The final game week is upon us, and there is still plenty to play for! We take a look at Saturdays upcoming games, as well as all playoff possibilities. Remember, 6 teams will make the playoffs; the 4 division winners followed by the 2 best runners up. The 2 division winners with the best overall records will receive a bye week on the way to the semi-finals and ultimately compete for the Emerald Bowl III (25th February) while the other 2 division winners and 2 best runner ups will face off in the wildcard round on February 4th. The 2 winners from the wildcard match-ups will then join the top 2 seeded teams in the semi-finals. EBC North Division wrapped up last week, as the Edenderry Eagles clinched the division championship with a 6-1-1 record and 19 points, automatically claiming a playoff berth. QB Jordan Farrell has impressed for the Eagles as he sits 3rd in the passer ratings with a 73.4% completion rate and the league record in TD’s (33), while David Cummins (27 Receptions, league record 12 TDs) and Kealan Farrell (8 rushes, league record 28 receptions and 9TDs) sitting 1st and 3rd in the offensive ratings respectively, have proven valuable targets. Kealan’s all-round ability can be seen as he sits top of the defensive ratings with the league record in sacks (5), with fellow team mate Aaron O’Neill in 3rd with the league record in interceptions (6). The team, as a whole, sits top of both the offensive and defensive ratings tables with the league record in reception (110) and TD’s (40) and the league record in batted balls (52). The Cowboys (6-1-1) finished in 2nd tied with the Eagles in points (19) but the Eagles had the head to head win over the ‘Boys. The Cowboys are, however, guaranteed a wildcard round berth. QB Conrad Smith will be hoping to continue his form into the playoffs as he sits 2nd in the passer ratings with a completion rate of 70% and 25TD’s, with Peter Loughran proving to be a key asset as he sits 2nd on the offensive ratings table with 20 receptions and 10 TD’s. Jo Buchanan sits 2nd in the defensive ratings with the league record in tackles (22). The Eagles currently stand as number 1 seed, however they are not guaranteed to keep their position – they will be hoping for results go their way in order to clinch a bye.
Five fixtures will be played at UCD this weekend, which will have a big impact on the overall playoff bracket. Current 2nd seed and only undefeated, UCD (6-0-0) will take on 3rd seed Dublin Rebels (6-1-0) at 11am. While both teams have the same points, UCD are ahead with a higher winning ratio (1.000). Paul Grogan sits 8th in the passer ratings with the league highest 78.2% completion rate and 11 TD’s. Keith Foster has been key in defence for the Rebels as he sits 7th in the ratings, while Sean Leamy (8th, 24 receptions, 6 TDs) and Conrad Cook (10th, 5 rushes, 16 receptions, 6 TDs) will be looking to improve their position in the offensive ratings table. This will be the Rebels only game of the day and their final game of the regular season. They will be looking for a win which would secure the EBC South Division championship and a possible bye. UCD will play twice, potentially only needing one win to clinch the EBC East Division title and an automatic bye. Should this happen, the Eagles would drop to 3rd seed and host the wildcard round match-ups. UCD’s signal caller Kevin Duffy sits 6th in the passer ratings with a 67.2% completion rate and 11 TD’s, though no UCD players made it into the top 10 of the offensive ratings. Gavin Quirke and Michael Sykes (4th and 8th in the defensive ratings respectively) will be looking to galvanise the rest of the squad for these important games. The Rebels and UCD haven’t matched up yet this season.
The DIT Spartans (1-5-0) will take on the Dublin Vipers (4-1-0) on pitch 2 also at 11am. While the Spartans’ season will end on Saturday, they will be hoping to end on a high and take momentum into the next season. Vipers will be playing three games in a row, and have a shot at winning the EBC East, albeit a long shot. This starts by needing a win against the Spartans. The Vipers overwhelmingly beat the Spartans 51-6 last time out, they will be hoping for the same to start their difficult day well.
Two games will then start at 12pm, with the Vipers taking on UCD in what is a crucial divisional game for both. Vipers need to beat UCD to keep their division title hopes alive, and put a big score on UCD to better UCD’s point’s difference. A win for UCD, regardless of their first match result, would secure their division title as well as a bye to finals day. If UCD beat the Rebels but lose to the Vipers, then the Vipers could win the division on point’s difference if they win their other 2 games. UCD beat the Vipers 27-25 in the Vipers only loss of the season so far, this one promises to be great with all to play for! Vipers signal caller Joe Grey has found form and sits top of the passer ratings and 9th in offensive ratings (9 rushes, 4 TDs) making him a danger both behind and beyond the line of scrimmage, with the added threat of his successful partnership with Sean Douglas sitting 7th in the offensive ratings (6 rushes, 19 receptions and 4 TDs). Conor McGroarty sits 6th in the defensive ratings, with Darren Byrne occupying 9th spot.
The Spartans will play the Marble City Mud Dogs (4-2-0) in their second game of the day. Mud Dogs are still in with a shot of reaching the wildcard round. They are level on points with the Vipers, but the Vipers have a game in hand. They will need to win both their matches on Saturday to have a chance at progressing. The Spartans will provide a tough test that the Marble City team must overcome. DIT’s Arun Mooney has had a good year so far, sitting 7th in the passer ratings (45% completion, 7 TD’s) with Paul McGoldrick a key target for all season while 4th in the offensive stats. Spartans will be looking for improvements on the defence as none of their players could make up the top 10.
The final game at UCD will see the Vipers take on the Mud Dogs. Depending on results from the above matches, this result could have a variety of different consequences. Should things go both teams way, this will be a huge game to see who will take the last playoff spot. Mud Dogs have struggled at times this year reflected by having no players in the top 10 of the offensive ratings, however, with JP Murphy seating 4th in the passer ratings with the league record in pass completion (99), 2nd best completion rate of 78.0% and 15TD’s, and Maurice Casey 5th in defence ratings, could make them the dark horse of this match-up. The two teams have been closely ranked throughout the season without playing each other. A win here is imperative for both teams’ chances at making the playoffs, big day ahead at UCD!
Three EBC West divisional matches at Westmeath on Saturday will finish out the season. Game of the day at Mullingar RFC will see the Mullingar Minotaurs take on the North Kildare Reapers. Should the Reapers win or draw this game, then the Reapers will claim the EBC West Division championship, and a place in the wildcard round. Mullingar’s only chance of making the playoffs is by winning the division title, and will require to win this game and their next, as well as the Reapers to lose to Athlone. The Reapers previously beat the Minotaurs in a close game, 29-27. Reapers QB Joe O’Heron has had a great season and sits 5th in the passer ratings (66.2% completion rate, 13 TD’s), with John Kelly proving to be a useful target as he sits 6th in the offensive ratings. Lasts year’s finalists Mullingar seemed to struggle this year with none of their players able to make the top 10 of any of the ratings. This one will prove to be no different with so much on the line. Both teams will be expected to pick up wins against Athlone, who have so far been winless. Advantage is with the Reapers, but could all change come Saturday. Games start at 11am.