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.

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.

SBC Week 11: Game Previews

American Football Ireland

IAFL Week 11: Game Previews

Our Game Previews and American Football returns to its full compliment as we once again have an action packed weekend of games, with 6 fixtures across 3 tiers to sink our teeth into. We have 3 interdivisional SBC games on hand, 2 very important IAFL-1 games and a double header at Deramore Park. Every game in the league is important, but it’s even more so with only a number of games left on each teams calendar, and there’s still so much to play for!

Carrickfergus Knights(1-2) @ Belfast Trojans (4-0) – Deramore Park, 1pm

The return leg of this heated derby game takes place at Deramore Park this weekend, with the Trojans looking to extend their unbeaten streak in the league and the Knights seeking to close the gap to the Dublin Rebels.

After a solid start to the campaign, the Knights have faltered over the last few games, suffering defeats to both the Panthers and this weekends opposition. Fate is still in their hands however as with winnable games down the line and the all important division game against the Rebels, the Knights are still very capable of clinching 2nd spot in the SBC North, and they believe they have the squad to do it.

The Belfast boys a surging ahead in 2015 as they look on course to claim another division title. They comprehensively defeated the Dublin Rebels 43-8 last Saturday to likely secure top spot, with 4 games yet to play. Slowing down however is not in their nature and with 3 of their remaining games at home, it looks increasingly unlikely that anyone will be able to stop the Trojans from going 8-0 again.

The Knights will be extremely cautious not to succumb to another 50-0 hammering they suffered last season, but at the same time will need to take risks if they are to overcome the Champions. Centre, Joel Neill returns to lineup after recovering from concussion, which will be a big boost on offence. The Trojans will be looking to continue their impressive form by increasing the lead over their rivals, with the McKelvey/Richardson combination aiming to be as effective as ever on Sunday.

North Kildare Reapers (2-2) @ West Dublin Rhinos (0-4) – Castleknock College, 2pm

Two different teams on very different ends of the spectrum, one team improving and rising up the ranks, the other in free-fall. Could the end be in sight for the Rhinos?

At the beginning of the year, we predicted that the Reapers would finish 5th in our SBC South rankings, claiming that victories against the Rhinos and Cowboys would be pivotal in securing safety. Thus far they have defeated both those sides and have proven us wrong with our prediction, so kudos to them! What’s more impressive from a Reapers perspective, is that victory on Sunday would leap them ahead of both UCD and Trinity College in the rankings and our predictions may be off but nobody predicted that.

The Rhino’s presence in the SBC is hanging by a thread. No wins and 4 loses doesn’t make for good reading, especially when the West Dubliners were looking to surpass last seasons heroics and seemed to have to potential to do so. Loss on Sunday would all but condemn the Rhinos to IAFL-1 status as with the lowest points scored and most points points conceded and losses to the Reapers and Cowboys giving up the advantage in head to head. Their closing three games come against the Trojans, Trinity and Knights, it’s hard to see the Rhino’s overcoming the odds this time round.

The Reapers currently hold the head-to-head over the Rhinos with the 12-0 win on the opening day of the season, meaning the Rhinos would need to better that points difference to have any chance of securing safety. The Rhino’s offence have gradually been improving, creating chances in the redzone but they need that extra bit of composure and quality to punch it in. The Reapers will be heading into Castleknock full of confidence after a huge win against the Cowboys, but they must be wary of a potential Rhino’s backlash.

South Dublin Panthers (1-3) @ Craigavon Cowboys (1-3) – Chambers Park, 2pm

Two sides lingering precariously at the bottom, but still have aspirations for playoff football. This game could determine who will still be hunting for that wildcard spot come the end of the season, and who may miss out.

The Panthers have made impressive strides from their tenure as the Dragons, picking up a solid 21-0 win against Carrickfergus and running Trinity College very close. They have far and away the toughest schedule in the SBC, but are handling it well so far. Still, a lot of tough fixtures remain but if they can grab a win in Craigavon, and pull off a potential scalping in their remaining games, their playoff intentions in their rebuilding season will look all the more possible.

The Cowboys performances arguably deserved more than what they’ve achieved. Similar to last season, the performances are there but the end product has been lacking. The narrow defeat at away to the Reapers was a winnable game, and the last thing they need is a potential set-back with the Knights and Trojans on the horizon. Craigavon are still on course to achieve a wildcard spot and a good performance against the Panthers could see them hit stride at the perfect time.

If this match plays out anything similar to last years game, then spectators are in for a real treat! Both sides have the potential to score plenty of points so this could turn out to be another high scoring affair. Each team lacks a real rushing threat at this stage, highlighted by the main rushing scores coming courtesy of Quarterbacks Mick Duncan and Peter Loughran, so expect a lot of aerial movement and QB runs throughout the game. Last seasons encounter came to a nail biting conclusion, would it be too much to expect the same?

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

Trojans vs. Pirates: Heavyweights collide!

photo by Ariane Boudias

The current Irish National Champions, the Belfast Trojans will be travelling across the pond this weekend to face the elite side of Scottish Football, the East Kilbride Pirates.

With the IAFL season well underway and the BAFANL only a week young, this was a great opportunity for the Trojans to pit their talents against one of the best sides in the UK. The Belfast outfit have already picked up were they left off last season, by winning their opening two games against the South Dublin Panthers and North Kildare Reapers respectively.

However, after winning back to back trophies, the 3 time champions felt it was time to test themselves against the best and to really find out how they measure up to the top sides in the UK and perhaps even Europe.

The team they will be facing are the East Kilbride Pirates who have fortified themselves as the top side in Scotland and one of the premier teams throughout the UK. The team was formed in 1985 and are both the longest serving and most successful Scottish football team to date. Interesting fact, the Pirates team name was decided through a local newspaper competition despite East Kilbride having no historical link to Pirates and being miles away from any coast line.

photo by Nathan James Sharrocks
photo by Nathan James Sharrocks

The Pirates won the first ever National Championship in their history by defeating the Leicester Falcons 62-23 in 2011. Since then they have been regular attendees in the post season after winning their respective division. They have reached the semi-final stages in the last 3 campaigns, however they were defeated by the powerhouse, London Blitz on each occasion.

The Trojans and Pirates have a lot in common, despite having never played. The Belfast outfit have registered two perfect seasons in their history, going 8-0 throughout the regular season in both 2012 and 2013, before capping it off with Shamrock Bowl victories in each campaign. The Pirates on the other hand have completed three seasons unbeaten, going 10-0 in each, however they have only won 1 National Championship. However, one very impressive achievement is that the Pirates have gone 17 seasons without losing to a fellow Scottish team!

With the Trojans 2-0 already in the 2015 campaign, they will be feeling confident heading into the unknown with two victories under their belt, whilst the Pirates are yet to open their campaign. That momentum could prove beneficial as the SBC North leaders will be feeling game ready after two dominant displays. However they will be more than aware that the opposition they will be facing will be like no other. This could be the toughest game the champions have ever faced. This will certainly prove if the Trojans are capable of hanging with the big boys and if they deserve to be mentioned in the same sentence as some of the elite sides across the United Kingdom.

It’s going to be a fantastic game for the neutrals, promising to be a blockbuster! The Pirates have a wealth of experience and a very talented roster across all phases of the team, with many of their roster established members of the Great Britain National side. The Trojans have their own weapons though, and the Pirates would be silly to take them lightly. For arguably the first time, the Trojans will be considered the underdogs in this one!

They have more than enough quality to hold their own however, but key players will need to raise their game as this is a step-up in competition. QB James McKelvey and WR David Richardson will need maintain their near psychic connection to breakdown a stout Pirates defence that only conceded 23 points in the 2014 regular season. The ‘Walls of Troy’ will also face an incredibly difficult challenge trying to prevent a punishing Pirates run-game, however if anyone is capable of stopping the East Kilbride offence, it would be the Trojan’s D.

Regardless of where you are from in Ireland and no matter what team you represent, keep a very close eye on this match as the Belfast Trojans will be going all out to make a statement for Irish American Football this Saturday. This will be a guaranteed colossal game of football between two heavyweight sides and it will be a comparison of Irelands finest against Scotland’s finest. The Green Machine is coming!

Kickoff is 2pm at Hamilton Rugby Club, be sure to follow Twitter and Facebook for score updates.

IAFL Week 6 Previews

photo by John Whealan
We were wandering around NFL-Ireland towers this week and we thought to ourselves ‘Don’t we usually have previews done by now’ and then we remember this happened…
11124561_10204517621432772_7889429858869571324_n
This is Scott Morrow and he normally writes our previews and someone broke his leg for him playing football. We wish Scott a speedy recovery and ask you to bear with us as we try to live up to the very fine writing he normally produces here.

Week 6 Shamrock Bowl Conference
North Kildare Reapers @ UL Vikings

UL Sports Grounds 1pm
The first of a Kildare verses Limerick double header this weekend as Reapers North and Soldiers South head to UL to face Vikings 1st and 2nds. North Kildare are coming off a very tough loss to the Trojans but the manner of the loss rather than the method was the tough part. Not a first down all day and 36 points going the other way makes for a mentally punishing day as well as a physically punishing one; as it often is against the Trojans. They won’t find the Vikings in an any more forgiving a mood. UL have 3 wins in the bag and all against division foes. They will likely guarantee themselves a playoff spot with a win in this game and thus having beaten everyone in the division will possess a psychological advantage to boot. UL put the Rhinos to the sword in their last outing and will be attempting to do the same to the Reapers this weekend, taking them into the midseason unbeaten. It will be an uphill battle for the Reapers to get a win out of this game but if they are to stand a chance they will need to rebound from last weeks demolition. Short of confidence is never description applied to the Kilcock crew and they will arrive in Limerick ready for the fight that awaits.

South Dublin Panthers @ Carrickfergus Knights

Carrickfergus RFC 2pm
Carrickfergus have set a strong tone in their sole outing so far this year. Defeating Northern Neighbours, the Cowboys, they were impressive on offence racking up 5 TDs and in a game that was well won only allowing 2. The Panthers inversely have yet to get going on offence failing to score a touchdown so far. Opening their season with both of last years Shamrock Bowl finalists would have been a tough ask for anyone and the Panthers, although going down to 5 scores to the Trojans, brought Trinity to the wire. Relying on your defence will only get you so far though and the offence will need to begin producing drives and scores soon. Carrickfergus will see this as an opportunity to be 2-0 in the division before the sterner tests of the Trojans and Rebels later in the year and will look to take momentum into those games.

Craigavon Cowboys @ Dublin Rebels

Seapoint Rugby Club 2pm
The Rebels Offence has hit the ground running putting up 6 scores in 2 games. Missing Simon Mackey hasn’t slowed them down with Kevin Finnegan picking up the mantle and rushing with it to 3 of those touchdowns. The defence on the other hand has gone uncharacteristically soft giving up a big lead to Trinity and allowing some vital scores against UCD. The Rebels would be the first to tell you this isn’t what they expect of themselves and will look to put a stop to it here and now. The Rebels have one of the toughest schedules out there and will know they can’t throw away another game with the Trojans looking in top form and UL dominating. Craigavon, although giving up a big score to the Knights, will feel they’re better than that result showed. They have some excellent offensive threats and given the recent fragility of the Rebels defence will feel confident they can get some joy out of their offensive weapons. Defensively they will know it needs to be better. The Rebels are flying on offence and if they get going early could be very tough to stop. The Cowboys will have to come out all guns blazing on Defence to slow them down, stay in the game and put the Rebels in another tight game.

IAFL 1
Mullingar Minotuars @ Cork Admirals

Dolphin RFC 2pm
These two teams couldn’t have gotten off to a more different start. Mullingar would have been considered favourites taking on the Mavericks in their first IAFL1 outing. Dundalk impressed and Mullingar floundered with an under strength side. Cork on the other hand were expecting a tough outing away from home against a Wolves side regrouping after relegation from the SBC. Cork excelled, QB Stephen Hayes put on an air show and Nick Coffi proved impossible to cover, yet again. The trip to Cork isn’t an easy one and not to be ignored for Mullingar will be the preparation for the game as much as the game itself. Cork, on their first outing in Dolphin RFC, will take their expanded squad and look to further solidify themselves as the favourites for promotion to the SBC. Mullingar will look to turn their fortunes around by taking the scalp of the team most have marked on their calendars and force themselves back into the conversation following a bad start.

Tyrone Titans @ Dundalk Mavericks

DKIT 2pm
When we did our season preview we predicted that the Mavericks would finish sixth and the Titans fifth. After just one week they’ve shown us what we know. Both took victory over IAFL1 vets and did it by some margin. They renew their rivalry now in pastures new. Following the opening week both will fancy themselves as playoff contenders and as much as this rivalry matters to both the victory will matter that much more. The Titans are 3-0 in this matchup but Dundalk have made strides since the last outing and they’ve become progressively tighter games each time. Dundalk will feel confident at home and the Titans are riding an 8 game win streak; if you’re in the area this will be the one to watch.

IAFL 2
South Kildare Soldiers @ University of Limerick Vikings 2nds

UL Sports Grounds 4pm
The last game of the weekend and the 2nd in the Kildare verses Limerick Double Header. So much of development football is about learning and the Soldiers will have an opportunity to get a great look at one of the very best out there. The 2nds team of UL possess some of their best talent and some of this team will have already played games against Spanish opposition earlier in the year and in the College Championship. The Soldiers are in year 2 and should be ready to be more efficient and better organised both sides of the ball. Recent new startups, Reapers, Wolves, Titans and Mavericks have show how good you can get in a short space of time and the Soldiers should be using this year to prepare themselves to compete in next years IAFL1. They will get a great opportunity this weekend to compete with a team at the highest level.

SBC Power Rankings

With a break in the schedule and all but the IAFL 2 underway we thought this pause would be a terrific opportunity to take on our first power rankings of the year. Based entirely on our own opinion and the opinions of some trusted advisors, if you disagree with these assessments feel free to let us know and prove us wrong where it counts, between the white lines!

1. Belfast Trojans thumb_BTlogo

Trojans have opened the season with two wins and two 30+ point outings. SBC sophomores, Panthers and Reapers, were never in danger of causing an upset on either occasion but tougher tests lie ahead for the Green Machine and 2015 has started exactly as everyone would expect from the 3 time champions, dominantly.

thumb_ULlogo2. University College Limerick Vikings unnamed-3

UL have opened their season in equally dominant style. 10 touchdowns and 3 wins in the bag, UL would have every right to feel they should be top of this list. With wins already against UCD & Trinity, the SBC South is the Vikings to lose at this point but students won’t accept anything but a date at Tallaght Stadium and a Waterford Crystal Bowl as success this season.

3. University College Dublin thumb_UCDlogo

After sweeping the IAFL1 aside last year UCD have shown the SBC they haven’t been resting in their year off from top flight action. A narrow defeat to a very strong UL side and a nail biter against the Rebels show that UCD belong with the pace setters in the SBC. Pace and aggression in abundance mean UCD can have the very realistic expectation of playing in the post season and not just the wild cards.

4. Trinity College Dublinthumb_TCDlogo

Trinity blazed through 2014 but are finding 2015 a little tougher to ignite. A terrific comeback against the Rebels proved last years determination is still there but the loss to UL and the narrow win against the Panthers show their are still questions to be answered before Trinity are feared the way the 2014 incarnation was.

5. Dublin Rebelsthumb_DRlogo

Rebels kick off to Trinity after another score.. 28-07 mid Q3

Posted by Dublin Rebels on Sunday, 22 March 2015

The Rebels will feel a little hard done by so far. Two losses in a row by only a single point each time is a cruel twist of fate. The Rebels find themselves only short of UL & Belfast in terms of points scored and if they can begin keeping teams out of the end zone they will shoot up this chart and the one that matters. A tough schedule for the Dublin contingent of the SBC North, see the Rebels with Trojans, UL & Trinity on their schedule meaning the Rebels will have to hit form soon as this season could quickly get away from them.

6. Carrickfergus Knightsthumb_CKlogo

A dark horse their emblem and and a dark horse their team.  The Knights were dominant in their only outing so far this season and perhaps only find themselves in the bottom half of this list only due to lack games to judge. Carrick are powerful on offence and defence and have the ability to punish lesser teams and make life very tough for those above them.

7. Craigavon Cowboysthumb_CClogo

The Cowboys were perhaps a little unlucky in some of the breaks in their season opener agains the Knights. A video of a touchdown ‘pass’ to a fullback who looked convinced it was a run play and duely carried it the yard into the end zone just an example of how things could have been different for the Cowboys Game 1. Some of the finest players in the country occupy the Orange Jersey and expecting any different will see teams severely punished if they underestimate the Cowboys.

Unconventional TD but the Knights move clear, converting with the pass on 3rd down. Extra point is blocked. 12-26 Knights. Injuries stacking up on the sidelines for the Cowboys but credit to the Knights for their clinical finishing today

Posted by Craigavon Cowboys on Sunday, 22 March 2015

8. North Kildare Reapersthumb_reapersLogo2

The Reapers started out with a what could be an immensely important win vs their Divison rival Rhinos but then folded to a punishing defeat agains the Trojans. The 3 wins of last year could be tougher to collect with none of their former IAFL1 counterparts on the schedule and an SBC South that is soaring in quality. Game 1 could be vital for the Reapers if head to head comes into it when deciding who is headed for IAFL1 next year.

thumb_panthers9. South Dublin Panthers

The Panthers find themselves facing down a tough schedule, opening against last seasons Shamrock Bowl finalists they sit 0-2. The Panthers will need to start winning games soon if they hope to avoid being dragged into the relegation mire. They will find heart in the play and scoring of their defence but football isn’t a game of only one half.

thumb_RHlogo10. West Dublin Rhinos

An offseason full of promise has yet to materialise into results for the Rhinos. After losing to divsion rival Reapers and capitulation to UL, the Rhinos renowned stingey defence is yet to find form in 2015. They look a team struggling for identity and there are no free lunches handed out in the SBC. A reverse of the defeat against the Reapers is essential for the Rhinos or the relegation battle will be tough to win.

See how they stand right now with our full table here.

NFL-Ireland’s Week 4: ‘Team of the Week’

Team of the Week

Following an interesting Week 3, Week 4 was quite simply an incredible week in the IAFL. There was some unexpected results, a match in which spectators witnessed arguably the greatest comeback in league history and an overall dominant display from offences around the country, with a total of 179 points scored on Sunday.

Regarding this weeks selections, it was a very difficult (although pleasant) problem we had when discussing who deserved to be part of the ‘Team of the Week’ as there were so many candidates who rightly deserved their name in the spotlight with some outstanding performances. We debated and debated, but finally, this is what we came up with.

11083670_830915073628707_1757423118059373340_nQuarterback: Steve Hayes (Cork Admirals)

This was the toughest decision we made with a number of Quarterbacks standing out this week. However we gave the accolades to the Admirals, Steve Hayes. The signal-caller guided his side to a dominant 33-6 win against the Waterford Wolves by putting on an impressive passing display whilst tallying 4 touchdowns through the air to get his and Cork’s season off to a fine start. With Hayes strong passing ability, the Admirals must fancy their chances of another IAFL-1 Bowl appearance.

Running-Back: Kevin Finnegan (Dublin Rebels) 60284_10204350515952486_2917605547846204012_n

Despite the Rebels sudden collapse on Sunday, Kevin Finnegan had a fantastic game as he helped surge the Dubliners into a strong 28-7 lead in the opening three quarters. Filling in for the injured Simon Mackey, Finnegan more than impressed by rushing in 3 touchdowns against a strong Trinity defence. Although they suffered a last second defeat, the Rebels offence showed plenty of quality and Finnegan typified that.

10313723_831801610163386_7178803573875181647_nWide Receiver: Alex Gurnee (Trinity College)

Alex Gurnee helped turn Trinity’s fortunes around after reeling in some deep passes to get the students in great field position, beating his man on several one-on-one situations. He connected with Finnamore for a touchdown to get Trinity back on track before sealing a last gasp 2 point conversion with the last play of the game, despite being in double coverage. For what proved to be the most pivotal play of the week, Gurnee deserves the plaudits for showing a cool head in an ‘all or nothing‘ scenario.

Offensive-Line: Trinity College 10410636_829584267053932_5433424824698041358_n

Trinity’s OL contributed to two rushing and two passing touchdowns, whilst also holding firm on the final 2PT attempt to win the game. They were able to protect their QB long enough for him to make big passing plays, whilst also executing good blocks down field to assist the run game. Their variety of scoring drives gave Trinity’s offensive line our narrow vote this week

10431543_830915933628621_7135192034024470647_nDefence: Cork Admirals

The Admirals defence kept the Wolves at bay throughout the game, with the only score conceded coming from a fumbled punt, that was recovered and taken back for a Waterford TD. Despite this, Cork were more than able to cope with any threat posed by the Wolves offence, and had the botched punt not have occurred they would have more than likely recorded the only shutout of the week.


Honourable Mentions:

  • The Dundalk Mavericks posted their first win in the IAFL-1, as Matty Hagan made light work of the Minotaurs defence, rushing for over 100 yards, earning 3 touchdowns. He also kicked 1 FG and 2 XP’s.
  • Trinity QB Dan Finnamore engineered a late 4th quarter comeback that helped his side overturn a 21 point deficit to win the game 29-28 against the Dublin Rebels. Talk about clutch genes!
  • The Knights are stacked in quality this year, so much so that they had two Quarterbacks start in their 33-12 victory against the Cowboys. Both Josh Davis and Spencer McDowell passed for two touchdowns each.
  • Another Knights player, Marty Caskey also had a good game as he scored a touchdown and kicked 3 XP’s.
  • Finally, to complete an excellent week for the Cork Admirals players, the excellent Nick Coffi bagged two touchdowns in an impressive individual performance. He could be one to watch this year!

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!