IAFA Week #6 Previews

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IAFA Week 6

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West Dublin Rhinos @ Tyrone Titans

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

Westmeath Minotaurs @ Waterford Wolves

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

Trinity @ North Kildare Reapers

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

South Dublin Panthers @ Belfast Trojans

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

UCD @ UL Vikings

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

Week #5 IAFA Previews

IAFA

IAFA Week 5

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Louth Mavericks @ Belfast Trojans

We suspect the Mavs will play in the carpark if they have to, this is supposed to be Game three for them! Two games have been postponed on the Louth outfit and football, any football is really overdue at this stage.
Belfast have been a mixed bag so far, shutout vs the Bulldogs and then they stomped all over the beleaguered Titans. Game three is often where a team settles into a rhythm and what that rhythm will be for the Trojan 2nds is yet to be determined. These guys wouldn’t be wearing Trojan green if they didn’t have Shamrock Bowl winning a ability and they looked as though they were reminded of that fact between the Bulldogs and Titans games.
Oddly enough this might be the best game to start with for the Mavs. A Trojan team hitting their stride offers a tough challenge that will force the Mavs to shake off any rust or have it knocked off for them.

Cork Admirals @ South Kildare Soldiers

This is the reverse of the fixtures two weeks ago, with the Admirals coming out 24-0 winners. The Admirals have set the pace offensively for the division so far and they’ve done it rushing the football! Three separate running backs on the charts already. They’re going to need to keep up that offensive output and if rushing the football rather than airing it out is to be the method, the defensive will have to continue to be stingey.
The Soldiers couldn’t get on the score sheet last time out and managed two scores (on offence) vs the Titans (who provided ample opportunity for more) They’re going to need their offence to start producing if they’re to compete in this division. The Soldiers have racked up 17 Touchdowns in their history and Eoin Whelan has had a hand in 13 of those. When oftentimes the best strategy is to put your best athlete at QB we wonder if the move to Wide Receiver is a waste of his talents.

Craigavon Cowboys @ UCD

UCD are starting the year with three home games, this being the last of that run. They’ve looked impressive in winning the first two and to plant themselves firmly in the Bowl conversation they’ll need to clear this tricky hurdle before the game against UL.
The Cowboys will want to purge the memory of last week from their memories quickly. So a quick turnaround could be to their advantage. The Trojans are very good no doubt but the Cowboys presented them with a lot of opportunities to run up that kind of score. Thats not what this Cowboys team is about and they’ll know that better than anyone. UCD have similar breakout ability if presented with opportunities. The Cowboys will need to cut out the mistakes on special teams and get their offence going.

Carrickfergus Knights @ Dublin Rebels

Both of these teams opened their season vs the Panthers and both won. The Rebels by a considerable margin. This game could very well be decided by the defences on both sides. The Knights looked much improved on last year and getting back to that smash mouth football on the back of Gareth Miller and Phil Gunning in the back field they imposed themselves on the Panthers in a way that eluded them in many games last year.
In the preview to the Rebels opener we said they’d be looking to start hot and not arrive in the playoffs half cooked. They certainly did that. Dominant on offence and impressive on defence, they’ll be feeling confident heading into this game. Looking past the Knights would be a mistake though. There won’t be a return fixture and a slip here could have massive playoff implications if they were to give up the head to head.

IAFA 2016 Week 2 Preview Part 2 – SBC

SBC

And now the SBC Portion of the preview!

IAFA Week 2

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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

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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

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.

NFL-Ireland’s Team of the Year : Quarterbacks

All through 2015 we’ve shown our appreciation for the very best performances each week in our Team of the Week . Now, with all but the Shamrock Bowl in the books, the time has come for the Team of the Year. Although some of these players already play together in the hypothetical world this team exists we thought they should have someone to play against and that is why, much like the NFL do for their All-Pro Teams, our Team of the Year is in fact two teams. Team Green vs Team White. Here are the rules! Each team will have 1 Quarterback, 2 Running Backs, 2 Wide Receivers, an Offensive Line, a Defence, a Kicker (we felt that we neglected them all year) and an 1 ‘all rounder’ .  So without further blabber we bring you the

Quarterbacks

Team Green QB – James McKelvey, Belfast Trojans

Team of the Week
Photo by Dave Bradshaw

Shamrock Bowl Conference MVP McKelvey doubled the passing output of all other signal callers this year. 20 Touchdowns and 3 rushing touchdowns puts #1 in the rarefied air in Ireland. Topping 20 touchdowns in a season is an immense and extremely infrequent performance. James McKelvey has gone about his business in 2015 in a calm business like manner that is the trademark of the Belfast offence. The balance and talent of his offensive team mates will be reflected as we continue with the Team of the Year but leading those men to one of the finest offensive outputs we’ve seen deserves special mention as playing quarterback is more than about throwing touchdowns and McKelvey encompasses all that could be sought from a Quarterback.


Team White QB – Stephen Hayes, Cork Admirals

Photography by Declan Forrest
Photography by Declan Forrest

All year we’ve sung Hayes’ praises (say that out loud) He played his way to the IAFL 1 MVP and brought Cork, who it must be remembered were verging on the abyss less than 2 years ago, within a point of the Shamrock Bowl Conference. 25 Touchdown passes is an incredible return and Hayes is still so young it is scary to think what his ceiling might be. Where McKelvey can boast an incredible output while still maintaining the balance of his offence, Stephen Hayes has at times put Cork on his back and carried them to large and impressive victories. Ultimately it was just short by the narrowest of margins but now playing with a chip on his shoulder 2016 could be the year we see what #12 is really capable of. Every other Quarterback in the country, excluding the one above, passed for no more than 10 touchdowns. Hayes’ return was 250% of Quarterbacks some of who started playing while Hayes was in senior infants. If 2015 was his break out year, what his best year will be will be interesting to see.


Most Honourable Mentions

Tom Donovan – UCD 10 Passing Touchdowns and 5 rushing touchdowns is an exceptional performance in a year of exceptional performances from Quarterbacks. Donovan is a new breed of Quarterback in Ireland. Every bit the passer as he the athlete when it comes to running the football. Donovan was an unknown quantity heading into 2015, only those in UCD and those who caught his brief cameos in IAFL 1 last year will be completely unsurprised with his output. This, Toms first year a starter at QB, was better than most QBs around the league have ever produced and much like Stephen Hayes, the ceiling for Donovan could be something we haven’t seen in the league before, the complete duel threat Quarterback.

Andrew Dennehy – Dublin Rebels It would be easy to assert (like we have!) that the Rebels are one of the most experienced outfits around. The opposite is true. A few guys with a vast amount of experience and a lot of guys still in the early part of their careers and all being brought along by #16. There are guys with bigger numbers out there but when considering the value of the veteran signal caller you only have to look at the 2014 Rebels and the 2015 Rebels. Losing Simon Mackey could have been a disaster, would have been a disaster for probably all other teams. The Rebels arrived at the exact same stage as they did last year and were in fact closer to the Shamrock Bowl this time around. All things that go on on the Rebels Offence flow through their Quarterback and Head Coach. He doesn’t have the moves of that Tom Donnovan has, the trucking ability of Peter Loughran or perhaps the receivers of the two men at the top of this list (not to say there aren’t those at the Rebels with that potential) Yet year on year, for a lot of years now. Andrew Dennehy gets it done.

Peter Loughran – Craigavon Cowboys…..will appear elsewhere!

Read on to the Team of the Year Running Backs!

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.