both teams have a few games between them to make one last push towards a strong end to the year. When you take the Belfast Trojans out of the equation, as well as the much improved South Kildare Soldiers a third place finish for either side is a distinct possibility and should be considered an achievement in a tough division. These sides are very evenly matched on paper and should provide a more balanced outcome, rather than the typical blowout we’ve come to expect. The return leg takes place in July so this will be a great opportunity for this pair to improve their ‘W’ columns.

NFL-Irelands: ‘Team of the Week’ Double Header

NFL-Irelands ‘Team of the Week’ Double Header!

Unfortunately last weeks ‘Team of the Week’ article had to be delayed, as the world of work got the better of us. Thankfully, we don’t have such problems this week and in return for your patience we have brought you a double dosing of TOTW for both Week 14 and Week 15! Yay!

Hopefully you’ll be able to jog your memories back to just over a week ago, but if you’ve forgotten some of the performances from Week 14, we have you covered! The standout players from Sunday are also included as we picked the best from what proved to be an exciting and pinnacle week on the IAFL calendar.
Week 14:

 

Photography by Ariane Boudias
Photography by Ariane Boudias

Quarterback: Andrew Dennehy
thumb_DRlogo  Dublin Rebels

Andy is one of the most experienced Quarterbacks in the country and arguably the best pure passer of a football in the league. The Rebels form has dipped in and out this year, but the quality of the Dublin offence is hard to ignore. The signal-caller connected with both Kevin Finnegan and Peter Keely as the Rebels overcame the always tough UL Vikings 21-14 at St. Muchens College. The Vikings D currently tops the SBC South and only conceded 46 points before Sunday, so the Rebels win was all the more important as they look to seal up 2nd in the North Conference.

 

Photography by Greg Barret
Photography by Greg Barret

Running-Back: John Buckley
thumb_CAlogo  Cork Admirals

Talk about making an entrance! John competed in his first ever taste of American Football on Sunday as he kitted up for the Cork Admirals in their 27-7 victory away to Mullingar. John had a stellar debut in the red and white of Cork as he broke numerous tackles on his way to his first touchdown of his career, whilst also totalling 116 rushing yards throughout the game. Cork’s offence is brimming with talent and now they can add John to the ranks.

 

IMG_6088
Photography by Declan Forrest

Wide-Receiver: Nick Coffi
thumb_CAlogo  Cork Admirals

This was a difficult position to choose this week with a number of receivers tallying 1 touchdown apiece last weekend. However we decided to go with Nick Coffi of the Admirals for this weeks award, with the Admirals win swinging it in his favour. The Frenchman bagged another touchdown to take his total to 5 on the season as he continues to prove himself to be a favourite target of QB Steve Hayes. With the IAFL-1 Bowl appearance all the more likely, Coffi could well be the key asset to Cork’s potential success.

 

Photography by Media 401 Productions
Photography by Media 401 Productions

Offence: Dublin Rebels thumb_DRlogo

Cork scored the most points of any team in the IAFL with 27, but the magnitude of the Rebels/Vikings clash made the Rebels performance so impressive. The 7 time champions were able to find balance across their offence with two passing scores to the previously mentioned duo of Finnegan and Keely as well as adding a rushing touchdown courtesy of Sean Leamy, who also added a 2pt try to seal the game. The Rebels move to 3-3 as the Offence now holds the third most points scored in the SBC.

 

Photography by Ariane Boudias
Photography by Ariane Boudias

Defence: Tyrone Titans thumb_TTlogo

The Titans were able to close out a 10-6 win over their bitter rivals the Dundalk Mavericks, who they’ve now defeated 5 times on the trot. However the dual between the two sides this year has become increasingly close unlike the high scoring games in the IAFL-2. Only one score has separated the last two fixtures with the Titans defence stepping up when it needed too most. Excluding the Admirals scoreline, Tyrone have only surrendered 3 scores after Sunday, earning two shut-outs in the process. They also conceded the least amount of points last weekend too.


Week 15:

 

Photography by Declan Forrest
Photography by Declan Forrest

Quarterback: Steve Hayes
thumb_CAlogo Cork Admirals

Steve has proven week after week that he is a fantastic talent in the IAFL and he’s becoming a regular in our TOTW’s too. Hayes has led the scoring charts for much of the season as he and the Cork Admirals storm their way through the IAFL-1 Conference. He put up dominant numbers against the Waterford Wolves, throwing for 5 touchdowns amounting 247 yards in the process. The signal-caller has now reached the 20 touchdown mark on the season and is a serious contender for MVP honours.

 

Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao
Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao

Running Back: Ola Bademosi
thumb_TCDlogoTrinity College

It’s been consecutive appearances for Ola Bademosi in our TOTW column as his performances continue to standout amongst those in his position. He’s arguably been the most in form player in recent weeks as his two rushing touchdowns were enough to help Trinity oversee rivals UCD 23-14. His recent surge of form now lifts him to top spot in the rushing charts with 7 touchdowns, as his blend of speed and strength is proving difficult to contain.

 

11407085_981508368548689_1593733863621589929_n

Wide Receiver: Luis Alberto
thumb_CClogo  Craigavon Cowboys

This game will live long in the memory! Suffering from a 22 point deficit, the Cowboys miraculously pull the game back with 5.04 left on the clock, to somehow win 23-22 on the last play of the game. There have been a number of comebacks over the years, but perhaps this is the best of them? Receiver, Luis Alberto was the savior of the game as he reeled in 2 clinical touchdowns and a 2 PT conversion to put Craigavon within touching distance. It was then Luis who stepped up to take the pressure kick that ultimately won the game for the ‘Boys’ with seconds to spare. Incredible scenes were met at the full time whistle and much of the credit should be given to Luis’ heroic performance.

 

Photography by Dave Bradshaw
Photography by Dave Bradshaw

Offensive Line: Belfast Trojans thumb_BTlogo

The North division champions continue to dominate the IAFL and the West Dublin Rhino’s were the latest victims in the Trojan onslaught. The offence tallied 30 of Belfast’s 49 points on Sunday as the O-Line consisting of Matthew Vance, Mark Davidson, Michael Bradford, Chris Harte and Mohammed Ramadan helped contribute to 2 passing and 3 rushing touchdowns. The Trojans still have one game left of the regular season, but they’ve scored 293 total points so far; 210 of which have been scored by the offence.

 

Photography by Declan Forrest
Photography by Declan Forrest

Defence: Cork Admirals thumb_CAlogo

We’ve talked in past about the teams that rank amongst the leagues best defences; the Belfast Trojans, UL Vikings, Trinity College to name a few. How about adding the Cork Admirals to that list? Sundays comfortable 43-0 win against the Waterford Wolves maintained how good the Cork offence is, but what about the defence? 6 forced fumbles (4 recovered) 3 sacks, 2 interceptions, 2 lateral passes, 1 defensive touchdowns and a shut-out. Impressive numbers! The DMVP performance came courtesy of Chris Allen who had 13 tackles, 4 TFL’s, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble and he scored the touchdown. That’s as good a defensive performance as any in the league this season.


Honourable Mentions:

thumb_CClogo  – Peter Loughran is a phenominal all-round player in this league, but that’s probably the best 5mins of football he’s ever played! 2 passing touchdowns and 1 rushing TD of his own were enough to give the Craigavon Cowboys the greatest of comebacks in IAFL history; 3 touchdowns in 5 mins? #clutchgenes

thumb_CAlogo – Many teams in the IAFL have a star receiver, the target man, the go-to guy. The Cork Admirals have a number of them. It’s hard to mention Nick Coffi (2) without naming partner in crime Simon O’Keefe (3) as the pairing totaled 5 touchdowns between them against the Wolves. Luis Alberto was our top receiver this week, but O’Keefe’s 3 Td’s and 160 yard game could have taken the spoils on another day.

 

IAFL Week 15 Previews!

Week 15 Previews

Games, seasons and futures can be decided in moments this time of year. Teams certain of security can make one slip and be facing the IAFL 1 quick sand. Teams wondering who their playoff opponents will be get caught looking the wrong way and their football is done for another year.
This weekend 6 SBC teams seasons will tilt one way or the other, in the IAFL 1 opportunities for the chasing pack are dwindling in the fight overcome Tyrone or Cork and uncertain of what the future of their division will hold, IAFL 2 teams just compete for the purest of motivations…victory.

Belfast Trojans 6-0 v West Dublin Rhinos 1-5

Preview
Mc Kelvey leading all scorers Photo by Dave Bradshaw

The Trojans find themselves, yet again, free from any of the above concerns. Another fine season draws to a close and the Trojans have never looked like they’d stumble. 30+ points in all games bar one (which was called early) and never more than 1 score given up in any game. They lead the way in points scored and in defence. James McKelvey and David Richardson sit atop their respective scoring charts by some margin and with Neil Montgomery within reach of the rushing title the Trojans could sweep the regular season in every imaginable way.
The Rhinos, it’s no disrespect to say, have struggled this year. An offence that never got moving and a defence that couldn’t possibly be expected to take up that much slack. Serious discussions were needed and action facing potentially certain relegation after only 6 games. A change at Quarterback is more than just about the play of the passer himself. It’s an indictment of an offence when the leader of it is replaced. It forces all men on the downfield side of the ball to hold their own performances to account and ask the question of themselves, have I done enough? It worked! Stephen Mooney stepped under centre and with their heels teetering off the edge of the SBC cliff they fought back and although it may only be a stay of execution, they saved their SBC status for another game at least. It still looks as though the men in Castleknock will go down, as the Knights have 3 games left and will consider at least one of them winnable.
This is the exact wrong time for the Rhinos to be facing the Trojans but if they are to go down they will be looking to go down swinging or to put it another way –
Why does it matter how a man falls, when the fall is all that left, it matters a great deal.

Carrickfergus Knights 1-5 v Craigavon Cowboys 2-4

To view the Knights in person and then on the league table would leave you confused. Live and up close, a large well organised professionally run outfit that exudes confidence and considered preparation. On paper, only 1 win. It’s difficult to say the least to mould a large group of men into a football team competing in all three phases of the game and while at times this season the Knights offence has rolled along, the defence as let them down. Other times when the defence was lock down the offence couldn’t capitalise. The league position is explained by a lack of consistency rather than a team that flatly ins’t able to compete. If the loss to Rhinos didn’t shock some in the Knights organisation to life, they could be in serious trouble. We mentioned above that the Knights will see some of the remaining three games as winnable, they should, at this point, know that seeing a game as winnable and actually winning it are a different story. If the game was played on paper the Knights should be 3-2 and looking to cement a play off spot. The IAFL 1 poses it’s own challenges and is not easily escaped and a season or two down there without progress could be devastating to a teams future. This is why in their remaining 3 games, (Cowboys, Rebels and Reapers) at least one win is essential. This squad is capable of better but to hold it together, if they achieve that one win, it could prove to be a defining moment in the life of the Knights.
Outside of the Cowboys; expectations were low. Often times, the first game of the season and the squad size you arrive to it with will determine what people think of your chances. After not being particularly impressive in the reverse fixture on the opening day the Cowboys slipped the notice of most people. They have thrived as the underdog this season and now must legitimately be considered that which they aim to be…the wildcard. The offence behind their enigmatic leader, Peter Loughran, have been racking up points this season. They pose several issues for defences tasked with stopping them. The aforementioned Loughran is one of the best pure football players in the league, placing him anywhere between the white lines will get you results, be it on defence or under centre. Conrad Smith is a beast at tightend and finding someone to match up with him in most defensive backfields is no easy task. Where the Cowboys have suffered is on defence, ranking near the bottom. The Knights have hardly lit up the scoring charts this season with the bulk of their 51 points coming on that opening day. If the Cowboys defence can elevate their performance on defence just a little, their offence has the tools to win the game and give them an iron grip on 3rd place in the SBC north and the Wildcard status they so crave.

University College Dublin 2-3 v Trinity College Dublin 4-1

Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao
Ola Bademosi making his mark Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao

Trinity started the season a little out of sorts and carrying injuries from an impressive but punishing campaign in 2014. UCD beat them in the College Championship and had the season opened with this game like it was supposed to things could be a looking a little dimmer for the scholars at this point. Fortuitously that game was called due to the weather and now is the closing fixture rather than the opening. Trinity suffered defeat early in the season to a surging Limerick side and the Panthers got a little closer to them that they would have anticipated. Since those early hiccups and a long break for exams Trinity look themselves again. Rob McDowell appearing in a multitude of positions and Ola Bademosi emerging as one of the most punishing runners in the league. After turning the head to head points difference around on Limerick and the subsequent loss by the Vikings to the Rebels, the SBC South is now Trinity’s to lose.
More accurately perhaps, the SBC South is UCDs to take from Trinity. The Boys from Belfield make up two of the three games remaining for their South Side neighbours and although UCD can’t claim the SBC South for themselves (unless they win out and Limerick forfeit their game at the Panthers next week) they can prevent Trinity from winning it. Motivation enough for these colours games. Tom Donovan truly is one of the most exciting players to watch in the IAFL and would give the celebrated Rob McDowell a run for his money in breakout ability. Eoin Feely on the UCD defence is consistently making game changing plays and with weapons elsewhere both sides of the ball UCD will most certainly feel they have the tools to upset their rivals. UCD maybe would feel they should be sitting on a better record than 2-3 but playoffs are most certainly within reach for the students. 3rd place in the SBC North is not guaranteed to have a better record than 4th in the SBC South and the Reapers still on their schedule, there is certainly more than one way they can make the post season. At least one positive result against Trinity would place them in an extremely strong position and with the Reapers game to come they have every opportunity keep their season going throughout July.

Cork Admirals 5-0 v Waterford Wolves 3-2

Hayes having an MVP season Photography by Declan Forrest
Hayes having an MVP season
Photography by Declan Forrest

Cork look destined for the SBC. It would be an upset if they didn’t find themselves in possession of the IAFL1 title at the close of the season. Although praise has been heaped upon them from all corners, including this one, this season they are not perfect just yet. Winning teams are often built on a precarious balance of mentality and ability. There are teams in the IAFL1 with the ability but perhaps not the winners mentality and there are some teams riding high in this and other divisions with the mentality but perhaps not the ability of their lower ranked rivals. When you go in search of a perfect season, the belief you possess the ability to do it but never the disregard for your opponents ability to stop you are vital ingredients. Cork are relatively young following their rebirth and now mentality as much as the much heralded ability of their squad will determine their perfect season.
Waterford are reconstructing their confidence, game by game, play by play, inch by inch. It was clear following some of the sentiment coming from the South East following their victory over Meath last time out that possession of a winning record once more was a milestone for this group. They will be in no humour to give it up easily. There is tremendous enthusiasm for the Wolves in Waterford and they are among the best supported teams in the land. The drive to repay that faith can often overcome any deficits verses more talented opposition. Games, seasons and futures can turn in moments in football and if Waterford can overcome cork suddenly the prospect of bouncing straight back into the SBC will edging closer to reality. Cork must now maintain mental discipline and belief in their ability or the wolf pack could devour their perfect season.

Meath Bulldogs 2-3 v Tyrone Titans 5-1

IAFL 1
Meaths scorers facing a big task. Photo by Ariane Boudias

The Bulldogs have never had a losing season at 11s football and with Tyrone, Cork and Mullingar to come that record is under threat. With the IAFL 1 bowl on their home turf in Navan again this year the Bulldogs hopes of playing in it are also still very much alive. The Bulldogs were sucker punched in the opening game of the season verses a Titans team that proved to be more potent than most had anticipated them to be in their debut IAFL 1 season. It would be uncharacteristic of the Meath men to not remedy that lapse in the intervening months. A 15 point reversal is required for the Bulldogs to stand a chance to over throw the Titans team that look odds on for the 2nd spot in the IAFL1. This is no small task against a team that, with the exception of their Cork game, have conceded no more than one score in any game this season. Meath possess some of the most consistent offensive performers in the last number of years in the IAFL1 and each of them will need to show up to challenge the stingy Titans defence.
The Titans will have always believed in their ability to win this division and at this point in their development to have a realistic shot at the SBC is a huge feat. To have only lost 1 game since their formation is unprecedented. Built on a strong defence, relying on a mix of experience and explosive playmakers they count among their ranks the players to perhaps make this one of the truly great defences in the country. Still less than a year in the tutelage of new offensive co-ordinator Gary Carr the offence has fired in spots and stumbled in others but something that has been consistent has been the results. Meath play a particular brand of hard hitting football and late in the season when bodies are sore and will is tested to the limit, the character of a team is revealed. If Tyrone truly hope to not only play in but win the IAFL1 bowl game games such as this can’t be let slip. A game that won’t be pretty but a battle that will be won and lost in the trenches.

Bouncing Back: Jacksonville Jaguars

Jaguars

The Jaguars seem to be in that constant “rebuilding” phase. After seven wins in the past two seasons, it’s about time they used some of the promising building blocks that are in place to assemble some wins. So can they turn things around?

The Draft

Despite many excellent picks, the 2015 Jaguars’ draft class is facing an uphill battle to be considered successful. This is due to the fact that their first round pick Dante Fowler Jr. has already torn his ACL without playing a single down in the NFL. Hopefully he can still live up to the potential he clearly has, but he won’t have much of an influence on the 2015 season. On the other side of the ball, T.J Yeldon is primed to play a large role in the Jaguars’ backfield. The 2nd round selection out of Alabama, is believed to have already been earmarked as the potential workhorse back for this offense. While Denard Robinson could be effective as a change-of-pace back, the former “Offensive Weapon” showed last season that his production won’t hold up to a high number of carries week after week. 3rd round pick AJ Cann could start from day one. The rest of the draft brought them more potential starters, and DT Michael Bennett (6th round pick), was considered a potential 2nd rounder by many analysts. General manager David Caldwell seems to be getting the hang of this NFL Draft thing.

Free Agency

It’s difficult for teams like the Jaguars to be successful in free agency. The top free agents want to go to teams that win. Losing teams need to pay a premium if they want to swing a deal for one of these players. It’s a tax on losing games. This tax was surely a factor in the Jaguars missing out on Demarco Murray, and having to fork out over $20 million in guaranteed money to tie down Julius Thomas. Thomas was a touchdown machine in Denver, but this Jaguars offense is a totally different animal. He’ll be vital in turning around his new team’s dismal red zone numbers, and he’ll also play a big part in the development of Blake Bortles. They need him to be the same Julius Thomas we saw in Denver, but that’s no guarantee. Defensive end Jared Odrick, offensive tackle Jermey Parnell, and center Stefen Wisniewski were also solid additions, but they were forced to overpay.

The Competition

Unfortunately for the Jaguars, they seem to be on the rise at the same time as almost everybody else in the AFC South. Unless Bortles miraculously becomes an elite passer in the next few seasons, it’s unlikely that they will finish above Andrew Luck’s Colts in the foreseeable future. The Texans are another team that will be tough to beat, if they can salvage consistent quarterback play from Brian Hoyer, or Ryan Mallett. The Titans shouldn’t pose much of a threat this season while Marcus Mariota adjusts to the NFL. They face a resurgent AFC East (Although as it stands they’ll be facing Jimmy Garoppolo in September instead of Tom Brady), and an NFC South that was historically bad last season. Most of their wins will still need to come from games against the Titans, and those against weak teams in other divisions.

The Good

  • Blake Bortles showed flashes of franchise quarterback play last season, and his passing mechanics are seemingly better than ever at OTAs after spending last season getting beaten up behind a shaky offensive line.
  • A strong core of young players should set the Jaguars up for a bright future. They have a young stable of pass-catchers, and the last couple of drafts under David Caldwell should give Jaguars fans some hope.
  • The defensive line should remain one of their largest strengths, despite the loss of Dante Fowler Jr.
  • They’re getting back an experienced defensive leader in the form of Paul Posluszny.

The Bad

  • The offensive line was among the worst in the league last season, particularly in pass protection. The new additions to the roster need to make an instant impact if they want Bortles to survive a second season in this league with all his internal organs intact.
  • The Jaguars secondary only had 3 interceptions last season. The additions of Davin House, and Sergio Brown, might help in some way, but the development of the young secondary from last season is the real key to improving these numbers.
  • The youth of this roster is a double-edged sword. The future does indeed look bright, but this roster just isn’t ready to compete at the highest level right now.
  • Their helmets are still two-tone abominations.

The Verdict

Taking these factors into account, it’s easy to see these Jaguars taking a step forward this season. However, the playoffs will almost certainly be out of reach for the eighth season in a row. Getting double their number of wins from last season is a reasonable expectation for this team. Playoff hopes should become more concrete in 2016.

Predicted Record: 6-10

Football Players who fought on D-Day

– All gave some, some gave all

71 years ago today 160,000 allied troops landed at Normandy in Northern France, beginning the fight back against Hitlers Third Reich and ultimately victory in Europe. By land, air and sea, men, machines and supplies landed on Utah, Omaha, Sword, Gold and Juno beachheads, many of them never left.

What we consider todays NFL didn’t exist in 1944 but some of the teams did and many of the men that would go on to take up positions in the Hall of Fame were on those beaches that day.

Sid Luckman 1916-1998
Sid Luckman
1916-1998

Perhaps the most famous was Chicago Bears Quarterback Sid Luckman. Luckman fought at Normandy after volunteering for the merchant marine at the close of the 1943 season. Luckmans Coach, the legendary George Hallas, was the “Welfare and Recreation Officer” for the 7th Fleet in the Pacific.  Luckman went on to play 7 more seasons for the Bears and was admitted to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1965.

 

 

Frank 'Gunner' Gatski  1921-2005
Frank ‘Gunner’ Gatski
1921-2005

Frank Gatski was at Marshall College when they cancelled the football program in 1943. His reserve unit was quickly called up to fight and he was among the infantrymen landed on D-Day. After the war Gatski attended Auburn and spent a brief amount of time working in mines until he got a tryout for the a new team, the Cleveland Browns. Gatski eventually became the Browns starting centre and with Otto Graham at QB, won 3 titles in his first 6 with the Browns.

 

 

Pete Pihos 1923-2011
Pete Pihos
1923-2011

Pete Phios served in the 35th Infantry Division under General George Patton. He Received a battle field commission to 2nd Lieutenant and was awarded the Bronze Star and Silver Star for bravery. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Eagles in 1945 but wasn’t able to join the team until 1947. He played in the first 6 Pro Bowls and won 3 receiving titles. In his 8 year career he missed just one game and played on both offence and defence.

The courage and sacrifice shown by these man and the many more not named here helped ensure the free world as we know it today. On this the 71st Anniversary, we are thankful for all they have done.

 

 

IAFL Week 14: Game Previews

IAFL Week 14: Game Previews

Not long left until the regular season comes to an end and teams across the country will be eyeing the finishing line, just over the horizon. Much of the final rankings were already decided by this stage in 2014 but with only a number of games left there are division titles, playoff spots and the dreaded relegation battle still to be decided.

Only the Belfast Trojans have made it to the promise land after clinching the North Division title last Sunday, but there are a number of sides looking to join them this weekend.

‘Game of the Week’

thumb_DRlogo  Dublin Rebels (2-3) @ UL Vikings (5-1) thumb_ULlogo  – St. Munchins College, 2pm.

Two of Irelands most historic sides will clash heads in Limerick this weekend as we expect a physical game of football between two juggernauts of the IAFL. Many important games in the past have been decided by these two, but this could be the biggest match both teams have faced-off in since the 2011 Shamrock Bowl.

It’s unusual to see the Rebels with a negative record this late into the season, but after two opening defeats to TCD and UCD, they briefly turned their fortunes around before the heavy defeat suffered at the hands of the Trojans. It’s been a long three weeks for the Dubliners to get their chance of making amends, but they will have the opportunity of unleashing all their frustrations on arguably their fiercest rival in the clubs history.

The Vikings were cruising atop of the SBC South before they suffered a 22-3 defeat to Trinity College in Week 12. The loss is a setback, but the title is still far from decided and victory against the Rebels would set them back on the right course.

The last time these two met was at the beginning of last season, when the Rebels scored with seconds left on the clock to win 14-13. The Dublin outfit were on the receiving end of a late comeback by Trinity early in the campaign, but Limerick will be looking to inflict a bigger blow by putting the Rebels playoff hopes in serious danger. Two major losses for both sides as Quarterback, Andrew Dennehy is unavailable whilst Running-Back, Adrian Garvey underwent ACL surgery on Friday. With so much at stake and the significant history between these sides, I’d expect nothing less than a ferocious game of football that could go down to the wire once again

Fun Fact: Both last seasons match-up and Shamrock Bowl 2011 were decided by 14-13 score-lines in the Rebels favour. Who would bet money on it happening again?

thumb_CAlogo  Cork Admirals (4-0) @  Mullingar Minotaurs (0-5) thumb_mullingarlogo – Harbour Field, 2pm.

Two sides on opposite ends of the IAFL-1 spectrum, one unbeaten and the other winless. Victory for Cork would increase their lead at the top, whilst Mullingar are still searching for their first win of the year.

Cork took top spot of the IAFL-1 with a 22-7 victory over title challengers the Tyrone Titans. They now hold the advantage and as the final flurry of games arrive, it’s difficult to see who will be able to stop them from going unbeaten. Steve Hayes and his receiving corp have had a fantastic season so far and although their run game hasn’t been as effective, they’ve still scored 118 points in 4 games, averaging 30 points a game against some of the divisions best defences.

In comparison, Mullingar have struggled to live up to their performances of last season as with only 5 touchdowns to their name, with Niall Folan the leading scorer, the Minotaurs have only mustered 34 points whilst conceding 128. That statistic won’t fair well in keeping up with the free scoring exploits of the Cork offence. With three games left to play, it will be a daunting end of season stretch for the Mullingar boys with two tough road games against Dundalk and Meath yet to come. They have surrendered the most points by a considerable distance so it will need to miraculous turnaround if they hope to avoid the dreaded 0-8.

Cork defeated the Minotaurs 35-13 in the previous outing and since have laid waste to every opponent they’ve come up against. This is Mullingar’s last home game of the season so improvement on previous performances is greatly needed, but worryingly they’ve scored more points in away games than they have at home this season. The Admirals have rarely been challenged this year, but the Minotaurs do posses a talented team and the visitors must be wary of a good performance that Mullingar are capable of producing.

Fun Fact: In the previous 3 games between these clubs, the Cork Admirals have won 2 and lost 1 against the Minotaurs, including the 16-9 win in last years IAFL-1 semi final.

thumb_DMlogo1  Dundalk Mavericks (1-3) @ Tyrone Titans (4-1) thumb_TTlogo – Omagh RFC, 2pm.

Both Dundalk and Tyrone must be getting sick at the sight of each other. Both teams have suffered losses of late in their pursuit of playoff football, so which one will be able to overturn their recent fortune?

Dundalk, despite back to back defeats against the Wolves and Bulldogs can still mathematically catch the pairing in the race for third. It will ultimately come down to the head to head victories between the three, but the Mavericks still have their game in hand against the Admirals to play and then host both Mullingar and the Wolves at DKIT in a few weeks time; so all is not lost! Although they currently sit inferior in the W/L column, they do have the 3rd highest points difference with +12 and are tied on 3rd most touchdowns with the Wolves, so defeats aren’t damaging their performances.

The Titans suffered their first loss in 11 games at the hands of league leaders the Cork Admirals 2 weeks ago and will be looking to get back on track to securing 2nd spot in the division. They can still claim 1st, but they would need a major slip-up from the Admirals in order to sneak ahead of them in the rankings. Any loss is hard to take especially when a long winning streak has been broken, but the Titans put up a good performance against Cork and should take the positives into this weekends game.

The last outing was a much closer game than the previous fixtures that these teams have faced. The Titans took away a narrow 8-0 win back up North in what proved to be an incredibly defensive battle. Tyrone have been clinical through the air this season with QB Daniel Mullan and WR Ryan Brolly striking up a potent partnership. Meanwhile the majority of Dundalks offensive production has came courtesy of dangerous QB Mathew Hagan, the divisions leading rusher. So plenty of talented players on show in this clash and as Omagh RFC is a hot spot for high scoring games; lets hope for better than a 8-0 scoreline.

Fun Fact: The Dundalk Mavericks and Tyrone Titans have played 4 times in the last two years including in the IAFL-2 Bowl game; The Titans have won all of them. 

SKS  South Kildare Soldiers (2-2) @ Donegal/Derry Vipers (0-3)  Vip – Londonderry YMCA, 2pm.

SKS and the Vipers are still very early in their tenures as clubs, but even a years extra experience can prove crucial when it comes down to it. The Soldiers experience overcame the spirited Vipers two weeks ago, will it be a similar outcome this weekend?

South Kildare have already improved dramatically from their debut season in the IAFL-2 in which they finished 1-5. One year later and they are sitting 2nd in the table, only behind the resplendent Trojans 2nd’s and their points difference is looking much much healthier. The Trojans are a big task for anybody, but wins against a talented Vikings team as well as the Vipers have shown that the Soldiers are a match for everyone else in the division. QB Eoin Whelan and RB Dara Moran are having solid seasons and are a huge part of the teams success of late and with two games to go, the Soldiers have a great chance of finishing with a 0.500 record or better this year.

Three losses might not look too promising in the table, but the Vipers are a new outfit to this league so it will take time for them to reach their full potential. On the plus side, they have improved tremendously since their ‘induction’ back in April. Two games against the Trojans isn’t going to do wonders for your points difference, but they did tally 20 against Belfast and then a further 26 against the Soldiers, so the league minnows are starting to go places. There is still plenty of opportunities for the Vipers to increase their scoring tally, and with the Soldiers on Sunday and a Galway Warriors double header too look forward to, they could improve their W/L record too.

For those who attended Cill Dara two weeks ago will have been blessed with a scoring extravaganza! and no doubt those making the journey up North will be praying for a similar experience. The Soldiers could go positive at (3-2) for the first time in their clubs history, whilst the Vipers will do anything to earn their first win of the season.

Fun Fact: The Soldiers 54-26 victory over the Donegal/Derry Vipers is the highest scoring game in the IAFL this season!

NFL-Ireland’s Week 13: ‘Team of the Week’

NFL-Ireland’s Week 13: ‘Team of the Week’

Week 13 is done and dusted as another helping of IAFL games end up in the history books. 5 games took place this weekend and what a weekend of football it was! The Belfast Trojans became the first side to win a domestic honour on Sunday as they defeated the Craigavon Cowboys to clinch the SBC North division title.

There were also important wins for the South Dublin Panthers and Trinity College, whilst the Wolves leapfrogged Meath into third with victory at Navan RFC. The biggest shock of the weekend however came at Castleknock as the Rhinos ground out their first win of the season against the Knights, lifting the Rhinos off the bottom of the combined table for the first time this season.

Only 5 weeks remain in the IAFL regular season, but as the year winds down there is still time for a number of performances to catch the eyes of us here at NFL-Ireland. Plenty to go through in this weeks TOTW article, so lets get to it!

11301457_10206872585163611_1159608161_n
Photography by Dave Bradshaw

Quarterback:

James McKelvey
thumb_BTlogo Belfast Trojans

The leagues leading signal-caller once again proved his worth on Sunday with another masterful performace at the helm of the Trojan juggernaut. McKelvey threw 2 touchdowns in the 48-0 rout against the Cowboys, with both of those touchdowns reaching favourite target, David Richardson. He also scored on a QB sneak from 2 yards out. The Quarterback’s form has improved as the season wears on and he has now surpassed his tally from last season, with 14 touchdowns on the year so far. Still plenty of games left to reach the 20 mark!

Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao
Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao

Running Back:

Ola Bademosi
thumb_TCDlogo Trinity College

Second week running that Ola Bademosi has been the star back in the league, as he added 3 touchdowns against the Reapers to help the students to a 37-3 win. After a solid performance against the Vikings, Ola was able to move the ball in impressive fashion against North Kildare’s defence as they couldn’t find an answer for his fast, physical running. So often the back-up to star player Rob McDowell, Ola’s run atop the depth chart has paid dividends and he’s becoming a real threat for the Trinity Offence, with 5 TD’s in 2 games. Trinity look like they may be forging a new talisman in the backfield.

10313723_831801610163386_7178803573875181647_n
Photo by Ariane Boudias

Wide Receiver:

Alex Gurnee
thumb_TCDlogo Trinity College

Two touchdowns for the big receiver as he spearheaded Trinity’s dissection of the Reapers secondary. Most of TCD’s touchdowns this season has been on the ground, but Gurnee showed why they are just as dangerous in the air, connecting with QB Dan Finnamore for some big plays. Alex is now tied for second in the SBC reception chart with 3 scores this year.

Photography by Charisse Mae Ducao
Photography by Charisse Mae Ducao

Offensive Line:

Trinity College thumb_TCDlogo

Trinity’s o-line had a commanding day Sunday, moving the ball with balance and confidence as they closed the gap on the Vikings in the SBC South. The students rushed for 3 touchdowns and passed for 2 against the Reapers as Finnamore, Bademosi and Gurnee took control of the game. Trinity are beginning to hit their stride again at the perfect time and with plenty of games still to play, there is time for them to make an impression on the title race as well as in our ‘TOTW’ column.

Photography by Dave Bradshaw
Photography by Dave Bradshaw

Defence:

Belfast Trojans thumb_BTlogo

Best defence in the league? It would take a lot to disagree with a such a statement! The reigning champions bagged yet another shut-out, their third of the season as the Cowboys were the latest victims to fall to the dominant Trojans D. Defensive Tackle, Christophe Perret had a fumble recovery whilst middle linebacker, Connor Whitla had a pick 6 and a fumble recovery of his own. The victory clinched Belfast their 4th consecutive division title with two games to spare, whilst also holding Peter Loughran and the leagues third highest scoring offence to nothing.


Honourable Mentions:

thumb_BTlogo – Jonathan, Jonah, Cheat Codes, Chico?! Doesn’t matter what you call him he is still going to score ridiculous touchdowns! Yet another punt return score to add to his collection, this time from 60 yards out. Jonah Siri is the only player in the SBC to have currently scored a touchdown on Special Teams.

thumb_waterfordlogo  30 – An honourable mention to the defences of both the Waterford Wolves and Meath Bulldogs who demonstrated what defensive football is all about on Sunday. Only a pick-6 from Ryan Byrne of the Wolves(1 of 3 INTS on the day for him) and safety from Bulldog, Stephen Power made it onto the scoreboard in a incredibly close contest that finished 7-2 in Waterford’s favour. Defence! Defence!

thumb_panthers – The Panthers defence had an impressive day Sunday. Arguably one of the most exciting players in the IAFL at the moment is UCD QB Tom Donovan. Contained for the most part by the South Dublin outfit and picked off on two occasions by Panthers LB Conrad Cook and once by DB Eoin Neville, to ice the game as UCD attempted a comeback.

thumb_RHlogo – Things are still very tough for the Rhinos but with their backs against the wall they finally mustered an offensive performance. A switch at QB brought Stephen Mooney under centre and gave the Rhinos offence the spark it needed to get a result here. They’ll still need help elsewhere but their is life in Castleknock yet.

thumb_BTlogo– Technically we mentioned his exploits earlier but he deserves an individual mention also. Short of Neil Graham, The Trojans defence could have been considered slightly weaker than normal. Not so as Conor Whitla put in the performance of two men. Scoring on a pick six and creating….hell just have a watch of this video by Media 401 Productions

IAFL Week 13: Game Previews

IAFL Week 13: Game Previews

The countdown is on as the end to the regular season begins to draw ever closer. With a lot of teams futures hanging in the balance, each and every game becomes all the more important as a simple win or loss could dictate the outcome of the entire year. Five exceptional games to feast upon across Ireland with a number of teams battling to keep their playoff hopes alive, while others simply want to avoid the drop and we could have our first division champion of the year. Theres a lot at stake on Sunday, so who will take their chances?

Shamrock Bowl Conference

thumb_reapersLogo2North Kildare Reapers (3-2) @ Trinity College (3-1) thumb_TCDlogo  –  ALSAA, 2pm.

As the race for automatic promotion in the SBC South heats up, one of these sides could strengthen their grip on second spot whilst the other could be pinning all their hopes on clinching a wildcard berth come July. It will be all to play for at Santry on Sunday.

Outside of the Trojans, the Reapers and TCD are the next best sides in the form books. The Reapers have overcome two closely contested games against the Cowboys and Rhinos to put them in excellent position to steal second place. The Reapers have defied the odds once again up to this point and whilst they sit at -36 in points difference, they’ve managed to grind out victories. It’s all about the W at the end of the day. This game however could be the real test in determining whether North Kildare will be capable of competing in playoff football.

Despite the six week layoff before they faced UL, it appeared the lack of game day practice failed to affect Trinity’s performance on Sunday. An excellent 22-3 win over the division leaders has put Trinity on a purple patch and given them an excellent shot at catching the Vikings at the top. Some may have questioned if the students were capable of a repeat year, but Sunday’s outcome was reminiscent of their unbeaten path to the Shamrock Bowl in 2014. The positive news for last years finalists is that they sit in a great position in the playoff race, with still half of their season yet to play.

The intensity of the SBC South is there for all to see, with 3 teams looking to battle their way into second and the division title still yet to be claimed. It looks certain that this race could go right down to the wire. There is no better time for the Reapers and Trinity College to lock horns with both on such good form and with the playoff’s at stake, this game has that extra edge that not many would have saw coming when the schedule was published.

thumb_CKlogo Carrickfergus Knights (1-3) @ West Dublin Rhinos (0-5) thumb_RHlogo  – Castleknock College, 2pm.

It’s been a disappointing season for both sides it must be said. There would have been a lot of promise heading into the campaign that playoff football was a distinct goal, now it’s a case of overturning poor form into wins and trying to salvage their seasons.

The Knights started off the season with a bang against the Cowboys, but now that opening game feels like a distant memory. It was always going to be a tough task to contend with the SBC North powerhouses of the Trojans and Rebels, but the Knights squad is filled with depth and quality and they are more than capable of challenging the very best in Ireland. So far things haven’t gone smoothly for the ‘Black and Gold’, they have lost 3 on the bounce and they have shipped in 117 points, 18 more than this weekends opponents who are yet to win a game.

The odd’s might be unrealistic, but there is still a ‘slim’ chance that the Rhino’s could avoid demotion! If we take a look back to last season, the Rhinos defeated the Knights 8-0 that helped grant them the last remaining wildcard spot against the odds and if there is a team you shouldn’t bet against, it’s the men from Castleknock. The Rhino’s have really struggled on offence all season, thats apparent; but coming up against the lowest ranked defence in the SBC on home soil, there’s no better opportunity to start putting points on the board.

With a number of playoff teams competing this weekend, the Knights cannot afford to be left behind. If they can take victory against the Rhinos, they will set themselves up nicely for the must win double headers against rival challengers the Craigavon Cowboys and Dublin Rebels. They need to regain their form in this match and the defence must prevent a potential Rhino’s breakout performance. For the West Dubliners the options are simple; win or bust!

thumb_BTlogo Belfast Trojans (5-0) @ Craigavon Cowboys (2-3) thumb_CClogo  – Chambers Park, 2pm.

The SBC’s last remaining unbeaten team will look to seal up the North Division title this Sunday. The Trojans travel to Portadown to face rivals the Craigavon Cowboys who have intentions of not only ruining the party, but to maintain their own path to the playoff’s.

Belfast are sitting comfortably atop of the IAFL rankings, both on points and on record. The current champions have scored 196 points in 5 games, tallying 27 touchdowns in total. The defence has performed as expected, only conceding 22 thus far so once again the Trojans have dominated every opposition they have faced in the league. The resounding wins against the Rebels and Knights has all but secured Belfast the title already, but victory against the Cowboys will confirm it in writing.

The Cowboys last gasp defeat away to the Reapers would have left a sour taste in the mouth, but the recent home win against the Panthers has now placed them into the current wildcard vacancy. All they need to do now is stay there; easier said than done of course. It now looks that the Cowboys have found a winning remedy to reward their efforts, as they are now attributing good performances with wins. They currently score as much as they concede with a +2 points difference, but they have tallied the third most touchdowns in the SBC. So with the offence in good form, it’s up to the defence to follow suit.

It will be a tricky end of season run for the Cowboys as they face Belfast in the return leg to close out the regular season, but the Knights game mere weeks away will be the key fixture. Peter Loughran and co. will be hoping to stay in contention this weekend as the Trojans scored 84 points against the Cowboys in the last two outings. However the Cowboys have been impressive at home, but a Trojans victory in Portadown would clinch them another consecutive division title.

‘Game of the Week’
thumb_UCDlogo University College Dublin (2-2) @ South Dublin Panthers (1-4) thumb_panthers  – Garda RFC, 2pm.

This game is our chosen ‘Game of the Week’ candidate as both sides are evenly matched on paper and added with the extra incentive of potential playoff football, a loss to either side could be damaging with difficult fixtures still to come.

The Panthers and UCD have suffered losses in recent weeks, as the students fell short against the Vikings by a 12-13 scoreline over a month ago. Their high-octane offence is yet to reach the dizzying heights that they achieved in the IAFL-1 as they currently lie in the bottom half of the division in points scored. The defence however has been tough to breakdown only surrendering 42 points, the lowest amount in the SBC South. UCD do have an incredibly talented squad, with Tom Donovan and Paul Geraghty consistent threats in every game. It will only be a matter of time before the O gets clicking like normal.

The South Dubliners have proven that they can battle with the best in the country, with impressive performances against the Carrickfergus Knights and Trinity College. Unfortunately those performances haven’t transpired of late, losing to both the Dublin Rebels and Craigavon Cowboys that has set them on a two game losing streak. The Westmanstowns outfit have by far and away the toughest schedule of all teams in the SBC and UCD will pose another stern test for the Panthers. Still to face the Vikings and Rebels, the Panthers have done well to stay in playoff contention up to this point.

This is an even match-up and it’s too close to call how it could turn out. The Panthers have currently scored more points than UCD, however the students have conceded less and have played a game less too. The stats show that both teams have had success running the ball, but its Quarterback duo Tom Donovan and Mick Duncan that lead the team in rushing scores. The Panthers are yet to register a single passing touchdown so far, whilst receiver Paul Geraghty will be a target on Sunday for UCD, as he looks to exploit the Panthers pass defence. So what we know is that both teams like to run the ball, the Quarterbacks have the potential to go mobile and we should expect a very close contest.

IAFL-1

thumb_waterfordlogo Waterford Wolves (2-2) @ Meath Bulldogs (2-2) 30  – Navan RFC, 2pm.

The Wolves make the trip up to Meath this weekend as only one team will be left in 3rd place as both sides look to close the gap on the Tyrone Titans in second. Meath defeated Waterford 13-0 three weeks ago and will be looking to complete the double over their fierce rivals.

The Wolves performances have been rather mixed so far but one thing is for sure; they have won games. Recovering from a winless season in the SBC takes a lot of mental toughness, but securing wins against Mullingar and Dundalk has left a sense of confidence in the ‘Wolf Pack’. Now with those victories under the belts, the Wolves have the opportunity to make the Bowl game after an off-season of rebuilding and reflection. In order to do that however they need to improve their offensive production and become more consistent performers on the field. The defence however are good at creating turnovers and they will be pivotal to a good Waterford performance

The Bulldogs have always been a very physical team to play against and sides know they are in for tough game of football. Meath are usually a very difficult side to contend with at home, however Navan RFC hasn’t been same fortress that it’s been in recent years. Both of the Bulldogs victories have come away from home against Dundalk and the Wolves, and they have conceded the more points at home this season. The combination of brothers, Pete and Eddie McMahon will look to be the difference again, similar to the previous fixture.

Out of the three teams chasing for third, the Bulldogs currently hold the advantage. They have defeated both the Mavericks and Wolves already and winning on Sunday would give them the tie-breaker over the Wolves should it be needed. Neither side has a high scoring offence so it looks set to be another defensive battle this weekend. This game will be crucial for both sides, as with the Admirals and Titans steaming ahead, there will only be one place available in the Bowl for those chasing it. It’s now about who wants it more.

NFL-Ireland’s Week 12: ‘Team of the Week’

NFL-Ireland’s Week 12: ‘Team of the Week’

Prior to Week 12 there was 4 teams with unbeaten records in the IAFL, now only two remain. Both the UL Vikings and Tyrone Titans suffered their first defeats of the season, as the Vikes fell to a 22-3 scoreline at the hands of Trinity College in Santry ensuring the SBC South goes right down to the wire. The Tyrone Titans 11 game win streak came to an end courtesy of IAFL-1 leaders the Cork Admirals, as the longest trip in the IAFL earned them a 22-7 win at Omagh RFC.

Meanwhile there were scoring fests in the IAFL-2 as the Trojans won their 4th in a row with a 60-7 victory over the Galway Warriors and the highest scoring game came at in Kildare as the Soldiers defeated the Vipers 54-26 to take move up to 2nd spot in the table.

There was 201 points scored on Sunday, so we shouldn’t have too much trouble finding quality performances from this weekend!

team of the week
Photo by Dean Cullen

Quarterback: Eoin Whelan
South Kildare Soldiers

Eoin becomes the first member of the South Kildare Soldiers to make it into the ‘Team of the Week’ and what a week he had too! He tallied 3 passing and 1 rushing touchdown, as well as a 2 point attempt success, as the Kildare outfit defeated the Donegal/Derry Vipers 54-26 at Cill Dara. Eoin was one of a number of players who stood out during the game but more on that later. The victory places the Soldiers ahead of rivals Galway and in 2nd in the IAFL-2, and they will be hoping that Eoin can continue to perform well at QB as the season draws to an end.

team of the week
Photo by Jason Toher

Running Back: Ola Bademosi
Trinity College

It’s been a very stop start season for TCD, but the victory over UL with restore belief and confidence that they can claw their way back to a potential 7-1 campaign. Furthermore, Ola Bademosi had an exceptional game against a very tough UL defence that has only conceded 24 points until Sunday. Perhaps the standout moment was not either of his jaunts into the end-zone but the dominating series of stiff arms as he drove Trinity off their own Goal line into safer field position. The Vikings posses one of the best run defences in the league which makes Bademosi’s two rushing scores even more impressive!

team of the week
Photo by Ariane Boudias

Wide Receiver: Cork Admirals trio

We don’t usually go with more than one player for this award, but the Admirals passing game continues to grow from strength to strength. Receivers Simon O’Keefe, Ben Jenkins and Paul O’Driscoll proved the difference makers as their receptions granted them a 22-7 win over a resolute Titans defence. The Admirals offence is proving increasingly troublesome to contain, and with Steve Hayes and Nick Coffi already flying high in the rankings, these 3 are adding an extra dimension to an already impressive Cork aerial attack.

team of the week
Photo by Dean Cullen

Offensive Line: South Kildare Soldiers

The Belfast Trojans registered the most points this weekend with 60, but the Soldiers weren’t far behind with 54. They proved to be very balanced on offence as they scored 3 passing and 4 rushing touchdowns, with Eoin Whelan causing damage from the pocket with excellent protection from the O-Line. They also donated in the run-game with Dara Moran adding a three scores from goal to go positions. That performance will give the offence confidence ahead of the return match against the Vipers in 2 weeks.

team of the week
Photo by Jason Toher

Defence: Trinity College

To beat your fiercest rivals is one thing, but to close them down for pretty much the entire game is an achievement in itself. TCD produced a defensive display that merited the award as they prevented, an up to now, dominant Vikings run-game from establishing any hold on the game, keeping them to only a field goal all game. It’s the first time we’ve seen the Vikings offence struggle and Trinity’s performance looked reminiscent of their fine form in 2014. The victory caused UL their first loss of the year and gives Trinity an excellent chance to catch and overtake them them.

 


Honourable Mentions:

– Special Teams can make all the difference in games, and the return pairing of Matt Armstrong and Jonah Siri (he prefers the name Chico!) had another great day at the office. Jonah scored 4 TD’s against Galway, 2 from Punt returns whilst Armstrong scored on a home run 100 yard kickoff return and added a further rushing touchdown to his collection.

-Running Back Nathan Purcell may feel little unlucky to not have registered scores for the Soldiers on Sunday as he three times put the Kildare men in Goal Line situations and allowing his full back Dara Moran to get the last few yards. Purcell had 266 yards on the day.

-A name we haven’t mentioned too much this year has been Rob McDowell. McDowell cameoed at Quarterback against UL setting up two scoring drives and taking a punt return 60 yards to the UL 5 yard line to set up the first score of the day. McDowell has been plagued by injuries this campaign but is still a threat to turn any broken play into a game changer.

-Beginning to detect a trend here as Vipers QB Nic Young had himself another very fine day against the Soldiers. Young passed for a touchdown and ran for 2 more in an ever improving Vipers offence.

 

IAFL Week 12: Game Previews

Game Previews

IAFL Week 12: Game Previews

The SBC heads for another quiet week, but there are three other games in the lower divisions to look forward too on Sunday. The SBC tie is a clash between two familiar foes in Dublin, the two top teams in the IAFL-1 will battle it out as someones ‘0’ has got to go and the IAFL-2 rumbles towards the half way point. Here’s the run down of fixtures for Week 12.

UL Vikings (5-0) @ Trinity College (2-1) – ALSAA, Dublin 2pm. 

The Vikings are riding high at the top of the SBC South and victory on Sunday would clinch their first division title since 2012. TCD are playing catch up for that automatic playoff spot however with plenty of games in hand, a win would throw this division wide open again.

It has been a long wait for both sides to return to the football field and been an age since we last mentioned either of them in a game preview. Trinity College haven’t played since March and while their competitors have been picking up wins, the students have been consigned to the the sidelines. Sunday will give them their chance to make up for lost time, as well as the opportunity to overturn the 14-0 defeat to UL the earlier this year.

It’s beginning to increasingly unlikely that the Vikings will be caught as they surge towards the SBC South crown and although they haven’t played since Week 8, their form and momentum should carry over to game day. The transition of Ian Cahill from Defensive-End to Quarterback has worked seamlessly so far, as the Vikings have scored 103 points in 5 games, 27 short from the same stage last year whilst still only conceding 24. The balance of their side plus their unbeaten stature is looking reminiscent of their 2012 season with a number of their performers still to return.

No matter what stage of the season, you can always expect an exciting game of football when these sides meet. The lack of game time may well affect the quality of TCD’s performance, but you can guarantee they have been training hard to ensure they are prepared for the Vikings visit. Losing won’t be on their minds and with 4 games still to play after this their destiny is still in their own hands, for the moment.

‘Game of the Week’

Cork Admirals (3-0) @ Tyrone Titans (4-0) – Omagh RFC, 2pm.

Certainly our ‘Game of the Week’ as the two top sides in the IAFL-1 battle for supremacy. This game has huge implications for a number of reasons; unbeaten streaks, top spot, scoring charts as well as bragging rights will all come in to play on Sunday. This is arguably the most balanced game of football that will take place this year, but only one will leave with all still intact.

Despite the postponement of their last game against Dundalk, the Admirals have been nothing short of magnificent this year. Steve Hayes and co have scored 96 points in 3 appearances, averaging 32 points per game. The defence isn’t too bad either only conceding 34 points thus far, stats that would rival many teams in the SBC. With production like that, the Titans will have a hard time containing an explosive Admirals offence. It’s going to be a long, long trip up North for the Admirals so fatigue could play a factor, but the quality and experience within the side should overcome that.

We knew the Titans would be a perfect fit for the IAFL-1 at the start of the season, but even we couldn’t predict that they would overcome many of the more experienced sides in the division. Victories against Meath and Mullingar have propelled the Titans into top spot, for now, and they look every bit as good as they did last season. The dominant win against the Minotaurs will deliver a great deal of confidence to a team that faces their biggest challenge to date. On top of that, with the match being held in Tyrone, the Titans will have the added home field advantage, and they are very strong at home.

So much to talk about in this one, it’s hard to know where to start. The Admirals possess the divisions best offence and the Titans the best defence. They are currently tied in terms of points difference and the scoring charts suggest there is little between the team also. Both Quarterbacks Steve Hayes and Daniel Mullan have passed for 10 touchdowns apiece whilst Nick Coffi and Ryan Brolly have lead the receiving charts with 5 touchdowns each. Those match-ups will be key in deciding this one. This is the only regular season encounter between these two so a victory all the more important in securing the bye week and a potential automatic IAFL1 bowl appearance. Too close to call!

Galway Warriors (1-0-1) @ Belfast Trojans 2nd’s (3-0) – Deramore Park, 2pm

First versus second in the IAFL-2, as the Galway Warriors head North to face the Trojans 2nd’s. The Warriors opened well against fellow division sophomores, the Soldiers, before they drew 0-0 in a torpor inducing game against the Rhinos. The Trojans on the other hand have brushed aside the Vipers on both occasions as well as the Soldiers, scoring 188 points in total!

Warriors struggles on offence last season appeared to be corrected against SKS, however those problems resurfaced when they failed to register against the Rhinos. It’s going to take a incredible performance from the Warriors to simply stay in contention in Belfast and as much as we don’t like ruling teams out, it’s hard to see this one going any other way than victory for the Trojans. Galway should seize up the opportunities in this game for experience and prepare for the more winnable games against the Vipers and UL 2nd’s down the line.

The Trojans have flooded the scoring charts and it’s not hard to see why. Kris Donaghy, Matt Armstrong, Jonah Siri and Chris McKeown have all been excellent in the IAFL-2, and thats just to name a few. A lot of these players will return to the first team as the season progresses so the first’s squad will have great potential heading into the playoff’s. The Warriors can pack a punch, so the Trojans should be cautious, but their quality will be too much for a committed Galway outfit.

Donegal/Derry Vipers (0-2) @ South Kildare Soliders (1-2) – Cill Dara RFC, 2pm.

Intriguing game this one. Similar to Galway, both teams have had ups and downs this campaign. The Viper’s were sacrificed on the alter of the IAFL2 schedule in their opening 2 games as they were decimated by the Belfast Trojans 2nds(and a few 1sts) in both game. The defeat against Trojans by a 72-0 scoreline could have proved disastrous for morale but rather than cowering the Vipers landed a few blows in the second encounter with Belfast putting up 20 points. This will give them a huge boost for the remainder of the season when they face teams of a less established stature.

The Soldiers surprised many when they won against a strong UL 2nd’s team and plenty would have assumed that South Kildare were a much improved outfit from last season. That opening performance hasn’t transferred so far, as they lost to close rivals, the Warriors, the following week. Not the best lead in to before taking a hit against the Trojans 2nd’s on their home turf. They face the Vipers in back to back games before facing the Trojans again, so if they have hopes of a bowl game, they need to start winning and Sunday will be the time to start.

The Soldiers and Vipers schedules are a little bit more appealing now and they can focus on picking up wins against more manageable opponents. Aside from the Trojans, it’s very much an even playing field so there is a lot of to play for with plenty of games still to come. The Soldiers are capable of beating the majority of this division and the Vipers are still an unknown element until they face similar sides, so we should learn how each team fairs come Sunday.