IAFA Week #6 Previews

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IAFA Week 6

This Weekends Fixtures

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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 4 IAFA Previews!

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IAFA Week 4

This Weekends Fixtures

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PSNI Razorbacks @ Donegal/Derry Vipers

IAFL 2! Finally! The hugely successful development league is back and with a new team or three in tow. The Vipers will still be feeling those beatings at the hands of the Trojans last year but showed some real spark as the season closed. It takes time to get your feet under you on a football field when you’ve joined an experienced team. When near everyone is a rookie it’s all the more impressive that they have established themselves they way they have. The Vipers need to get themselves IAFL1 ready this year. So getting the essentials right is the name of the game. The essentials will win this division.
The Razorbacks are an interesting prospect. A little like a college team, in that they have closed base to recruit from, a closed base that requires a fitness test to enter in the first place! They’ve brought in some coaches with experience and we’re really interested to see the standard they can achieve right from the off! The popularity of football is still on the rise and the Razorbacks are the 3rd new team in as many years to make it to the regular season from Ulster. Still, football is unforgiving and after being on the receiving end of hidings last year, the Vipers will look to dish some out this season. The Razorbacks opening will be telling in terms of the shape this division will take this season.

Waterford Wolves @ Westmeath Minotaurs

The Wolves didn’t get off to a great start vs Cork and the Minotaurs haven’t started at all! With perhaps some of the cobwebs shaken loose the Wolves will see this as a chance to get themselves back to the kind of form they closed 2015 with. They’re weaker, no doubt, but the Minotaurs are undergoing a rebirth of their own and the Wolves shouldn’t be shy about attacking them while they’re still figuring it out. They might not get another chance. A bad season could spell disaster for the Wolves, confidence and momentum can often be as important as results. The Wolves will need some of all three this year to begin their rebuild.
The Midlanders, like we said last week, have to draw a line under 2015 and move on. All external signs seem to point they have. They have ability and athleticism, anyone who has seen them play can attest to that, but at times they just blow it and nothing works. Getting the simple stuff right will lead to success for the Minotaurs, not winning the division success just yet but winning games. The Wolves might fancy this one but there’s no reason Westmeath shouldn’t for the same reasons. A team that may be reeling and just trying to keep the show on the road. We’re prepared to be slated by the purists for this but the Minotaurs flag team is one of the best around, throw the ball! Cork proved if you can do that consistently teams will really struggle to stop you.

West Dublin Rhinos @ Meath Bulldogs

Are the Bulldogs favourites for this division? They’ve been there abouts for a few years now but never outright favourites from the get go. They’ve beaten the Trojans, Trojan rookies or not, thats not something a lot can lay claim to. If they win tomorrow vs a Rhinos team with a lot of SBC experience, favourites, clear favourites, would be the only description that could be fair. The Bulldogs have never been the sort to run up huge scores but play a brand of hard nosed defence combined with a smash mouth run game that grinds teams down and lends itself to winning late, like they did last time out. If they can score early against a Rhinos team that hans’t been prolific on offence for a number of years they could control this game, the division and invite the rest begin the chase.
Rhinos football finally! The ambulance isn’t really a thing that should be happening to a team that have been around and organised as long as the Rhinos have but it’s done now and football is finally on the agenda. IAFL 1 for the Rhinos is like starting over again, and that’s not such a bad thing. The SBC can be very cruel if the wrong things don’t work out for you and it’s very hard to steady a ship mid season. The Rhinos have a great opportunity to attack this division with a new focus and simpler way of doing things. As tough as the Bulldogs will be this might be just the game to get started with. We used the words ‘hard nosed’ and ‘smash mouth’ to describe the Bulldogs, the very same identity claimed by the Rhinos for years. This is the kind of football they want to play. They’re going to get it and you won’t find anyone in Rhinoland unhappy with that.

North Kildare Reapers @ UL Vikings

Early in the year judging this kind of game can be a lot of guess work. UCD battered Trinity and demolished the Reapers but haven’t played UL. Trinity did well against UL, so are UCD just really strong and Trinity improved vs UL or are UL not as strong as UCD. Our Guess is UL are UL and they’re entire plan is to steam roll everything they meet. The Reapers need to be careful here. They can’t let their season spiral out of control and as we saw last week when the Rebels demolished the Panthers in the second half, control is a hard thing to keep a grip of in the SBC. The Vikings have no interest in playing the Trojans for a 3rd year in a row in the Semi Final. They need to win the division and do it convincingly and this is a division game.
For the Reapers it’s going to be a big ask. This game was 18-0 last year which on the face of it isn’t terrible but that was the game Adrian Garvey went down in and it took time for the UL offence to recover, not only in that game but through the season. UL aren’t in the habit of passing the ball a whole lot so getting after that back field will have to be the name of the game and that includes QB Ian Cahill in the run game. Focus too much on Shane Gleeson and others, Cahill will be gliding past your backside contain and up the sideline before you know what’s happened. Limerick are going to get behind that line and Shane Gleeson and aim to blast everyone they meet off the ball. The Reapers must throw everything into the battle in the trenches to get anything from this game.

Belfast Trojans @ Craigavon Cowboys

The Cowboys really put it up to Trinity and much has been made of what Trinity have lost but they have the joint leading passer in the SBC and one of the more exciting running backs around. The Cowboys ran them very very close. The Cowboys have been building quietly for a number of years now, doubling down no the talent they already have in house and recruiting well. The development of some of the younger guys in Craigavon will be particularly pleasing and a core of players that have been together for some years now is usually the recipe for success. Opening your season vs both of last years Shamrock Bowl teams is a cruel twist of scheduling but the Cowboys will be eager to show that even if they don’t pick up any points they will be ready to take on the rest of their schedule without fear of anyone left on it.
Much like all great teams, it’s getting to the point that a lot of teams are beaten before ever going on the field vs the Trojans. Maybe there is a glimmer of hope here for the Cowboys, David Richardson is still serving his suspension and due to playing last week for the #2s Neil Montgomery won’t be playing. Those are two linchpins of the Trojan offence. Keeping this game close for a stretch could lead the Cowboys to grow in confidence and feel there is something to be had here. But the Trojans have battered the Cowboys at every outing in recent times. 98 net points in favour of the Trojans last season. The Trojan defence will need to keep the Peter Loughran/Conrad Smith combo in check to stop the Cowboys growing in confidence; especially if the offence is taking time to right itself missing their weapons.

Adrian Garvey: Love for the game

Garvey

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

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

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

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

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

Photography by J. Toher
Photography by J. Toher

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photography by J. Toher
Photography by J. Toher

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

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

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

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

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

IAFA Week 3 Previews: SBC & IAFL 1

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

IAFA Week 3

This Weekends Fixtures

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South Kildare Soldiers @ Cork Admirals

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

Westmeath Minotaur @ Louth Mavericks

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

Belfast Trojans 2s @ Tyrone Titans

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

Dublin Rebels @ South Dublin Panthers

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

UL Vikings @ Trinity

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

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’: Defence

We are gradually coming to the end of our ‘Team of the Year’ selection, so it’s now time to turn our attentions to the defensive side of the ball. Defence ruled in 2014, however this year the offences have started to take centre stage in the bragging rights with a number of high scoring and one sided games. There have been of course a few shut-outs and defensive battles to name, but few and far between compared to recent years. The teams named below have been the best defensive units in the league this year, not only because they are a talented bunch, but they have also been the best equipped in dealing with the high-powered offences this season. Everyone loves a good defensive battle!


Team Green: Belfast Trojans

Photography by Dave Bradshaw
Photography by Dave Bradshaw

The Trojans very own ‘Walls of Troy’ has been standing tall for the last 4 years. Only Trinity College has been able to get the better of the tormenting defence in that timespan, as the defending champions boast the best defensive unit in the league for another year. They conceded only 30 points in 9 games and delivered 5 shutouts in the process, including the Vikings in the semi-final. They’ve been able to get on the scoreboard too, with Chris Mikhael, Connor Whilta and Chris Weir all bagging defensive touchdowns, with Neil Graham and Christophe Perret penetrating the backfield to create safeties. From the D-Line, to the Linebackers, to the DB’s the Trojans are well equipped in all areas.

Team White: UL Vikings

Photography by Jason Toher
Photography by Jason Toher

Not too far behind the Trojans in the defensive conversation would be the UL Vikings. They are tough as nails, and possess one of the most frightening run-defences in the IAFL that get to ball quickly and in numbers. Their secondary is quite scary too, with Sean Sheehy and Craig Switzer possessing excellent coverage skills and are solid in run-support. The Viking’s D surrendered only 67 points, consisting of 3 shut-outs and have proved difficult to break down all season long. The semi-final against the Trojans optimised what defensive football is all about, two notorious units going head-to-head in a lockdown battle. The Vikings have always been stellar on defence, and that looks set to continue. Ray Burke, Blake Farbe, Mark Kiniry, Darren Gleeson and the best kept secret in the IAFL Darragh O’Callaghan, to name but a few of this teams sensational stoppers.


Most Honourable Mentions

Cork Admirals – As good as the offence has been, the defence has been doing a top notch job at the other end. The Admirals suffered only 1 loss during the regular season, thanks in part to the exploits of their defence that created numerous turnovers that greatly helped the offence. Its always nice to have an offence that can’t stop scoring, it’s even better to have a defence that can add to that. The Admirals delivered 1 shut-out this year against the Wolves, whilst scoring three touchdowns courtesy of Chris Allen, Paul Farrell and Ayodele Mumuni. Chris Allen also scored a safety as the Admirals finished the IAFL-1’s highest scoring defence as well as holding the best defensive record.

Tyrone Titans – The Titans didn’t quite have the stamina to go the distance in the playoff race, but their defence was a primary reason for not only their IAFL-2 triumph last season, but their 11 game unbeaten streak. Tyrone started the season off very strongly, picking up where they left off in 2014 and when their offence struggled, their defence held firm. They did however manage the second best defensive record in the IAFL-1, allowing only 84 points. They also managed two shutouts against the Minotaurs and Mavericks as they held 2nd spot for most of the campaign. Kyle McAneny was the only contributer in regard to scoring with a safety, but for a team that the most points conceded in a single game was 22, and 4 of which were 10 or below; thats a strong place to start ahead of next season.


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

[/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

[/column]

[/row]


Read on to the much ignored but ever appreciated KICKERS!!

 

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: UL Vikings @ Belfast Trojans

Shamrock Bowl XXIX semi-final previews

The road to Shamrock Bowl XXIX stops off in Belfast on July 26th, as the defending champions the Belfast Trojans host the semi-final double header at Deramore Park.

The Trojans won the right to host the semi-finals due to their #1 ranking during the regular season. The fixtures will see the Belfast Trojans, UL Vikings, Trinity College and Dublin Rebels lock horns for the right to headline the final at Dalymount Park on August 9th.
thumb_BTlogo Belfast Trojans vs. UL Vikings thumb_ULlogo – 4pm

The reigning champion Belfast Trojans face familiar foes in the UL Vikings, who have now met at the semi-final stages in the last three consecutive years.

McKelvey threw for 20 touchdowns this season. Photography by Dave Bradshaw
McKelvey threw for 20 touchdowns this season. Photography by Dave Bradshaw

The Trojans proved throughout the regular season that they are the team to beat as they went unbeaten for a third time in four years, finishing with an 8-0 record. The men in green dominated from start to finish, outgunning and outplaying every opponent they came up against.

The Belfast side averaged 43.6 points per game, racking up 349 in total whilst only conceding 30 all season. Quarterback, James McKelvey topped the division with 23 all-purpose touchdowns, throwing 11 to David Richardson who topped the receiving charts.

The current holders have won the Shamrock Bowl the last three seasons, proving throughout the 2015 campaign so far that they have no intention of relinquishing their crown. Dominant performances against rivals the Carrickfergus Knights and Dublin Rebels have displayed their superiority as they clinched the North Division title with considerable ease.


Their opponents on Sunday will be none other than the UL Vikings. The Vikings booked their place in the semi-final courtesy of a 20-12 victory over University College Dublin in the wildcard round. Limerick finished the regular season with a solid (6-2) effort, falling just behind rivals Trinity College into second.

UL had a very strong start to the year, defeating the aforementioned UCD and Trinity College on their way to a 5 game win streak. However back-to-back defeats against Trinity in the return leg and the Dublin Rebels cost the Vikings in the race for the SBC South division.

Gleeson finished the SBC's leading rusher. Photography by Jason Toher
Gleeson finished the SBC’s leading rusher. Photography by Jason Toher

The Vikes have been solid performers all season, finishing second to the Trojans in much of the scoring statistics. They amounted 24 touchdowns during the regular season, whilst allowing only 67 points in 8 games. The transition of defensive pairing, Ian Cahill and Shane Gleeson to offence proved hugely successful for the Limerick side. The strong duo contributed to a powerful run-game that had opposing defences struggling to cope, as Gleeson finished the Shamrock Bowl Conferences leading rusher with 8 touchdowns.

The battle between these two juggernauts has always provided a tough, physical affair. The Trojans may have won the last three outings, but each game has been decided late in the 4th quarter. These two are both incredibly strong sides that pride themselves on shutdown defences and are both highly capable of putting up big scores as well.

The Vikings arguably have a much better squad than in recent years, so this could be their best opportunity to de-throne the champions. Belfast on the other hand will know they are in for a war on Sunday, but their preparation, quality and home-field advantage could be key in the outcome. The Trojans took the spoils in a 28-6 score-line last season, so the Vikings will be focused on enacting some revenge this weekend.

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.