IAFA Week #6 Previews

IAFA

IAFA Week 6

This Weekends Fixtures

DateHomeResultsAwayTimeCompetitionVenue

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.

IAFA Week 3 Previews: SBC & IAFL 1

IAFA

Week 3 in the IAFA and the 2 O’Clock kick offs are back and with it; 5 games! IAFL 1 tops the bill with 3 and the Rebels and UL get underway for the first time this season in the SBC.

IAFA Week 3

This Weekends Fixtures

DateHomeResultsAwayTimeCompetitionVenue

South Kildare Soldiers @ Cork Admirals

Both winners in Game One after the Ads dismissed the Wolves and the Soldiers got life in IAFL 1 off to a positive start. The caveat, on both of those results, the opponents weren’t at the peak of their powers. Not intending to disrespect the Titans or Wolves but both would admit they have work to do this season to get back to the level they were at last season.
For the Soldiers, this will be an interesting test in how far they have really come. Cork put Waterford to the sword and were firing in all three phases, the Titans were not. To be a winning team, rather than one that wins occasionally, you have to be able to do what Cork did and punish teams for their mistakes. The Soldiers came out well ahead in the turnover ratio vs the Titans and perhaps should have made more of their opponents weakness. Corks error won’t be as frequent so capitalising on any will be vital for the Soldiers.
Cork were hugely impressive in Game One. Winning in devastating fashion and looking every bit the outfit that seemed to be coasting to 8 wins last season. The Ads weren’t undone last season by not respecting their opponents and there is no reason to believe that they will underestimate the Soldiers here. This game can get tricky if they allow it. The Soldiers have a depth of experience their ‘new club’ status belies. We’re guiltier than most about waxing lyrical about the impressive Stephen Hayes but encouraging for Cork, the performance of the defence and the establishment of the run game. The Admirals looking more and more like the complete article every week.

Westmeath Minotaur @ Louth Mavericks

Game One for both of these teams and a big season ahead. The Mavs travelled all the way to Castleknock only to have the rug pulled by a no show (or a no book, depending who you ask) ambulance. The Minotaurs frankly had a disastrous season last year and 2016, whatever it brings, can’t start soon enough.
Zero wins, averaging 25 points allowed per game and only offering a measly 6 in return. 2015 needs to be consigned to the history books and those books burned with fire until they are gone! Every new season offers new opportunities and them Minotaurs haven’t been idle waiting for them to present themselves. They’ve spent the off season restructuring, expanding their base and (the 4th team in as many years) renaming! (Why is everyone changing their name by the way?) Hanging around and hoping things improve isn’t in the DNA of the Westmeath outfit. Born of a desire to forge their own destiny in midlands, the Minotaurs have every reason to feel they can achieve better this year. Feeling it and doing it are different things though.
The impressive work behind the scenes in Louth continues and although no off field organisation ever won a football game, they put football players in the best situation to win them, just ask the crowd a few more miles up the M1. That is a way off for the Mavericks just yet but all the signs look good. We said a few weeks ago in our preview that consistency was key now for the Mavs and that still holds true. A team that have flashed brilliance and a team that have baffled on occasion. This game will be one they will look to as they push for the play offs. Focus has to be here and now, look past the Minotaurs at your peril.

Belfast Trojans 2s @ Tyrone Titans

The Trojans 2s annihilated everyone last year and perhaps they expected the same in IAFL1 but it was not to be. Trojan teams of all descriptions have only lost 3 games in 4 years so that’s not a small deal. The Titans seem to have imploded in the off season and on their first outing the worst seems to have been realised.
The Titans turned the ball over a lot (a lot a lot) vs the Soldiers and while that is bad, the fact those turnover resulted in only 3 scores is some conciliation. That kind of defensive resilience could be vital this year to stop it turning to disaster. This could be the wrong game at the wrong time in a number of ways. The Trojans didn’t win last time out but blooding their rookies and those same rookies spend the next few weeks at practice with the best around; we could see them in the mood to do some damage vs a weakened opponent. Sometimes the job of an offence is to play smart and possess the ball keeping the defence as fresh as possible. There can’t even be a few turnovers in this game because the Trojans, rookies or not, will punish them in way the Soldiers didn’t.
Winning isn’t an accident and you don’t have streaks like the Trojans do without an appropriate response to losing. We expect to see that this weekend. The 1s haven’t played yet so we could see a few make an appearance here as the trip isn’t as far as it was to Meath. This team will be expected to win the IAFL1 and that will not be lost on them. Another small motivator here, though for which team we cannot say, the Titans former Head Coach Paul Braniff is now the roving the sidelines for the Trojans.

Dublin Rebels @ South Dublin Panthers

The Rebels were beaten by a point in both their opening two games last year, they recovered from the opening wobble but ultimately never fired on all cylinders the way they know they need to to win a bowl game. The Panthers showed promise, wins against Carrickfergus and UCD coupled with close games vs Trinity, the Rebels and Cowboys suggested things could be finally moving the right direction for the rebranded Dragons.
Two bad losses at the end of 2015 seems to have had a hangover effect into 2016 as the Panthers lost their opening game to the Knights. There was positives to be seen but losing to team that you beat last year can’t help but be seen as a step backwards. After comfortably winning the last game between these two the Rebels can be forgiven for feeling the same should be on the agenda and the Panthers will need to rediscover their forward momentum early on to prevent it. Every team in the SBC should believe playoff football is a possibility and with the weather set to be rough the Panthers will have to contain the Rebels explosive run game and another duck egg just won’t cut it.
The Rebels can ill afford early slips this season. The last bowl win is a while ago now and none associated with the Rebels will think that acceptable. Trinity have proven the playoff stumbling block the last two outings and with an ultra competitive SBC South, the Rebels won’t want to arrive in the playoffs only half cooked. Starting hot and keeping the momentum all the way through could see them break down the Semi Final barrier that has scuppered them the last two seasons.

UL Vikings @ Trinity

UL were supposed to open the season with a blockbuster home game but instead are opening it with a trip to Dublin. Trinity are already a quarter way through their year!
It’s been a mixed bag for Trinity so far. It’s hard for a team with the most explosive offence in recent years to stomach a zero, regardless of the final result, and the UCD game would have been hard for them to accept. The improvement vs the Cowboys saw the offence come to life but the Craigavon unit made them earn it and the result was in doubt all the way to the 4th quarter. UL present a similar challenge to that of the Cowboys. Physicality and power is what the UL offence is based on and the Trinity defence is still finding it’s feet, allowing 3 touchdowns in both outings. It takes some time to shake the cobwebs, if you’ve got any, and Game 3 is usually where we see teams still waking up, fire into life.
UL open 2016 without excuses. They’ve run Belfast closer than most in the last few times and now a slightly more settled and expanded offence could be the push they need. They need to win the South and avoid another Semi Final against the Champions. Getting that bye week and a chance to rest at a vital time in the year could be much of the difference they need. Trinity and UCD must be conquered and as much hype as there was (and we added to) about the intended opener, this game is more important. There can be no slips, there can only be results if the 5 in a row is to prevented.

IAFA 2016 Week 2 Preview Part 2 – SBC

SBC

And now the SBC Portion of the preview!

IAFA Week 2

This Weekends Fixtures

DateHomeResultsAwayTimeCompetitionVenue

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!