IAFA Week #7 Previews

IAFA

IAFA Week 7

This Weekends Fixtures

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Donegal/Derry Vipers @ Galway Warriors

IAFL 2 is back in IAFA land with what could turn out to be a title decider. Well not really in the world of Bowl Games but this is a top of the table clash. Both of these teams will be in IAFL1 next year and life is tough in that most unpredictable of divisions and games vs teams who are around your level of experience can be the key to getting a good read on your season.
The Vipers progress has been impressive in their year of existence and they set a marker, dismissing the newly founded Razorbacks and they’ll look to continue to assert their will over the division by winning here.
The Warriors have wobbled a bit and are still finding their feet. Some impressive performances last year only to be undone with some hard to explain losses. This season will be pivotal for the westerners as they have an opportunity to establish themselves, alone, in a huge catchment area. Nothing establishes you better than winning.

North Dublin Pirates @ Wexford Eagles

Game One for both of these teams, so who knows! Like the Titans & Mavericks, Reapers & Wolves and Bulldogs & Lightening, games between teams entering the league at the same time offer a good yard stick of progress (or lack of) in the quest to establish a football team. It’s no promise for lasting success but it’s always a positive to get going early. Winning is a habit and winning your first ever game is an opportunity few teams realistically get. Setting foot on a football field for the first time is learning experience, both of these teams would like to be the ones dishing out the lessons Sunday and setting a marker for all future contests! We wish them luck!

Tyrone Titans @ Louth Mavericks

Most Football teams, unlike GAA teams or Rugby teams, are built on imaginary links. They exist because we say they do, there is no club house or field or concrete foundation. They are the will of committed individuals and usually they are only as strong as those bonds. When those bonds break, football teams cease to exist. No where is the better example of this than these two teams.
The Mavericks born from the the now defunct Drogheda Lightning and the Titans holding on to that existence by their fingernails.
The Titans just have to hold on. Things were tough last week vs the Rhinos, a running clock and coming really close to not having the bodies to continue. They did not give up though. No matter how hard it gets, how many games need to be finished with a running clock they just need to endure and know that the fight breed into their team now at their darkest hour will help see them to their finest. More than you think have been in that situation. The Trojans, Rebels and Vikings can all tell you stories of when they looked around, with not too many at practice and wondered, will we survive and they did.
The Mavs have to win here, they should be in the higher echelons of this division this year and can ill afford to assume any victory. The Titans are still capable and are backed into a corner now and a game vs their rivals might be just what they need to get back on their feet. The Mavs cannot allow that. Calm and efficient and fulfilling their potential to be champions. Champions don’t allow mistakes.

Meath Bulldogs @ West Dublin Rhinos

The Rhinos have been busy in recent weeks, this their third game in four weeks. The Bulldogs inversely have had a break between the last Rhinos game as this.
The Bulldogs simply must win here. The tiebreak will be gone for the year and the Rhinos would need to collapse to allow the Bulldogs back in. Expect another defensive affair but the Bulldogs need to get something going on offence as the Rhinos ran up 29 points vs the Titans and will be carrying some momentum into this one.
The Rhinos hold the tiebreak in their hands and realistically only have to not lose by 13 points and they’ll hang onto it. The Rhinos haven’t allowed a score on defence yet and have scored twice to boost their chances. To win here, they need just do what comes naturally in West Dublin, play Defence. All of the Rhinos stalwarts got going vs the Titans and momentum can be key. If Stephen Mooney can keep this offence ticking now it might be IAFL1 and done for the Rhinos.

Carrickfergus Knights @ South Dublin Panthers

What can you say after two thumpings like the Panthers have just received? Only they will know the plan to recover their season from this point but it has to start soon. The Knights opened up well against the Panthers but ultimately failed to carry that good momentum into the Rebels game. Offensive mistakes costing them dearly.
Getting the show back on the road has to be the aim for both in this game. QB Josh Davis was injured vs the Rebels and it took some time but the offence in the hands of usual FB Phil Gunning actually looked in decent shape as the Rebels struggled to contain the power in the 2nd half, the aforementioned mistakes in the form of putting the ball on the ground ultimately prevented that promise being realised in scores. Whomever is under centre vs the Panthers will know the recipe for success here.
Special Teams rarely in this country has seen players as special as Jona Siri and the Panthers got a front row seat to that show last week. Where the Rebels loss was failures is most aspect of the game for the Panthers, the Trojans game really hinged on those special teams errors, so from that point of view the mission is clear for the Panthers, learn to kick out of bounds. They did manage a passing score vs the Trojans and as the league swings towards the passing game more and more that will be an encouragement. The season isn’t lost but a loss here would make life very difficult for the Panthers going 0-4 on the season and the division.

Belfast Trojans @ Dublin Rebels

The Shamrock Bowl 3 years ago, bright and sunny Tallaght stadium, on the opening play from scrimmage, Andy Dennehy lined up under centre and surveyed the Trojan defence. The ball is snapped and the veteran QB turned for the hand off. The rabid Trojans, all 11 of them, came flying off the line of scrimmage bursting like a flood through every conceivable crack in the O-line and swarming the running back; only one problem, no ball. After the longest delay, like a rabbit from his hat Dennehy produced the ball from behind his back and the Trojans DBs, realising they’d been duped, wheeled around to see a Rebels receiver behind them coasting down the sideline. No receiver before or since had been afforded that kind of space in the Trojans secondary and Andy has the arm, the ball came out on a high arc and traveled the distance with ease. Touchdown; guaranteed. The playaction masterful, the dive from the Running back flawless, the throw accurate, 11 Trojans lost on a football field and only one thing wrong. The pass was dropped.
This was the last time the Rebels have truly claimed the edge over the Trojans. It was the changing of the guard. Right there all in one play. The Trojans already had a Shamrock Bowl but it was UL they beat. If they wanted to lay claim to the Crown, it was the Rebels they had to beat and they did. That season and every season since.
The Rebels have opened this season perfectly. They are more talented now than they have been in recent seasons with the addition of Liam Jeter to name but one. Their QB is in arguably the best shape he’s been for a while, nearly RUSHING for a touchdown vs the Panthers. Their defence are yet to allow a score. Things are looking up in Rebels land. If they are to prevent themselves becoming Liverpool to the Trojans Man U, they need to reinstall some competition into this game, soon. The Shamrock Bowl above was 48-18, the season that followed the score was 34-19 and last year it was 43-8. The time is now, before the next generation of Rebels become this generation of Rebels and nobody remembers beating the Trojans.
The Trojans haven’t started badly themselves, 123 points on the board already. James McKelvey has 7 touchdowns in two games, both games he played no part of the 4th quarter. Jona Siri is running riot, McConnell, Whitla & Graham are positively dominant and the Trojans are just being the Trojans generally. In the very fine video below, Trojans HC Mark McGrath can be worryingly heard to say, we aren’t happy with that. ‘That’ was a 63-7 victory. What will you be happy with?
Field position is the whole show for the Trojans. You must keep them in their own half on punts and kick offs and don’t turn the ball over, duh! Until someone can do that, this is going to continue.

Video by PixlFlix

Week 4 IAFA Previews!

IAFA

IAFA Week 4

This Weekends Fixtures

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PSNI Razorbacks @ Donegal/Derry Vipers

IAFL 2! Finally! The hugely successful development league is back and with a new team or three in tow. The Vipers will still be feeling those beatings at the hands of the Trojans last year but showed some real spark as the season closed. It takes time to get your feet under you on a football field when you’ve joined an experienced team. When near everyone is a rookie it’s all the more impressive that they have established themselves they way they have. The Vipers need to get themselves IAFL1 ready this year. So getting the essentials right is the name of the game. The essentials will win this division.
The Razorbacks are an interesting prospect. A little like a college team, in that they have closed base to recruit from, a closed base that requires a fitness test to enter in the first place! They’ve brought in some coaches with experience and we’re really interested to see the standard they can achieve right from the off! The popularity of football is still on the rise and the Razorbacks are the 3rd new team in as many years to make it to the regular season from Ulster. Still, football is unforgiving and after being on the receiving end of hidings last year, the Vipers will look to dish some out this season. The Razorbacks opening will be telling in terms of the shape this division will take this season.

Waterford Wolves @ Westmeath Minotaurs

The Wolves didn’t get off to a great start vs Cork and the Minotaurs haven’t started at all! With perhaps some of the cobwebs shaken loose the Wolves will see this as a chance to get themselves back to the kind of form they closed 2015 with. They’re weaker, no doubt, but the Minotaurs are undergoing a rebirth of their own and the Wolves shouldn’t be shy about attacking them while they’re still figuring it out. They might not get another chance. A bad season could spell disaster for the Wolves, confidence and momentum can often be as important as results. The Wolves will need some of all three this year to begin their rebuild.
The Midlanders, like we said last week, have to draw a line under 2015 and move on. All external signs seem to point they have. They have ability and athleticism, anyone who has seen them play can attest to that, but at times they just blow it and nothing works. Getting the simple stuff right will lead to success for the Minotaurs, not winning the division success just yet but winning games. The Wolves might fancy this one but there’s no reason Westmeath shouldn’t for the same reasons. A team that may be reeling and just trying to keep the show on the road. We’re prepared to be slated by the purists for this but the Minotaurs flag team is one of the best around, throw the ball! Cork proved if you can do that consistently teams will really struggle to stop you.

West Dublin Rhinos @ Meath Bulldogs

Are the Bulldogs favourites for this division? They’ve been there abouts for a few years now but never outright favourites from the get go. They’ve beaten the Trojans, Trojan rookies or not, thats not something a lot can lay claim to. If they win tomorrow vs a Rhinos team with a lot of SBC experience, favourites, clear favourites, would be the only description that could be fair. The Bulldogs have never been the sort to run up huge scores but play a brand of hard nosed defence combined with a smash mouth run game that grinds teams down and lends itself to winning late, like they did last time out. If they can score early against a Rhinos team that hans’t been prolific on offence for a number of years they could control this game, the division and invite the rest begin the chase.
Rhinos football finally! The ambulance isn’t really a thing that should be happening to a team that have been around and organised as long as the Rhinos have but it’s done now and football is finally on the agenda. IAFL 1 for the Rhinos is like starting over again, and that’s not such a bad thing. The SBC can be very cruel if the wrong things don’t work out for you and it’s very hard to steady a ship mid season. The Rhinos have a great opportunity to attack this division with a new focus and simpler way of doing things. As tough as the Bulldogs will be this might be just the game to get started with. We used the words ‘hard nosed’ and ‘smash mouth’ to describe the Bulldogs, the very same identity claimed by the Rhinos for years. This is the kind of football they want to play. They’re going to get it and you won’t find anyone in Rhinoland unhappy with that.

North Kildare Reapers @ UL Vikings

Early in the year judging this kind of game can be a lot of guess work. UCD battered Trinity and demolished the Reapers but haven’t played UL. Trinity did well against UL, so are UCD just really strong and Trinity improved vs UL or are UL not as strong as UCD. Our Guess is UL are UL and they’re entire plan is to steam roll everything they meet. The Reapers need to be careful here. They can’t let their season spiral out of control and as we saw last week when the Rebels demolished the Panthers in the second half, control is a hard thing to keep a grip of in the SBC. The Vikings have no interest in playing the Trojans for a 3rd year in a row in the Semi Final. They need to win the division and do it convincingly and this is a division game.
For the Reapers it’s going to be a big ask. This game was 18-0 last year which on the face of it isn’t terrible but that was the game Adrian Garvey went down in and it took time for the UL offence to recover, not only in that game but through the season. UL aren’t in the habit of passing the ball a whole lot so getting after that back field will have to be the name of the game and that includes QB Ian Cahill in the run game. Focus too much on Shane Gleeson and others, Cahill will be gliding past your backside contain and up the sideline before you know what’s happened. Limerick are going to get behind that line and Shane Gleeson and aim to blast everyone they meet off the ball. The Reapers must throw everything into the battle in the trenches to get anything from this game.

Belfast Trojans @ Craigavon Cowboys

The Cowboys really put it up to Trinity and much has been made of what Trinity have lost but they have the joint leading passer in the SBC and one of the more exciting running backs around. The Cowboys ran them very very close. The Cowboys have been building quietly for a number of years now, doubling down no the talent they already have in house and recruiting well. The development of some of the younger guys in Craigavon will be particularly pleasing and a core of players that have been together for some years now is usually the recipe for success. Opening your season vs both of last years Shamrock Bowl teams is a cruel twist of scheduling but the Cowboys will be eager to show that even if they don’t pick up any points they will be ready to take on the rest of their schedule without fear of anyone left on it.
Much like all great teams, it’s getting to the point that a lot of teams are beaten before ever going on the field vs the Trojans. Maybe there is a glimmer of hope here for the Cowboys, David Richardson is still serving his suspension and due to playing last week for the #2s Neil Montgomery won’t be playing. Those are two linchpins of the Trojan offence. Keeping this game close for a stretch could lead the Cowboys to grow in confidence and feel there is something to be had here. But the Trojans have battered the Cowboys at every outing in recent times. 98 net points in favour of the Trojans last season. The Trojan defence will need to keep the Peter Loughran/Conrad Smith combo in check to stop the Cowboys growing in confidence; especially if the offence is taking time to right itself missing their weapons.

IAFL 1 & 2 Week 11 Previews

IAFL 1

Week 11 comes to IAFL 1 & 2 with varying degrees of importance. In the IAFL 1, three teams move to the midseason point, and in IAFL 2 the Vipers look to for some improvement over their first game, any improvement at all.

Meath Bulldogs (1-2) @ Dundalk Mavericks (1-2) – DKIT Sports Grounds 2PM

After Meath lost to Cork it was all doom and gloom as another season looked to be slipping away. What promised to be a season of rebuilding was threatening to be a season of demolition. The difference a week makes. By defeating Waterford the Bulldogs have put themselves atop the chasing pack behind the Titans and Admirals. The three 1-2 teams will slug it out for the 3rd placed spot in the IAFL 1 and with it a chance at playoff redemption. As much as points total will play in this fight, the head to head record will be vital to have in your favour and Meath sit with the best opportunity for exploiting that. Waterford have already defeated the Mavs and now with the short hop to Dundalk ahead of them, if Meath win on Sunday they will have a firm grip on third and awaiting the return legs against both Cork and Tyrone to see if they can’t perhaps do better.

Dundalk might be the worst placed of the three in terms of head to head but the remedy to that is simple. Just win. The Mavs get another crack at Waterford in a few weeks and having only lost by 3 points it is likely if they win that game, they will overturn the points total too. The Mavs will only get one shot at Meath this season and before they start thinking about turning around points deficits a win here is essential. A loss would pin them behind the Bulldogs almost inescapably and trying to catch one team is bad enough but if the best Meath achieve is third the Mavs will definitely be on the outside looking in at the playoffs.
Both of these teams have break out threats, Dundalk in QB Mathew Hagan and Meath in Running Back Pete McMahon but perhaps Meath shade the numbers game with some alternative offensive weapons to turn to. Defensively the Mavericks have been very good but they haven’t played the free scoring Admirals yet which skew the figures slightly in their favour since Meath shipped 28 points that day. An interesting game with huge ramifications for the winner and their playoff aspirations.

Waterford Wolves (1-2) @ Mullingar Minotaurs (0-4) – Harbour Field, Mullingar 2PM

The Wolves first season back in IAFL1 has been a mixed bag so far. The Admirals are sweeping all before them and many at the Wolves, after Game One, would have been searching for differences between the SBC and the IAFL1. Things got back on track with what might prove to be a vital success against the Mavericks before the Bulldogs shut them out at home in their last outing. The identity of the Wolves 2015 incarnation is yet to be forged, yet, here they are well placed to challenge for a playoff spot. Someone in the Bulldogs/Mavericks game is going going 2-2 and the Wolves need to ensure they keep pace with who ever that turns out to be. Should the Wolves win they will be facing down return legs with both teams involved in Dundalk with either a better or equal points total, those games will shape the Wolf packs year but this one has to be put in the bag first. Fail here and the Wolves could make a gift of 3rd place to who ever wins in Louth.

Mullingar showed signs of life making life hard for the Titans at the end of April. That promise was short lived as they capitulated only two weeks later. Now sitting winless at 0-4 it’s hard to believe that much can be salvaged from this season more than pride. Niall Folan has been the lone bright spark this season for the Minotaurs causing constant threat to opposing defences but no offence can last on only 1 dimension and Mullingar will need to manifest itself a rushing threat soon. The Wolves are far from insurmountable as they too are still searching for answers on offence and although 3rd is probably too much to hope for winning breeds confidence and confidence often breeds winning. With four games to go and nothing too lose, the Minotaurs have the ability to upset all teams in this league expecting an automatic W but that threat will only last as long as their will and their pride sustains.

Donegal/Derry Vipers (0-1) @ Belfast Trojans (2-0) – Deramore Park 4PM

The second game of a double header at the excellent facility that is Deramore Park. Game one was brutal for the Vipers. The number of lessons learned or development achieved on the wrong end of 72-0 bludgeoning are questionable but the Vipers will have had to have learned some if they hope to avoid the same fate. Good news for the Vipers is that this game comes immediately following a Trojans SBC game and they will likely face none of the Trojan starters. What ever modicum of consolation the Vipers choose to find in that is up to them. The Vipers, perhaps because of location, are still somewhat of an unknown around the league but one would hope they’ve reached out to for some assistance in the intervening weeks on some of the basics. Be they a Belfast Trojan or a South Kildare Soldier, they’re all going to score a lot if you can’t tackle them correctly.

As for the Trojans ‘2nds’ there are some valuable reps available for those that don’t normally get them. There will be Dublin Rebels and Carrickfergus Knights that will attest that Matt Armstrong is deserving of SBC reps and Jonathan Siri is as difficult a man to bring down on special teams as any out there. Perhaps the greatest benefit for the Trojans playing at this level is getting back up QB Kris Donaghy under centre. James McKelvey is having a fantastic season but a sound succession plan is vital for continued success and although the majority of ‘2nds’ scores thus far have been on the ground, getting Donaghy going through the air could prove to be a wise coaching decision should he be needed to stand in for #1.

Mid Season Power Rankings!

Power Rankings
Photo by Jason Toher
Power Rankings for the whole IAFL!

We’ll be quick, there’s football today!

1. thumb_ULlogo – UL Vikings

A surprise to see the Trojans not occupy the top spot? UL have had the tougher start and as of now have 5 wins under their belt and games in hand are great but points in the bag are better! UL have beaten Trinity & UCD twice now and the Trojans…

2. thumb_BTlogo – Belfast Trojans

The Trojans have been dominant in their 3 outings so far but none have been against teams with a winning record in 2014. The Rebels today will be the sternest test for the Green Machine so far and we may need to reexamine these rankings after that!

3. thumb_TCDlogo – Trinity College Dublin

The Students are one of the teams still with only 3 games played after their season opener was rescheduled. Although they haven’t been hitting the heights offensively they did in 2014; the 2015 edition has showed grit to eek out wins in a tight game verses the Panthers and a stunning comeback against the Rebels. Trinity have life in them yet and will be looking ahead to the game verses UL to reestablish SBC South dominance.

4. thumb_UCDlogo – UCD

A tough call to demote the Rebels here but with both teams on a 2-2 and UCD gaining the narrowest of narrow wins over the Men in Black it has to go the impressive IAFL 1 winners. UCD are upsetting the applecart atop the SBC and if they can hold together their fine form may rise above Trinity both here and in the race for the SBC playoffs.

5. thumb_DRlogo – Dublin Rebels

Unfamiliar territory for the Rebels in the middle of the pack but tough beats two weeks in a row make this spot more as a result of misfortune than poor play. The Rebels have returned to themselves in recent weeks and win or lose today verses the Trojans the Dubs have the opportunity to achieve form today that could carry them deep into the playoffs.

6. thumb_reapersLogo2– North Kildare Reapers

The Reapers have a very real chance of being the 3rd overall ranked team in two weeks. With the other 2 win teams facing tough games or weeks off, the Reapers face the winless Rhinos in a game they will fancy. 3 wins is no mean feat in the SBC and with the following games verses the Knights, Trinity and UCD if they can summon another top performance 4 wins show the Reapers mean business.

7. thumb_panthers – South Dublin Panthers

A matter of who beat who now. The Panthers went to Carrickfergus and made short work of the Knights, a tough schedule has seen them take on both of last years Shamrock Bowl Finalists and the Rebels. Everyone from here on down would have hoped for play offs but would be realistically be looking to avoid relegation first and foremost. 1 win is good for all but more will have to follow for all.

8. thumb_CKlogo – Carrickfergus Knights

The Knights dominated neighbouring Cowboys and have stumbled since. They will look at their schedule and see potential wins. The Knights will have to muster their big squad into wins to avoid missing out on the play off quality their squad is likely capable of.

9. thumb_CClogo – Craigavon Cowboys

How different this would if that 2 point attempt had succeeded at the death verses the Reapers. Likely a switch in position for both teams. If is the biggest word in sport and now the Cowboys don’t have an easy run of games to close out the season with Belfast twice and a return verses the Knights, the Cowboys have little room to manoeuvre should they not pick up anything from the Panthers or Knights.

10. thumb_CAlogo – Cork Admirals

A little harsh to hold an IAFL 1 team over an SBC team? You can only beat what is in front of you and Cork have been doing that in style. A dominant passing game and a run game and defence that isn’t getting the attention it deserves. Cork still have the stingy Titans defence to over come but should they do that few will argue they have SBC quality.

11. thumb_RHlogo – West Dublin Rhinos

Things are not going well in Castleknock. 0-4 and no signs of life yet to be seen. They now must win games or the IAFL1 is beckoning. The Reapers have to be beaten by more than 12 points and a Herculean effort to draw win from the remaining 3 games is all that will save the Rhinos now.

12. thumb_TTlogo – Tyrone Titans

Before we even finish this sentence we know those in Tyrone will feel they deserve to be up a place if Cork are and perhaps they are right. The longest unbeaten streak in the country and only 1 score given up this season the North West outfit are surging. The only marks we can put against them is the lack of high level testing and a stagnating offence in recent weeks.

13. 30 – Meath Bulldogs

The Bulldogs got off to a lacklustre start this season but a long trip down to Waterford proved fruitful and now the Bulldogs are once again in the hunt for IAFL1 glory. 1st  may prove very difficult for the Bulldogs because who ever holds it is likely to hold an unbeaten record which is not achievable now for the Bulldogs. A series of games with the Mavericks and Wolves can cement them into third and place them well for any slip ups ahead.

14. thumb_waterfordlogo – Waterford Wolves

Although last week didn’t go exactly to plan the Wolves have something this season that has been sorely needed. A win! They will have more but when you’re on a losing streak that first one is vital. Waterford are still in the hunt for 3rd but will need to reverse their loss against the Bulldogs to do so.

15. thumb_DMlogo1 – Dundalk Mavericks

We were perhaps a little unfair to the Mavericks preseason when we predicted they’d wind up last in the IAFL1. A victory over Mullingar shows they had no intention of proving us right. Dundalk are still developing but have some incredible talent on their roster and the task of harnessing that into results is beginning to bear fruit.

16. thumb_mullingarlogo – Mullingar Minotaurs

Mullingar have woken up in recent weeks and although they couldn’t defeat Tyrone they showed signs of life that had been missing from their opening two games. A win tomorrow could catapult them up these rankings and they have every capability of it.

17. 10968328_827634113959732_1746668201097951904_n – Galway Warriors

The Warriors still in infancy defeated the Soldiers in their opening game this season and played out 0-0 with the Rhinos last week. It’s hard to go anywhere without offence and this has to be the next step for the Warriors.

18. SKS – South Kildare Soldiers

The Soldiers were demolished in the worst way verses the Trojans that would make you question the merits of allowing the Trojans to play in the IAFL 2. The season started well defeating UL but losing to the fellow sophomores, the Warriors, will show there is still work to do in Kildare.

19. Vip – Donegal/Derry Vipers

Unsurprisingly the Vipers occupy the last spot. With just the one game, if you want to call it that, verses the Trojans under their belt there are more reasonable tests ahead for the Vipers where they will give a better account of where they are as a team. The only way is up!

Getting to know the Donegal/Derry Vipers!

Getting to know the Donegal/Derry Vipers!

The Donegal/Derry Vipers are mere days away from making their first competitive debut in the IAFL. It has been a busy 6-8 months for the rookies and a lot of hard work has happened behind the scenes as they ready themselves for Sunday’s big game.

As newest members of the growing IAFL family, the Vipers will be looking to make an immediate impact in the IAFL-2 as they clash heads with the Trojans 2nd’s. Some people may not be too familiar with the leagues newest outfit at this stage so we caught up with club chairman and Right Guard, Shaun McGrory to find out more.

From an idea that started as early as last summer, the plan to get the team off the ground was quickly set in motion.

‘Our founding members, Cathal Curran and James Fox, had always been big fans of the NFL and always had a really sports orientated life pre The Vipers having played GAA all their lives. They became aware of the IAFA and their league structure through word of mouth back in the summer of 2014 and decided to have a look and see how it was set up and where each of the teams played.

‘Having found that the sport was thriving in Ireland, that it was the fastest growing sport in the world an armed with the realisation that there was neither a team in Donegal or Derry the guys had the crazy idea of forming one and seeing if their dream would become a reality.’

Once the structure of the club was in place, the next duty was to create an iconic club name. Its alway’s interesting to learn of the reasoning behind a chosen team name, maybe due to its symbolic significance or the history of a city; or perhaps you just like the sound of it!

‘We would love to tell you that the name Vipers came from some deep spiritual place, after having walked miles barefooted to Tibet but unfortunately that isn’t the case. They liked the name The Donegal Derry Vipers so they went for it. Since then the players and staff have begun to attach meaning to it with the main theme being around bringing snakes BACK to Ireland, even going as far as, unofficially, calling our home ground at the YMCA Rugby pitches in Drumahoe, ‘The Viper Pit!’

Starting up a brand new club has its difficulties. Sponsorships and finances are vital in maintaining the health of a team and finding a city where there is a big pool for recruiting talent is also a must. However, the Vipers have been working extremely hard this off-season in preparation for what will prove to be a challenging year.

11139424_968754763149730_786476559824251160_n‘Up until late 2014 the team was merely a pipe dream but our founders really stepped it up around October of that year. Cathal and our Treasurer Frieda Gallagher contacted The Belfast Giants Ice Hockey team and managed to blag a slot at the interval and really publicize their vision of what we wanted to do. How many people would have imagined we would have a successful Ice Hockey team from Belfast 20years ago and by that logic, why couldn’t we do the same with The Vipers?’

‘After setting up all the social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter and our own club website the guys started promoting the club in various local newspapers and radio stations pointing people towards our 1st training session. We recruited our Head Coach, Jason Brock, a Chicago born American who had moved to Donegal after falling in love with a beautiful Irish girl. Jason grew up playing and loving the sport and was the ideal person to mould a group of amateur American Football fans into a fully functional, closely knit, Viper machine. We now have a core team of around 40players or varying age and skill but with an equal amount of enthusiasm.’

Shaun admitted that one of the many benefactors the Vipers have had, came courtesy of the generosity of the now folded, Drogheda Lightning. Many of the founding members of the Lightning travelled up north to personally pass on old equipment and knowledge, that will greatly assist the Vipers development.

Something that Shaun and the rest of the team will be eternally grateful for.

‘As a group and as individuals, setting up the club was an adventure none of us had ever been on. The Lightning first contacted us in February of this year and rode into the Vipers like knights in shining armour. They decided, though heart-breaking to those involved with the Lightning, that their legacy should live on and that all the equipment would be passed down to our newly formed team. Not only did they provide us with equipment for players, practice and for game day but they also came with a wealth of knowledge and experience in the form of Ross and Kim Neville and Fergal Waters.’

‘To this day the guys continue to support and invest time in the team whether it is through coming to training or offering help and guidance over the phone. The Drogheda Lightning lives on in The Vipers.’

Focus will now turn to the task that lays ahead as the Donegal/Derry Vipers host the current Irish champions, the Belfast Trojans; well, to be more precise the Trojans 2nd’s team. The opening debut for a new side can be filled with mix feelings of nerves, optimism as well as excitement. Strapping on new helmets and pad’s will feel like Christmas to many of the young Vipers players.

However when Sunday arrives, all attentions must be turned to the match itself, and putting that all important first win in the history books!

11094737_968753289816544_7698314626258052092_n‘When the fixtures were released I think the initial feeling was shock. The Trojans are, undoubtedly, one of the best, if not the best team in Ireland. For a team as new as ours, to play the Champions, regardless of whether it is the 1sts or 2nds is a huge challenge and one that is not lost on our players or staff.’

‘The feeling will quickly change to excitement and determination to show that we are a team, a good team and one that is worthy of playing in the IAFL2 league. We have had contact with The Trojans and their professional attitude and approach towards the game has rung true each and every time. They are the type of team that each side in the league should aspire to be.’

‘With that said, on game day they are our opponents, they will not hold back, they will not take into consideration that we are a new team, they will go to work in the usual Trojans way. They will push us hard and we hope to push back with equal intensity.

Getting the first victory under the belts will be a fantastic feeling for the newly established Vipers, however their opening game couldn’t be much harder and then they will need to put everything they have learnt throughout the off-season into practice.

Many teams goals each year are to win trophies and to be the best. The Vipers will no doubt be aiming for the same but their first goal this season is simple. Establish the team and build for the future.

‘For us, the goal was never to blow teams away, it was to set up a family orientated club that bridged the border between north and south, to build an inclusive club based on respect and our mutual love of the sport. This is our debut season and we believe we are prepared. For now, our goal is to give the Trojans a game that both teams will remember for all the right reasons and as we progress through the season to build a club that is sustainable, competitive and spoke of in the highest terms possible both on and off the field.’

#TheVipersAreHere