IAFA 2016 Week 1 Preview

IAFA 2016

IAFA Fixtures this weekend

This Weekends Fixtures

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Wind, rain, orange weather alert followed by storms and flooding, this winter has been brutal! Teams have announced their dissolution and changed their minds. Recruitment drives have gone suspiciously late into February for some and others have been worryingly quiet on that front.

Thank [insert preferred deity here] it’s over!

The IAFA site is still under construction so tracking the fixtures is still getting there but we’ve got you covered (as you can see above). We have three potentially very tasty games this weekend across two IAFA Divisions

Louth Mavericks @ West Dublin Rhinos

The IAFL1 has been won the last two years by teams relegated from the SBC. The presence of the Trojans 2nds might scupper that run but the Rhinos would be considered by many to be favourites to return to the SBC at the first time of asking, either by winning the division or the fact that the Trojans 2nds can’t be promoted. The Rhinos have a quality of pedigree and a lot of experience at the top level among their squad. The IAFL1 is intensely hard to predict week to week but the guile of some of the more experienced Rhinos may give them the edge against some of the lesser experienced IAFL1 teams. The Rhinos have parted ways with their Head Coach in the offseason and Defensive Coach Robbie Andrews has stepped into the breach, a mean defence was already a staple of the Rhinos identity but a stripped down more aggressive offence will suit the IAFL1 and the Rhinos; who have at times looked lost trying to move the ball in recent seasons.

The Mavericks have already done the hard part. Set up the club and keep it going. As the recent turmoil with the Titans and, as many of the Louth men will be familiar with, Drogheda Lightning shows it’s not so easy to keep the show on the road and if anything stability has been a victory for them. Now it’s time to turn that to success off the field into results on it. The Mavs have been hit on miss on the field. At times showing great potential and pace but overall inconsistency has let them down trying to turn their potential into points. That being said they weren’t too far away from the shake up at the close of 2015 and this season the realistic goal has to be the bowl game. Getting stuck in the mud in the IAFL1 for long periods of time will ultimately be detrimental to a teams development. The Wolves, Dragons and Reapers were the first graduates of the division and the Reapers and Dragons (now Panthers) haven’t come back and the Wolves are only still in the division by choice. Settling in in the IAFL1 is not something a team with any sort of ambition should do and it should now be the ambition of the Mavs to move up.

Kick off is at 1pm, Castleknock College.

Trinity College Dublin @ University College Dublin

Gone is Rob McDowell, Alex Gurney & Dan Finnamore. For now anyway. Could we be witnessing a power shift between the academics of Dublin. Tom Donovan’s heart attack inducing runs and deadly accurate passing in 2015 has earned him an international call up and that was his first full year at the helm of the UCD offence. Evolving the offence to further suit the lightening quick quarterback could put UCD within swinging distance of the Bowl Game. A new coaching set up in place has 2016 looking like a year full of potential for UCD.

That being said, you don’t go to two bowls in a row on the back of three players, talented as they are. Trinity have some speedsters of their own and Ola Bademosi and the next generation of students need to seize upon the impetus generated by their alumni. Never the biggest team but playing with a relentless attitude and dogged spirt has been one of the keys to success of Trinity and that appears to be still intact. Smaller teams usually collapse under the intense physical pressure placed on them by the likes of Belfast and UL. Trinity have won the SBC South the last two years and are the only team to beat the Trojans in four years. Containing the frequent ad-libbing of Donovan and establishing their run game will be key against what is now an experienced UCD Linebacking Corps.

Speed is the name of the game for both of these teams and if you can’t get to Limerick this is a game that could go a long way to determining the SBC South Champion in 2016.

Kick is at 1pm, UCD Sports Complex

Belfast Trojans @ University of Limerick Vikings

The Trojans have only really been tested by two teams in recent times; Trinity College Dublin and the University of Limerick Vikings. Scheduling has meant that these games usually come late in the year but the stars have aligned and we should be in for a treat this weekend. The College & University based teams customarily begin their seasons early and this year, with the Trojans playing a huge amount of football, the Belfast outfit are getting underway early too.

So, in theory, with everyone healthy (and not suspended) these teams should be as close to full strength as they’ll be all year. Recently this commentator spotted a comment on an IAFA thread waxing lyrical about about the good oul days ‘It was a different type of football then, lot of emphasis on hard hitting, blocking and tackling’. Anyone who has seen UL and Belfast games in recent years know nothing has changed. These teams don’t employ too much flair but the beauty in their execution of the simplest of football basics is undeniable. The hardest hitters, the best blockers and the most punishing of tacklers will be on show Sunday in Limerick.

Belfast are an intriguing prospect seeking a record equalling, 5th successive Shamrock Bowl. James McKelvey threw 20 Touchdown passes in 2015 and David Richardson drew more and more blanket coverage as the year wore on. 11 TD grabs, leading all non QBs, would suggest it didn’t work. Richardson missed the Shamrock Bowl after being ejected in the Semi Final vs Limerick. The intrigue, David Colvin moving to receiver and excelling in the Shamrock Bowl. The rise of Jonathan Siri for the Trojans (who also played wide in the Bowl) and the ever dominant Neil Montgomery could offer a quadrumvirate of attacking options the likes of which we’ve never seen on the Island. Oh yeah and the O-line and Defence are capable of winning games on their own if you wanted to put four 11 year old girls at those positions.

Limerick, by the time the Semi Final rolled around last summer, were lacking some of their vital components and it was a very tight game still. They’ll go into this weekend, having bolstered their ranks and welcoming back some of those integral parts. Sean Goldrick missed a chunk of last season but made a big impact on the Semi Final. Ian Cahill, though vast in experience has another year under his belt at the helm of the offence and that offence as a result should blossom. The x-factor here in our humble opinion is the possible return of Adrian Garvey. Garvey has been among the finest backs in the country for a long time now and if he’s ready to go it could give the Vikings offence that last little push, to possibly overcome the exceptional Belfast defence. Shane Gleeson lead the league in rushing touchdowns in 2015 and Garvey was heading that direction before injury took him down; indicating that this offensive line is among the finest out there and the rumour is, a few additions, mean it’s better again this year. Defensively, Limerick have all the parts in all the right places. Up to his ejection, Richardson had been kept largely in check in the Semi Final and Trojan run game didn’t have it all their own way. Glen Carr & Co will see no reason why they can’t keep this Trojan offence under wraps again.

If you’re a fan of football in Ireland and you’re not associated with UCD, Trinity, Mavericks or the Rhinos. You should be at this game. End of.

Kickoff is at 1pm, UL Sports Grounds

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.

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!

IAFL 1 Preview

Photograph Mullingar Minotaurs Facebook.

Following UCDs steamrolling the division in 2014, the teams competing for honours in IAFL 1 will look to 2015 as a renewed opportunity to shine. With Waterford back in the pack and the Titans and Mavericks added to the mix, the brand of football in in Irelands second tier is set to take another step forward this season. The division has already proven a huge success developing of talent and fostering fledgling teams into stable and competitive outfits and thus makes the job of assessing them let alone accurately predicting the outcome of games with any sort of confidence extremely difficult, but here we go.

Cork Admirals @ Waterford Wolves

Sunday 22nd of March – 2pm

One prediction that is comfortable to make, that if this game turns out to be a preview of the IAFL 1 Bowl Game, nobody will be surprised. Cork, getting over the initial hiccups in their opening game last season, arguably were one of the more impressive units in the country let alone the division. A team on the brink of collapse just 2 short years ago, took a small squad all the way to the inaugural IAFL 1 Bowl Game and managed to do it with a brand of football that found several of their players in contention for selection in the Ireland side. Waterford landed hard in the SBC. Zero wins and some very tough defeats saw their psyche tested as much as their physique. Credit must be paid to the Board of the IAFL here, before the formation of IAFL1 teams coming off 0-8 punishing seasons were almost certainly due to suffer the same fate year on year, threatening squad size and the very existence of the club. Not so anymore. Waterford will now have the opportunity to rebuild morale and faith in their system and ensure their next spell in the SBC is more profitable than 2014.

Cork have a successful 2014 under their belt, the defence was one of the best around in IAFL1 last year (opening weekend excluded) and QB Steve Hayes is among an incredibly impressive crop of young Quarterbacks coming through in Ireland. They have all the tools to win this division and most definitely the ability to win this game. Waterford have talent on their roster still and will have every faith in their ability to win games this year but opening against the Divisions strongest team may prove too tough an ask as they look to revive their fortunes.

Our prediction Admirals Win
 Dundalk Mavericks @ Mullingar Minotaurs

Sunday 22nd of March – 2pm

Another team that will fancy themselves a contender come July will be the Mullingar Minotaurs. The Minotaurs enter their 3rd year of competitive football looking to impose themselves on every game this season in ways they only managed intermittently last year. The Midlands side boast a squad capable of matching any for physicality and back that up with an impressive run game, a fast and physical defence and explosive ability in all areas. The task for Mullingar in 2015 will be to apply this consistently and win games this year that narrowly slipped away in the last campaign. Dundalk find themselves similar to the Minotaurs in a lot of ways at an earlier stage of development. A lot of talent on both sides of the ball in need of refinement. Tyrone set themselves apart in IAFL2 last year and anyone who watched the match ups between the Titans and the Mavericks would tell you that both sides are comparable in terms of ability but the execution is there on a consistent basis with the Northerners and at times is AWOL in Dundalk.

Mullingar will need to stay disciplined to contain some of the very real threats possessed by the side from the wee county. That same discipline will be the difference for Dundalk this season. Maintain it and they have a very real chance of upsetting established teams sleeping on the weapons they posses. Lose it; and teams a little further along in their development, such as Cork, could put them to the sword in a very damaging way. The matchup with the Minotaurs will offer them a real yardstick in assessing their development having so far only competed against teams clearly inferior and only the Titans to measure themselves against.  Mullingar, so long the underdogs, will go into this game as favourites and don’t posses the mentality to take any victory for granted until it’s won. They won’t give Dundalk anything for free.

Our prediction. Minotaurs Win!

IAFL 1 Preview

Year 3 of, what it can now be fair to say, has been the hugely successful IAFL 1. Tier 2 has provided some of the most entertaining and competitive football in the land for the last few years, due in large part to it’s unpredictability. The Reapers winning the inaugural year of the Championship in their debut season and a reformed Cork outfit surprising all with a bowl run last year being among the pleasant surprises offered up so far. So with all that said, we are going to attempt to predict the outcome!


11004412_10152562488397735_9929895_nCork Admirals

Prediction 1st
The Admirals were an impressive unit after a successful reformation last season. Cork have some imposing Offensive talent to call on in the shape of QB Steve Hayes, WR John Madden & RB Shane Cullinan but something that goes unnoticed is the quiet way in which the Ads defence dominates. The Admirals shipped 104 points in 8 games last year, more than half of those in the first game against UCD, who racked up 54 points. While that isn’t exactly and advertisement for a great defence that was the first game the Admirals had played in nearly a year, a year in which the club had been entirely rebuilt. Through the remaining 7 games the Admirals never allowed more that 1 touchdown per game. They’ve also beefed up along the Offensive Line heading into 2015 and giving Hayes, one of the most promising talents around the country, even more time to dissect defences.

Meath BulldogsMeath Bulldogs
Prediction 3rd
2014 was a tale of 2 seasons for the Bulldogs. Through the first 4 games the Bulldogs were uncharacteristically lethargic. A team with 4 years experience and most of the key parts intact expected better results against Cork & Mullingar and after an impressive Defensive outing in game 1 against UCD; folded to a 44-8 loss less than 2 months later. Half way though the season saw a coaching change with Head Coach and Team Founder Garland Drake departing. Racking up 3 wins in the remaining 4 games and Bulldogs work horse Pete McMahon firing into life topping the IAFL 1 scoring charts showed that this team certainly had the talent to challenge all along. In 2015, with new Head Coach Peter Smyth in place and a host of new talent added to the already strong roster the Bulldogs will likely consider anything less than a bowl appearance as a failure. This 3rd prediction isn’t a 1st or 2nd prediction because there is always uncertainty with a new system and coaching staff but if the Bulldogs excel in even the very basics they will be right in the shake up come July.

Dundalk MavericksDundalk Mavericks
Prediction 6th
Dundalk were a cut above Galway & South Kildare in 2014 but fell a notch short of Tyrone. Dundalk are brimming with raw talent. Declan Mulvihill is a terror on both offence and defence, Matthew Hagan has immense speed and impact potential and Rob Shevlin is all impact. The Mavericks were born out of the belief that they could forge their own path and they will need to continue with the progress made in their rookie year. A major step up for Dundalk will come in the form of physicality; Mullingar, Meath, Cork & Waterford are far from soft and squad size and injuries play a greater role when the physical demands are stepped up as they will be on Dundalk this season. Dundalk do posses great experience as mentioned above but the true test will be on those players that played their rookie season last year. They will believe they are up to it and if they are they have all the assets needed to hold their own in this unpredictable division.

Mullingar MinotaursMullingar Minotuars 
Prediction 2nd
Mullingar didn’t get off to the powerful start that the Reapers and Wolves did in their inaugural season but the leap that was made between Year 1 & Year 2 was monumental. Mullingar were a power in 2014. The Minotuars season was 2 touchdowns away from the Bowl Game. Unfortunate to meet a possessed Bulldogs team, fresh off losing their Head Coach, on the 4th of July and narrowly losing by a score to Cork, reversals in those games would have seen a much different hue on their 2014 season. If the Minotuars replicate the off season improvement of 2014; the 2015 edition of Mullingar won’t fear any challenge. Mullingar do need more production on offence and Coach Paddy Lally will be well aware of where the improvement is required. Best placement of their talents will be key in 2015 and perhaps weakening an impressive defence to better balance the strength on offence will be something  facing Coach Lally. Mullingar have the potential to dominate in the trenches on both sides of the ball and if they do, the Bowl Game awaits.

Tyrone TitansTyrone Titans
Prediction 5th
Hard to tell how any team will respond to the step up in standard as we mentioned earlier but best placed will be Tyrone. Coach Paul Braniff worked this largely under experienced group into a powerful football team in 2014. They would most certainly have competed in IAFL1 last season and they totally dominated in IAFL2. They have kept the vital components of that team together and boast some of the best young talent out there. Daniel Mullan and Ryan Brolly are two of the brightest talents we have on the Island. The Titans haven’t spent too long congratulating themselves in the off season and Coach Braniff hasn’t wasted a breath in adding to his Coaching staff. Former Craigavon Cowboy and IAFL Legend Bobby ‘Moose’ Murray has joined as Defensive Coordinator and former Trojan Gary Carr has joined as Offensive Coordinator. The Titans will certainly have a new look in 2015 but if they maintain their commitment to excellence that saw them soar above all others in IAFL2, more than a few in IAFL1 will find themselves on the unpleasant end of a beating from the North Westerners.

Waterford WolvesWaterford Wolves
Prediction 4th
Harsh to suggest that a team that could reasonably considered favourites, will finish 4th? As with all predictions there has to be a certain amount of ‘ifs’ you take as certainties. If Waterford replicate their aggressive and fast moving pace of play they displayed in 2013 we will be wrong! If the lethargy with which some of their performances in 2014 were put together repeat, we will be right! 68-0 embarrassments should never happen, short of the opponent being comprised of high level American College football players. 0-8 seasons are damaging for the psyche and the response to them can be difficult to predict. Faced with a lower standard of over all opponent this season, if Waterford expect an easy time of it, hoping to face the standard of the teams they did 2 years ago a terrible shock awaits. IAFL1 is stronger now than it was when Waterford racked up 6 wins in 2013. If the drubbing that was 2014 acts as a motivator and sees efforts redoubled with the aim of handing out some beatings like the ones they were on the receiving end of last season, the Wolves have the ability and the talent to top the division.

The IAFL 1 is immensely difficult to predict and if the inverse of all of these predictions result nobody here will be surprised. With a Bowl Game and International games looming at the end of the season the motivation for excellence has never been higher in the second tier. We for one are