IAFA Week #6 Previews

IAFA

IAFA Week 6

This Weekends Fixtures

DateHomeResultsAwayTimeCompetitionVenue

West Dublin Rhinos @ Tyrone Titans

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

Westmeath Minotaurs @ Waterford Wolves

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

Trinity @ North Kildare Reapers

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

South Dublin Panthers @ Belfast Trojans

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

UCD @ UL Vikings

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

Week 4 IAFA Previews!

IAFA

IAFA Week 4

This Weekends Fixtures

DateHomeResultsAwayTimeCompetitionVenue

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.

IAFA 2016 Week 2 Preview Part 1

IAFA

Ok before we start, has everyone ordered the ambulance and made sure the field isn’t waterlogged?

Good! Lets start…

IAFA Week 2

This Weekends Fixtures

DateHomeResultsAwayTimeCompetitionVenue

Admirals @ Wolves

A repeat of the 2015 Bowl Game, this game will be an immediate barometer of each teams off season. The Wolves are still in the division at their own request. So one could only assume they’re significantly weaker than last year. The IAFL1 has the same number of games as the SBC; admittedly a higher standard but SBC games don’t end with ambulances speeding away from games stuffed with players, so we fail to see the logic of Waterford still being in this division. Cork wobbled towards the end of last season and ultimately came up short of what everyone assumed was an automatic bowl win. The Wolves (and Bulldogs for that matter) would argue that Cork didn’t wobble but were figured out and their biggest weapon taken away from them. The plan this Sunday should consist of two words, Stop Hayes.

Stephen Hayes lit up the division last year and drew admiration from across the IAFA community. 25 touchdown passes and it looked like nobody had the answer but a chink in the armour was exposed and Cork were found without a Plan B. Two very impressive seasons since their reconstitution, the time has come. The Admirals have seen what they can do and what teams will do to stop them. They must now evolve and become the complete team to regain their place in the SBC; running the ball and taking some of the pressure off their young QB are the last two strings to this bow and the SBC awaits.

Kick off is 1pm in the Waterford RSC

Titans @ Soldiers

The Titans have probably had the most nightmarish off season in the IAFA. For a minute there, they were no more. Back from the dead and under new management on and off the field, time has been short to get what remains of the Titans in football shape, let alone competitive shape. All that being said, the Titans have been highly impressive in their Freshman and Sophomore IAFA Seasons and its the foundation of that team that remains. Football is often decided by which team has the momentum and from the outside it looks bad, the New Titans have, in the space of 2 months, saved a football team and got it ready for Game 1. Teams have been around for years and never gotten that far. The schedule could have been worse, a Trojans/Admirals/Rhinos opener could undone a lot of good work. The Soldiers are no pushovers but it could have been worse.

The Soldiers took an extra year at IAFL 2 level and this season should be telling as to whether it pays off. There is a depth of experience at the Soldiers and yes, the Titans could have had a tougher start but the Soldiers could smell blood in the water here. Where the Titans are likely weaker the Soldiers should be stronger and an early score could be fatal to a team searching for confidence. Kildare have a big play threat in QB Eoin Whelan and if he can elevate his play in this new division there is no reason why the Soldiers can’t cause some upsets in IAFL1, the the Titans being the first target.

Kick off is 1pm in Cill Dara Rugby Club

Trojans @ Bulldogs

The Trojans 2s swept all in IAFL2 away with ease and now IAFL1 is in their crosshairs. It could be a long time before we see another winner of IAFL1 considering the difficulty SBC teams are having toppling the Trojans. Kilkenny Hurling in years gone by were often said to have both of the best teams in the country, their Seniors and Minors and we suspect the Trojans could make a similar claim. The Trojans play football in a similar style as the Klitschko brothers box, keep it simple and when you make a mistake, smash you. This 2nds team is an advantage that most don’t have. A place to blood new talent in a slightly more forgiving environment, so when their time comes for the 1s they’re less likely to make errors, which is what Trojan football is built on.

In last weeks preview we mentioned the detrimental effects of being stuck in the IAFL1 mud too long and the Bulldogs are facing into their 4th successive season in the division. Only the Minotaurs have the same record. All others have been promoted or folded. This will be the toughest game the Bulldogs have faced in 11 aside football and is a fitting opening to the season that may define the club. The Bulldogs improved to a winning record last season and the effects of Peter Smyths leadership are clear to see after only 1 season at the helm. After a shaky start the Bulldogs finished in perhaps their finest form to date and were unfortunate to come up against an equally resurgent Wolves team as the Meath men would have fancied their chances vs Cork in the Bowl. That form and intensity of effort will be required for every second of every snap on Sunday. The Bulldogs pride themselves on physical football and that philosophy will be tested like never before vs the Trojans. If they can hold it together and not give the Trojans any easy openings, their style lends itself to this being a close game….if

Kick off is 1pm in Navan Rugby Club

IAFL 1 Strength of Schedule

The IAFA 1 schedule is with us (see it here) so we gave it the same treatment as the SBC and ranked the schedule.

Lets referesh the rules; we assigned a number of points indicating 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 or indeed the Division they played in and any modifiers we think are worth adding on or taking off a point for and we’ll explain those as we go. So here is the IAFL 1 rankings

Belfast Trojans 2nds
2015 Final Rank: 10 points. Stomped all over IAFL2
Modifier less clear because the Trojans 2’s weren’t in this division so we’ll explain our choice to give them 10 points. They’re still allowed use some of their seniors and past behaviour being the best indicator of future behaviour, the IAFL1 can expect to see some very experienced very talented Trojans players this year. Also they have a pretty decent record of producing hugely effective rookies….Jonathan Siri anyone?
Total: 10 Points

West Dublin Rhinos
2015 Final Rank: 10 Points. Last in SBC
Modifier 0. Last in SBC is 1 position higher than top of IAFL 1. The Rhinos are founded on mean defences and now with former Defensive Coordinator Robbie Andrews at the helm, expect recommitment to this policy. Also, this division has been won for the last few years by teams relegated from the SBC.
Total: 10 Points

Waterford Wolves
2015 Final Rank: 10 Points. IAFL 1 Champions!
Modifier -1. The Wolves won the division but when presented with the opportunity to play SBC football once more, they sighted concerns over their ability to fulfil that schedule. IAFL1 and SBC have the same about of games so that concern has to still hold true.
Total: 9 Points

Cork Admirals 
2015 Final Rank: 9 Points. IAFL 1 Runners Up
Modifier 0. The Admirals sauntered through most of last season, with Steve Hayes racking up record numbers. When injuries hit and teams maybe spotted a weakness in Cork and upped the physicality they faltered.
Total: 9 Points

Meath Bulldogs
2015 Final Rank: 8 points. 3rd place
Modifier 0. Bulldogs missed out on the IAFL1 final they were hosting after losing to Waterford following a late season surge.
Total: 8 Points

Tyrone Titans
2015 Final Rank: 7 points. 4th Place
Modifier 0. The Titans started well last season but limped home after a number of key injuries. Definitely  have the quality to be better but they will need to stay healthy.
Total: 7 Points

Louth Mavericks
2015 Final Rank: 6 points. 5th Place
Modified 0. A new name and a new direction? Maybe. The Mavs keep showing progress but still trail the top of the division by a small margin.
Total: 6 Points

Westmeath Minotaurs
2015 Final Rank: 5 Points. Last Place
Modifier 0. The Minotaurs will be the first to tell you they regressed last year but have made some internal changes and broadened their base looking to reverse their fortunes.
Total: 5 Points

South Kildare Soldier
2015 Final Rank: 4 Points. Runner up in IAFL 2.
Modifier 0. Still some way to go to get to the performance levels of perhaps the Titans & Mavs but a step up in division will move them in the right direction.
Total: 4 Points


Notes

Remember just like the SBC 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: 54.
The Trojans are one of the hardest ranked teams, can’t play themselves and only play the Rhinos once, don’t play Waterford or Cork.

2nd Weakest
Waterford Wolves. Strength Score: 56.
Don’t play the Trojans and play low ranked Minotaurs twice.

7th Ranked Schedule
Cork Admirals. Strength Score: 58
Double header with Waterford will be the toughest challenge, by the numbers, for Cork this year. Double header vs lowest Ranked Soldiers and no game vs Trojans.

6th Ranked Schedule
Westmeath Minotaurs. Strength Score: 61
Wolves and Soliders are the double headers for the Minotaurs, a Trojans game bumps up the difficulty somewhat.

5th Ranked Schedule
South Kildare Soldiers. Strength Score: 64
The back and forth between the Soldiers & Minotaurs might be one of the highlights of the season in this division. Games vs the Trojans and Cork will make it tough sledding for the Soldiers.

4th Ranked Schedule
Tyrone Titans. Strength Score: 65
Double header vs the two top teams, Trojans & Rhinos. A single game vs the Bulldogs could determine so much this year, like last year.

Tied 4th Ranked Schedule
West Dublin Rhinos. Strength Score: 65
Double headers vs the Titans & Bulldogs make this schedule a bit harder than the numbers suggest. No games vs the two lost ranked teams and an outing vs the Trojans will test the Rhinos promotion hopes.

2nd Strongest Schedule
Meath Bulldogs. Strength Score: 67
The Bulldogs get all the teams ranked above them and a double header vs the Rhinos. Winning promotion will be tough for the Bulldogs who’ve been banging on the ceiling of the IAFL 1 for a few years now.

Strongest Schedule
Louth Mavericks. Strength Score: 68
Double header vs the Trojans skyrockets your difficulty levels, but the Rhinos, Wolves & Admirals showing up in the schedule won’t help matters. The Mavs have the strongest schedule this year and will find it tough to push into the top half of the division as a result, they seem up for the fight though.

NFL Ireland Team of the Year : All Rounders

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


All Rounders!

Team Green Rob McDowell Trinity College Dublin

Photo by Ariane Boudias

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


Team White Peter Loughran Criagavon Cowboys

Photo by Ariane Boudias

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


Team Green Mark Dunphy Waterford Wolves

Photo by Ariane Boudias
Photo by Ariane Boudias

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


Team White Ross McCooey, Dublin Rebels

Photo by Ariane Boudias
Photo by Ariane Boudias

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


Teams

Green v White

[row]

[column size='1/2']

QB James McKelvey

RB Neil Montgomery

RB Ola Bademosi

WR Sean Goldrick

WR Nic Coffi

OL Trinity College

Defence Belfast Trojans

Kicker Nick McSweeney

All Rounder Rob McDowell

All Rounder Mark Dunphy

[/column]

[column size='1/2']

QB Stephen Hayes

RB Shane Gleeson

RB Sean Leamy

WR David Richardson

WR Alex Gurney

OL Belfast Trojans

Defence UL Vikings

Kicker Greg Gibson

All Rounder Peter Loughran

All Rounder Ross McCooey

[/column]

[/row]

Coach Rob Wills: ‘Our goal all year was to win this division’.

Coach Rob Wills: ‘Our goal all year was to win this division’. 

This past Sunday, the Waterford Wolves clinched the IAFL-1 Championship title with victory over Munster rivals, the Cork Admirals. Despite being 12-0 down at half time, the Wolves clawed their way back in the second half to win 13-12 at Navan RFC to lift the trophy.

On what proved to be an exceptional day of football that also included the Belfast Trojans 2nd’s winning the IAFL-2 title, we caught up with Waterford Head Coach Rob Wills to get his thoughts on his teams historic moment.

A retired high school coach from Texas, Coach Wills has had a long but decorated career within American Football. He played football at Texas Tech (although he claims he was too dumb to know any better) before embarking on a thirty-two year coaching journey, which mostly included small areas within West Texas. He had coached a number of conference championship winning teams, but never won the state championship. He can however add the IAFL-1 championship to his CV.

‘It is very satisfying’, Coach Wills said speaking of his teams win. ‘To see the faces of the players after Sunday’s victory makes it all worth while’. 

The Wolves entered halftime of the game on the back foot, trailing by 12 points to a strong Cork outfit. Waterford had lost the last two outings against the Admirals, but in a final event; anything was possible.

10409555_743277559075124_5366394276082200726_n‘At the end of the first half even though we missed a great opportunity to score, I sensed that the momentum had shifted. All we had to do was make a few minor adjustments and we could get back in the game. The biggest obstacle was our confidence’. 

The Admirals were the form team throughout the season, finishing a solid (7-1) in regular season and had on paper the best offence and defence to any team in the division. So it was fair to say the Wolves were considered the ‘underdogs’ heading into the game. Coach Wills believed that the tag worked to their advantage.

‘We had nothing to lose but at the same time we had something to prove. The lopsided loss to them earlier in the year was humiliating but at the same time, it was the team’s motivation to make it to the finals for a rematch.’

Shutting down Steve Hayes and co. would have been of upmost importance during the game. With that under consideration, Wills was able to devise a plan that would ultimately stop the Cork offence.

11781758_10204530430367670_6489579994880878568_n
Photo by Greg Barret

‘We knew we had to make them beat us running the football. We thought we matched up well with them up front but we were out matched in the secondary due to the height difference. Therefore, we left two half safeties over the top and mixed man under coverage with zone under (cover 2). Then we played mind-games up front with our Defensive-Line to confuse their O-Line and put pressure on their QB. We executed it well and were able to hold them to only two scores.’

Many often wonder what goes on or what is said in the changing rooms at halftime during games in order to provoke a better second half performance. That is when the leaders in the team step up. Coach Wills firmly believed his team could win, but he trusted his players to find a response; and they did.

‘I quietly challenged them to step up and take the game. No that’s not true at all. I went off on them in a controlled, calculated “old school” fashion. My three sons who all played for me call it “vintage Coach Wills.” I can’t say that was the difference but I do know they responded. I told Ryan (Byrne) to stick with our script when he calls plays. I did not follow that rule and called a play on the goal line that cost us the go ahead TD early in the fourth quarter. That did not phase the team. They continued to play hard and were able to overcome my lack of judgement (stupidity) to come back and score late.’

So with the IAFL-1 championship in the bag, the Wolves can set their sights on an automatic return to the top flight to compete in the Shamrock Bowl Conference once again. The ‘Wolf Pack’ can now enjoy a well-deserved break from their hardships of a long but successful season, before they plan for life in the SBC next season.

11060097_10204530440287918_2196733309481645044_n
Photo by Greg Barret

‘Our goal all year was to win this division and get back to the SBC. We were not ready in 2014 to compete at that level. The year’s experience back down will help. Our biggest obstacle is numbers. We need a good recruitment drive during the offseason to get our numbers up. It would be really nice to be able to platoon instead of playing both sides of the ball. Depth is the key to success at the SBC level.

Congratulations to the Wolves!

IAFL-1 Final Preview

IAFL-1 Final Preview.

With the IAFL-2 Preview done and dusted, we swiftly move onto the IAFL-1 clash between the Cork Admirals and the Waterford Wolves. In what we shall christen as “The Munster Mash”, or maybe a more serious name such as the ‘Munster Bowl’, will see the division leaders do battle against the semi-final winners. Both sides have faced against each other already this season, as Cork came out 33-6 and 42-0 victors, however all past results go out the window when competing in a final!

thumb_waterfordlogo Waterford Wolves @ Cork Admirals thumb_CAlogo  – Navan RFC, 4pm.

The Cork Admirals finished IAFL-1 leaders with a commanding (7-1) record as they rarely looked like surrendering their lead as the premier team in the division. The Admirals sailed to a great start, putting up on average 30+ points in their opening 3 games with victories against the Wolves, Minotaurs and Bulldogs, a points average that continued throughout the campaign. By this stage they had established themselves as the firm front-runners in the race for the playoff’s. The midway point of the season brought up some tough encounters, including the game against the Tyrone Titans that they won 22-7, but the Ad’s continued to bask in their form. Their only defeat of the season came against the Meath Bulldogs, but despite a minor setback the men from Cork comfortably sealed top spot in the division.

Steve Hayes led the division with 25 touchdowns. Photo by Declan Forrest
Steve Hayes led the division with 25 touchdowns. Photo by Declan Forrest

One of the prime candidates and key reasons for Cork’s success fell on the shoulders of Quarterback, Steve Hayes. Hayes quite simply has had a terrific year up to this point despite being an unknown quantity before the season commenced. He has featured heavily in our ‘Team of the Week’ articles, and for good reason too. The signal-caller threw an impressive 25 touchdowns this season to various targets in his receiving corp. Nick Coffi, Paul O’Driscoll and Simon O’Keefe contributed to a cool 24 TD’s in 8 games, with O’Keefe finishing as the top receiver with 10 touchdowns. Their defence can get somewhat overshadowed by the offences prowess, but they aren’t too bad either. They only conceded 78 points, whilst scoring 3 defensive touchdowns and 2 safeties.


Standing on the opposite sideline will be familiar foes in the Waterford Wolves. The ‘Wolf Packs’ season was met with mixed results and a concern for a lack of consistency, however as the season progressed and the playoff’s loomed, the Wolves were soon hunting! Defeats one week were met with victories the following as Waterford ground out key wins against the Mavericks and Minotaurs early in the campaign. They didn’t necessarily blow teams away on the scoreboard, but they did just enough to scrape threw and thats what counts! They did win 3 of their remaining 4 games, all of which were against playoff contenders. Huge performances against the Titans and Bulldogs secured them playoff football, in which they defeated the Bulldogs 13-9 to book their spot in the final.

Despite coming second overall in the IAFL-1, the Wolves finished with the second worst points difference

The Wolves will need a complete performance to stop the Admirals!
The Wolves overcame a tough Bulldogs side to reach the final.

with -54 as they scored only 66 points whilst surrending 120. The offensive production has always been a problem for the Waterford men, but their blood thirsty defence more than makes up for it. QB/CB Ryan Byrne has been a standout performer, coming up with several big plays that has altered the Wolves path this season. He’s scored 7 times consisting of passing, rushing and defensive scores making him an all-round playmaker. His partnership with Mark Dunphy has brought plenty of success recently and the Wolves will need big performances from the pair on Sunday.

When it comes down to it, the Cork Admirals will be considered strong favourites this weekend, considering their superior record this year and past results against the Wolves. However the Wolves have had the best form in the division in recent weeks and will be feeling very confident heading into Navan. The Admirals will need to click into gear quickly unless they fear a repeat performance against Meath, whilst Waterford will struggle to keep up with Cork if they get into their flow. Both teams have been rather quiet in regards to rushing threats this season, so it appears the battle will be done through the air. Cork have easily the best receiving trio in the division, maybe even the country, but the Wolves secondary is littered with ball-hawks so this will be an interesting showcase. Let the battle for Munster commence!

Can’t make the game? Never fear! The expert commentating of Greg Barret has you covered! He will be joined by special guests Neil Graham of the Belfast Trojans and South Kildare Soldiers own Shane Farrell at ringside.  

Listen to the game live this Sunday on the OpenTempo sports app for iOS and Android, or you can follow the game via the link www.opentempofm.com and click on the “listen” sports link!

Team of the Week: Week #17

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

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

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

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

Photo by Ariane Boudias

Quarterback: Ryan Byrne
 Waterford Wolves

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

 

Brian Du Toit or Superman, we’re not sure

Running Back: Brian Du Toit
 Trinity College Dublin

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

 

Photo by Ariane Boudias

Wide Receiver: Mark Dunphy
 Waterford Wolves

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

 

Photo by Charisse Mae Ducao

Offensive Line: Trinity College Dublin 

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

 

Defence: Meath Bulldogs 

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


 

Honourable Mentions:

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

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

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

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

IAFL Week 15 Previews!

Week 15 Previews

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

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

Preview
Mc Kelvey leading all scorers Photo by Dave Bradshaw

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

Carrickfergus Knights 1-5 v Craigavon Cowboys 2-4

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

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

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

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

Cork Admirals 5-0 v Waterford Wolves 3-2

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

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

Meath Bulldogs 2-3 v Tyrone Titans 5-1

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

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

IAFL 1 & 2 Week 11 Previews

IAFL 1

Week 11 comes to IAFL 1 & 2 with varying degrees of importance. In the IAFL 1, three teams move to the midseason point, and in IAFL 2 the Vipers look to for some improvement over their first game, any improvement at all.

Meath Bulldogs (1-2) @ Dundalk Mavericks (1-2) – DKIT Sports Grounds 2PM

After Meath lost to Cork it was all doom and gloom as another season looked to be slipping away. What promised to be a season of rebuilding was threatening to be a season of demolition. The difference a week makes. By defeating Waterford the Bulldogs have put themselves atop the chasing pack behind the Titans and Admirals. The three 1-2 teams will slug it out for the 3rd placed spot in the IAFL 1 and with it a chance at playoff redemption. As much as points total will play in this fight, the head to head record will be vital to have in your favour and Meath sit with the best opportunity for exploiting that. Waterford have already defeated the Mavs and now with the short hop to Dundalk ahead of them, if Meath win on Sunday they will have a firm grip on third and awaiting the return legs against both Cork and Tyrone to see if they can’t perhaps do better.

Dundalk might be the worst placed of the three in terms of head to head but the remedy to that is simple. Just win. The Mavs get another crack at Waterford in a few weeks and having only lost by 3 points it is likely if they win that game, they will overturn the points total too. The Mavs will only get one shot at Meath this season and before they start thinking about turning around points deficits a win here is essential. A loss would pin them behind the Bulldogs almost inescapably and trying to catch one team is bad enough but if the best Meath achieve is third the Mavs will definitely be on the outside looking in at the playoffs.
Both of these teams have break out threats, Dundalk in QB Mathew Hagan and Meath in Running Back Pete McMahon but perhaps Meath shade the numbers game with some alternative offensive weapons to turn to. Defensively the Mavericks have been very good but they haven’t played the free scoring Admirals yet which skew the figures slightly in their favour since Meath shipped 28 points that day. An interesting game with huge ramifications for the winner and their playoff aspirations.

Waterford Wolves (1-2) @ Mullingar Minotaurs (0-4) – Harbour Field, Mullingar 2PM

The Wolves first season back in IAFL1 has been a mixed bag so far. The Admirals are sweeping all before them and many at the Wolves, after Game One, would have been searching for differences between the SBC and the IAFL1. Things got back on track with what might prove to be a vital success against the Mavericks before the Bulldogs shut them out at home in their last outing. The identity of the Wolves 2015 incarnation is yet to be forged, yet, here they are well placed to challenge for a playoff spot. Someone in the Bulldogs/Mavericks game is going going 2-2 and the Wolves need to ensure they keep pace with who ever that turns out to be. Should the Wolves win they will be facing down return legs with both teams involved in Dundalk with either a better or equal points total, those games will shape the Wolf packs year but this one has to be put in the bag first. Fail here and the Wolves could make a gift of 3rd place to who ever wins in Louth.

Mullingar showed signs of life making life hard for the Titans at the end of April. That promise was short lived as they capitulated only two weeks later. Now sitting winless at 0-4 it’s hard to believe that much can be salvaged from this season more than pride. Niall Folan has been the lone bright spark this season for the Minotaurs causing constant threat to opposing defences but no offence can last on only 1 dimension and Mullingar will need to manifest itself a rushing threat soon. The Wolves are far from insurmountable as they too are still searching for answers on offence and although 3rd is probably too much to hope for winning breeds confidence and confidence often breeds winning. With four games to go and nothing too lose, the Minotaurs have the ability to upset all teams in this league expecting an automatic W but that threat will only last as long as their will and their pride sustains.

Donegal/Derry Vipers (0-1) @ Belfast Trojans (2-0) – Deramore Park 4PM

The second game of a double header at the excellent facility that is Deramore Park. Game one was brutal for the Vipers. The number of lessons learned or development achieved on the wrong end of 72-0 bludgeoning are questionable but the Vipers will have had to have learned some if they hope to avoid the same fate. Good news for the Vipers is that this game comes immediately following a Trojans SBC game and they will likely face none of the Trojan starters. What ever modicum of consolation the Vipers choose to find in that is up to them. The Vipers, perhaps because of location, are still somewhat of an unknown around the league but one would hope they’ve reached out to for some assistance in the intervening weeks on some of the basics. Be they a Belfast Trojan or a South Kildare Soldier, they’re all going to score a lot if you can’t tackle them correctly.

As for the Trojans ‘2nds’ there are some valuable reps available for those that don’t normally get them. There will be Dublin Rebels and Carrickfergus Knights that will attest that Matt Armstrong is deserving of SBC reps and Jonathan Siri is as difficult a man to bring down on special teams as any out there. Perhaps the greatest benefit for the Trojans playing at this level is getting back up QB Kris Donaghy under centre. James McKelvey is having a fantastic season but a sound succession plan is vital for continued success and although the majority of ‘2nds’ scores thus far have been on the ground, getting Donaghy going through the air could prove to be a wise coaching decision should he be needed to stand in for #1.