IAFA 2016 Week 1 Preview

IAFA 2016

IAFA Fixtures this weekend

This Weekends Fixtures

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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

IAFA Strength of Schedule

The IAFA have announced their schedule today (see it here) and we sat down and wildly speculated to bring you the 2016 Strength of Schedule.

First off, the rules; we assigned a number of points denoting how hard that particular team is to play. The higher the points the harder that team is to play. This number was mainly based upon where this team finished last year and any modifiers we think are worth adding on or taking off a point for and we’ll explain those as we go. Here is how the Shamrock Bowl Conference ranked.

Belfast Trojans
2015 Final Rank: 10 points. SBC Winners!
Modifier: +1. 1 loss in 4 years is no joke and you’ve got to wonder if some teams are beaten before the opening kickoff.
Total: 11 points

Trinity
2015 Final Rank: 9 points. Runners up
Modifier -1. The loss of Rob McDowell, Alex Gurney & Dan Finnamore would devastate any teams ambitions.
Total: 8 points

UL Vikings
2015 Final Rank: 8 points. Defeated Semi Finalists
Modifier 0. The UL train seems firmly on the right track. Reputed some talented additions in their Rookie Group but we’ll see.
Total: 8 points

Dublin Rebels
2015 Final Rank: 8 points. Defeated Semi Finalists
Modifier 0. The Rebels recruited well during last season and if anything should be stronger again this year but still to be seen.
Total: 8 points

UCD
2015 Final Rank: 7 points. Defeated in the wildcard round
Modifier 0. A new coaching set up promises to kick on the very talented UCD roster.
Total: 7 points

Craigavon Cowboys
2015 Final Rank: 7 points. Defeated in the wildcard round.
Modifier 0. The Cowboys pulled some unexpected results out of the bag last year and were unlucky to not win more. Peter Loughran ever the X-Factor for this squad.
Total: 7 points

North Kildare Reapers
2015 Final Rank: 6 points. Missed the play offs on a tie break.
Modified 0. The Reapers missed the playoffs on a tie-breaker, which is unlucky but teams must be ranked!
Total: 6 points

South Dublin Panthers
2015 Final Rank: 5. Two wins & 3rd worst record
Modifier 0. The Panthers improved on the previous season so this season will see if momentum can be kept up.
Total: 5 points

Carrickfergus Knights
2015 Final Rank: 4. Same record as the Panthers but a loss to the Dublin side saw them slip below them in the overall rankings.
Modifier 0. The Knights will be the first to admit they under performed last year. They have a large squad and a committed coaching staff. We don’t expect this ranking again.
Total: 4 points


 

Notes
Before we give you the final ranking of the strength of schedule. We are going to add a point of difficulty for every back to back week of play and deduct a point of difficulty for every 3 week break.


 

Weakest Schedule
Belfast Trojans! Strength Score: 55.
The Trojans are hardest ranked team, so by virtue of not playing themselves and only one occurrence of back to back game weeks. It’s not surprising their schedule ranks the weakest.

Tied Weakest
UCD. Strength Score: 55.
UCD also don’t have to play the Trojans. They do have 3 back to back outings so will make things a touch harder.

7th Ranked Schedule
Craigavon Cowboys. Strength Score: 57
With a double header against the lowest ranked Knights and another game vs the 2nd lowest ranked Panthers drops the overall rank of the Cowboys schedule.

6th Ranked Schedule
South Dublin Panthers. Strength Score: 58
A double header against the Knights and will bring the Strength Score down slightly but 3 back to back outings push it up a bit.

5th Ranked Schedule
Carrickfergus Knights. Strength Score: 59
5 games against last years play off teams and 3 back to back weeks. Not that we considered it in our formula but they’ve also got 3 long trip to Leinster in a row.

4th Ranked Schedule
North Kildare Reapers. Strength Score: 60
Reapers only play 2 games against non playoff opposition from 2015. Midseason vs the Knights and last game of the year vs the Panthers.

Tied 4th Ranked Schedule
Dublin Rebels. Strength Score: 60
The Rebels only have 1 back to back out but they’ve to play the Trojans twice and UL on the closing day of the season.

2nd Strongest Schedule
UL Vikings. Strength Score: 62
The Vikings have 1 back to back week and 1 three week break. So this is all about the opposition they face. Opening the season vs the Trojans, closing it vs the Rebels and 2 games against Trinity. The Vikings only play one non playoff team from 2015, the Reapers who missed it on a tie-break.

Strongest Schedule
Trinity College Dublin. Strength Score: 63
Twice vs the Vikings, once vs the Trojans and Rebels. 3 back to back weeks and a tricky opener vs UCD. Missing some of their mainstays from the past few seasons, getting to another Shamrock Bowl is going to be a big ask for Trinity.

Shamrock Bowl Breakdown Part 2: University of Limerick Vikings

QB Glenn Carr in action against the West Dublin Rhinos. Photo by Dexter O’Thuithear

The second part (see part 1 here) of the Shamrock Bowl Breakdown series looks at the historic and talented, University of Limerick Vikings. The Vikings booked their place in the semi-finals with a hard fought 20-6 victory against a tough as nails, West Dublin Rhinos side. The Vikings have made it to the final eight times in their history, winning on three occasions in 2007, 2008 and 2009. Their last appearance in the Shamrock Bowl came two years ago when they lost against the Trojans in a close contest. Can they make a return to the Bowl game this year?

Regular Season

After starting the year 0-2, with defeats against Trinity College and a heartbreaking 14-13 loss in the dying seconds to the Dublin Rebels, the Vikings soon hit form and went on to win their remaining 6 games in the regular season. The Vikings talent across the offence began to click as they averaged over 30 points a game in their remaining fixtures, whilst only conceding 36 points on defence. With dominant victories over IAFL-1 graduates, the Dublin Dragons, North Kildare Reapers and Waterford Wolves, the Vikings proved that they have the quality and experience of being one of the top teams in the IAFL. They finished the regular season 6-2 and are one of the form sides coming into the playoffs.

Key Players
UL3
Receiver Sean Goldrick in Action. Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao

QB- Glen Carr: Standing in for the mid-season departure of Marc Ashworth, Carr has stepped u admirably at Quarterback, contributing to 4 TD’s thusfar.

RB- Adrian Garvey: Garvey’s powerhouse running earned him a top 5 spot in the rushing charts with 5 TD’s this term.

WR- Sean Goldrick: With a wealth of talent the Vikings posses on the wings, Goldrick finished as the highest scoring receiver with 6 TD’s in total.

LB- Craig Switzer: The multi-talented Switzer made some huge plays on defence this term and contributed to the scoring with 3 TD’s, including a strip-sack against Waterford’s QB, which he took to the house himself.

Post-Season

As previously mentioned, The Vikings defeated the Rhinos in the wildcard round to set up a semi-final clash with their nemesis, the Belfast Trojans. The Vikings have suffered defeat at the hands of the Trojans in their last two outings and will be looking to claim victory at the third attempt. After bowing out at this stage last term, UL will be up for this one and will not want to be defeated at this stage of the playoffs again. They are a hard-hitting and explosive side and could be the dark horses for the Shamrock Bowl. Kickoff is 12pm, July 27th, Garda RFC, Dublin.