IAFA Week #7 Previews

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IAFA Week 7

This Weekends Fixtures

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Donegal/Derry Vipers @ Galway Warriors

IAFL 2 is back in IAFA land with what could turn out to be a title decider. Well not really in the world of Bowl Games but this is a top of the table clash. Both of these teams will be in IAFL1 next year and life is tough in that most unpredictable of divisions and games vs teams who are around your level of experience can be the key to getting a good read on your season.
The Vipers progress has been impressive in their year of existence and they set a marker, dismissing the newly founded Razorbacks and they’ll look to continue to assert their will over the division by winning here.
The Warriors have wobbled a bit and are still finding their feet. Some impressive performances last year only to be undone with some hard to explain losses. This season will be pivotal for the westerners as they have an opportunity to establish themselves, alone, in a huge catchment area. Nothing establishes you better than winning.

North Dublin Pirates @ Wexford Eagles

Game One for both of these teams, so who knows! Like the Titans & Mavericks, Reapers & Wolves and Bulldogs & Lightening, games between teams entering the league at the same time offer a good yard stick of progress (or lack of) in the quest to establish a football team. It’s no promise for lasting success but it’s always a positive to get going early. Winning is a habit and winning your first ever game is an opportunity few teams realistically get. Setting foot on a football field for the first time is learning experience, both of these teams would like to be the ones dishing out the lessons Sunday and setting a marker for all future contests! We wish them luck!

Tyrone Titans @ Louth Mavericks

Most Football teams, unlike GAA teams or Rugby teams, are built on imaginary links. They exist because we say they do, there is no club house or field or concrete foundation. They are the will of committed individuals and usually they are only as strong as those bonds. When those bonds break, football teams cease to exist. No where is the better example of this than these two teams.
The Mavericks born from the the now defunct Drogheda Lightning and the Titans holding on to that existence by their fingernails.
The Titans just have to hold on. Things were tough last week vs the Rhinos, a running clock and coming really close to not having the bodies to continue. They did not give up though. No matter how hard it gets, how many games need to be finished with a running clock they just need to endure and know that the fight breed into their team now at their darkest hour will help see them to their finest. More than you think have been in that situation. The Trojans, Rebels and Vikings can all tell you stories of when they looked around, with not too many at practice and wondered, will we survive and they did.
The Mavs have to win here, they should be in the higher echelons of this division this year and can ill afford to assume any victory. The Titans are still capable and are backed into a corner now and a game vs their rivals might be just what they need to get back on their feet. The Mavs cannot allow that. Calm and efficient and fulfilling their potential to be champions. Champions don’t allow mistakes.

Meath Bulldogs @ West Dublin Rhinos

The Rhinos have been busy in recent weeks, this their third game in four weeks. The Bulldogs inversely have had a break between the last Rhinos game as this.
The Bulldogs simply must win here. The tiebreak will be gone for the year and the Rhinos would need to collapse to allow the Bulldogs back in. Expect another defensive affair but the Bulldogs need to get something going on offence as the Rhinos ran up 29 points vs the Titans and will be carrying some momentum into this one.
The Rhinos hold the tiebreak in their hands and realistically only have to not lose by 13 points and they’ll hang onto it. The Rhinos haven’t allowed a score on defence yet and have scored twice to boost their chances. To win here, they need just do what comes naturally in West Dublin, play Defence. All of the Rhinos stalwarts got going vs the Titans and momentum can be key. If Stephen Mooney can keep this offence ticking now it might be IAFL1 and done for the Rhinos.

Carrickfergus Knights @ South Dublin Panthers

What can you say after two thumpings like the Panthers have just received? Only they will know the plan to recover their season from this point but it has to start soon. The Knights opened up well against the Panthers but ultimately failed to carry that good momentum into the Rebels game. Offensive mistakes costing them dearly.
Getting the show back on the road has to be the aim for both in this game. QB Josh Davis was injured vs the Rebels and it took some time but the offence in the hands of usual FB Phil Gunning actually looked in decent shape as the Rebels struggled to contain the power in the 2nd half, the aforementioned mistakes in the form of putting the ball on the ground ultimately prevented that promise being realised in scores. Whomever is under centre vs the Panthers will know the recipe for success here.
Special Teams rarely in this country has seen players as special as Jona Siri and the Panthers got a front row seat to that show last week. Where the Rebels loss was failures is most aspect of the game for the Panthers, the Trojans game really hinged on those special teams errors, so from that point of view the mission is clear for the Panthers, learn to kick out of bounds. They did manage a passing score vs the Trojans and as the league swings towards the passing game more and more that will be an encouragement. The season isn’t lost but a loss here would make life very difficult for the Panthers going 0-4 on the season and the division.

Belfast Trojans @ Dublin Rebels

The Shamrock Bowl 3 years ago, bright and sunny Tallaght stadium, on the opening play from scrimmage, Andy Dennehy lined up under centre and surveyed the Trojan defence. The ball is snapped and the veteran QB turned for the hand off. The rabid Trojans, all 11 of them, came flying off the line of scrimmage bursting like a flood through every conceivable crack in the O-line and swarming the running back; only one problem, no ball. After the longest delay, like a rabbit from his hat Dennehy produced the ball from behind his back and the Trojans DBs, realising they’d been duped, wheeled around to see a Rebels receiver behind them coasting down the sideline. No receiver before or since had been afforded that kind of space in the Trojans secondary and Andy has the arm, the ball came out on a high arc and traveled the distance with ease. Touchdown; guaranteed. The playaction masterful, the dive from the Running back flawless, the throw accurate, 11 Trojans lost on a football field and only one thing wrong. The pass was dropped.
This was the last time the Rebels have truly claimed the edge over the Trojans. It was the changing of the guard. Right there all in one play. The Trojans already had a Shamrock Bowl but it was UL they beat. If they wanted to lay claim to the Crown, it was the Rebels they had to beat and they did. That season and every season since.
The Rebels have opened this season perfectly. They are more talented now than they have been in recent seasons with the addition of Liam Jeter to name but one. Their QB is in arguably the best shape he’s been for a while, nearly RUSHING for a touchdown vs the Panthers. Their defence are yet to allow a score. Things are looking up in Rebels land. If they are to prevent themselves becoming Liverpool to the Trojans Man U, they need to reinstall some competition into this game, soon. The Shamrock Bowl above was 48-18, the season that followed the score was 34-19 and last year it was 43-8. The time is now, before the next generation of Rebels become this generation of Rebels and nobody remembers beating the Trojans.
The Trojans haven’t started badly themselves, 123 points on the board already. James McKelvey has 7 touchdowns in two games, both games he played no part of the 4th quarter. Jona Siri is running riot, McConnell, Whitla & Graham are positively dominant and the Trojans are just being the Trojans generally. In the very fine video below, Trojans HC Mark McGrath can be worryingly heard to say, we aren’t happy with that. ‘That’ was a 63-7 victory. What will you be happy with?
Field position is the whole show for the Trojans. You must keep them in their own half on punts and kick offs and don’t turn the ball over, duh! Until someone can do that, this is going to continue.

Video by PixlFlix

IAFA Week #6 Previews

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IAFA Week 6

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West Dublin Rhinos @ Tyrone Titans

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

Westmeath Minotaurs @ Waterford Wolves

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

Trinity @ North Kildare Reapers

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

South Dublin Panthers @ Belfast Trojans

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

UCD @ UL Vikings

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

Week 4 IAFA Previews!

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IAFA Week 4

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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.

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

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.

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.

SBC Week 11: Game Previews

American Football Ireland

IAFL Week 11: Game Previews

Our Game Previews and American Football returns to its full compliment as we once again have an action packed weekend of games, with 6 fixtures across 3 tiers to sink our teeth into. We have 3 interdivisional SBC games on hand, 2 very important IAFL-1 games and a double header at Deramore Park. Every game in the league is important, but it’s even more so with only a number of games left on each teams calendar, and there’s still so much to play for!

Carrickfergus Knights(1-2) @ Belfast Trojans (4-0) – Deramore Park, 1pm

The return leg of this heated derby game takes place at Deramore Park this weekend, with the Trojans looking to extend their unbeaten streak in the league and the Knights seeking to close the gap to the Dublin Rebels.

After a solid start to the campaign, the Knights have faltered over the last few games, suffering defeats to both the Panthers and this weekends opposition. Fate is still in their hands however as with winnable games down the line and the all important division game against the Rebels, the Knights are still very capable of clinching 2nd spot in the SBC North, and they believe they have the squad to do it.

The Belfast boys a surging ahead in 2015 as they look on course to claim another division title. They comprehensively defeated the Dublin Rebels 43-8 last Saturday to likely secure top spot, with 4 games yet to play. Slowing down however is not in their nature and with 3 of their remaining games at home, it looks increasingly unlikely that anyone will be able to stop the Trojans from going 8-0 again.

The Knights will be extremely cautious not to succumb to another 50-0 hammering they suffered last season, but at the same time will need to take risks if they are to overcome the Champions. Centre, Joel Neill returns to lineup after recovering from concussion, which will be a big boost on offence. The Trojans will be looking to continue their impressive form by increasing the lead over their rivals, with the McKelvey/Richardson combination aiming to be as effective as ever on Sunday.

North Kildare Reapers (2-2) @ West Dublin Rhinos (0-4) – Castleknock College, 2pm

Two different teams on very different ends of the spectrum, one team improving and rising up the ranks, the other in free-fall. Could the end be in sight for the Rhinos?

At the beginning of the year, we predicted that the Reapers would finish 5th in our SBC South rankings, claiming that victories against the Rhinos and Cowboys would be pivotal in securing safety. Thus far they have defeated both those sides and have proven us wrong with our prediction, so kudos to them! What’s more impressive from a Reapers perspective, is that victory on Sunday would leap them ahead of both UCD and Trinity College in the rankings and our predictions may be off but nobody predicted that.

The Rhino’s presence in the SBC is hanging by a thread. No wins and 4 loses doesn’t make for good reading, especially when the West Dubliners were looking to surpass last seasons heroics and seemed to have to potential to do so. Loss on Sunday would all but condemn the Rhinos to IAFL-1 status as with the lowest points scored and most points points conceded and losses to the Reapers and Cowboys giving up the advantage in head to head. Their closing three games come against the Trojans, Trinity and Knights, it’s hard to see the Rhino’s overcoming the odds this time round.

The Reapers currently hold the head-to-head over the Rhinos with the 12-0 win on the opening day of the season, meaning the Rhinos would need to better that points difference to have any chance of securing safety. The Rhino’s offence have gradually been improving, creating chances in the redzone but they need that extra bit of composure and quality to punch it in. The Reapers will be heading into Castleknock full of confidence after a huge win against the Cowboys, but they must be wary of a potential Rhino’s backlash.

South Dublin Panthers (1-3) @ Craigavon Cowboys (1-3) – Chambers Park, 2pm

Two sides lingering precariously at the bottom, but still have aspirations for playoff football. This game could determine who will still be hunting for that wildcard spot come the end of the season, and who may miss out.

The Panthers have made impressive strides from their tenure as the Dragons, picking up a solid 21-0 win against Carrickfergus and running Trinity College very close. They have far and away the toughest schedule in the SBC, but are handling it well so far. Still, a lot of tough fixtures remain but if they can grab a win in Craigavon, and pull off a potential scalping in their remaining games, their playoff intentions in their rebuilding season will look all the more possible.

The Cowboys performances arguably deserved more than what they’ve achieved. Similar to last season, the performances are there but the end product has been lacking. The narrow defeat at away to the Reapers was a winnable game, and the last thing they need is a potential set-back with the Knights and Trojans on the horizon. Craigavon are still on course to achieve a wildcard spot and a good performance against the Panthers could see them hit stride at the perfect time.

If this match plays out anything similar to last years game, then spectators are in for a real treat! Both sides have the potential to score plenty of points so this could turn out to be another high scoring affair. Each team lacks a real rushing threat at this stage, highlighted by the main rushing scores coming courtesy of Quarterbacks Mick Duncan and Peter Loughran, so expect a lot of aerial movement and QB runs throughout the game. Last seasons encounter came to a nail biting conclusion, would it be too much to expect the same?

Mid Season Power Rankings!

Power Rankings
Photo by Jason Toher
Power Rankings for the whole IAFL!

We’ll be quick, there’s football today!

1. thumb_ULlogo – UL Vikings

A surprise to see the Trojans not occupy the top spot? UL have had the tougher start and as of now have 5 wins under their belt and games in hand are great but points in the bag are better! UL have beaten Trinity & UCD twice now and the Trojans…

2. thumb_BTlogo – Belfast Trojans

The Trojans have been dominant in their 3 outings so far but none have been against teams with a winning record in 2014. The Rebels today will be the sternest test for the Green Machine so far and we may need to reexamine these rankings after that!

3. thumb_TCDlogo – Trinity College Dublin

The Students are one of the teams still with only 3 games played after their season opener was rescheduled. Although they haven’t been hitting the heights offensively they did in 2014; the 2015 edition has showed grit to eek out wins in a tight game verses the Panthers and a stunning comeback against the Rebels. Trinity have life in them yet and will be looking ahead to the game verses UL to reestablish SBC South dominance.

4. thumb_UCDlogo – UCD

A tough call to demote the Rebels here but with both teams on a 2-2 and UCD gaining the narrowest of narrow wins over the Men in Black it has to go the impressive IAFL 1 winners. UCD are upsetting the applecart atop the SBC and if they can hold together their fine form may rise above Trinity both here and in the race for the SBC playoffs.

5. thumb_DRlogo – Dublin Rebels

Unfamiliar territory for the Rebels in the middle of the pack but tough beats two weeks in a row make this spot more as a result of misfortune than poor play. The Rebels have returned to themselves in recent weeks and win or lose today verses the Trojans the Dubs have the opportunity to achieve form today that could carry them deep into the playoffs.

6. thumb_reapersLogo2– North Kildare Reapers

The Reapers have a very real chance of being the 3rd overall ranked team in two weeks. With the other 2 win teams facing tough games or weeks off, the Reapers face the winless Rhinos in a game they will fancy. 3 wins is no mean feat in the SBC and with the following games verses the Knights, Trinity and UCD if they can summon another top performance 4 wins show the Reapers mean business.

7. thumb_panthers – South Dublin Panthers

A matter of who beat who now. The Panthers went to Carrickfergus and made short work of the Knights, a tough schedule has seen them take on both of last years Shamrock Bowl Finalists and the Rebels. Everyone from here on down would have hoped for play offs but would be realistically be looking to avoid relegation first and foremost. 1 win is good for all but more will have to follow for all.

8. thumb_CKlogo – Carrickfergus Knights

The Knights dominated neighbouring Cowboys and have stumbled since. They will look at their schedule and see potential wins. The Knights will have to muster their big squad into wins to avoid missing out on the play off quality their squad is likely capable of.

9. thumb_CClogo – Craigavon Cowboys

How different this would if that 2 point attempt had succeeded at the death verses the Reapers. Likely a switch in position for both teams. If is the biggest word in sport and now the Cowboys don’t have an easy run of games to close out the season with Belfast twice and a return verses the Knights, the Cowboys have little room to manoeuvre should they not pick up anything from the Panthers or Knights.

10. thumb_CAlogo – Cork Admirals

A little harsh to hold an IAFL 1 team over an SBC team? You can only beat what is in front of you and Cork have been doing that in style. A dominant passing game and a run game and defence that isn’t getting the attention it deserves. Cork still have the stingy Titans defence to over come but should they do that few will argue they have SBC quality.

11. thumb_RHlogo – West Dublin Rhinos

Things are not going well in Castleknock. 0-4 and no signs of life yet to be seen. They now must win games or the IAFL1 is beckoning. The Reapers have to be beaten by more than 12 points and a Herculean effort to draw win from the remaining 3 games is all that will save the Rhinos now.

12. thumb_TTlogo – Tyrone Titans

Before we even finish this sentence we know those in Tyrone will feel they deserve to be up a place if Cork are and perhaps they are right. The longest unbeaten streak in the country and only 1 score given up this season the North West outfit are surging. The only marks we can put against them is the lack of high level testing and a stagnating offence in recent weeks.

13. 30 – Meath Bulldogs

The Bulldogs got off to a lacklustre start this season but a long trip down to Waterford proved fruitful and now the Bulldogs are once again in the hunt for IAFL1 glory. 1st  may prove very difficult for the Bulldogs because who ever holds it is likely to hold an unbeaten record which is not achievable now for the Bulldogs. A series of games with the Mavericks and Wolves can cement them into third and place them well for any slip ups ahead.

14. thumb_waterfordlogo – Waterford Wolves

Although last week didn’t go exactly to plan the Wolves have something this season that has been sorely needed. A win! They will have more but when you’re on a losing streak that first one is vital. Waterford are still in the hunt for 3rd but will need to reverse their loss against the Bulldogs to do so.

15. thumb_DMlogo1 – Dundalk Mavericks

We were perhaps a little unfair to the Mavericks preseason when we predicted they’d wind up last in the IAFL1. A victory over Mullingar shows they had no intention of proving us right. Dundalk are still developing but have some incredible talent on their roster and the task of harnessing that into results is beginning to bear fruit.

16. thumb_mullingarlogo – Mullingar Minotaurs

Mullingar have woken up in recent weeks and although they couldn’t defeat Tyrone they showed signs of life that had been missing from their opening two games. A win tomorrow could catapult them up these rankings and they have every capability of it.

17. 10968328_827634113959732_1746668201097951904_n – Galway Warriors

The Warriors still in infancy defeated the Soldiers in their opening game this season and played out 0-0 with the Rhinos last week. It’s hard to go anywhere without offence and this has to be the next step for the Warriors.

18. SKS – South Kildare Soldiers

The Soldiers were demolished in the worst way verses the Trojans that would make you question the merits of allowing the Trojans to play in the IAFL 2. The season started well defeating UL but losing to the fellow sophomores, the Warriors, will show there is still work to do in Kildare.

19. Vip – Donegal/Derry Vipers

Unsurprisingly the Vipers occupy the last spot. With just the one game, if you want to call it that, verses the Trojans under their belt there are more reasonable tests ahead for the Vipers where they will give a better account of where they are as a team. The only way is up!

Arun Mooney: ‘Never count the Rhinos out’

Arun Mooney: ‘Never count the Rhino’s out’

The West Dublin Rhinos travel across Dublin to face divisional rivals UCD this Sunday at the UCD Sports Grounds. The Rhino’s are currently 0-2 and sitting bottom of the SBC South and the SBC Generally for the season after succumbing to defeats against both the North Kildare Reapers and SBC South leaders, the UL Vikings.

It’s not the start the Rhino’s would have been hoping for as they looked set to make positive strides after clinching a wildcard berth last season. So far, they are yet to replicate their end of season performances from 2014, that saw them win 3 of their last 4 games.

UCD will be tough opponents and the West Dublin outfit will need to improve greatly from their previous outings if they look to clinch their first win of the year. In order to find out how the team was preparing for Sunday, we sat down with Quarterback, Arun Mooney to discuss the teams goals for the weekends match-up.

The Rhino’s have been blessed with a strong squad this year, boasting on average of 30+ players. They certainly have the numbers to cause teams problems and Arun says that this is the strongest he has seen the Rhino’s for a long time.

‘I definitely feel that this is the strongest team the Rhinos have fielded, because every year I believe we are improving in terms of the number of players we have and the experience gained by the veteran players on the team. It also helps to have a great coaching staff keeping us, the players, on our toes week in week out.’

The Castleknock squad is defined by their toughness and positive attitude. Many competitors know they are in for a tough game against the Rhino’s, particularly when they come face-to-face with their hard hitting defence. However, their struggles on offence is apparent as they have failed to click in the early stages of the season.

Arun realised the offence has work to do, but they certainly have the potential to improve.

563219_10201224526437919_1796208446_n‘I have to give props to the defensive side of the ball, they hit hard and never give up. In terms of the offensive side of the ball, we’ve been working on knowing the playbook fully and being ready to go when our number is called. We have been pushing ourselves in training every Sunday and working with our coaches to optimise our efforts and turn this into points. There is no magic formula to get better other than train hard and know your job.’

Travelling across town to UCD, albeit a short trip, will be a difficult away fixture for the Rhino’s. UCD were formidable at home during their IAFL-1 reign and that form has continued over to the SBC, as they picked up a close victory against the Dublin Rebels. The Rhino’s know they will have their work cut out in stopping the speed and skill of the students spread-option offence.

What is guaranteed however is a dedicated performance from the Rhinos; but in terms of a gameplan? Arun say’s that must remain a secret until Sunday.

‘UCD will be very tough opponents on Sunday, but I am really looking forward to this game as we have another chance at showing everyone what we can do as a team. As I’ve already mentioned the team has been working hard at improving their game and to bring home the win. The game plan is top secret I’m afraid and we look forward to the challenge on Sunday.’

2015 has proven challenging thus far for the West Siders. They are 0-2 and considering the difficulty of opponents they are yet to face, it will be a big ask for the team to stay within the playoff hunt, or even the division come the end of the season. However if any team is capable of defying the odd’s, like they showed last season, its the boys from Castleknock.

‘It will be a tough road ahead for our season and last year was amazing to comeback after a 0-4 start . Things started going our way and our team really stepped up and delivered. We expect to improve on this feat this season.’

‘The 2015 campaign has not gone to plan given our 0-2 record, but I do fully believe that we can turn this around as we have done in the past. This team always gives it their best and plays until the whistle. Its a tough road ahead given the talent in this league but never count the Rhinos out.’

10320412_10204121325896095_1717971042385701356_nArun was very honest in his assessment of the teams performances so far and admits that the offence has been playing below par. However, he knows what needs to be improved and has challenged himself to make the necessary adjustments that will grant the team victories sooner rather than later.

Despite the added pressure he puts on himself, the Quarterback is confident the team will start to see major changes that their hard work and effort deserves.

‘The expectations I’ve set myself for this season first of all, is to put the team in the best position to win games. Unfortunately I have yet to meet this expectation as we haven’t put close to enough points on the board to do so. Secondly, is to become a better player by being more consistent and improving the game management aspect of the game.’

You can see Arun in action this weekend at UCD Sports Grounds, 2pm for UCD vs the Rhinos.