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.

Adrian Garvey: Love for the game

Garvey

Garvey: ‘I still had a strong love for the game’

UL Vikings star player Adrian Garvey suffered a gruesome injury in 2015. Injuries can be a frequent occurrence in all of sports; particularly those of a physical and violent nature. Within contact sports, the fear of injury is a constant threat but yet in most cases, it remains unavoidable. A so called minor injury can lead to several weeks on the sideline, others are much tougher to overcome.

When Garvey went down during a home game with the North Kildare Reapers, initial reports suggested nothing more than a sprained knee; the test results delivered worse news than expected. Garvey had ruptured his ACL ligament, had tears on both meniscus and suffered stress fractures on his tibia.

After a strong start to the campaign, the veteran running-back was in scintillating form scoring 4 touchdowns in the opening 3 games, it was a difficult moment to realise that his season would be cut short. This would be Garvey’s first serious injury after nearly 10 years in the IAFL. Ahead of this weekends game with Trinity College, Adrian took the time to chat about his experience.

Although the surgery was successful, his long road to recovery was only beginning. The initial weeks were troublesome and frustrating and for someone who put plenty of effort  on the field, having to resist training was a constant struggle.

Photography by J. Toher
Photography by J. Toher

‘Trying not to push too hard too early and let the injury heal was challenging. For someone who likes to be active in sport, I found the initial phase mentally draining. Being isolated to a couple of rooms in your house is something I wouldn’t want to experience again’.

Being inactive from a sport that you love can take its toll on anybody. It’s not only a physical battle to get back into shape; it tests your resolve and mental toughness. Surrounding yourself with the right people can often help you overcome the darker times, and that was the case for Adrian as he explained.

‘It has been a long road to recovery and I owe a lot of thanks to Ciaran O’Sullivan (Irish Head Coach) for helping with my rehab as well as my physio, Colin Lane, for kicking me in the ‘arsenal’ (sic) when needed. As of now I’m itching to get back onto the field. It has been almost a year not playing competitive football, watching from the sidelines. So the desire to be out there is quite high.’

A year can be a long time in a career of an athlete, particularly if you are unable to compete alongside your teammates. Despite not being ready to take part in contact football, Adrian kept himself involved with the game by becoming heavily integrated into the coaching set up with the Irish U 20’s side.

‘Something that I find great reward from is the U20’s squad. I initially started as the running backs coach and due to the departure of Eoin O’Sullivan, a very talented coach, to ply his skills in European Football, I was elevated to offensive coordinator. Football is something I enjoy a lot and if I can be involved in anyway possible, I will.’

This Sunday will see Garvey put on the blue of the Vikings for the first time in over a year as they go head-to-head with fierce rivals Trinity College. Despite being primarily known for his elusive skills in the backfield, he will be starting the season lining up on the other side of the ball, albeit in a familiar role at Inside Linebacker where he started his career. Although he does hope to resume duties at Running-Back later in the year, his sole focus over the coming days is preparing himself for his first competitive game back.

Photography by J. Toher
Photography by J. Toher

‘For me I’m feeling excited. First game back and looking to put in a good performance. One interesting thing I look forward to is playing against Trinity running-back Ola [Bademosi]. I’ve been coaching him now with the U20’s squad so this would be a good test to see if he has picked up what I’ve been teaching him’.

Setting goals during a long recovery process is paramount to staying motivated. The long term aim may always be to return to the field but staying patient and vigilant in your approach is important. For Garvey, the long wait is almost over and with his sights firmly set, he can now start working towards making his mark in the IAFL once again.

‘One of the main motivators for me was the Irish team. I didn’t want to miss out on an opportunity to represent at an international level. Another motivator was the rumours that generally circulate from people in sport that say he will never be the same player. I found great motivation in these statements to prove them wrong.’

There are many highs and lows involved with sport and injuries are certainly one of the lower moments. As is the case with contact sports like American Football, setbacks are inevitable but it’s being able to overcome those obstacles and battle your way through that make it all worth while. So long as your passion remains, then the end goal won’t be out of reach.

‘I guess motivation comes from all areas. Once I got back to being able to train I have found that I still had a strong love for the game. Thankfully, I never lost that.’

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

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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

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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 2016 Week 1 Preview

IAFA 2016

IAFA Fixtures this weekend

This Weekends Fixtures

DateHomeResultsAwayTimeCompetitionVenue

Wind, rain, orange weather alert followed by storms and flooding, this winter has been brutal! Teams have announced their dissolution and changed their minds. Recruitment drives have gone suspiciously late into February for some and others have been worryingly quiet on that front.

Thank [insert preferred deity here] it’s over!

The IAFA site is still under construction so tracking the fixtures is still getting there but we’ve got you covered (as you can see above). We have three potentially very tasty games this weekend across two IAFA Divisions

Louth Mavericks @ West Dublin Rhinos

The IAFL1 has been won the last two years by teams relegated from the SBC. The presence of the Trojans 2nds might scupper that run but the Rhinos would be considered by many to be favourites to return to the SBC at the first time of asking, either by winning the division or the fact that the Trojans 2nds can’t be promoted. The Rhinos have a quality of pedigree and a lot of experience at the top level among their squad. The IAFL1 is intensely hard to predict week to week but the guile of some of the more experienced Rhinos may give them the edge against some of the lesser experienced IAFL1 teams. The Rhinos have parted ways with their Head Coach in the offseason and Defensive Coach Robbie Andrews has stepped into the breach, a mean defence was already a staple of the Rhinos identity but a stripped down more aggressive offence will suit the IAFL1 and the Rhinos; who have at times looked lost trying to move the ball in recent seasons.

The Mavericks have already done the hard part. Set up the club and keep it going. As the recent turmoil with the Titans and, as many of the Louth men will be familiar with, Drogheda Lightning shows it’s not so easy to keep the show on the road and if anything stability has been a victory for them. Now it’s time to turn that to success off the field into results on it. The Mavs have been hit on miss on the field. At times showing great potential and pace but overall inconsistency has let them down trying to turn their potential into points. That being said they weren’t too far away from the shake up at the close of 2015 and this season the realistic goal has to be the bowl game. Getting stuck in the mud in the IAFL1 for long periods of time will ultimately be detrimental to a teams development. The Wolves, Dragons and Reapers were the first graduates of the division and the Reapers and Dragons (now Panthers) haven’t come back and the Wolves are only still in the division by choice. Settling in in the IAFL1 is not something a team with any sort of ambition should do and it should now be the ambition of the Mavs to move up.

Kick off is at 1pm, Castleknock College.

Trinity College Dublin @ University College Dublin

Gone is Rob McDowell, Alex Gurney & Dan Finnamore. For now anyway. Could we be witnessing a power shift between the academics of Dublin. Tom Donovan’s heart attack inducing runs and deadly accurate passing in 2015 has earned him an international call up and that was his first full year at the helm of the UCD offence. Evolving the offence to further suit the lightening quick quarterback could put UCD within swinging distance of the Bowl Game. A new coaching set up in place has 2016 looking like a year full of potential for UCD.

That being said, you don’t go to two bowls in a row on the back of three players, talented as they are. Trinity have some speedsters of their own and Ola Bademosi and the next generation of students need to seize upon the impetus generated by their alumni. Never the biggest team but playing with a relentless attitude and dogged spirt has been one of the keys to success of Trinity and that appears to be still intact. Smaller teams usually collapse under the intense physical pressure placed on them by the likes of Belfast and UL. Trinity have won the SBC South the last two years and are the only team to beat the Trojans in four years. Containing the frequent ad-libbing of Donovan and establishing their run game will be key against what is now an experienced UCD Linebacking Corps.

Speed is the name of the game for both of these teams and if you can’t get to Limerick this is a game that could go a long way to determining the SBC South Champion in 2016.

Kick is at 1pm, UCD Sports Complex

Belfast Trojans @ University of Limerick Vikings

The Trojans have only really been tested by two teams in recent times; Trinity College Dublin and the University of Limerick Vikings. Scheduling has meant that these games usually come late in the year but the stars have aligned and we should be in for a treat this weekend. The College & University based teams customarily begin their seasons early and this year, with the Trojans playing a huge amount of football, the Belfast outfit are getting underway early too.

So, in theory, with everyone healthy (and not suspended) these teams should be as close to full strength as they’ll be all year. Recently this commentator spotted a comment on an IAFA thread waxing lyrical about about the good oul days ‘It was a different type of football then, lot of emphasis on hard hitting, blocking and tackling’. Anyone who has seen UL and Belfast games in recent years know nothing has changed. These teams don’t employ too much flair but the beauty in their execution of the simplest of football basics is undeniable. The hardest hitters, the best blockers and the most punishing of tacklers will be on show Sunday in Limerick.

Belfast are an intriguing prospect seeking a record equalling, 5th successive Shamrock Bowl. James McKelvey threw 20 Touchdown passes in 2015 and David Richardson drew more and more blanket coverage as the year wore on. 11 TD grabs, leading all non QBs, would suggest it didn’t work. Richardson missed the Shamrock Bowl after being ejected in the Semi Final vs Limerick. The intrigue, David Colvin moving to receiver and excelling in the Shamrock Bowl. The rise of Jonathan Siri for the Trojans (who also played wide in the Bowl) and the ever dominant Neil Montgomery could offer a quadrumvirate of attacking options the likes of which we’ve never seen on the Island. Oh yeah and the O-line and Defence are capable of winning games on their own if you wanted to put four 11 year old girls at those positions.

Limerick, by the time the Semi Final rolled around last summer, were lacking some of their vital components and it was a very tight game still. They’ll go into this weekend, having bolstered their ranks and welcoming back some of those integral parts. Sean Goldrick missed a chunk of last season but made a big impact on the Semi Final. Ian Cahill, though vast in experience has another year under his belt at the helm of the offence and that offence as a result should blossom. The x-factor here in our humble opinion is the possible return of Adrian Garvey. Garvey has been among the finest backs in the country for a long time now and if he’s ready to go it could give the Vikings offence that last little push, to possibly overcome the exceptional Belfast defence. Shane Gleeson lead the league in rushing touchdowns in 2015 and Garvey was heading that direction before injury took him down; indicating that this offensive line is among the finest out there and the rumour is, a few additions, mean it’s better again this year. Defensively, Limerick have all the parts in all the right places. Up to his ejection, Richardson had been kept largely in check in the Semi Final and Trojan run game didn’t have it all their own way. Glen Carr & Co will see no reason why they can’t keep this Trojan offence under wraps again.

If you’re a fan of football in Ireland and you’re not associated with UCD, Trinity, Mavericks or the Rhinos. You should be at this game. End of.

Kickoff is at 1pm, UL Sports Grounds

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.

Inter Varsities 2015

On November 7th, The U.L Vikings host the annual inter varsities, the college championship for Ireland. This year it has four teams competing U.C.D , Trinity , The Cork Admirals and also the home team Vikings.

Both semi finals kick off at 11.00 a.m on Maguires field, where Trinity and The Vikings will compete for a place in the final. On the other side you have U.C.D, reigning college champions, facing off against the Cork Admirals, the first time these two sides have met since they competed against each other two years ago for in IAFL 1 Bowl game.

The winner will advance to the final to be played also on Maguires field at 2.30p.m

U.C.D as reigning champs are expected to be competitive yet again and would be expect to make the final. Last year, after being promoted from the IAFL 1, they defeated the Vikings in Dublin and, following a weather delay, Trinity a week after at the same venue and were crowned College Champions
U.C.D had endured a mixed SBC campaign where they defeated top teams including a victory over the Dublin rebels in a one point thriller but finished the season 3-5
With new Head Coach, Dave Murphy, at the reigns this season, UCD will be keen to maintain process made in the last two years and forcing a playoff push in 2016. Counting Quarterback Tom Donovan, Larry Doyle, Eoin Feely and Paul Geraghty among your number will give every chance for success.

The Cork Admirals, defeated finalist in the past two IAFL 1 Bowl games are still undergoing a rebuild. Once a Shamrock Bowl team verses the Vikings in 2007, the club went through turmoil and has since folded and re-opened.
Cork while in a rebuilding process have come really close to greatness, narrowly loosing in the Bowl Game to both Waterford and U.C.D the previous year, the hard work put in by the past few years of Stephen Hayes and Harris Monagahn has kept them atop their league, both national players are expected to play a huge role and although, due to not being a college team, they cannot play in the final, they will nevertheless look to upset UCD in the semi final stages.

Trinity Football have been to the past two ShamrockBowls and loosing narrowly to the Belfast Trojans on both occasions. Trinity football boasts wins over both U.L and UCD in Regular season competition last year, but lost to UCD in the college finals last year. Trinity are expected to get into a battle in the semi finals with their fierce rivals, the U.L Vikings. One man expected to make the difference for Trinity is young running back Ola Bademosi, Ola has taken the mantle of #1 running back vacated by the heralded Rob McDowell. Trinity have always been strong at the running back position and this year is no exception, Ola scored 7 regular season ruching touchdowns last year and in only 6 games, with a full 8 games it’s hard to imagine him not being the leading rusher of the league.

The U.L Vikings are always competitive, its in their nature. The Vikings are three time ShamrockBowl champions, the only team in the tournament to have won the coveted ShamrockBowl, although the last time they lifted one was in 2009, it is becoming a distant memory and has been a team in transition and rebuilding for the past few years, the Limerick camp says that they are having their strongest rookie year to date.

Ireland under 20’s player Graham Murtagh is expected to lead the offensive
from Centre, now one of the physically biggest offensive lines in the country.
Running behind them is the dynamic rookie running back trio of Conor Brennan Marco Lidron and Phillip Poilet who are expected to contribute massively to the Vikings run game in 2016.

One thing is for sure, this promises to be an excellent tournament yet again.

Article Contributed by Ian Cahill.

Rob McDowell: I genuinely couldn’t be prouder of this TCD squad.

Rob McDowell: I genuinely couldn’t be prouder of this TCD squad

One of the most iconic American Football players in the IAFL, Rob McDowell has amazed us with his fantastic footballing ability for the last six years as his speed and skill have made him arguably the best player in the country over recent times. He has achieved plenty of recognition during that period, from national team call ups to the 2014 MVP award. Despite all that he has achieved, there is still one accolade that alludes him; the Shamrock Bowl trophy.

Trinity College enter Sunday on the back of a solid (7-1) campaign that included the 22-0 victory over the Dublin Rebels in the semi-finals. The students started 2015 slowly, but quickly turned on the jets that eventually saw them defend their SBC South crown.

After enduring 5 games in 8 weeks to complete a busy end to the regular season, fatigue may be slowly starting to settle in, but there is an air of excitement throughout the TCD camp ahead of the final and everyone is ready for the task at hand.

‘Physically? I feel terrible! I think I actually felt better with a torn ACL at the end of 2013 than I do now [ha]. Mentally, great. I’d be lying if I said there are no nerves, but mostly I’m excited. It’s great to get to play infront of actual supporters in a game that really means something.’ 

‘I think this season has been the most impressive performance by a TCD team in the 6 years I’ve been playing. Things weren’t exactly looking great at the start, To lose three in a row – Shamrock Bowl, College Championship and the season opener to the Vikings – was not how we pictured launching this campaign. But in hindsight I believe it was the start we needed.’

‘We didn’t really have to fight last year; but in the game with the Rebels we had to claw our way back, and it really bonded us – we gained a huge amount of trust and confidence in each other and it’s carried through the entire season.’

This weekend’s encounter will be only the second time the students have reached the coveted Bowl game, having fallen to this weekends opponents the Belfast Trojans 7-0 last year. Trinity were much fancied for last years title after a blistering season and although this year has proving seemingly more challenging, Rob still feels this team can go all the way.

 

Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao
Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao
‘Last season things just clicked for us in a way we couldn’t have expected going into it. That unbeaten run, taking down the Trojans away, beating the Rebels for the first time in club history to clinch our first ever playoff win, it was a lot. Any team that has traditionally been a mid-tier contender and on the end of a lot of heavy beatings is going to be proud of those achievements and unfortunately I think as a team we carried a little bit of hubris into the finals and even into the two losses that followed.’

‘We’ve been through a considerably tighter season than last year but its built a much more effective team. It will be a tough game undoubtedly but I’d expect nothing less from a side like the Trojans.

‘Our defence in particular is a massively overlooked strength of the team. We don’t post as many shutouts as the Trojans do, but when it comes to the big games and we have our full D out there, it’s scary! Brian O’Driscoll (CB) knows as much, if not more about football than anybody in this league and he brings it to bear as the Defensive Captain. He studies tape more than anyone I know and it pays off.

‘You just have to look at the numbers – at total of 8 points scored against our D in our last 3 postseason games, 0 points conceded against the Trojans offence in our last two match ups. They are a great unit, pretty much nameless and deserving of far more recognition than they garner. But thats fine by me because they all play with a chip on their shoulders and its fun to watch (and occasionally join in with).’

 

The talent that McDowell possess allows him to be a threat in every facet of the game. Primarily known for being the star running-back, Rob also features as the safety on defence and the dangerous returner on special teams. However, this season he has adopted the more unfamiliar Quarterback position, something he is still getting used to. Understandably, he receives a lot of attention for his ability on the field but he was quick to praise the players around him for helping him improve his game.

Photo by Ariane Boudias
Photo by Ariane Boudias
‘It’s been interesting. You have to approach the game so differently than you would at RB. I actually only played a total of 3 games at QB. I started the season at RB but after racking up a lot of minor injuries, we sat me for the better part of 3 games midway through the season. When Ola went in as the starting RB he absolutely tore it up – 7 touchdowns in three games with 4 or 5 of them scored against two great defences in the Vikings and UCD. There was no point in keeping Ola (and subsequently Brian DuToit: 5 touchdowns in two games) on the bench. Dan Finnamore makes for a great target out wide; he has the size and reach to box out any DBs in this league, so we figured QB was a logical spot to put me in to allow us to keep our best athletes on the field, and keep me somewhat healthy.’

‘I know the O-line were apprehensive about putting me in there though. They’re great pass blockers but I had twitchy feet and tended to bail out of the pocket before it had even formed, and then potentially run back into it 5 or 6 seconds later [haha]. After a while I got used to it and stopped thinking so much like a RB. It helps when you’ve got the receiving core that we have too – a great mix of size, speed and catching ability which really gives a QB a lot of confidence.’

Tomorrow is a huge occasion for football in Ireland, the showpiece that determines the best team in the country. Trinity came incredibly close to winning that honour last year and the misfortune still lingers. One of the defining moments of the game came at the expense of Rob, when the ball was forced from his grip and recovered by the Trojans that ultimately secured Belfast the title. Rather than let it affect him ahead of the game, Rob sees the lighthearted side of it and knows things could be different this Sunday.

‘Bring a lot of towels. Be adaptable. Carry the ball with my outside arm [haha]. In all seriousness though, last years final was a disaster. A huge portion of the team was playing every phase of the game and we never had a moment off the field to discuss what was going wrong and how to fix it. I think an air of panic set in when we hadn’t scored by the half and having no established coach last season to calm us down was a serious handicap. With Coach Drake on our sidelines this year we’re a much more focused team. He brings a calmness to the group that we desperately needed.’

The weather was a distinct struggle for both teams last year, with torrential rain and lightning making the pitch almost impossible to play on. The forecast is expected to be much better this Sunday, so we should expect a fantastic game of football in the season finale. It’s going to be a true battle this weekend and with memories of last years final still fresh in thought, both sides will know what they need to do to win.

‘Play hard, clear eyes, full hearts, yards and inches and stuff, etc… The gameplan is for us to know and the Trojans to figure out.’

 

Photo by Ariane Boudias
Photo by Ariane Boudias
Rob McDowell has proven himself to be a gifted athlete when it comes to American Football. Whether he is bursting out blockbuster runs with tremendous pace or evading would-be tacklers with his elusiveness, he has always been able electrify games with his playmaking ability. He admits he is unsure what the future holds for him, but the man dubbed the ‘Human Highlight Reel’ will always be remembered as a great IAFL player, regardless of the decision he chooses to make. He will look to finish this season on a high by helping his side lift their first ever Shamrock Bowl trophy in Dalymount Park on Sunday.

‘I don’t say it to them a whole lot, but I genuinely couldn’t be prouder of this TCD squad – the guys who were here at the start of the season, and those who stepped up to fill their spots when the inevitable summer turnover came around, the 1st year players and the veterans that are left.. every single one of them helped us get back to the Shamrock Bowl. It’s a special team and win or lose I am incredibly grateful to have spent my final season playing with this bunch of guys.’

 

 

Shamrock Bowl XXIX Final Preview

Shamrock Bowl

Shamrock Bowl XXIX Final Preview:

Dalymount Park, August 9th: 3pm

Dalymount Park is the 2015 venue for the Championship game and will see the defending champs and three time winners, Belfast Trojans take on their 2014 Bowl Game opponents, Trinity College Dublin. The Trojans squeaked a 7-0 win last year, but who will take the honours this weekend?

Both sides are entering the game on the back of tremendous seasons. The Trojans went undefeated with a perfect 8-0 record and Trinity College overcame some early jitters and impressed with an excellent, 7-1 record. Reversing roles on 2014, it will be the Trojans entering the game undefeated with the students looking to cause an upset.

Belfast’s path to Shamrock Bowl 29 rarely looked like derailing, with comfortable wins against division rivals the Dublin Rebels and Carrickfergus Knights, the champions steamrolled their way to the top of the SBC North unthreatened. Their passage into the playoffs would see them tied against familiar foes in the UL Vikings in the semi-finals. Despite a close, physical battle the Trojans came out on top with a narrow 10-0 victory that would see them headed for their fourth consecutive Shamrock Bowl.

Trinity on the other hand started slowly, losing to the Vikings in the season opener. However they quickly worked their way through the gears to ultimately top the SBC South with key wins against UCD and then the Vikings in the return leg, as they went the rest of the campaign without a loss. They faced the Dublin Rebels in the semi-finals, were they came out 22-0 winners and booked themselves another showdown with the Trojans for the Waterford Crystal Bowl this Sunday.

Photography by Dave Bradshaw
Photography by Dave Bradshaw

Both teams are entering Dalymount in excellent form, mounting strong tallies on both offence and defence throughout the regular season. The Trojans topped the Shamrock Bowl Conference in all aspects, scoring well over 300+ points whilst only conceding 30 over an 8 game span. They averaged 38 points per game with the offence controlling every match from the outset as the defence went about their usual business creating several turnovers and compiling 4 shutouts.

Trinity had a strong showing too throughout, tallying 202 points for and only 92 against. They averaged 25 points per game as the offence started to come into its own at the midway stage and although their defence couldn’t salvage any clean sheets, they did however keep most teams at bay as their average points conceded per game over the year was only 9. The Trojans may have topped the majority of statistical charts, but TCD weren’t far behind in second place.

Despite the strength of the Trojans line-up, one key absentee will be that of star receiver David Richardson, who was ejected against the Vikings and will miss the final as a result, a huge loss to the offence. Quarterback, James McKelvey will need to turn to other targets in the passing game, with more responsibility now being added to the shoulders of Running-Backs, David Colvin and Neil Montgomery to carry the workload.

Trinity College will be coming into the game with a new look offence that has served them well this

Photo by Ariane Boudias
Photo by Ariane Boudias

season, as injured Quarterback Dan Finnamore moves to Wide-Receiver, allowing the dynamic Rob McDowell to move under centre. Having both McDowell and leading rusher Ola Bademosi could prove a dangerous tandem with their big play ability, so the Trojans defence will need to stay focused.

In regards to Sunday, both teams and sets of fans will be hoping the difficult Irish weather remains at bay, so it isn’t a repeat performance from Mother Nature of last year. Providing the weather is kind to us, supporters will be able to witness the full potential and talent that both sides have to offer in a great game of football. With the IAFL season drawing to a close, it’s only fitting that the best two sides of recent years contest the showpiece that is Shamrock Bowl XXIX.

Belfast Trojans versus Trinity College – THE REMATCH!

To give you a taste of what to expect this Sunday, here is a highlights package courtesy of Media 401 Productions of last seasons epic final!

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W9hqlex7uGU

NFL-Ireland’s ‘Team of the Year’: Offensive Line

We now turn to the men in the trenches, the guys up front that notably get overshadowed but are as equally, if not more important than anybody on the offence. They are key to all offensive production and without them, the quarterbacks, receivers and running-backs of this world wouldn’t get the praise they do! Dear Linemen….we thank you!


Offensive Line

Team White: Belfast Trojans

Photography by Dave Bradshaw
Photography by Dave Bradshaw

The men in green from Belfast have racked up some serious points on offence this year. They averaged 30+ points per game and scored a whopping 349 in total, 325 of which were on offence. McKelvey and Richardson topped their respective scoring charts, but the guys battling in the trenches helped facilitate that. The O-Line consisting of Matthew Vance, Michael Bradford, Mohammed Ramadan, Mark Davidson and Mark McGrath, with Chris Harte, Simon Cherry, Barry Keil, Jeroen Egge, Greg Gibson and Stephen Cheevers deputising at one point or anther too all have contributed to easily the best offensive unit in 2015.


 

Team Green: Trinity College

Photography by Charisse Mae Ducao
Photography by Charisse Mae Ducao

It’s not quite the blistering heights of last years breakout offence, but the students still got the job done on their path to another Shamrock Bowl Final. The O-Line was still as clinical as ever in both the passing and run game as they led TCD to 200 points and 28 touchdowns. The offensive line may not have the height advantage, but they are quick, nimble and very athletic and can more than hold their own against the best defences. Jack McKenna, Tom O’Hara, Kieran Coughlan, Dan McCarthy-Edwards, Jan Tamas and Barry Lysaght have ensured that Trinity remains one of the best offences in Ireland this year.


Most Honourable Mentions

Dublin Rebels – The Rebels have endured many changes over the years to both sides of the ball but despite the numerous new faces, the Rebels Offensive Line has remained one of the best front 5’s in the business. Their pass protection is second to none, which is why you rarely see QB Andrew Dennehy being sacked. They can get upfield too and provided pairing Sean Leamy and Kevin Finnegan with clear running lanes in which they can show their talent. They are smart, well-drilled and communicate well across the line which is a testament to the a very strong Rebels offence. Sunday (Fergal O’Hanlon), Paul Kirkwood, Tom Telford, Lewe O’Connor, Ross McCooey and at times Steve Walsh are one of the best there is.

Cork Admirals – The Admirals have proven themselves to be an offence to be feared, despite the lapse against the Wolves in the IAFL-1 final. They scored an incredible 225 points over the regular season, surmounting 33 touchdowns, the second best of all IAFL teams. Their is a reason Steve Hayes, Nick Coffi and Simon O’Keefe get the attention they do, but they can only be as good as their offensive line allows them to be, and based off this seasons performance, Cork are one of the better ones around.


Teams

Green v White

[row]

[column size='1/2']

QB James McKelvey

RB Neil Montgomery

RB Ola Bademosi

WR Sean Goldrick

WR Nic Coffi

OL Trinity College

[/column]

[column size='1/2']

QB Stephen Hayes

RB Shane Gleeson

RB Sean Leamy

WR David Richardson

WR Alex Gurney

OL Belfast Trojans

[/column]

[/row]

Next up Defences!