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?

IAFL Week 9: Game Previews

IAFL WEEK 9

Already Week 9 in the IAFL and while the IAFL 2 season is still in it’s infancy, IAFL 1 and the SBC teams are presented with a clear picture of the task that lies before them. Our regular helping of 5 games is on offer again this weekend as both 2nd and 3rd tiers supply two games each and the SBC provides us with one game.

thumb_CClogo Craigavon Cowboys @ North Kildare Reapers thumb_reapersLogo2

This is pivotal game for both sides. The Cowboys fresh off hammering the Rhinos last week have the ability to secure SBC status for another year with a win in this game. In the many permutations of the IAFA head to head tiebreakers policy, a win realistically guarantees Cowboys safety and with a game agains the South Dublin Panthers coming up they can possibly start looking at play offs should they secure victory on Sunday. The Reapers likewise with a win can cement SBC status for another year. It is unlikely the Rhinos will amass 3wins in their remaining four games, which includes Knights, Trojans and Trinity. Thus a win for the Reapers places them on two wins and allows them a margin for error when the face the Rhinos on May 17th. It is likely the Rhinos will be watching the result of this one closely with no doubt a Craigavon win means the May 17th game has the potential to be a relegation playoff. Peter Loughran tormented the Dubliners last week and if the Reapers need a strategy shutting down Loughran when he appears on the offence and running the other way when he appears on defence would be a good place to start!

thumb_DMlogo1 Dundalk Mavericks @ Cork Admirals thumb_CAlogo

Cork are 3-0 and are looking very strong. The offence is pulling in nearly as many plaudits as passes belying a stingy defence that keeps a pass happy offence on the field. A team of balance and talent in a lot of areas will feel confident going into Sundays game. This game arrives at a crucial moment in the season for Dundalk. Dundalk, Meath and Waterford will feel that 3rd is achievable and for some the minimum requirement but should the Mavericks make the long trip to Cork and return empty handed they will find themselves 1-3. The other game in the IAFL 1 between Waterford and Meath could give the Wolves a stranglehold on that 3rd spot after tie breaking wins over both of their competitors. Dundalk will be determined to keep a grip of their own destiny. That grip that has begun to slip from them since losing to Waterford. Cork are undoubtedly favourites in this game but Dundalk posses break out threats and if they can get the momentum swinging their way early will force Cork to answer questions yet to be put to them this season.

30 Meath Bulldogs @ Waterford Wolves thumb_waterfordlogo

This game is simply a must win for the Bulldogs. A tough start to the season facing a flying Cork side and a bruising Tyrone team see the Meath men 0-2. 0-3 would prove extremely difficult to overturn into a playoff spot. With Cork favourites at home against the Mavericks the Bulldogs have an opportunity to move to 1-2 while their closest rivals would both fall to 1-3/1-2 and the ever evolving tie breakers swinging into Meath’s favour. Waterford on the other hand seem to have hit somewhat of a stride against Dundalk last time out. Their offence finally fired into life and although it went right to the wire, the Wolves emerged on the right side. They now have an opportunity not seen in the South East for over a year, a winning record. Waterford are a team finding their feet again and have the tools to emerge with a win at home against the Bulldogs. This game will go a long way to determining the fate of both clubs this season and beyond. One team rising and the other in need of a lift after a poor start. The trip to Waterford is tough going and if the Bulldogs show up anything less than ready it could all be for nothing.

10968328_827634113959732_1746668201097951904_n Galway Warriors @ West Dublin Rhinos thumb_RHlogo

After the Solider’s upset the Vikings everyone assumed they’d advanced themselves beyond what any team could expect in one offseason, then the Warriors beat them a week later and now we don’t know what to make of the IAFL 2 vets. It remains to be seen what kind of team the Rhinos will field in terms of their starters but the Warriors will see this as an opportunity to firmly establish themselves in the minds of the IAFL community. The IAFL 2 is a hard one to take seriously since not all teams play the same amount of games but for the exclusive IAFL 2 teams they must take this opportunity against these established team to learn all they can and put some wins behind them and points on the board in the process.

thumb_BTlogo Belfast Trojans @ South Kildare Soldiers SKS

There is more to football than going out and running all the plays in your playbook and seeing how you do at the end. A level of strategy that is needed to win games beyond that of pass the ball on third down and run it on first and second. The Trojans proved in their last IAFL2 outing that they will not allow the learning curve of other teams stand in their way when it comes to educating their more junior players. Winning this game is something that may be beyond Kildare but an opportunity to control the ball when they can, limit Belfasts opportunity on offence and turn what ever superiority complex Trojans players may have against them. If South Kildare and can keep this game tight verses Trojan players, many of whom were involved in the defeat of Carrickfergus Knights last weekend,  whose lack if experience could betray them, force them into rash moves and present the Soldiers with opportunities. The Soldiers will expect better than 72-0 but the Belfast men already smell blood in the water and won’t be in the mood to slow down any time soon.

IAFL Week 7 Previews

IAFL Week 7 rolls around in the IAFL and after a blockbuster 6 games last week we are back to our standard helping of 5 games this weekend.

Just the one game in the Shamrock Bowl Conference, as the West Dublin Rhinos make the short trip to UCD in an all important Division game.

thumb_RHlogo  West Dublin Rhinos @ UCD thumb_UCDlogo
UCD haven’t wasted any time imposing themselves on the SBC South and already it looks as though the rescheduled fixture with Trinity at the end of the season may determine the playoff ranking of both teams. UL have 4 wins already racked up in this division and look set leave the other teams scrambling for the remaining playoff places and the wild card round. UCD have an impressive win verses the Rebels and an unlucky defeat to UL already in the books and will look to stay on course verses the reeling Rhinos.

Come on down to UCD Thornfied rugby pitch this Sunday to check out Ireland’s fastest growing sport.Grab an Ice cream…

Posted by UCD American Football on Thursday, 16 April 2015

The Rhinos inversely seem to be clawing for their SBC lives already at this early point in the Season. Failing to score against the Reapers and suffering a demolition at the hands of UL don’t make for pretty numbers for the Castleknock outfit after a strong off season of recruitment and expansion. Closing their season with games against Trinity and Belfast, the coming 4 games will determine if the Rhinos will see SBC football in 2016.

UCD are on the up and their spread-option offence is tough to get a handle on, just ask the Rebels. The West Dublin side will need to up their level of performance to live with the students. As important as winning is, if it comes down to it, maintaining a respectable scoreline could be equally as important. The Rhinos still have the opportunity to reverse the tie breaker the Reapers currently hold over them an all important game against Craigavon could see the Rhinos easily survive if those games go the right way, if they don’t the less 41-8 maulings they suffer the better.

The first of the IAFL 1 games sees Cork make the trip up to Navan to face the Meath Bulldogs

thumb_CAlogo Cork Admirals @ Meath Bulldogs 30

Cork are taking a similar hold on the IAFL 1 as UCD did in 2014. 2 Games down and 68 points in the bag.   QB Stephen Hayes accounts for half of the Touchdown passes thrown in the division and until they gave up 13 points to Mullingar in junk time last weekend the Admirals defence have handled all questions put to them in commanding fashion. Without doubt they are setting the pace with play that wouldn’t be amiss in the Shamrock Bowl Conference.

Stephen Hayes showing why he has been called for the Ireland Squad
Stephen Hayes showing why he has been called for the Ireland Squad

The Bulldogs stumbled out of the gate somewhat in their opening encounter in Tyrone 2 weeks ago. In their usual hard hitting fashion the Bulldogs held the Titans in check for most of the game but let it slip when the Northerns found another gear. Worryingly for the Bulldogs it was through the air that the Titans hurt them, a problem they will need to solve quickly before Hayes and Co come to town. The ground and pound style of the Bulldogs coupled with quick hitting passing attack may be the key that unlocks this Cork defence but Cork boast a squad size far superior to the last time the Bulldogs faced them and hoping to wear them down may not be the cleverest approach.

Cork look destined for a bye-week and a rest while they await the winners of the 2nd & 3rd placed playoff come the end of the season. If the Bulldogs want to be in that play off they will need to find points on offence fast and methods of controlling Corks vertical threats.

thumb_DMlogo1 Dundalk Mavericks @ Waterford Wolves thumb_waterfordlogo

One of the most interesting clashes of the weekend, sees the Mavericks take the long trip down the M9 to face the Wolves. The Mavericks surprised some with a victory over the Minotaurs in their IAFL 1 debut. Nobody associated with the Mavericks was surprised, this is a team that plays with a supreme confidence in themselves and reject entirely any suggestion they belong anywhere except the top of this division. That confidence and attitude can boil over at times as it did last week when they suffered 2 ejections and discipline issues on their sideline verses the Titans in a game that ultimately they lost 6-0. A game that tight these things count and we mentioned in our season preview that discipline will be a major factor the Mavericks and they will find themselves in close situations and games through the rest of the season and wins in these games may come down to what goes on on the sideline as much as it does what happens between the white lines.

The Wolves are still early in their IAFL 1 second lives and a loss to Cork on the opening weekend, based on Corks subsequent result, doesn’t look so terrible. As the Titans surge and IAFL 1 vets, Bulldogs & Minotaurs, stumble there is an opening here for the men from The Déise. A win this weekend against the Mavericks catapults them right into the mix with the Bulldogs next to take the long trip down to Waterford. Their home games are certainly advantage as normally they will face opposition light on sleep or light on a night in their own bed. It is vital they capitalise before having to make the return trips. 2 wins from these games places Waterford in a great position to challenge at the top of the division before making the return trip. The Mavericks similarly will have cast aside the bulk of the veteran teams with a win and be aiming at the playoffs for the ultimate revenge on the Titans. The result of this game will go a long way in indicating the final makeup of the IAFL 1.

thumb_BTlogo Belfast Trojans 2nds @ Donegal/Derry Vipers Vip

As Vipers Chairman Shaun McGrory told us when we spoke to him they are more than aware of the challenge facing them this weekend as they take on the Belfast Trojans 2nds. Anyone who has started a club will tell you, the football is the easy part. The Vipers are an unknown quantity composed nearly entirely of rookies but seem to have struck gold in their Coaching staff, with Chicago native Jason Brock taking the reins.

The Trojans are on the other hand an entirely known quantity. They bring power and discipline that the rest of the league has only come close to matching in the last 3 years. Long have others levelled the accusation at the Trojans about squad size being a key to their success. While it helps, anyone who knows will tell you large squads bring with them their own challenge and the Trojans finally have an outlet to get those guys live reps. Less than full speed, less than 100% is not a concept understood in Belfast, if you wear the Silver & Green you’d better perform and the Vipers will perhaps look back on Game 1 in their history as a lesson in that point. Making up the numbers on the peripheries of the league is not the aim of the Donegal/Derry outfit and this is the first step in a long road hoping to lead to where the Trojans are now. We wish them luck.

SKSSouth Kildare Soldiers @ Galway Warriors 10968328_827634113959732_1746668201097951904_n

The last game of the weekend takes the Soldiers into the West for the first game of Warriors season. We’ll hold our hands up here, we didn’t give the Soldiers a chance last week verses the Vikings, we were wrong. The Soldiers haven’t been idle in the long offseason and returned better organised and supremely disciplined. UL 2nds possess a wealth of experience for what is still early in a lot of their careers and the Soldiers put them to the sword. That result has to be put the Kildare outfit in the driving seat among the exclusively IAFL 2 outfits (Soldiers, Warriors & Vipers) and the Warriors will need to show they’ve worked equally as hard in the off season to keep up with their classmates in their sophomore season. The trip west isn’t as arduous as the one to Limerick so the Soldiers if anything will be feeling better still as the UL game didn’t get underway until late due to ambulance delays in the preceding game. Afternoon kick off and short trip on the west coast this game promises to be an interesting barometer in the advancement of these two side.

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…
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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.