NFL Ireland Team of the Year : All Rounders

Our team of the Weeks included only QB, RB, WR, OL and Defences and as we sat down to pick the very best of all we found that since we put so much faith in our scoring charts (have you seen them?) there are players that are so key to their teams yet don’t put too many scores on the board. Ask their teams and they’ll rave about them! So who are they?


All Rounders!

Team Green Rob McDowell Trinity College Dublin

Photo by Ariane Boudias

Rob has been on the end of a lot of praise in his IAFL Career. Easily one of the fastest players out there, the elusiveness and trucking ability, he plays defence and returns kicks! So is there anything else to add. Well now he plays Quarterback. Dan Finnamore injured at the end of last season Trinity could have easily faded away but into the breach came McDowell and has brought all the ability and intelligence you could hope for to the position. This is the all rounders section so worth noting that at Safety McDowell shuts down the deep middle of the field with Quarterbacks afraid to test him because if he picks it, you’re in trouble. The weekend will be his 2nd Shamrock Bowl and he has the ability to be the hinge upon which it all turns.


Team White Peter Loughran Criagavon Cowboys

Photo by Ariane Boudias

Define All Rounders, Peter Loughran. We’re done. He plays receiver, he plays Quarterback and when he cameos on Defence he Quarterbacks that too from the Middle Linebacker spot. The true measure of a players value, when you consider how many other teams he’d make it into. Loughran (and the others on this list) would make it any team in the league and do it at any position you’ve got. He threw 10 touchdowns, ran for 5, 3 2point attempts, thats 96 of Craigavons 111 points. Perhaps the finest few moments of the year was in the game against the Knights when he put the team on his back….and several of the Knights and willed them to victory.


Team Green Mark Dunphy Waterford Wolves

Photo by Ariane Boudias
Photo by Ariane Boudias

Cork & Tyrone were steamrolling their way towards the IAFL 1 bowl game until they met the Waterford Wolves and Mark Dunphy. Dunphy plays on offence and he plays on defence and the results are the same on both sides of the ball, passes caught! Dunphy also plays kicker and when the Wolves season was on a knife edge late verses the Mavericks on two occasions. Dunphy dispatched field goals to win both games. Interceptions against the Titans put the Wolves in excellent position in the game and back into the play offs. The SBC will test the Wolves and Dunphy and this time they’ve some of the experience along with the talent to succeed. We mentioned in the Kickers piece that the league rate of XPs to Touchdowns is usually under 50%. Dunphy is one of the Kickers above that mark.


Team White Ross McCooey, Dublin Rebels

Photo by Ariane Boudias
Photo by Ariane Boudias

 Ross McCooey is one of the finest football players in the land. No debate. It is easy to see the contribution of the above 3 players. McDowell and Loughran Quarterback and Dunphy catches all in sight. Ross McCoy oft goes unnoticed by all but the running backs he’s leading out for and the Quarterbacks that have just inadvertently thrown him the ball. McCooey plays nearly ever down, offence, defence and special teams and just makes plays over and over again. A veteran of the Berlin Rebels and Dublin Rebels alike and what is scary is he’s still only 28 and perhaps only entering his best years now. This is the last player on our list and we don’t believe we could have ended it any better. See the complete list below!


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

Defence Belfast Trojans

Kicker Nick McSweeney

All Rounder Rob McDowell

All Rounder Mark Dunphy

[/column]

[column size='1/2']

QB Stephen Hayes

RB Shane Gleeson

RB Sean Leamy

WR David Richardson

WR Alex Gurney

OL Belfast Trojans

Defence UL Vikings

Kicker Greg Gibson

All Rounder Peter Loughran

All Rounder Ross McCooey

[/column]

[/row]

NFL Ireland’s Team of the Year : Wide Receivers

And we push on to the Team of the Year Wide Receivers. In the Year of the Quarterback like we’ve just had, there has been some Wide Receivers who will claim just a bit of the credit!

Wide Receivers

Team White David Richardson Belfast Trojans

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Photo by Ariane Boudias

James McKelvey had 20 passing touchdowns and David Richardson was on the receiving end of 11 of them.  In 2015 he was the highest scoring non Quarterback in the Shamrock Bowl Conference. Given the prevalence of the run game in recent years, Richardsons feat is all the more impressive. By seasons end, double coverage was the norm for the confident receiver, triple coverage wasn’t too infrequent either. Teams have to game plan for their opponents best players and David Richardson is perhaps one of the few wide receivers out there that defences need to give their first priority to. Richardson plays the game with a swagger that oft irritates opponents but never fails to entertain. McKelvey to Richardson may well just be the Montana to Rice of the IAFL and we haven’t seen a connections as good as this in some time.


Team Green Sean Goldrick UL Vikings

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Photo by Jason Toher

A testament to the player that Goldrick is that he can miss most of the season with an injury and still return at the end of the season to push Limerick to the playoffs. Goldrick contributed 5 touchdowns this campaign and had he not have missed the games he did it most certainly would have been more. The extra dimension he provides to the Limerick offence, still rebuilding, was evident in the SBC Semi Final as he streaked clear of the Belfast defence (not something that is often said) after taking a hand off and nearly, just nearly making it to the end zone and changing the face of the Semi Final.

 


Team White Alex Gurney Trinity

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Photo by Ariane Boudias

How long more Alex will be eligible for this spot remains to be seen. He played as Running Back in the Semi Final of the Shamrock Bowl and looks set to repeat the feat in the Bowl itself. Gurney is the type of big bodied receiver Coaches dream of and in most other teams would likely find himself deployed on defence due to his size. Trinity absent of Dan Finnamore at QB most the season have adapted and with McDowell now supplying the passes Gurny has still found a way to get among the scores. Now light on Running Backs Gurney is still finding ways to contribute rushing for a touchdown in the Semi final. The numbers might not be as high as last year or some of the others on this list but perhaps more a sign a change in scheme than anything to do with Alex but yet the results are still there.


Team Green Nic Coffi Cork Admirals

IMG_6088Perhaps one of the best pure athletes in the IAFL. Nic Coffi has torn IAFL 1 defences apart now for two years. Returning Kicks catching the very well placed passes from Stephen Hayes. We mentioned above about how sides need to game plat for David Richardson. No better evidence of this can be seen than in the emergence of Simon O’Keefe who has found himself wide open and scoring freely as defences have chased the blue helmet of Coffi all over the field. Coffi missed the IAFL1 final and perhaps he could have been the difference in getting Cork over the line and into the SBC. Cork will make it to the SBC sooner rather than later and Nic Coffi will no doubt be terrorising DBs there when they do.


Teams

Green v White

[row]

[column size='1/2']

QB James McKelvey

RB Neil Montgomery

RB Ola Bademosi

WR Sean Goldrick

WR Nic Coffi

[/column]

[column size='1/2']

QB Stephen Hayes

RB Shane Gleeson

RB Sean Leamy

WR David Richardson

WR Alex Gurney

[/column]

[/row]


Most Honourable Mentions

Simon O’Keefe Cork Admirals 10 Touchdowns and not on the full team is perhaps a bit harsh on the young receiver but the standard of opposition sometimes is something that must be considered. O’Keefe has been unstoppable all year and between himself and Nic Coffi have provided absolutely fantastic outlets for the arm and ability of Stephen Hayes. Cork in 2014 were in a rebuilding year, 2015 they hit the gas and now with the chip on their shoulders missing out on the SBC built into their DNA this side as the potential to go from strength to strength and Simon O’Keefe could easily find himself mentioned in the company of their very finest to do it in this country.

Luis Alberto Craigavon Cowboys ‘Best game ever’ is how the Cowboys comeback victory over the Knights was described and that may very well be the case. Speed, strength and agility all in what by any standard isn’t the biggest package around. Alberto frequently and repeatedly shakes lose much bigger defenders and make catches where much bigger receivers would struggle. The connection between himself and Peter Loughran is something to behold on a good day and inside two minutes, down agains the the Knights was perhaps the best few minutes of interplay between a QB/WR combo in many long years.

Ryan Brolly Tyrone Titans The Titans season fell at the last. Nearly two years unbeaten unfortunately numbers and injuries cost them. Ryan Brolly chipped in with 6 Touchdown receptions and would have had more if he’d been in every game. The wirey receiver has a strength and speed that you wouldn’t expect and can shake even the tightest coverage. Such is the faith Titans QB Dan Mullan has in Brolly he is one of the few ‘Go and Get it’ receivers in the country. Most QBs will always wait for the open guy. Brolly doesn’t always need to be open!

NFL-Ireland’s ‘Team of the Year’: Running-Backs

Thank you for staying with us. Now we’ve arrived at the Running Backs. The IAFL has adopted a run first approach for many years as a number of the leagues top rushers dominated the scoring charts year on year; Simon Mackey and Rob McDowell being the standouts from 2014. As times change, this year in particular has seen Irish Football slowly transcend to a more passer-friendly league, but that doesn’t mean the backfield has any less importance.

The Running-Backs are often the workhorses that earn those extra inches and relieve pressure from the Quarterback and we are blessed to have many talented backs with different running styles in the IAFL. A combined total of 177 rushing touchdowns were scored across all divisions during the regular season, however who stood out the most too us in this very competitive rushing class.

Running Backs

Team White Shane Gleeson UL Vikings

Photography by Jason Toher
Photography by Jason Toher

Gleeson is was the workhorse of a very dominant Vikings run-game. When Adrian Garvey went down earlier in the year, much of the work fell to Gleeson and he became the number 1 threat for the Vikings offence. His tough, physical down-hill running style coupled with his Madden Truck Stick ability to break tackles he secured top spot of the SBC rushing charts with 8 touchdowns, as he helped the Vikings progress to the semi-final stages.

 

 


Team Green Neil Montgomery Belfast Trojans 

Photo by Dave Bradshaw
Photo by Dave Bradshaw

The Trojans are blessed to have so much talent in the backfield, but Montgomery offers a different style and dimension to the others. Neil is a physical football player that loves contact and it’s a very tough task for anybody to bring him down. He can fight for those much needed extra yards, whilst also bursting out big yardage plays that make him an ideal running-back to have at your dispense. His consistency and work ethic have made him a top back in this league, as he finished the regular season with 7 rushing TD’s.

 


Team White  Sean Leamy Dublin Rebels 

Photo by Laszlo Geczo
Photo by Laszlo Geczo

Leamy’s move from the Reapers to the Rebels during the off-season added a much needed boost to the Dubliners backfield with the loss of Simon Mackey; and Leamy’s performances didn’t disappoint. He struck up an impressive backfield tandem with Kevin Finnegan, as the pair caused all sort’s of problems to opposing defences. Leamy is a quick, elusive and dangerous running-back in open field that can also assist in the passing game. Sean came up clutch in numerous 2PT attempts, whilst also scoring 7 rushing and 2 passing touchdowns. His stock is on the rise very quickly in the IAFL.

 


Team Green  Ola Bademosi Trinity College 

Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao
Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao

Usually when talking about TCD running-backs, one name springs to mind. However with Rob McDowell moving to QB, it freed up Ola Bademosi to make an impact. Often the understudy, Bademosi soon became to go-to guy of the Trinity offence as he scored a handful of touchdowns in as many games. Ola offers a mix of both power and pace, a dangerous combo that had defences struggling to contain him as he rushed in for 7 touchdowns this term. His performances were the turning point in Trinity’s season that saw them clinch the south division title and a place in this years Shamrock Bowl Final.

 


Teams

Green v White

[row]

[column size='1/2']

QB James McKelvey

RB Neil Montgomery

RB Ola Bademosi

[/column]

[column size='1/2']

QB Stephen Hayes

RB Shane Gleeson

RB Sean Leamy

[/column]

[/row]


 

 Most Honourable Mentions:


Jonah Siri
 Belfast Trojans This guy is untouchable, I mean like properly untouchable! Siri topped the IAFL-2 rushing charts with 10 touchdowns, 2 ahead of is equally talented teammate Matt Armstrong, whilst also bagging 3 in the SBC. As good as his rushing ability is, his return threat on special teams is something to behold! He scored 8 touchdowns from both kickoff and punt returns, the most special team touchdowns scored by anyone this year. His return ability was noted by the Vikings in this years semi-finals, who deliberately kicked the ball out of bounds on Punt’s to avoid him. Say’s it all for a man better known as ‘Cheat-codes’.

Pete McMahon Meath Bulldogs Pete stakes his claim as the top scoring running-back in the IAFL-1 for the second consecutive year. Along with FB Alan Harvey, brother Eddie and Erin Kelly, they spearheaded the Bulldogs attack which saw them reach the semi-finals against the Waterford Wolves. Although Meath are mostly recognised for their defensive prowess, it was their running-back core that clinched them third in the division. Pete has delivered a number of big performances that kept the Bulldogs in the running and he once again proved himself to be the top back in the division with 5 rushing touchdowns and 2 receiving TDs.

Gareth Miller Carrickfergus Knights The Knights season didn’t go exactly as they had planned. They were staring relegation in the face for much of the year after their season began to derail following a loss to the Panthers and injuries in key places. It took a while to get going but the Knights were in a playoff for relegation several times in the last number of weeks and it was Millers stellar close to the season that may have just saved them. A late season push saw him rack up a total of 6 TDs for the year and more important than the final number was how important each of those scores was. The Knights awarded him the offensive MVP because when the chips were down, Miller came though.

David Colvin Belfast Trojans Did anyone notice Colvin scored 8 touchdowns this year? Not at the top of the rushing chart or receiving chart but one of the most productive players out there! Colvin has been the leader of the Trojan rushing attack for years now and as Neil Montgomery, Matt Armstrong and Even Johnathan Siri has seen their carries and scores go up, David Colvin has continued to make significant contributions to a team loaded with talent on offence and defence. Sometimes the guys that do it all suffer on lists like this one since they’re not the top in any category but if you were putting a team together from scratch David Colvin would be an extremely good start

Next up on NFL-Irelands ‘Team of the Year’ countdown: Wide-Receivers

Semi Final Preview: Dublin Rebels @ Trinity College

Semi Final Preview: Dublin Rebels @ Trinity College 

thumb_DRlogo Dublin Rebels @ Trinity College thumb_TCDlogo  – 1pm.

The first game in the double header is a replay of last years showdown between Trinity College and the Dublin Rebels, that saw the students reach their first ever final with a 47-8 victory over their Dublin foes.

Bademosi produced TCD's greatest rushing threat. Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao
Bademosi produced TCD’s greatest rushing threat. Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao
Trinity College started the 2015 campaign in unusually sluggish fashion, as they fell victim to a 14-0 defeat against the Vikings in the opening game. It appeared the after-effect of last seasons Shamrock Bowl loss threatened to derail the student’s season, however it only sparked the finalists into life, as they won their last 7 games to finish (7-1) and defend their South Division title.

Their defining victory of the season came in their league encounter with the Rebels, when the students came back from  from 3 scores down and win 29-28!

Once they found their feet, Trinity’s performances proved irresistible. Converting 202 points, 28 touchdowns and surrendering only 92, they quickly began to show signs of their unbeaten 2014 form. Dynamic duo, Dan Finnamore and Rob McDowell couldn’t quite reach the dizzying standards they set last term, however their offence is still brimming with quality, with Running-Back Ola Bademosi have a particularly good year as he finished the teams top scorer with 7 touchdowns.


The Dublin Rebels will occupy the other sideline this weekend as they clinched second spot in the SBC North, before defeating the Craigavon Cowboys in the resulting wildcard bout. The 7 time champions put in their best performance of the year in the playoff game, as they showed why they are the most successful team in Irish American Football, winning 62-19 against a spirited Cowboys outfit.

The Rebels endured a mixed season, finishing (5-3) and losing to two of the other semi-finalists during the campaign. However solid victories against the South Dublin Panthers and fellow divisional rivals put them in commanding position to secure their playoff spot.

TE Paul Grogan will be a key target on Sunday. Photo by John Whealan
TE Paul Grogan will be a key target on Sunday. Photo by John Whealan
On paper, the Rebels rank lowest out of the four playoff sides but never underestimate the quality that they posses. Veteran Quarterback, Andrew Dennehy was effective as ever, connecting for 10 touchdowns this year whilst the backfield tandem of Sean Leamy and Kevin Finnegan combined for a total of 12 rushing scores. Offensive production was fluent as always, as the Dubliners scored 168 points over 8 games, however defensive struggles saw them leak 132 during that period.

The Rebels have one of the most experienced sides in the league and have been contesting for the Shamrock Bowl since they formed in 1995. They set themselves high standards every year, so expect them to do whatever it takes to reach the final this August.

 

Last season’s result was a blowout victory for Trinity, however the match-up earlier in the campaign would suggest that this semi-final will be more closely contested. Both sides won their recent games in convincing fashion and will enter the fixture in promising form. The Rebels and Trinity have never been short on quality and their squads will give them plenty to be confident about. Starting quickly could be the difference in this match as neither can afford to go too far behind early on. This will be an interesting fixture to spectate, but who will come out on top? Will it be the experienced Dublin Rebels, or the speed and quickness of Trinity College?

 

Team of the Week: Week #17

NFL-Irelands Week 17: ‘Team of the Week’

Week 17 served up some of the best and most exciting football to date this season as the form book was ripped up in IAFL1, the Rhinos saved Trinity and the Trojans continued to dominate in IAFL2.

The seasons is winding down for those not bound for the post season, as those that are look to build momentum for their run at their respective Bowls

Here’s the best of Week 17 in the IAFL!

Photo by Ariane Boudias

Quarterback: Ryan Byrne
 Waterford Wolves

The Wolves signal caller was quite simply dominant on Sunday. Finding Mark Dunphy and Eoin Reinhardt early in the game to establish what proved to be an unassailable lead, Byrne was composed and in command of the impressive Wolves attack. Earning a lead can be hard but moving the ball, maintaining the lead and working the clock in defence of that margin can oft be the measure of a maturing QB. Byrne never rattled in the face of an imposing Titans defence, added a rushing touchdown to the score and iced the game in doing so.

 

Brian Du Toit or Superman, we’re not sure

Running Back: Brian Du Toit
 Trinity College Dublin

The Running Back Factory that is Trinity College marches on at a blistering pace. We’d never heard of Brian Du Toit and we’ll wager neither had the West Dublin Rhinos until Sunday. 4 touchdowns in a single game puts Du Toit level with established IAFL players like Sean Leamy and Adrain Garvey on the season and another game to come vs UCD could see Trinity put two backs at the top of the scoring charts if they have another good day moving the ball. Oh we forgot to mention that this was the first time Brian Du Toit has ever played a Football game…learn the name, memorise the face (image may in fact be Superman)

 

Photo by Ariane Boudias

Wide Receiver: Mark Dunphy
 Waterford Wolves

A host of receivers caught a single touchdown this weekend so it is a tough business separating one from the pack. Paul O’Driscoll for Cork had a fine day on the losing side with 7 receptions for 140 yards but ultimately of all the names that got themselves on the Receiving Charts this weekend, only Dunphys came up….nearly everywhere else too. 4 interceptions and 2 special teams scores, coupled with the fact he was ruled inches short twice in the same series, if TV replay was available to IAFL officials he may have an extra 6 on the record. Dunphy has been a standout for Waterford this year and his contribution in all phases of the game may prove the difference in getting the Wolves to the post season.

 

Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao

Offensive Line: Trinity College Dublin 

Trinity weren’t themselves yesterday as a miscommunication led to them not brining along their away jerseys. The Rhinos stepped in and saved the day by loaning Trinity their away jerseys and ensuring the game could go ahead and Trinity thanked them by rushing for 5 touchdowns and passing for another. Trinity’s O-Line are among the most impressive in the country, fast movers and punishing blockers, this season has seen them protect for 2 QBs 3 Running Backs totalling 14 touchdowns and not to mention one of the most consistent place kickers in the country. When you can score, regardless of who has the ball, the reason is usually the men in the trenches.

 

Defence: Meath Bulldogs 

Cork, through 7 games, have one of the most potent offences in the country. Not only did Meath manage to shut it down, they turned in into a weakness. There was shutouts elsewhere but of the 26 Meath points Sunday, 18 were as a result of the defence intercepting and scoring. Erin Kelly, who also played QB, had 2 interceptions, both for scores and Cian Minnock with the other pick 6. Interceptions are often the result of  good work done up front and this was an impressive day all round from a defence, many of whom were playing iron man football.


 

Honourable Mentions:

 – UL backup QB Ray Burke had a fine day at the helm of their 2nds team as he scored 3 through the air and 1 on the ground.

 – Meath Bulldogs Kicker Daryl Ratty contributed 8 of the 26 points scored against Cork from 2 field goals and 2 extra points extending the margin of victory to a safe distance down the stretch.

 – Nic Coffi reeled in another pass from Stephen Hayes as the pair moved to 9 and 22 touchdowns on the season respectively.

 –  Jonathan Siri continues to return punts for fun as he scored another adding to his 3 rushing touchdowns on the day.

IAFL Week 15 Previews!

Week 15 Previews

Games, seasons and futures can be decided in moments this time of year. Teams certain of security can make one slip and be facing the IAFL 1 quick sand. Teams wondering who their playoff opponents will be get caught looking the wrong way and their football is done for another year.
This weekend 6 SBC teams seasons will tilt one way or the other, in the IAFL 1 opportunities for the chasing pack are dwindling in the fight overcome Tyrone or Cork and uncertain of what the future of their division will hold, IAFL 2 teams just compete for the purest of motivations…victory.

Belfast Trojans 6-0 v West Dublin Rhinos 1-5

Preview
Mc Kelvey leading all scorers Photo by Dave Bradshaw

The Trojans find themselves, yet again, free from any of the above concerns. Another fine season draws to a close and the Trojans have never looked like they’d stumble. 30+ points in all games bar one (which was called early) and never more than 1 score given up in any game. They lead the way in points scored and in defence. James McKelvey and David Richardson sit atop their respective scoring charts by some margin and with Neil Montgomery within reach of the rushing title the Trojans could sweep the regular season in every imaginable way.
The Rhinos, it’s no disrespect to say, have struggled this year. An offence that never got moving and a defence that couldn’t possibly be expected to take up that much slack. Serious discussions were needed and action facing potentially certain relegation after only 6 games. A change at Quarterback is more than just about the play of the passer himself. It’s an indictment of an offence when the leader of it is replaced. It forces all men on the downfield side of the ball to hold their own performances to account and ask the question of themselves, have I done enough? It worked! Stephen Mooney stepped under centre and with their heels teetering off the edge of the SBC cliff they fought back and although it may only be a stay of execution, they saved their SBC status for another game at least. It still looks as though the men in Castleknock will go down, as the Knights have 3 games left and will consider at least one of them winnable.
This is the exact wrong time for the Rhinos to be facing the Trojans but if they are to go down they will be looking to go down swinging or to put it another way –
Why does it matter how a man falls, when the fall is all that left, it matters a great deal.

Carrickfergus Knights 1-5 v Craigavon Cowboys 2-4

To view the Knights in person and then on the league table would leave you confused. Live and up close, a large well organised professionally run outfit that exudes confidence and considered preparation. On paper, only 1 win. It’s difficult to say the least to mould a large group of men into a football team competing in all three phases of the game and while at times this season the Knights offence has rolled along, the defence as let them down. Other times when the defence was lock down the offence couldn’t capitalise. The league position is explained by a lack of consistency rather than a team that flatly ins’t able to compete. If the loss to Rhinos didn’t shock some in the Knights organisation to life, they could be in serious trouble. We mentioned above that the Knights will see some of the remaining three games as winnable, they should, at this point, know that seeing a game as winnable and actually winning it are a different story. If the game was played on paper the Knights should be 3-2 and looking to cement a play off spot. The IAFL 1 poses it’s own challenges and is not easily escaped and a season or two down there without progress could be devastating to a teams future. This is why in their remaining 3 games, (Cowboys, Rebels and Reapers) at least one win is essential. This squad is capable of better but to hold it together, if they achieve that one win, it could prove to be a defining moment in the life of the Knights.
Outside of the Cowboys; expectations were low. Often times, the first game of the season and the squad size you arrive to it with will determine what people think of your chances. After not being particularly impressive in the reverse fixture on the opening day the Cowboys slipped the notice of most people. They have thrived as the underdog this season and now must legitimately be considered that which they aim to be…the wildcard. The offence behind their enigmatic leader, Peter Loughran, have been racking up points this season. They pose several issues for defences tasked with stopping them. The aforementioned Loughran is one of the best pure football players in the league, placing him anywhere between the white lines will get you results, be it on defence or under centre. Conrad Smith is a beast at tightend and finding someone to match up with him in most defensive backfields is no easy task. Where the Cowboys have suffered is on defence, ranking near the bottom. The Knights have hardly lit up the scoring charts this season with the bulk of their 51 points coming on that opening day. If the Cowboys defence can elevate their performance on defence just a little, their offence has the tools to win the game and give them an iron grip on 3rd place in the SBC north and the Wildcard status they so crave.

University College Dublin 2-3 v Trinity College Dublin 4-1

Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao
Ola Bademosi making his mark Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao

Trinity started the season a little out of sorts and carrying injuries from an impressive but punishing campaign in 2014. UCD beat them in the College Championship and had the season opened with this game like it was supposed to things could be a looking a little dimmer for the scholars at this point. Fortuitously that game was called due to the weather and now is the closing fixture rather than the opening. Trinity suffered defeat early in the season to a surging Limerick side and the Panthers got a little closer to them that they would have anticipated. Since those early hiccups and a long break for exams Trinity look themselves again. Rob McDowell appearing in a multitude of positions and Ola Bademosi emerging as one of the most punishing runners in the league. After turning the head to head points difference around on Limerick and the subsequent loss by the Vikings to the Rebels, the SBC South is now Trinity’s to lose.
More accurately perhaps, the SBC South is UCDs to take from Trinity. The Boys from Belfield make up two of the three games remaining for their South Side neighbours and although UCD can’t claim the SBC South for themselves (unless they win out and Limerick forfeit their game at the Panthers next week) they can prevent Trinity from winning it. Motivation enough for these colours games. Tom Donovan truly is one of the most exciting players to watch in the IAFL and would give the celebrated Rob McDowell a run for his money in breakout ability. Eoin Feely on the UCD defence is consistently making game changing plays and with weapons elsewhere both sides of the ball UCD will most certainly feel they have the tools to upset their rivals. UCD maybe would feel they should be sitting on a better record than 2-3 but playoffs are most certainly within reach for the students. 3rd place in the SBC North is not guaranteed to have a better record than 4th in the SBC South and the Reapers still on their schedule, there is certainly more than one way they can make the post season. At least one positive result against Trinity would place them in an extremely strong position and with the Reapers game to come they have every opportunity keep their season going throughout July.

Cork Admirals 5-0 v Waterford Wolves 3-2

Hayes having an MVP season Photography by Declan Forrest
Hayes having an MVP season
Photography by Declan Forrest

Cork look destined for the SBC. It would be an upset if they didn’t find themselves in possession of the IAFL1 title at the close of the season. Although praise has been heaped upon them from all corners, including this one, this season they are not perfect just yet. Winning teams are often built on a precarious balance of mentality and ability. There are teams in the IAFL1 with the ability but perhaps not the winners mentality and there are some teams riding high in this and other divisions with the mentality but perhaps not the ability of their lower ranked rivals. When you go in search of a perfect season, the belief you possess the ability to do it but never the disregard for your opponents ability to stop you are vital ingredients. Cork are relatively young following their rebirth and now mentality as much as the much heralded ability of their squad will determine their perfect season.
Waterford are reconstructing their confidence, game by game, play by play, inch by inch. It was clear following some of the sentiment coming from the South East following their victory over Meath last time out that possession of a winning record once more was a milestone for this group. They will be in no humour to give it up easily. There is tremendous enthusiasm for the Wolves in Waterford and they are among the best supported teams in the land. The drive to repay that faith can often overcome any deficits verses more talented opposition. Games, seasons and futures can turn in moments in football and if Waterford can overcome cork suddenly the prospect of bouncing straight back into the SBC will edging closer to reality. Cork must now maintain mental discipline and belief in their ability or the wolf pack could devour their perfect season.

Meath Bulldogs 2-3 v Tyrone Titans 5-1

IAFL 1
Meaths scorers facing a big task. Photo by Ariane Boudias

The Bulldogs have never had a losing season at 11s football and with Tyrone, Cork and Mullingar to come that record is under threat. With the IAFL 1 bowl on their home turf in Navan again this year the Bulldogs hopes of playing in it are also still very much alive. The Bulldogs were sucker punched in the opening game of the season verses a Titans team that proved to be more potent than most had anticipated them to be in their debut IAFL 1 season. It would be uncharacteristic of the Meath men to not remedy that lapse in the intervening months. A 15 point reversal is required for the Bulldogs to stand a chance to over throw the Titans team that look odds on for the 2nd spot in the IAFL1. This is no small task against a team that, with the exception of their Cork game, have conceded no more than one score in any game this season. Meath possess some of the most consistent offensive performers in the last number of years in the IAFL1 and each of them will need to show up to challenge the stingy Titans defence.
The Titans will have always believed in their ability to win this division and at this point in their development to have a realistic shot at the SBC is a huge feat. To have only lost 1 game since their formation is unprecedented. Built on a strong defence, relying on a mix of experience and explosive playmakers they count among their ranks the players to perhaps make this one of the truly great defences in the country. Still less than a year in the tutelage of new offensive co-ordinator Gary Carr the offence has fired in spots and stumbled in others but something that has been consistent has been the results. Meath play a particular brand of hard hitting football and late in the season when bodies are sore and will is tested to the limit, the character of a team is revealed. If Tyrone truly hope to not only play in but win the IAFL1 bowl game games such as this can’t be let slip. A game that won’t be pretty but a battle that will be won and lost in the trenches.

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!

Week 1 Game Preview: UCD @ Trinity College

Week 1 Game Preview: University College Dublin @ Trinity College Dublin

Opening game of the 2015 IAFL season. Last summers Shamrock Bowl Finalists versus the IAFL-1 Champions. Two university sides who have been battling it out for years. Who will come out on top in the season opener between University College Dublin and Trinity College!

It has been a long off-season, but now the Superbowl hype has quietened down, we can begin to build the suspense for the commencement of the new Irish Football campaign. What a game to start us off as well, two teams who have followed similar paths to where they are today from competing in the DV8’s league in 2009 to once again clashing heads in the SBC South Conference six years later.

Both sides had terrific years in 2014, Trinity College were the only team to complete the regular season unbeaten as they stormed to an (8-0) campaign. They went one step further this year by defeating the Dublin Rebels in the semi-finals before competing for the highest honour, in the clubs first ever Shamrock Bowl appearance. Following unfortunate demotion to the IAFL-1 on the back of 2013, UCD swept away opposition by taking the divisions top spot with a (6-2) record, before defeating the Cork Admirals in the IAFL-1 Bowl game, and thus clinching promotion back into the top flight.

1888873_10152678269356212_6123280353886837067_oThese teams have played numerous times in the past, but currently UCD may have a possible edge. In the annual College Championship game, UCD came out 26-20 winners against Trinity in a very close contest last November. With two championship victories in two games, UCD could well be deemed the form team heading into the Shamrock Bowl season. However, no two games are the same and thats something Wide Receiver, Paul Geraghty is well aware of heading into Sundays key fixture.

‘The college championships was a great building block for us but that’s all it was. It was a great opportunity to give guys who had never played against an SBC team, a taste of the physicality and speed. But we know come this Sunday that it will be a big step above what a lot of the guys experienced in November.’

The team has been progressing well over recent years and with many rookie players in the squad, the team is beginning to gel nicely at just the right time. However the SBC is a step up in class compared to the IAFL-1.

‘The team is really looking forward to it. After a sizeable rookie class last year and a good year of recruitment so far, it’ll be the majority of guys first ever SBC game. We have done our best to prepare them as best as possible but you can’t replicate the physicality and speed of an SBC game over training, IAFL-1 and College Championship games.’

‘In saying that, success in the last year by winning the IAFL-1 and College Championship has brought a feeling of confidence to the team, that wasn’t present when I first joined.’

UCD topped nearly every scoring chart that existed in the IAFL-1 this year, with Paul reeling in 8 touchdowns of his own. Both sides contain two very explosive offences, so highlighting the strengths of the opposition will be key if UCD are to prevail. Although Paul knows the dangers that Trinity possess, stopping them will be another matter entirely.

‘For us, we have always felt our major strength and advantage comes with our speed across all positions. When we play Trinity that advantage is wiped away. Everyone knows about the threats Trinity possess on offence, but their defence is just as good. They are super aggressive and have speed in abundance making it very tough to move the ball consistently.’

‘Our goal every year is to win every game we play. Whether we do that or not will be down to us. If our game plan and execution is good I believe we’ll be very competitive in every game we play this year.’

Facing opposite Paul this Sunday will be Quarterback, Dan Finnamore who had a fantastic 2014. Dan topped the passing charts with a remarkable 18 Touchdowns in his debut year with Trinity and was recently called up to the Irish National Team tryouts. The former Drogheda Lightning signal-caller has made big improvements since his move to TCD, but he knows that the team and himself have plenty of work still to do.

‘We have established our coaching staff, having brought in Coach Garland Drake and we feel we have learn’t from last year. We are working very hard and doing our best to win games. I think we have learned from our experience last season and for us, we are taking it one game at a time’. 

Dan may have only played UCD on a few occasions, but he knows he will be coming up against a tough team on Sunday.

‘We are looking forward to getting back to playing football. It’s going to be a tough game, UCD are a good team, so we have to play our best football. They are a strong team overall and they have shown it by winning the IAFL-1. They are well coached and well drilled.’ 

Any championship game is always important, but so is the opening fixture to the season. So when asked how important the upcoming game was in comparison to the College Championship match, the Quarterback replied in modest and determined fashion.

‘You never want to lose a game, so regardless of the setting; we see each game as equally important.’

So, it’s the opening game of the season. Both teams have points to prove. Despite not perhaps admitting it, but there will surely be a sour taste dwelling from the College Championship Final. Both teams will certainly be challenging for the SBC South crown and perhaps the Shamrock Bowl Final this summer, but who will take the spoils this Sunday in what is sure to be, an explosive encounter! The game kicks off at 1pm at Trinity College Sports Grounds.

Shamrock Bowl XXVIII Highlights

Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao

Some of you may have been fortunate enough to have attended this years Shamrock Bowl Final back in August between the Belfast Trojans and Trinity College. The match proved to be an incredibly intense, momentum swinging and overall entertaining game, that had the fans in the stadium off their seats. However, for those of you who couldn’t make the final.. you are in luck!

Thanks to the incredible work of Lyndsay McVeigh at Media 401 Productions, NFL-Ireland has been able to get its hands on the highlights that captivate all the special moments from this years final into one awesome video! Another amazing job by Lyndsay. Enjoy!

Shamrock Bowl XXVIII Final Match Report

Shamrock Bowl Final: Trinity College Dublin 0 – Belfast Trojans 7


 

The coveted Waterford Crystal Bowl made its way back to Belfast as the Trojans overcame a tough and spirited Trinity College side, as the defending champions grinded out a 7-0 win in front of 1,500 fans in Tallaght Stadium, Dublin this Sunday.

The Trojans were aiming to clinch their third consecutive title whilst the undefeated students were entering their first appearance in the Bowl game, hoping to claim victory in their debutant year. However, amidst the lightning strikes and the torrential rain, a pick-6 from Connor Whitla was all that separated the sides as the Green Machine headed back up North as champions once again.

 

The game as a whole proved to be a defensive battle throughout with both offences struggling to produce any concrete chances, as possession swung back and forth in the opening stages. Each team started very cagey with the nerves of the occasion perhaps getting the better, as the wet conditions created fumbles and turnovers that would halt any forward momentum.

Trinity’s Offence, consisting of the talented duo of Quarterback, Dan Finnamore and Running-Back, Rob McDowell tried to get the ball moving up field, but the hard-working and persistent Trojans Defence snuffed out any danger possessed by the leagues top scorers. The pressure created by the Trojan’s D was beginning to pay off, as Finnamore was intercepted by both Andrew McGorman and Rick Duffield as Belfast’s defensive-backs shut-down Trinity’s passing game early on.

On the other side of the ball, James McKelvey was avoiding pressure of his own from the likes of Dylan Green and Eoghan Hurley on the Trinity D-Line, finding receivers David Richardson and Andrew Wright for some quick-fire receptions. With the conditions worsening, the Trojans resorted to keeping the ball on the ground, with Neil Montgomery and Dave Colvin fighting for hard yards. However, despite plenty of possession the Trojan Offence couldn’t make their efforts count as Trinity’s Defence, containing the likes of Alex Gurnee and Stephen Carton who were terrific all game, held them firm.

Midway through the second quarter, the dark clouds that started to fill the skies over Dublin forced the teams into a 30 minute interval, with lightning and torrential rain brining an abrupt halt to proceedings. Although the break was somewhat distracting and interrupted momentum, if gave each side the chance to reflect on the opening exchanges and once they returned to the field, the game exploded into life.

With the match still scoreless, both sides gave it their all in an attempt to break the deadlock. The water on the pitch was proving troublesome as it made tackling and gripping even more difficult with the Trojans and TCD struggling to gain consistent first downs. It looked as though this game was going to be won on the defensive side of the ball, and that’s exactly what happened.

After finding themselves deep inside their own 20; Finnamore, looking for one of his receivers over the middle was intercepted by Linebacker, Connor Whitla who expertly jumped the route to rush in for a 20-yard touchdown, much to the delight of the Trojan faithful. Rick Duffield converted the PAT that gave Belfast a slender 7-0 lead heading into the final quarter.

The last 12 minutes was exciting and intense, with differing emotions on the opposing touchlines. Trinity knew they had to go for it all whilst a few big stops from the Trojans would see them reclaim their crown. As the game entered the final stretch, Duffield sent an excellent punt downfield to pin TCD within their own 20 with little under 2 minutes left. For the students, it was all or nothing.

 

In what proved to be the defining play of the game, the ball was handed off to Rob McDowell who scampered past would-be tacklers down the near sideline. It looked as though this would be the play to bring Trinity back into the game, until a fantastic tackle by Neil Graham forced a fumble, that Andrew McGorman happily pounced on to give possession back to the Trojans and bring them within touching distance of an historic treble.

With no timeouts remaining for Trinity, The Belfast Trojans kneeled out the clock to claim a 7-0 victory, earning themselves yet another Shamrock Bowl triumph much to the relief and joy of the travelling supporters. The heroics of Connor Whitla won him the inaugural Terry Lynch Memorial MVP trophy, for his excellent performance throughout the game. The Trojans battled one of the toughest opponents they have ever faced in Trinity College, who did themselves proud with an outstanding effort that on perhaps another day, could well have seen them leave with the trophy.

 

Meanwhile, The Belfast Trojans keep adding to their impressive trophy haul after successfully defending their title as the best team in Ireland. The game was played with fantastic effort from both teams and their performances over the season will provide a great testament for football in Ireland. The Trojans can now celebrate winning their third straight National Championship! The ‘three-peat’ is complete!