Week #5 IAFA Previews

IAFA

IAFA Week 5

This Weekends Fixtures

DateHomeResultsAwayTimeCompetitionVenue

Louth Mavericks @ Belfast Trojans

We suspect the Mavs will play in the carpark if they have to, this is supposed to be Game three for them! Two games have been postponed on the Louth outfit and football, any football is really overdue at this stage.
Belfast have been a mixed bag so far, shutout vs the Bulldogs and then they stomped all over the beleaguered Titans. Game three is often where a team settles into a rhythm and what that rhythm will be for the Trojan 2nds is yet to be determined. These guys wouldn’t be wearing Trojan green if they didn’t have Shamrock Bowl winning a ability and they looked as though they were reminded of that fact between the Bulldogs and Titans games.
Oddly enough this might be the best game to start with for the Mavs. A Trojan team hitting their stride offers a tough challenge that will force the Mavs to shake off any rust or have it knocked off for them.

Cork Admirals @ South Kildare Soldiers

This is the reverse of the fixtures two weeks ago, with the Admirals coming out 24-0 winners. The Admirals have set the pace offensively for the division so far and they’ve done it rushing the football! Three separate running backs on the charts already. They’re going to need to keep up that offensive output and if rushing the football rather than airing it out is to be the method, the defensive will have to continue to be stingey.
The Soldiers couldn’t get on the score sheet last time out and managed two scores (on offence) vs the Titans (who provided ample opportunity for more) They’re going to need their offence to start producing if they’re to compete in this division. The Soldiers have racked up 17 Touchdowns in their history and Eoin Whelan has had a hand in 13 of those. When oftentimes the best strategy is to put your best athlete at QB we wonder if the move to Wide Receiver is a waste of his talents.

Craigavon Cowboys @ UCD

UCD are starting the year with three home games, this being the last of that run. They’ve looked impressive in winning the first two and to plant themselves firmly in the Bowl conversation they’ll need to clear this tricky hurdle before the game against UL.
The Cowboys will want to purge the memory of last week from their memories quickly. So a quick turnaround could be to their advantage. The Trojans are very good no doubt but the Cowboys presented them with a lot of opportunities to run up that kind of score. Thats not what this Cowboys team is about and they’ll know that better than anyone. UCD have similar breakout ability if presented with opportunities. The Cowboys will need to cut out the mistakes on special teams and get their offence going.

Carrickfergus Knights @ Dublin Rebels

Both of these teams opened their season vs the Panthers and both won. The Rebels by a considerable margin. This game could very well be decided by the defences on both sides. The Knights looked much improved on last year and getting back to that smash mouth football on the back of Gareth Miller and Phil Gunning in the back field they imposed themselves on the Panthers in a way that eluded them in many games last year.
In the preview to the Rebels opener we said they’d be looking to start hot and not arrive in the playoffs half cooked. They certainly did that. Dominant on offence and impressive on defence, they’ll be feeling confident heading into this game. Looking past the Knights would be a mistake though. There won’t be a return fixture and a slip here could have massive playoff implications if they were to give up the head to head.

IAFA Week 3 Previews: SBC & IAFL 1

IAFA

Week 3 in the IAFA and the 2 O’Clock kick offs are back and with it; 5 games! IAFL 1 tops the bill with 3 and the Rebels and UL get underway for the first time this season in the SBC.

IAFA Week 3

This Weekends Fixtures

DateHomeResultsAwayTimeCompetitionVenue

South Kildare Soldiers @ Cork Admirals

Both winners in Game One after the Ads dismissed the Wolves and the Soldiers got life in IAFL 1 off to a positive start. The caveat, on both of those results, the opponents weren’t at the peak of their powers. Not intending to disrespect the Titans or Wolves but both would admit they have work to do this season to get back to the level they were at last season.
For the Soldiers, this will be an interesting test in how far they have really come. Cork put Waterford to the sword and were firing in all three phases, the Titans were not. To be a winning team, rather than one that wins occasionally, you have to be able to do what Cork did and punish teams for their mistakes. The Soldiers came out well ahead in the turnover ratio vs the Titans and perhaps should have made more of their opponents weakness. Corks error won’t be as frequent so capitalising on any will be vital for the Soldiers.
Cork were hugely impressive in Game One. Winning in devastating fashion and looking every bit the outfit that seemed to be coasting to 8 wins last season. The Ads weren’t undone last season by not respecting their opponents and there is no reason to believe that they will underestimate the Soldiers here. This game can get tricky if they allow it. The Soldiers have a depth of experience their ‘new club’ status belies. We’re guiltier than most about waxing lyrical about the impressive Stephen Hayes but encouraging for Cork, the performance of the defence and the establishment of the run game. The Admirals looking more and more like the complete article every week.

Westmeath Minotaur @ Louth Mavericks

Game One for both of these teams and a big season ahead. The Mavs travelled all the way to Castleknock only to have the rug pulled by a no show (or a no book, depending who you ask) ambulance. The Minotaurs frankly had a disastrous season last year and 2016, whatever it brings, can’t start soon enough.
Zero wins, averaging 25 points allowed per game and only offering a measly 6 in return. 2015 needs to be consigned to the history books and those books burned with fire until they are gone! Every new season offers new opportunities and them Minotaurs haven’t been idle waiting for them to present themselves. They’ve spent the off season restructuring, expanding their base and (the 4th team in as many years) renaming! (Why is everyone changing their name by the way?) Hanging around and hoping things improve isn’t in the DNA of the Westmeath outfit. Born of a desire to forge their own destiny in midlands, the Minotaurs have every reason to feel they can achieve better this year. Feeling it and doing it are different things though.
The impressive work behind the scenes in Louth continues and although no off field organisation ever won a football game, they put football players in the best situation to win them, just ask the crowd a few more miles up the M1. That is a way off for the Mavericks just yet but all the signs look good. We said a few weeks ago in our preview that consistency was key now for the Mavs and that still holds true. A team that have flashed brilliance and a team that have baffled on occasion. This game will be one they will look to as they push for the play offs. Focus has to be here and now, look past the Minotaurs at your peril.

Belfast Trojans 2s @ Tyrone Titans

The Trojans 2s annihilated everyone last year and perhaps they expected the same in IAFL1 but it was not to be. Trojan teams of all descriptions have only lost 3 games in 4 years so that’s not a small deal. The Titans seem to have imploded in the off season and on their first outing the worst seems to have been realised.
The Titans turned the ball over a lot (a lot a lot) vs the Soldiers and while that is bad, the fact those turnover resulted in only 3 scores is some conciliation. That kind of defensive resilience could be vital this year to stop it turning to disaster. This could be the wrong game at the wrong time in a number of ways. The Trojans didn’t win last time out but blooding their rookies and those same rookies spend the next few weeks at practice with the best around; we could see them in the mood to do some damage vs a weakened opponent. Sometimes the job of an offence is to play smart and possess the ball keeping the defence as fresh as possible. There can’t even be a few turnovers in this game because the Trojans, rookies or not, will punish them in way the Soldiers didn’t.
Winning isn’t an accident and you don’t have streaks like the Trojans do without an appropriate response to losing. We expect to see that this weekend. The 1s haven’t played yet so we could see a few make an appearance here as the trip isn’t as far as it was to Meath. This team will be expected to win the IAFL1 and that will not be lost on them. Another small motivator here, though for which team we cannot say, the Titans former Head Coach Paul Braniff is now the roving the sidelines for the Trojans.

Dublin Rebels @ South Dublin Panthers

The Rebels were beaten by a point in both their opening two games last year, they recovered from the opening wobble but ultimately never fired on all cylinders the way they know they need to to win a bowl game. The Panthers showed promise, wins against Carrickfergus and UCD coupled with close games vs Trinity, the Rebels and Cowboys suggested things could be finally moving the right direction for the rebranded Dragons.
Two bad losses at the end of 2015 seems to have had a hangover effect into 2016 as the Panthers lost their opening game to the Knights. There was positives to be seen but losing to team that you beat last year can’t help but be seen as a step backwards. After comfortably winning the last game between these two the Rebels can be forgiven for feeling the same should be on the agenda and the Panthers will need to rediscover their forward momentum early on to prevent it. Every team in the SBC should believe playoff football is a possibility and with the weather set to be rough the Panthers will have to contain the Rebels explosive run game and another duck egg just won’t cut it.
The Rebels can ill afford early slips this season. The last bowl win is a while ago now and none associated with the Rebels will think that acceptable. Trinity have proven the playoff stumbling block the last two outings and with an ultra competitive SBC South, the Rebels won’t want to arrive in the playoffs only half cooked. Starting hot and keeping the momentum all the way through could see them break down the Semi Final barrier that has scuppered them the last two seasons.

UL Vikings @ Trinity

UL were supposed to open the season with a blockbuster home game but instead are opening it with a trip to Dublin. Trinity are already a quarter way through their year!
It’s been a mixed bag for Trinity so far. It’s hard for a team with the most explosive offence in recent years to stomach a zero, regardless of the final result, and the UCD game would have been hard for them to accept. The improvement vs the Cowboys saw the offence come to life but the Craigavon unit made them earn it and the result was in doubt all the way to the 4th quarter. UL present a similar challenge to that of the Cowboys. Physicality and power is what the UL offence is based on and the Trinity defence is still finding it’s feet, allowing 3 touchdowns in both outings. It takes some time to shake the cobwebs, if you’ve got any, and Game 3 is usually where we see teams still waking up, fire into life.
UL open 2016 without excuses. They’ve run Belfast closer than most in the last few times and now a slightly more settled and expanded offence could be the push they need. They need to win the South and avoid another Semi Final against the Champions. Getting that bye week and a chance to rest at a vital time in the year could be much of the difference they need. Trinity and UCD must be conquered and as much hype as there was (and we added to) about the intended opener, this game is more important. There can be no slips, there can only be results if the 5 in a row is to prevented.

IAFL 1 Strength of Schedule

The IAFA 1 schedule is with us (see it here) so we gave it the same treatment as the SBC and ranked the schedule.

Lets referesh the rules; we assigned a number of points indicating how hard that particular team is to play. The higher the points the harder that team is to play. This number was mainly based upon where this team finished last year or indeed the Division they played in and any modifiers we think are worth adding on or taking off a point for and we’ll explain those as we go. So here is the IAFL 1 rankings

Belfast Trojans 2nds
2015 Final Rank: 10 points. Stomped all over IAFL2
Modifier less clear because the Trojans 2’s weren’t in this division so we’ll explain our choice to give them 10 points. They’re still allowed use some of their seniors and past behaviour being the best indicator of future behaviour, the IAFL1 can expect to see some very experienced very talented Trojans players this year. Also they have a pretty decent record of producing hugely effective rookies….Jonathan Siri anyone?
Total: 10 Points

West Dublin Rhinos
2015 Final Rank: 10 Points. Last in SBC
Modifier 0. Last in SBC is 1 position higher than top of IAFL 1. The Rhinos are founded on mean defences and now with former Defensive Coordinator Robbie Andrews at the helm, expect recommitment to this policy. Also, this division has been won for the last few years by teams relegated from the SBC.
Total: 10 Points

Waterford Wolves
2015 Final Rank: 10 Points. IAFL 1 Champions!
Modifier -1. The Wolves won the division but when presented with the opportunity to play SBC football once more, they sighted concerns over their ability to fulfil that schedule. IAFL1 and SBC have the same about of games so that concern has to still hold true.
Total: 9 Points

Cork Admirals 
2015 Final Rank: 9 Points. IAFL 1 Runners Up
Modifier 0. The Admirals sauntered through most of last season, with Steve Hayes racking up record numbers. When injuries hit and teams maybe spotted a weakness in Cork and upped the physicality they faltered.
Total: 9 Points

Meath Bulldogs
2015 Final Rank: 8 points. 3rd place
Modifier 0. Bulldogs missed out on the IAFL1 final they were hosting after losing to Waterford following a late season surge.
Total: 8 Points

Tyrone Titans
2015 Final Rank: 7 points. 4th Place
Modifier 0. The Titans started well last season but limped home after a number of key injuries. Definitely  have the quality to be better but they will need to stay healthy.
Total: 7 Points

Louth Mavericks
2015 Final Rank: 6 points. 5th Place
Modified 0. A new name and a new direction? Maybe. The Mavs keep showing progress but still trail the top of the division by a small margin.
Total: 6 Points

Westmeath Minotaurs
2015 Final Rank: 5 Points. Last Place
Modifier 0. The Minotaurs will be the first to tell you they regressed last year but have made some internal changes and broadened their base looking to reverse their fortunes.
Total: 5 Points

South Kildare Soldier
2015 Final Rank: 4 Points. Runner up in IAFL 2.
Modifier 0. Still some way to go to get to the performance levels of perhaps the Titans & Mavs but a step up in division will move them in the right direction.
Total: 4 Points


Notes

Remember just like the SBC we are going to add a point of difficulty for every back to back week of play and deduct a point of difficulty for every 3 week break.


 

Weakest Schedule
Belfast Trojans! Strength Score: 54.
The Trojans are one of the hardest ranked teams, can’t play themselves and only play the Rhinos once, don’t play Waterford or Cork.

2nd Weakest
Waterford Wolves. Strength Score: 56.
Don’t play the Trojans and play low ranked Minotaurs twice.

7th Ranked Schedule
Cork Admirals. Strength Score: 58
Double header with Waterford will be the toughest challenge, by the numbers, for Cork this year. Double header vs lowest Ranked Soldiers and no game vs Trojans.

6th Ranked Schedule
Westmeath Minotaurs. Strength Score: 61
Wolves and Soliders are the double headers for the Minotaurs, a Trojans game bumps up the difficulty somewhat.

5th Ranked Schedule
South Kildare Soldiers. Strength Score: 64
The back and forth between the Soldiers & Minotaurs might be one of the highlights of the season in this division. Games vs the Trojans and Cork will make it tough sledding for the Soldiers.

4th Ranked Schedule
Tyrone Titans. Strength Score: 65
Double header vs the two top teams, Trojans & Rhinos. A single game vs the Bulldogs could determine so much this year, like last year.

Tied 4th Ranked Schedule
West Dublin Rhinos. Strength Score: 65
Double headers vs the Titans & Bulldogs make this schedule a bit harder than the numbers suggest. No games vs the two lost ranked teams and an outing vs the Trojans will test the Rhinos promotion hopes.

2nd Strongest Schedule
Meath Bulldogs. Strength Score: 67
The Bulldogs get all the teams ranked above them and a double header vs the Rhinos. Winning promotion will be tough for the Bulldogs who’ve been banging on the ceiling of the IAFL 1 for a few years now.

Strongest Schedule
Louth Mavericks. Strength Score: 68
Double header vs the Trojans skyrockets your difficulty levels, but the Rhinos, Wolves & Admirals showing up in the schedule won’t help matters. The Mavs have the strongest schedule this year and will find it tough to push into the top half of the division as a result, they seem up for the fight though.

Inter Varsities 2015

On November 7th, The U.L Vikings host the annual inter varsities, the college championship for Ireland. This year it has four teams competing U.C.D , Trinity , The Cork Admirals and also the home team Vikings.

Both semi finals kick off at 11.00 a.m on Maguires field, where Trinity and The Vikings will compete for a place in the final. On the other side you have U.C.D, reigning college champions, facing off against the Cork Admirals, the first time these two sides have met since they competed against each other two years ago for in IAFL 1 Bowl game.

The winner will advance to the final to be played also on Maguires field at 2.30p.m

U.C.D as reigning champs are expected to be competitive yet again and would be expect to make the final. Last year, after being promoted from the IAFL 1, they defeated the Vikings in Dublin and, following a weather delay, Trinity a week after at the same venue and were crowned College Champions
U.C.D had endured a mixed SBC campaign where they defeated top teams including a victory over the Dublin rebels in a one point thriller but finished the season 3-5
With new Head Coach, Dave Murphy, at the reigns this season, UCD will be keen to maintain process made in the last two years and forcing a playoff push in 2016. Counting Quarterback Tom Donovan, Larry Doyle, Eoin Feely and Paul Geraghty among your number will give every chance for success.

The Cork Admirals, defeated finalist in the past two IAFL 1 Bowl games are still undergoing a rebuild. Once a Shamrock Bowl team verses the Vikings in 2007, the club went through turmoil and has since folded and re-opened.
Cork while in a rebuilding process have come really close to greatness, narrowly loosing in the Bowl Game to both Waterford and U.C.D the previous year, the hard work put in by the past few years of Stephen Hayes and Harris Monagahn has kept them atop their league, both national players are expected to play a huge role and although, due to not being a college team, they cannot play in the final, they will nevertheless look to upset UCD in the semi final stages.

Trinity Football have been to the past two ShamrockBowls and loosing narrowly to the Belfast Trojans on both occasions. Trinity football boasts wins over both U.L and UCD in Regular season competition last year, but lost to UCD in the college finals last year. Trinity are expected to get into a battle in the semi finals with their fierce rivals, the U.L Vikings. One man expected to make the difference for Trinity is young running back Ola Bademosi, Ola has taken the mantle of #1 running back vacated by the heralded Rob McDowell. Trinity have always been strong at the running back position and this year is no exception, Ola scored 7 regular season ruching touchdowns last year and in only 6 games, with a full 8 games it’s hard to imagine him not being the leading rusher of the league.

The U.L Vikings are always competitive, its in their nature. The Vikings are three time ShamrockBowl champions, the only team in the tournament to have won the coveted ShamrockBowl, although the last time they lifted one was in 2009, it is becoming a distant memory and has been a team in transition and rebuilding for the past few years, the Limerick camp says that they are having their strongest rookie year to date.

Ireland under 20’s player Graham Murtagh is expected to lead the offensive
from Centre, now one of the physically biggest offensive lines in the country.
Running behind them is the dynamic rookie running back trio of Conor Brennan Marco Lidron and Phillip Poilet who are expected to contribute massively to the Vikings run game in 2016.

One thing is for sure, this promises to be an excellent tournament yet again.

Article Contributed by Ian Cahill.

NFL-Ireland’s ‘Team of the Year’: Offensive Line

We now turn to the men in the trenches, the guys up front that notably get overshadowed but are as equally, if not more important than anybody on the offence. They are key to all offensive production and without them, the quarterbacks, receivers and running-backs of this world wouldn’t get the praise they do! Dear Linemen….we thank you!


Offensive Line

Team White: Belfast Trojans

Photography by Dave Bradshaw
Photography by Dave Bradshaw

The men in green from Belfast have racked up some serious points on offence this year. They averaged 30+ points per game and scored a whopping 349 in total, 325 of which were on offence. McKelvey and Richardson topped their respective scoring charts, but the guys battling in the trenches helped facilitate that. The O-Line consisting of Matthew Vance, Michael Bradford, Mohammed Ramadan, Mark Davidson and Mark McGrath, with Chris Harte, Simon Cherry, Barry Keil, Jeroen Egge, Greg Gibson and Stephen Cheevers deputising at one point or anther too all have contributed to easily the best offensive unit in 2015.


 

Team Green: Trinity College

Photography by Charisse Mae Ducao
Photography by Charisse Mae Ducao

It’s not quite the blistering heights of last years breakout offence, but the students still got the job done on their path to another Shamrock Bowl Final. The O-Line was still as clinical as ever in both the passing and run game as they led TCD to 200 points and 28 touchdowns. The offensive line may not have the height advantage, but they are quick, nimble and very athletic and can more than hold their own against the best defences. Jack McKenna, Tom O’Hara, Kieran Coughlan, Dan McCarthy-Edwards, Jan Tamas and Barry Lysaght have ensured that Trinity remains one of the best offences in Ireland this year.


Most Honourable Mentions

Dublin Rebels – The Rebels have endured many changes over the years to both sides of the ball but despite the numerous new faces, the Rebels Offensive Line has remained one of the best front 5’s in the business. Their pass protection is second to none, which is why you rarely see QB Andrew Dennehy being sacked. They can get upfield too and provided pairing Sean Leamy and Kevin Finnegan with clear running lanes in which they can show their talent. They are smart, well-drilled and communicate well across the line which is a testament to the a very strong Rebels offence. Sunday (Fergal O’Hanlon), Paul Kirkwood, Tom Telford, Lewe O’Connor, Ross McCooey and at times Steve Walsh are one of the best there is.

Cork Admirals – The Admirals have proven themselves to be an offence to be feared, despite the lapse against the Wolves in the IAFL-1 final. They scored an incredible 225 points over the regular season, surmounting 33 touchdowns, the second best of all IAFL teams. Their is a reason Steve Hayes, Nick Coffi and Simon O’Keefe get the attention they do, but they can only be as good as their offensive line allows them to be, and based off this seasons performance, Cork are one of the better ones around.


Teams

Green v White

[row]

[column size='1/2']

QB James McKelvey

RB Neil Montgomery

RB Ola Bademosi

WR Sean Goldrick

WR Nic Coffi

OL Trinity College

[/column]

[column size='1/2']

QB Stephen Hayes

RB Shane Gleeson

RB Sean Leamy

WR David Richardson

WR Alex Gurney

OL Belfast Trojans

[/column]

[/row]

Next up Defences!

NFL-Ireland’s ‘Team of the Year’: Defence

We are gradually coming to the end of our ‘Team of the Year’ selection, so it’s now time to turn our attentions to the defensive side of the ball. Defence ruled in 2014, however this year the offences have started to take centre stage in the bragging rights with a number of high scoring and one sided games. There have been of course a few shut-outs and defensive battles to name, but few and far between compared to recent years. The teams named below have been the best defensive units in the league this year, not only because they are a talented bunch, but they have also been the best equipped in dealing with the high-powered offences this season. Everyone loves a good defensive battle!


Team Green: Belfast Trojans

Photography by Dave Bradshaw
Photography by Dave Bradshaw

The Trojans very own ‘Walls of Troy’ has been standing tall for the last 4 years. Only Trinity College has been able to get the better of the tormenting defence in that timespan, as the defending champions boast the best defensive unit in the league for another year. They conceded only 30 points in 9 games and delivered 5 shutouts in the process, including the Vikings in the semi-final. They’ve been able to get on the scoreboard too, with Chris Mikhael, Connor Whilta and Chris Weir all bagging defensive touchdowns, with Neil Graham and Christophe Perret penetrating the backfield to create safeties. From the D-Line, to the Linebackers, to the DB’s the Trojans are well equipped in all areas.

Team White: UL Vikings

Photography by Jason Toher
Photography by Jason Toher

Not too far behind the Trojans in the defensive conversation would be the UL Vikings. They are tough as nails, and possess one of the most frightening run-defences in the IAFL that get to ball quickly and in numbers. Their secondary is quite scary too, with Sean Sheehy and Craig Switzer possessing excellent coverage skills and are solid in run-support. The Viking’s D surrendered only 67 points, consisting of 3 shut-outs and have proved difficult to break down all season long. The semi-final against the Trojans optimised what defensive football is all about, two notorious units going head-to-head in a lockdown battle. The Vikings have always been stellar on defence, and that looks set to continue. Ray Burke, Blake Farbe, Mark Kiniry, Darren Gleeson and the best kept secret in the IAFL Darragh O’Callaghan, to name but a few of this teams sensational stoppers.


Most Honourable Mentions

Cork Admirals – As good as the offence has been, the defence has been doing a top notch job at the other end. The Admirals suffered only 1 loss during the regular season, thanks in part to the exploits of their defence that created numerous turnovers that greatly helped the offence. Its always nice to have an offence that can’t stop scoring, it’s even better to have a defence that can add to that. The Admirals delivered 1 shut-out this year against the Wolves, whilst scoring three touchdowns courtesy of Chris Allen, Paul Farrell and Ayodele Mumuni. Chris Allen also scored a safety as the Admirals finished the IAFL-1’s highest scoring defence as well as holding the best defensive record.

Tyrone Titans – The Titans didn’t quite have the stamina to go the distance in the playoff race, but their defence was a primary reason for not only their IAFL-2 triumph last season, but their 11 game unbeaten streak. Tyrone started the season off very strongly, picking up where they left off in 2014 and when their offence struggled, their defence held firm. They did however manage the second best defensive record in the IAFL-1, allowing only 84 points. They also managed two shutouts against the Minotaurs and Mavericks as they held 2nd spot for most of the campaign. Kyle McAneny was the only contributer in regard to scoring with a safety, but for a team that the most points conceded in a single game was 22, and 4 of which were 10 or below; thats a strong place to start ahead of next season.


Teams

Green v White

[row]

[column size='1/2']

QB James McKelvey

RB Neil Montgomery

RB Ola Bademosi

WR Sean Goldrick

WR Nic Coffi

OL Trinity College

Defence Belfast Trojans

[/column]

[column size='1/2']

QB Stephen Hayes

RB Shane Gleeson

RB Sean Leamy

WR David Richardson

WR Alex Gurney

OL Belfast Trojans

Defence UL Vikings

[/column]

[/row]


Read on to the much ignored but ever appreciated KICKERS!!

 

NFL Ireland Team of the Year : Kickers!

Dear Kickers, we are sorry we neglected to mention you all year, let this make up for it!

Kickers

Team White Greg Gibson, Belfast Trojans

Having the luxury of playing for the highest scoring team will usually result in a pretty decent return for a Kicker.  Gibson totalled 26 points on the season and managed to oust veteran Trojans kicker Rick Duffield (who was the 2nd most productive kicker on the year with 14 points….speaking of which)


Team Green Nick McSweeney, Cork Admirals

McSweeney dispatched 19 extra points this season. We don’t have stats on how many attempts but league wide the rate of successful XP to Touchdowns is less than 50%. Cork and Belfast are the only teams that topped it. Both of these Kickers are a testament to their units and these two are the best!

 


Most Honourable Mentions

Darryl Ratty Meath Bulldogs Ratty boasts the highest Field Goal total in the land with 3 and added 8 XPs to his total.


Teams

Green v White

[row]

[column size='1/2']

QB James McKelvey

RB Neil Montgomery

RB Ola Bademosi

WR Sean Goldrick

WR Nic Coffi

OL Trinity College

Defence Belfast Trojans

Kicker Nick McSweeny

[/column]

[column size='1/2']

QB Stephen Hayes

RB Shane Gleeson

RB Sean Leamy

WR David Richardson

WR Alex Gurney

OL Belfast Trojans

Defence UL Vikings

Kicker Greg Gibson

[/column]

[/row]

And Finally the do everything guys, the first in last out guys, the ‘someone go in’ guys, the all rounders!

NFL-Ireland’s Team of the Year : Quarterbacks

All through 2015 we’ve shown our appreciation for the very best performances each week in our Team of the Week . Now, with all but the Shamrock Bowl in the books, the time has come for the Team of the Year. Although some of these players already play together in the hypothetical world this team exists we thought they should have someone to play against and that is why, much like the NFL do for their All-Pro Teams, our Team of the Year is in fact two teams. Team Green vs Team White. Here are the rules! Each team will have 1 Quarterback, 2 Running Backs, 2 Wide Receivers, an Offensive Line, a Defence, a Kicker (we felt that we neglected them all year) and an 1 ‘all rounder’ .  So without further blabber we bring you the

Quarterbacks

Team Green QB – James McKelvey, Belfast Trojans

Team of the Week
Photo by Dave Bradshaw

Shamrock Bowl Conference MVP McKelvey doubled the passing output of all other signal callers this year. 20 Touchdowns and 3 rushing touchdowns puts #1 in the rarefied air in Ireland. Topping 20 touchdowns in a season is an immense and extremely infrequent performance. James McKelvey has gone about his business in 2015 in a calm business like manner that is the trademark of the Belfast offence. The balance and talent of his offensive team mates will be reflected as we continue with the Team of the Year but leading those men to one of the finest offensive outputs we’ve seen deserves special mention as playing quarterback is more than about throwing touchdowns and McKelvey encompasses all that could be sought from a Quarterback.


Team White QB – Stephen Hayes, Cork Admirals

Photography by Declan Forrest
Photography by Declan Forrest

All year we’ve sung Hayes’ praises (say that out loud) He played his way to the IAFL 1 MVP and brought Cork, who it must be remembered were verging on the abyss less than 2 years ago, within a point of the Shamrock Bowl Conference. 25 Touchdown passes is an incredible return and Hayes is still so young it is scary to think what his ceiling might be. Where McKelvey can boast an incredible output while still maintaining the balance of his offence, Stephen Hayes has at times put Cork on his back and carried them to large and impressive victories. Ultimately it was just short by the narrowest of margins but now playing with a chip on his shoulder 2016 could be the year we see what #12 is really capable of. Every other Quarterback in the country, excluding the one above, passed for no more than 10 touchdowns. Hayes’ return was 250% of Quarterbacks some of who started playing while Hayes was in senior infants. If 2015 was his break out year, what his best year will be will be interesting to see.


Most Honourable Mentions

Tom Donovan – UCD 10 Passing Touchdowns and 5 rushing touchdowns is an exceptional performance in a year of exceptional performances from Quarterbacks. Donovan is a new breed of Quarterback in Ireland. Every bit the passer as he the athlete when it comes to running the football. Donovan was an unknown quantity heading into 2015, only those in UCD and those who caught his brief cameos in IAFL 1 last year will be completely unsurprised with his output. This, Toms first year a starter at QB, was better than most QBs around the league have ever produced and much like Stephen Hayes, the ceiling for Donovan could be something we haven’t seen in the league before, the complete duel threat Quarterback.

Andrew Dennehy – Dublin Rebels It would be easy to assert (like we have!) that the Rebels are one of the most experienced outfits around. The opposite is true. A few guys with a vast amount of experience and a lot of guys still in the early part of their careers and all being brought along by #16. There are guys with bigger numbers out there but when considering the value of the veteran signal caller you only have to look at the 2014 Rebels and the 2015 Rebels. Losing Simon Mackey could have been a disaster, would have been a disaster for probably all other teams. The Rebels arrived at the exact same stage as they did last year and were in fact closer to the Shamrock Bowl this time around. All things that go on on the Rebels Offence flow through their Quarterback and Head Coach. He doesn’t have the moves of that Tom Donnovan has, the trucking ability of Peter Loughran or perhaps the receivers of the two men at the top of this list (not to say there aren’t those at the Rebels with that potential) Yet year on year, for a lot of years now. Andrew Dennehy gets it done.

Peter Loughran – Craigavon Cowboys…..will appear elsewhere!

Read on to the Team of the Year Running Backs!

NFL-Ireland’s MVP Awards 2015

2015 we hardly knew ye, all that is left now is Shamrock Bowl 29 and then we face into the bleak off season. Winter training, frozen fields, rain, wind and the true face of football in Ireland. The heroes of Summer are built in the Winter and with all but two teams now focused on 2016, we look now to the heroes of 2015. NFL-Ireland are proud to announce our inaugural Most Valuable Player Awards for the Shamrock Bowl Conference, IAFL 1 and IAFL 2.

2015 Shamrock Bowl Conference Most Valuable Player

James McKelvey

Photography by Dave Bradshaw
Photography by Dave Bradshaw

#1 is number one. The Trojans are with out a doubt the standard of the last number of years. The bar has been reset in recent times by the team from Belfast and while some have come close nobody has cleared that bar to date. At the helm of an offence that has scored 147 points more than the nearest rival (that is 21 touchdowns worth), there is no doubt that McKelvey is among the elite of Irish Quarterbacks. 20 Touchdown Passes sets #1 above all signal callers this season. His 3 rushing touchdowns by way of sneaks is the cherry on top of an extremely fine season. Andy Dennehy, Peter Loughran and Tom Donovan all deserve mention in conversations about the best quarterback but James has doubled all of their passing totals and carried with him perhaps the best offence assembled on this island. It is no surprise that in this run first league, McKelvey’s favourite target, Dave Richardson has topped all skill position players in touchdowns scored.


2015 IAFL 1 Most Valuable Player

Stephen Hayes

Photo by Declan Forrest
Photo by Declan Forrest

25 Touchdown Passes, we could honestly end our summary there. That is impressive enough. What is more impressive is that #12 is the offensive coordinator, play caller and he wrote the offensive playbook. If you are not the sort that is easily impressed, we offer up that Stephen is 23 years old and his offence has produced more than double that of the next best unit and a large proportion of that has come from the right arm of #12. Hayes is without doubt one of the brightest talents at any position in the country. He has earned his place in the National set up and to be achieving so much while still at such a young age defies logic. Unfortunately his quality couldn’t carry the Admirals back to the promised land of the SBC but Hayes has had such a fine season that falling at the last hurdle may prove to be the spark that pushes him and the admirals onto greater things in 2016’s campaign.


IAFL 2 Most Valuable Player

Johnathan Siri

Photo by Lyndsay McVeigh
Photo by Lyndsay McVeigh

Earlier in the year we asked some of his Trojan team mates about Johnathan Siri and our favourite response was ‘he’s like having cheat codes’ Mike Vick in Madden 2004. Bo Jackson in Temco Bowl and now we have Johnathan Siri in IAFL 2. Siri rushed for 10 touchdowns in the regular season and then put on his best Devin Hester and scored 5 return touchdowns on Special Teams. Oh yeah….he got one playing defence too. The only question remains is, has anyone asked him to play quarterback yet? Siri also had 2 touchdowns in the Bowl Game. Making his cameo in IAFL 2 perhaps one of the more dominating performances across a season that we’ve witnessed in the IAFL. Siris game changing ability on all sides of the ball is rare. Gifted players such as this often prove headaches for coaches as to where best to deploy them, the Trojan Coaching staff have gone for the ‘Everywhere’ option. As his eligibility for IAFL 2 expires Johnathan Siri is a name we expect to hear much more of in the Shamrock Bowl Conferences (and likely Shamrock Bowls) for years to come.

IAFL-1 Final Preview

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!

thumb_waterfordlogo Waterford Wolves @ Cork Admirals thumb_CAlogo  – Navan RFC, 4pm.

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.

Steve Hayes led the division with 25 touchdowns. Photo by Declan Forrest
Steve Hayes led the division with 25 touchdowns. Photo by Declan Forrest

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

The Wolves will need a complete performance to stop the Admirals!
The Wolves overcame a tough Bulldogs side to reach the final.

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!