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.

IAFA Strength of Schedule

The IAFA have announced their schedule today (see it here) and we sat down and wildly speculated to bring you the 2016 Strength of Schedule.

First off, the rules; we assigned a number of points denoting 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 and any modifiers we think are worth adding on or taking off a point for and we’ll explain those as we go. Here is how the Shamrock Bowl Conference ranked.

Belfast Trojans
2015 Final Rank: 10 points. SBC Winners!
Modifier: +1. 1 loss in 4 years is no joke and you’ve got to wonder if some teams are beaten before the opening kickoff.
Total: 11 points

Trinity
2015 Final Rank: 9 points. Runners up
Modifier -1. The loss of Rob McDowell, Alex Gurney & Dan Finnamore would devastate any teams ambitions.
Total: 8 points

UL Vikings
2015 Final Rank: 8 points. Defeated Semi Finalists
Modifier 0. The UL train seems firmly on the right track. Reputed some talented additions in their Rookie Group but we’ll see.
Total: 8 points

Dublin Rebels
2015 Final Rank: 8 points. Defeated Semi Finalists
Modifier 0. The Rebels recruited well during last season and if anything should be stronger again this year but still to be seen.
Total: 8 points

UCD
2015 Final Rank: 7 points. Defeated in the wildcard round
Modifier 0. A new coaching set up promises to kick on the very talented UCD roster.
Total: 7 points

Craigavon Cowboys
2015 Final Rank: 7 points. Defeated in the wildcard round.
Modifier 0. The Cowboys pulled some unexpected results out of the bag last year and were unlucky to not win more. Peter Loughran ever the X-Factor for this squad.
Total: 7 points

North Kildare Reapers
2015 Final Rank: 6 points. Missed the play offs on a tie break.
Modified 0. The Reapers missed the playoffs on a tie-breaker, which is unlucky but teams must be ranked!
Total: 6 points

South Dublin Panthers
2015 Final Rank: 5. Two wins & 3rd worst record
Modifier 0. The Panthers improved on the previous season so this season will see if momentum can be kept up.
Total: 5 points

Carrickfergus Knights
2015 Final Rank: 4. Same record as the Panthers but a loss to the Dublin side saw them slip below them in the overall rankings.
Modifier 0. The Knights will be the first to admit they under performed last year. They have a large squad and a committed coaching staff. We don’t expect this ranking again.
Total: 4 points


 

Notes
Before we give you the final ranking of the strength of schedule. 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: 55.
The Trojans are hardest ranked team, so by virtue of not playing themselves and only one occurrence of back to back game weeks. It’s not surprising their schedule ranks the weakest.

Tied Weakest
UCD. Strength Score: 55.
UCD also don’t have to play the Trojans. They do have 3 back to back outings so will make things a touch harder.

7th Ranked Schedule
Craigavon Cowboys. Strength Score: 57
With a double header against the lowest ranked Knights and another game vs the 2nd lowest ranked Panthers drops the overall rank of the Cowboys schedule.

6th Ranked Schedule
South Dublin Panthers. Strength Score: 58
A double header against the Knights and will bring the Strength Score down slightly but 3 back to back outings push it up a bit.

5th Ranked Schedule
Carrickfergus Knights. Strength Score: 59
5 games against last years play off teams and 3 back to back weeks. Not that we considered it in our formula but they’ve also got 3 long trip to Leinster in a row.

4th Ranked Schedule
North Kildare Reapers. Strength Score: 60
Reapers only play 2 games against non playoff opposition from 2015. Midseason vs the Knights and last game of the year vs the Panthers.

Tied 4th Ranked Schedule
Dublin Rebels. Strength Score: 60
The Rebels only have 1 back to back out but they’ve to play the Trojans twice and UL on the closing day of the season.

2nd Strongest Schedule
UL Vikings. Strength Score: 62
The Vikings have 1 back to back week and 1 three week break. So this is all about the opposition they face. Opening the season vs the Trojans, closing it vs the Rebels and 2 games against Trinity. The Vikings only play one non playoff team from 2015, the Reapers who missed it on a tie-break.

Strongest Schedule
Trinity College Dublin. Strength Score: 63
Twice vs the Vikings, once vs the Trojans and Rebels. 3 back to back weeks and a tricky opener vs UCD. Missing some of their mainstays from the past few seasons, getting to another Shamrock Bowl is going to be a big ask for Trinity.

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 Team of the Year : All Rounders

Our team of the Weeks included only QB, RB, WR, OL and Defences and as we sat down to pick the very best of all we found that since we put so much faith in our scoring charts (have you seen them?) there are players that are so key to their teams yet don’t put too many scores on the board. Ask their teams and they’ll rave about them! So who are they?


All Rounders!

Team Green Rob McDowell Trinity College Dublin

Photo by Ariane Boudias

Rob has been on the end of a lot of praise in his IAFL Career. Easily one of the fastest players out there, the elusiveness and trucking ability, he plays defence and returns kicks! So is there anything else to add. Well now he plays Quarterback. Dan Finnamore injured at the end of last season Trinity could have easily faded away but into the breach came McDowell and has brought all the ability and intelligence you could hope for to the position. This is the all rounders section so worth noting that at Safety McDowell shuts down the deep middle of the field with Quarterbacks afraid to test him because if he picks it, you’re in trouble. The weekend will be his 2nd Shamrock Bowl and he has the ability to be the hinge upon which it all turns.


Team White Peter Loughran Criagavon Cowboys

Photo by Ariane Boudias

Define All Rounders, Peter Loughran. We’re done. He plays receiver, he plays Quarterback and when he cameos on Defence he Quarterbacks that too from the Middle Linebacker spot. The true measure of a players value, when you consider how many other teams he’d make it into. Loughran (and the others on this list) would make it any team in the league and do it at any position you’ve got. He threw 10 touchdowns, ran for 5, 3 2point attempts, thats 96 of Craigavons 111 points. Perhaps the finest few moments of the year was in the game against the Knights when he put the team on his back….and several of the Knights and willed them to victory.


Team Green Mark Dunphy Waterford Wolves

Photo by Ariane Boudias
Photo by Ariane Boudias

Cork & Tyrone were steamrolling their way towards the IAFL 1 bowl game until they met the Waterford Wolves and Mark Dunphy. Dunphy plays on offence and he plays on defence and the results are the same on both sides of the ball, passes caught! Dunphy also plays kicker and when the Wolves season was on a knife edge late verses the Mavericks on two occasions. Dunphy dispatched field goals to win both games. Interceptions against the Titans put the Wolves in excellent position in the game and back into the play offs. The SBC will test the Wolves and Dunphy and this time they’ve some of the experience along with the talent to succeed. We mentioned in the Kickers piece that the league rate of XPs to Touchdowns is usually under 50%. Dunphy is one of the Kickers above that mark.


Team White Ross McCooey, Dublin Rebels

Photo by Ariane Boudias
Photo by Ariane Boudias

 Ross McCooey is one of the finest football players in the land. No debate. It is easy to see the contribution of the above 3 players. McDowell and Loughran Quarterback and Dunphy catches all in sight. Ross McCoy oft goes unnoticed by all but the running backs he’s leading out for and the Quarterbacks that have just inadvertently thrown him the ball. McCooey plays nearly ever down, offence, defence and special teams and just makes plays over and over again. A veteran of the Berlin Rebels and Dublin Rebels alike and what is scary is he’s still only 28 and perhaps only entering his best years now. This is the last player on our list and we don’t believe we could have ended it any better. See the complete list below!


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 McSweeney

All Rounder Rob McDowell

All Rounder Mark Dunphy

[/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

All Rounder Peter Loughran

All Rounder Ross McCooey

[/column]

[/row]

NFL-Ireland’s ‘Team of the Year’: Running-Backs

Thank you for staying with us. Now we’ve arrived at the Running Backs. The IAFL has adopted a run first approach for many years as a number of the leagues top rushers dominated the scoring charts year on year; Simon Mackey and Rob McDowell being the standouts from 2014. As times change, this year in particular has seen Irish Football slowly transcend to a more passer-friendly league, but that doesn’t mean the backfield has any less importance.

The Running-Backs are often the workhorses that earn those extra inches and relieve pressure from the Quarterback and we are blessed to have many talented backs with different running styles in the IAFL. A combined total of 177 rushing touchdowns were scored across all divisions during the regular season, however who stood out the most too us in this very competitive rushing class.

Running Backs

Team White Shane Gleeson UL Vikings

Photography by Jason Toher
Photography by Jason Toher

Gleeson is was the workhorse of a very dominant Vikings run-game. When Adrian Garvey went down earlier in the year, much of the work fell to Gleeson and he became the number 1 threat for the Vikings offence. His tough, physical down-hill running style coupled with his Madden Truck Stick ability to break tackles he secured top spot of the SBC rushing charts with 8 touchdowns, as he helped the Vikings progress to the semi-final stages.

 

 


Team Green Neil Montgomery Belfast Trojans 

Photo by Dave Bradshaw
Photo by Dave Bradshaw

The Trojans are blessed to have so much talent in the backfield, but Montgomery offers a different style and dimension to the others. Neil is a physical football player that loves contact and it’s a very tough task for anybody to bring him down. He can fight for those much needed extra yards, whilst also bursting out big yardage plays that make him an ideal running-back to have at your dispense. His consistency and work ethic have made him a top back in this league, as he finished the regular season with 7 rushing TD’s.

 


Team White  Sean Leamy Dublin Rebels 

Photo by Laszlo Geczo
Photo by Laszlo Geczo

Leamy’s move from the Reapers to the Rebels during the off-season added a much needed boost to the Dubliners backfield with the loss of Simon Mackey; and Leamy’s performances didn’t disappoint. He struck up an impressive backfield tandem with Kevin Finnegan, as the pair caused all sort’s of problems to opposing defences. Leamy is a quick, elusive and dangerous running-back in open field that can also assist in the passing game. Sean came up clutch in numerous 2PT attempts, whilst also scoring 7 rushing and 2 passing touchdowns. His stock is on the rise very quickly in the IAFL.

 


Team Green  Ola Bademosi Trinity College 

Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao
Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao

Usually when talking about TCD running-backs, one name springs to mind. However with Rob McDowell moving to QB, it freed up Ola Bademosi to make an impact. Often the understudy, Bademosi soon became to go-to guy of the Trinity offence as he scored a handful of touchdowns in as many games. Ola offers a mix of both power and pace, a dangerous combo that had defences struggling to contain him as he rushed in for 7 touchdowns this term. His performances were the turning point in Trinity’s season that saw them clinch the south division title and a place in this years Shamrock Bowl Final.

 


Teams

Green v White

[row]

[column size='1/2']

QB James McKelvey

RB Neil Montgomery

RB Ola Bademosi

[/column]

[column size='1/2']

QB Stephen Hayes

RB Shane Gleeson

RB Sean Leamy

[/column]

[/row]


 

 Most Honourable Mentions:


Jonah Siri
 Belfast Trojans This guy is untouchable, I mean like properly untouchable! Siri topped the IAFL-2 rushing charts with 10 touchdowns, 2 ahead of is equally talented teammate Matt Armstrong, whilst also bagging 3 in the SBC. As good as his rushing ability is, his return threat on special teams is something to behold! He scored 8 touchdowns from both kickoff and punt returns, the most special team touchdowns scored by anyone this year. His return ability was noted by the Vikings in this years semi-finals, who deliberately kicked the ball out of bounds on Punt’s to avoid him. Say’s it all for a man better known as ‘Cheat-codes’.

Pete McMahon Meath Bulldogs Pete stakes his claim as the top scoring running-back in the IAFL-1 for the second consecutive year. Along with FB Alan Harvey, brother Eddie and Erin Kelly, they spearheaded the Bulldogs attack which saw them reach the semi-finals against the Waterford Wolves. Although Meath are mostly recognised for their defensive prowess, it was their running-back core that clinched them third in the division. Pete has delivered a number of big performances that kept the Bulldogs in the running and he once again proved himself to be the top back in the division with 5 rushing touchdowns and 2 receiving TDs.

Gareth Miller Carrickfergus Knights The Knights season didn’t go exactly as they had planned. They were staring relegation in the face for much of the year after their season began to derail following a loss to the Panthers and injuries in key places. It took a while to get going but the Knights were in a playoff for relegation several times in the last number of weeks and it was Millers stellar close to the season that may have just saved them. A late season push saw him rack up a total of 6 TDs for the year and more important than the final number was how important each of those scores was. The Knights awarded him the offensive MVP because when the chips were down, Miller came though.

David Colvin Belfast Trojans Did anyone notice Colvin scored 8 touchdowns this year? Not at the top of the rushing chart or receiving chart but one of the most productive players out there! Colvin has been the leader of the Trojan rushing attack for years now and as Neil Montgomery, Matt Armstrong and Even Johnathan Siri has seen their carries and scores go up, David Colvin has continued to make significant contributions to a team loaded with talent on offence and defence. Sometimes the guys that do it all suffer on lists like this one since they’re not the top in any category but if you were putting a team together from scratch David Colvin would be an extremely good start

Next up on NFL-Irelands ‘Team of the Year’ countdown: Wide-Receivers

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!

Semi Final Preview: Dublin Rebels @ Trinity College

Semi Final Preview: Dublin Rebels @ Trinity College 

thumb_DRlogo Dublin Rebels @ Trinity College thumb_TCDlogo  – 1pm.

The first game in the double header is a replay of last years showdown between Trinity College and the Dublin Rebels, that saw the students reach their first ever final with a 47-8 victory over their Dublin foes.

Bademosi produced TCD's greatest rushing threat. Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao
Bademosi produced TCD’s greatest rushing threat. Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao
Trinity College started the 2015 campaign in unusually sluggish fashion, as they fell victim to a 14-0 defeat against the Vikings in the opening game. It appeared the after-effect of last seasons Shamrock Bowl loss threatened to derail the student’s season, however it only sparked the finalists into life, as they won their last 7 games to finish (7-1) and defend their South Division title.

Their defining victory of the season came in their league encounter with the Rebels, when the students came back from  from 3 scores down and win 29-28!

Once they found their feet, Trinity’s performances proved irresistible. Converting 202 points, 28 touchdowns and surrendering only 92, they quickly began to show signs of their unbeaten 2014 form. Dynamic duo, Dan Finnamore and Rob McDowell couldn’t quite reach the dizzying standards they set last term, however their offence is still brimming with quality, with Running-Back Ola Bademosi have a particularly good year as he finished the teams top scorer with 7 touchdowns.


The Dublin Rebels will occupy the other sideline this weekend as they clinched second spot in the SBC North, before defeating the Craigavon Cowboys in the resulting wildcard bout. The 7 time champions put in their best performance of the year in the playoff game, as they showed why they are the most successful team in Irish American Football, winning 62-19 against a spirited Cowboys outfit.

The Rebels endured a mixed season, finishing (5-3) and losing to two of the other semi-finalists during the campaign. However solid victories against the South Dublin Panthers and fellow divisional rivals put them in commanding position to secure their playoff spot.

TE Paul Grogan will be a key target on Sunday. Photo by John Whealan
TE Paul Grogan will be a key target on Sunday. Photo by John Whealan
On paper, the Rebels rank lowest out of the four playoff sides but never underestimate the quality that they posses. Veteran Quarterback, Andrew Dennehy was effective as ever, connecting for 10 touchdowns this year whilst the backfield tandem of Sean Leamy and Kevin Finnegan combined for a total of 12 rushing scores. Offensive production was fluent as always, as the Dubliners scored 168 points over 8 games, however defensive struggles saw them leak 132 during that period.

The Rebels have one of the most experienced sides in the league and have been contesting for the Shamrock Bowl since they formed in 1995. They set themselves high standards every year, so expect them to do whatever it takes to reach the final this August.

 

Last season’s result was a blowout victory for Trinity, however the match-up earlier in the campaign would suggest that this semi-final will be more closely contested. Both sides won their recent games in convincing fashion and will enter the fixture in promising form. The Rebels and Trinity have never been short on quality and their squads will give them plenty to be confident about. Starting quickly could be the difference in this match as neither can afford to go too far behind early on. This will be an interesting fixture to spectate, but who will come out on top? Will it be the experienced Dublin Rebels, or the speed and quickness of Trinity College?

 

Paul Grogan: ‘This is why we play football!’

Paul Grogan: ‘This is why we play football!’
The Dublin Rebels are Ireland’s most successful American Football team. Founded in 1995, the Rebels have gone on to win 7 National Champions and several European accolades on their way to greatness.

This Sunday at Seapoint Rugby Club, they will be hoping to take one step closer to a record 8th Shamrock Bowl win when they take on the Craigavon Cowboys in the wildcard round.

We have already spoken to Cowboy’s star man, Peter Loughran about how he feels heading into the game. Now we will hear from Rebels Tight-End, Paul Grogan who will be lining up on the opposite sideline in this crucial divisional knockout game.

The Dublin outfit started the season off in similar fashion to the Cowboys, as they suffered narrow defeats to University pair, Trinity College and UCD. However victories against the Cowboys, Panthers and Vikings helped propel the Rebels into the post-season with a respectable (5-3) finish.

Their opening losses to the year effectively saw the Dubliners lose touch of the Trojans in the race for the division title, but the Rebels set themselves high expectations and we will expect better of themselves come the playoff’s.

‘On the face of it we’ve had a mixed season. Going 5-3 during the regular season suggests that. We have a young squad with a large influx of rookies, who are now all contributing greatly across the squad. When it comes down to it we were two individual plays away from being 7-1 on the season.’

‘As it is with every season, the Rebels making the playoffs is the absolute minimum. That has been achieved so I would say a lot done, a lot more to do’.

The playoff’s offer a fresh start for many teams. It allows for the opportunity to evaluate previous performances and make necessary adjustments that will prove crucial in the long run. Paul knows exactly what the Rebels need to improve on going forward.

‘Execution! We were two plays off being 7-1 this season and that came down to execution. A lot of football has been played since then, a lot work put in, fine tuning. If we can execute to the level we are capable of, we are a match-up nightmare!’

Paul has seen a lot of success during his playing career. He has played a part in two of the Rebels championship wins since he joined in 2007, whilst also winning a state championship in Australia with the Perth Blitz. Despite his own personal accolades, he’s always happy to see his team succeed.

‘Well, obviously I think I’ve been spectacular all year, as I’m sure I will attest to. I’m sure anyone that’s watched our games would give you a less biased, more accurate summation. Really for me it’s all about the team first and if I’m doing my job well, it means that the plethora of other weapons we have can shine, as they have done!
I’ve seen a lot of extra coverages on me or teams putting their best player on me and I take that as a huge compliment, but like I said, team first’.

The Rebels lost a number of key players during the off-season, particularly offensive weapons like Chris Purdy and Simon Mackey. However players like Sean Leamy, Sean Douglas and Kevin Finnegan have all stepped up to fill the void and have performed exceptionally over the course of the season. With that in mind, Paul is adamant that the Rebels will be in strong contention for the Shamrock Bowl this summer.

‘As I mentioned before, making the playoff’s is an absolute minimum. This squad is not only capable of making the Bowl game, but more than capable of winning it all. We have absolute ballers on both sides of the football and between Andrew Dennehy and Ross McCooey, we have two of the best football minds Ireland has produced. They’re not bad players either’.

Before they can think about appearing in the final, the Rebels have the small task of two games to win, starting with the Craigavon Cowboys on Sunday. Two of oldest sides in Ireland have clashed hundreds of times over the course of their clubs lifespan, and Paul knows exactly what to expect from his opponents this weekend.

‘In short, it won’t be different. With the Cowboys, you know exactly what you’re going to get. A tough, physical, old-school slug fest! They’re going to run the football right at you, and tell you “try to stop us”. More recently they’ve added a very good passing game to their playbook, with a number of good pass-catchers.

 

‘Of course you guys have talked about Peter Loughran several times, I think everyone in the league knows how good he is, and in order to beat the Cowboys, you have to stop him!’

Two very physical and experienced sides that know everything there is to know about each other will go head-to-head this Sunday, with the definite goal to progress to the semi-finals. It’s a simple case of do or die now and for either the Cowboy’s or the Rebels, one teams season will live to fight another day, whilst the others hopes will be crushed.

‘It’s going to take four full quarters of punishing football that could go right to the final whistle. As the Cowboys proved, they are capable of making late comebacks, with their late showing against the Knights. Couple that with the fact we dropped two games that we were controlling in similar fashion, means that this game could come down to the wire’.

‘ However, this is why we play football! We’re prepared and ready, and I can’t wait!’

Wildcard game: Craigavon Cowboys @ Dublin Rebels: Seapoint RFC, Dublin – 2pm.

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!