IAFA Week #6 Previews

IAFA

IAFA Week 6

This Weekends Fixtures

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West Dublin Rhinos @ Tyrone Titans

The Rhinos got off to a great start turning over the Bulldogs who, in beating the Trojans, didn’t start badly themselves. The Titans are a team undergoing a very serious rebuild and have looked like it, losing out to the Soldiers and Trojans.
A stuttering start for the Dubs, after their first game didn’t happen but it didn’t appear upset them too much and that SBC pedigree we spoke of showed itself vs the Bulldogs. Veteran defenders Barry Bolton and Darragh McDonnell getting the scores. The lack of offensive output in that game has to be a concern but the Bulldogs shutting out the Trojans the week before would appear to indicate that they will a tough challenge for most to score on this year. The Titans unfortunately haven’t been as robust and with so much of offence reliant on momentum the Rhinos need to build some here. Offence hasn’t exactly flowed the last few years for them and this will be an opportunity to get it going. Cork are flying and running up scores, defence alone won’t win this division and the Rhinos have to fancy their chances after such a strong start.
For the Titans, focus has to be on themselves. There is little to be gained treating a game vs the Rhinos different from the Trojans or any other team in this division. Football teams don’t work when they turn the ball over and be it play calling or decision making that needs to be eradicated. When building a house you start from the ground up and so it is with football. 1. Stop the run. 2 establish the run. Priority 1 and 2 for the Northmen. There are 10 Sundays for the Titans to get these two things right and realistically be in a position to challenge next year.

Westmeath Minotaurs @ Waterford Wolves

These teams played two weeks ago and it came down to a failed 2point attempt. This is going to be a statement of who has used the intervening week the best. A win for the Wolves will have given confidence to a team sorely in need of it and for the Minotaurs, a team that didn’t win last year, getting the whiff of victory will have seen their hunger reignite in the hunt for the elusive W.
This series is going to be huge in the make up of the final positions. In all likelihood, neither of these teams are going to the bowl but a playoff spot is possible. The Rhinos, Admirals, Bulldogs & Trojans have set the pace but if any of those teams slip, one of these has to be the one to step up. The Wolves have experience of this as it almost perfectly describes their IAFL1 campaign last year and that ended with a championship. Before focusing on what’s ahead this series has to be dealt with, with so few games the tiebreakers are key and Waterford need put this one in their pocket and attack the rest of the division.
The Minotaurs can lay equal claim to this series, chances are if they win, it will be by more than 2 points. That’s just a statistical reality. So a win, in most forms, puts the Minotaurs in the best position to pick off which ever the weakest link in the leading four teams happens to be. Niall Folan is one of the more prolific receivers in the country, keep throwing him the ball and find ways to make gains on the ground off it, the ingredients are there in Westmeath but can they bake this pie and earn a playoff spot. We’ll find out.

Trinity @ North Kildare Reapers

Trinity are slowly looking like they’re pulling it together. They looked at sea on the opening day but dealing with a tough Craigavon team followed by a close run game with Bowl Contenders UL, will be encouragement for this young side. The Reapers have yet to score on offence in two division games and they’ve allowed 75 points. There is no way to paint that as a positive. Likely the other three teams in this division are headed for the playoffs and the Reapers need to have a different set of goals this year.
The partnership between Stephen Alexander and Conor O’Dwyer is starting to blossom and we’ve said before the students now need to focus on their new strengths rather than try to replicate the strength of old. This combo is that new strength. Kildare have struggled to defend the pass and Trinity should look to exploit that with this new identity. They’re reigning division champions and although they’re behind in the early going they won’t want to relinquish that title without a fight. They can ill afford slips here.
The Reapers need to establish their offence and like we mentioned earlier, that starts on the ground. Losing their OC with just weeks to go to the season is playing out in the worst way possible for the Reapers and it will be a battle all year to overcome that. That said, they’ve shown moments in the run game. The Reapers defensively have to stop the rot here and now. It’s tough if you’re constantly up against short fields but that’s their lot this season and the defence will have to start absorbing the slack as their offence tries to regain it’s feet.

South Dublin Panthers @ Belfast Trojans

The last two games combined for these teams adds up to 128 points. That’s 60% of the points scored in the SBC North. The Trojans stomped all over the Cowboys and the Panthers have had to wash out some Rebels footprints in the last two weeks. These two teams will have very different ambitions this season and this is likely the only time they’ll have to consider each other.
The Trojans opened up in fine fashion vs the Cowboys. Rather than being exceptional in their biggest ever win, they were just themselves and their neighbours paid for every special teams mistake, every turnover and every ill advised 4th down attempt with 7 points on the score board. The Green Machine had to start maybe 3 drives in their own half all day. The Trojans were exceptional in their unspectacular play. If the Trojans managed 62 points without playing extremely well (by their standards) what does that mean for the rest of the conference? What does it mean for the Panthers who are next in the firing line?
There is more to be learned from the Cowboys performance vs the Trojans than there is from the Trojans. Likewise, more to be learned from their own performance vs the Rebels than from anything the Rebels did. Mistakes will end any hope of a competitive game; fast! Realistically there is no plan for beating the Trojans, that starts with anything the Trojans do, focus for the Panthers must be on not turning the ball over on offence, granting McKelvey and co short fields to attack, and special teams play that keeps two of the more explosive Trojan weapons sheathed, Messrs Armstrong and Siri. The Trojans can be better than they were vs the Cowboys, it will be a bad day indeed for the Panthers if they present them any extra opportunities to show it.

UCD @ UL Vikings

Too early in the year for a decider? This game is huge! Both of these teams have already beaten Trinity so chances are one of them is going to be the SBC South Champion. UL are only getting going, whereas UCD are in full flow.
Tom Donovan has scored 10 touchdowns thus far. UL have scored 6. Something UL do excel at is containing your star and forcing the other 10 guys to win the game. The importance of this game cannot be underestimated for UL. It’s been too long since their last bowl appearance and part of that is because they haven’t won the SBC South and keep running into the Trojans in the Semis. A win here puts them in the driving seat in the division. They’d have liked to be clearer winners vs Trinity considering how efficiently UCD handled them but it’s as an encouraging a sign to dig out wins as it is to run up scores. Digging deep is something built into the fabric of this UL side.
UCD have looked good in all phases of the game so far and that’s usually a recipe for success. They’ve only allowed 9 points in 3 games and rather than running up huge scores, have consistently scored 3 or more touchdowns. Why does that matter? Scoring and successfully adding a PAT three times a game wins you 90% of games in this country. Games against UL are a hard hitting slog, especially on a field that ins’t the best around. Without the Trojans on their schedule this is likely to be the toughest game of the regular season for UCD. Win here and a bowl appearance wouldn’t not only be a realistic, it would be the minimum expectation.

Week 4 IAFA Previews!

IAFA

IAFA Week 4

This Weekends Fixtures

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PSNI Razorbacks @ Donegal/Derry Vipers

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

Waterford Wolves @ Westmeath Minotaurs

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

West Dublin Rhinos @ Meath Bulldogs

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

North Kildare Reapers @ UL Vikings

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

Belfast Trojans @ Craigavon Cowboys

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

IAFA 2016 Week 2 Preview Part 2 – SBC

SBC

And now the SBC Portion of the preview!

IAFA Week 2

This Weekends Fixtures

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Panthers @ Knights

The Knights bookended 2015 with two impressive wins. They battered the Cowboys in Week 1 and demolished the Reapers in Week 8. The intervening 6 games were exceptionally forgettable for the Knights. The Panthers set the Carrickfergus season into a tailspin after shutting them out in game two, an ugly loss to the Trojans and a very tight loss to the Cowboys later in the year meant the Knights spent most the season worrying about relegation rather than chasing the playoffs. They will have no intention of repeating 2015’s mistakes and opening vs the Panthers will be seen as an ideal opportunity to right 2016 where 2015 started to go wrong. The Cowboys have been docked two points and there is only 9 teams in the SBC this year so the Knights will see playoff football as a very achievable goal and a double header with the Panthers is the ideal way to secure that.

The Panthers will fancy their play off chances this season for much the same reason as the Knights. No Trinity and no UL on their schedule would on paper mean it should be easier, especially considering the beating they took from UL in Game 7 last year. After victory over the Knights last season, the Panthers felt that their season could have come to more but the aforementioned UL beating and a tough loss to the Cowboys killed the Panthers season; improvements were there to be seen but 2016 will be the answer if those were false starts or genuine signs of progress. The SBC can be a cruel mistress as both of these teams found out last year. Games that they would expect to win were lost and games that others expected them to lose were won. This has the potential to be a transformative for seasons for these teams but probably not both.

Kick off is 1pm at Carrickfergus Rugby Club

Reapers @ UCD

The Reapers were robbed of Playoff football last year on a tiebreak we’re pretty sure Stephen Hawking was hired to figure out. We got it wrong every time we hypothesised about how it would work out. Wrong is something people often are about the Reapers. Often written off and yet they won the IAFL1 in their first year and have won 3 games each time of asking in the SBC. Ask the Cowboys, Knights, Rhinos, Panthers & Wolves how tricky that is. UCD were impressive last week and will probably expect the Reapers to offer less resilience than Trinity, couple that with the fact that they trounced the Kildare men last year, UCD would be forgiven for expecting a win here. UCD have on occasion in the past not performed to their high standard when the win was in the bag on paper.

If the Bowl is the goal (we’re poets) then that worrying trait has to be exorcised. UCD have a lot of the component parts but every game has to be played on grass, not paper. The intensity of performance vs the Reapers will have to match that of last weeks victory or the students could be upset again. Trinity may feel a little hard done by by the margin last week as their 2nd half performance was decent but something worth crediting that often goes unnoticed for UCD was a powerful defensive performance. Excuses will be thrown around but Trinity have only one regular season loss in two years and all of that isn’t down to one player. UCD shut out that powerhouse and never looked like allowing even a field goal. We’ll talk a lot about Tom Donovan and some very promising offensive talent in UCD this year but that defence playing fast and nasty like they did last week will carry this team far even if the offence stutters at any stage. A shut out should be their aim and let the offence do it’s thing.

Kick off is 1pm at UCD Sports Ground

Cowboys @ Trinity

Fans of college football will be used to seeing teams go through cycles. Trinity are beginning a new cycle, that much is clear. A new generation will have to take up the mantle and do it without missing a beat. Wobbly starts aren’t unheard of, they had one last year, but this team will have to find it’s own identity soon and not rely too much on an offence that was built for a different team. Trinity looked good, especially on defence in the 2nd half, last week vs UCD but the offence stalled. Trinity still posses speed, they still posses strength and a grit on the line of scrimmage that other teams would kill for. The Cowboys strength is on that line and inside the #7 jersey. Trinity shouldn’t expect to just turn up, play how they like and walk out with the W, the Cowboys will eat up any complacency and head back north with the Win.

The Cowboys are starting this season behind the 8 ball. They’ve been docked points for a violation last season. Yet they find themselves still with their main parts in tact. In terms of all round skill set, Peter Loughran may be the best player in the country. With that on your team you’ve a chance to beat anyone. Conrad Smith proved an inspired addition to the offence last year and with that in place right from the off this season the Cowboys could find form a lot quicker than they did in 2015. A Cowboys win here could be seen as an upset, by everyone bar the Cowboys.

Kick off is 1pm Trinity Sports Ground

IAFA Strength of Schedule

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

First off, the rules; we assigned a number of points denoting how hard that particular team is to play. The higher the points the harder that team is to play. This number was mainly based upon where this team finished last year and any modifiers we think are worth adding on or taking off a point for and we’ll explain those as we go. Here is how the Shamrock Bowl Conference ranked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


 

Notes
Before we give you the final ranking of the strength of schedule. We are going to add a point of difficulty for every back to back week of play and deduct a point of difficulty for every 3 week break.


 

Weakest Schedule
Belfast Trojans! Strength Score: 55.
The Trojans are hardest ranked team, so by virtue of not playing themselves and only one occurrence of back to back game weeks. It’s not surprising their schedule ranks the weakest.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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!

Paul McKay: ‘You can only learn from playing the best’.

Paul McKay: You can only learn from playing the best.

The North Kildare Reapers have been impressive since admission to the IAFL in 2013. They have continued to improve year on year and after a solid opening campaign in the SBC, notching 3 victories, the Reapers should feel plenty of optimism this year.

The former IAFL-1 champions have got their season off to a good start, clinching a 12-0 victory over the West Dublin Rhinos that should give them great momentum in what will prove to be, a testing year for a team that is still growing.

It’s always interesting to hear how teams and players prepare themselves to make a greater leap the following season, so we took the time to catch up with Reapers Defensive Back, Paul McKay to chat with him about the teams plans for 2015 and how it felt getting his first win of the season under his belt.

‘It was a great way to start the season, the Rhinos are a massively experienced side. It was a huge boost for us too because we had lost a chunk of big names leading up to the game. Also it was my own first start on defence in a very new position so I was thrilled we shut out the Rhinos. It wasn’t easy!’

The Rhino’s are well known for their physicality and toughness and they have plenty of experience in the Shamrock Bowl Conference. However, the Reapers were well deserving of their victory as they put in a professional defensive display. Paul even grasped his first interception of his career!

‘Well of course, that was a nice boost for me. I haven’t played a lot the last three years. Started as a WR in 2013..didn’t get one catch. I wasn’t available most of the time so I got a few minutes as a CB. But my first game as FS I got my first SBC catch..but honestly it was all down to Coach Q’s (the 12th man) training..I think our Defense nailed it as a group and if it wasn’t for our corners and linebackers coverage, I wouldn’t have had the chance to catch it.’

Having faced some difficult teams last season, the Reapers have come away with a lot of lessons learnt from 2014. It’s still very early in the season and Paul knows the team can’t afford to rest on their laurels, but after last seasons performances, there is a lot of positives that the team can build upon.


11071747_710676439043479_4737464280269956132_n‘The Coaches have implemented a focused and tailored training programme this year and if you put in
 the work you will get game time, this is a tough balancing job for coaches because its an amateur league and people have family and work commitments. The team is confident this year as we played some massive sides last year like the Rebels, Vikings, Trinity etc, and learned a lot of valuable lessons. NKR’s programme this year is to compete for that playoff spot and with the addition of new coaches with a wealth of experience the positive atmosphere at training feels like that target is very possible.’

The Kildare outfit, like many teams throughout off season can suffer from moments of misfortune. With the season mere weeks away, the Reapers suddenly lost a significant group of players from the 2014 side, whose focus turned to other commitments and pastures new.

Understandably this could have affected team morale and potentially damaged the Reapers immediate plans to improve upon last year. So far, it hasn’t created too many problems as with their first W in the books, the remaining group is looking more focused than ever.

549362_576179389061089_923177815_n‘I think players leave every team for personal circumstances like moving house, job opportunities, you are always going to loose a few guys in the off season. Its all about how you respond to these changes and I think it galvanised us as a unit. We had new players playing their first game against a solid West Dublin Rhinos team and were it not for a few players having left, these guys (including myself) probably wouldn’t have got the opportunity..but we won, everyone played their hearts out, picked each other up after every play and enjoyed every snap. Our squad is the strongest its ever been and we are all excited about the upcoming games to test ourselves as a Team.’

Sunday’s fixture will be a major test and a huge jump in quality from previous games for what is still a young team in development. The Reapers must welcome the current champions, the Belfast Trojans to Kildare Sports Club and this will arguably be the hardest challenge the team is yet to face.

‘The team is psyched! These guys are a brilliant team that play great football. It will be an experience to put our style against theirs and see what happens. Its no small achievement to put points up against these guys like the Panthers did last week. You can only learn from playing the best. We are going out there to win and I think it will be an amazing game of football.’

Having dealt with any threat the Rhino’s could throw at them, coping with some of the leagues top scorers in Trojans trio James McKelvey, Dave Colvin and David Richardson will be a tall order. Despite being the overwhelming underdogs heading into the game, McKay maintains that the Reapers will be ready for Sunday.

‘Each of us know what we have to do. The coaches have instructed us in every way they can, if we turn up as a team and play our football, react to the changes in the game and do what we have been trained to do then you cant ask for more than that. If you can sit down with the guys after the game and know you did everything at 100% of your ability…that you didn’t let them or yourself down..that’s a plan in itself.’

This might be Paul’s first serious spell in the team, after having a bit-part inclusion over the past 3 years. He has shown great motivation and impressed on his debut at Free Safety, earning himself an honourable mention in our first Team of the Week article.

Knowing that his spot isn’t guaranteed and there’s still room to improve, Paul’s first priority is helping the team succeed. So far so good!

‘My personal goal is too earn my start on the squad, be an addition to our defense and have no regrets by the end of the regular season.’

You can watch Paul in action this weekend at Kildare Sports Club at 1pm, as the North Kildare Reapers host the Belfast Trojans!