IAFL-2 Final Preview.

IAFL-2 Final Preview.

Navan RFC will be host to the first championship games of the year as the IAFL-1 and IAFL-2 winners will be decided this Sunday. The IAFL-1 leaders, the Cork Admirals will face off against last years SBC outfit, the Waterford Wolves in the 4pm kickoff.

Before that takes place, the IAFL-2 final will take centre stage. The undefeated Belfast Trojans 2’s will take on the division veterans in the South Kildare Soldiers. The Trojans currently hold the bragging rights over their opponents, but the Soldiers wont back down from a challenge in a game that will decide who wins the war of the IAFL-2.

SKS South Kildare Soldiers @ Belfast Trojans 2’s thumb_BTlogo – Navan RFC, 1pm.

The Soldiers regular season performances showed solid improvement, picking up a few extra wins than they achieved in their debutant year. They started off in excellent spirit too, dispatching a dangerous UL Viking’s side in convincing fashion. They couldn’t translate that form into their next two games however, as last seasons sparring partners, the Galway Warriors handed them their first defeat of the season, which was followed by a 63-0 demolition job by the Trojans. They did finish out the year strongly however, winning 2 of their last 3 games. Both victories came against the Donegal/Derry Vipers, including the 54-36 score-fest at Cill Dara, the highest scoring game in the entire IAFL this year.

team of the week
Eoin Whelan scored 10 TD’s for the Soldiers

The Soldiers finished (3-3) a good effort in a much improved division. They narrowly ousted rivals the Warriors in the race for second, due to Galway losing their last remaining game; they have the Vipers to thank for that! The highest scoring player for the Soldiers was QB Eoin Whelan, who threw for 6 passing touchdowns as well as rushing for 4 touchdowns this season. Wide Receiver Lee Moore also contributed to 3 receptions as the Soldiers rounded out their 6 games with 97 points for and 157 against, a good sign of progression.

The Trojans have a roster stacked in ability that has easily translated over to the IAFL-2. The rookies and second string players have made strong cases for first team selection as they swept aside every challenger they faced in the division. They went about their business in commanding fashion, showing complete dominance in every aspect of the game by winning each of their 6 games (including the Rhinos which was considered a forfeit) as they eclipsed an unbeaten regular season, similarly to their teammates in the SBC. They have accomplished what’s been asked of them, so lifting the IAFL-2 trophy would cap off a terrific season.

The seconds accumulated a staggering 315 pts, averaging a mind-blowing 52.5 points per game. They

Jonah 'Cheat-codes' Siri has proven himself to be a dangerous return threat. Photo by Paul Talbot Photography
Jonah ‘Cheat-codes’ Siri has proven himself to be a dangerous return threat. Photo by Paul Talbot Photography

only conceded 40 points over that span, with the Vipers scoring 20 of them. Quarterback, Kris Donaghy connected for 9 touchdowns whilst the quartet of Jonah Siri, Matt Armstrong, Peter Robert and Donaghy contributed to 25 rushing touchdowns between them. Tight-End Tom Montgomery also came in with 4 receiving scores. Arguably the most electrifying player in sports entertainment, (not the Rock this time!) was Jonah Siri, who scored 5 special teams TD’s and proved seemingly untouchable.

The Belfast Trojans ‘B’ team will hoping to add to the clubs honours, by adding their first IAFL-2 title to the growing trophy collection. A win would also bring great momentum heading into the National Championship game on August 9th. The South Kildare Soldiers, a much rejuvenated side from last season will no doubt have the odd’s stacked against them but football can be very unpredictable, particularly in a final, so don’t expect them to bow down to their fierce enemies this Sunday. Anything is possible!

Coming up: IAFL-1 Preview – Waterford Wolves @ Cork Admirals.

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.’


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…
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.

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.

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.