AFI Gameweek 1 Review: Students Set the Standard

The views and opinions expressed in this article in no way reflect those held by American Football Ireland. The below article is intended to be entertaining and promote around American Football Ireland games.

Gameweek 1 is in the books, and while there was only the one close game out of the four on offer (Causeway Giants forfeited their away game to NI Razorbacks), it was great to see teams across the country get back in action. It was also very interesting to see just how teams came out of the two-and-a-half year gap between games, whether they have stalled or built upon their 2019 campaigns, and whether they’ll be up to the task this season. So, let’s take a look into last Sunday’s action.

AFI Premier Division

UCD (1-0) 58 – 7 Belfast Knights (0-1)
In fairness, I did say this would be a high-scoring affair. With that being said, I never saw it going this badly for Belfast. What had been a plus-graded 2021 has, at least in the short-term, been completely forgotten about, as they got dismantled by UCD. The Students got off to one of the hottest starts in recent AFI memory, with QB Arun Mooney throwing for 5 TDs (3 to WR Cian Lawlor) and RBs Jack Finnegan and Sean McVeigh each adding 1 TD on the ground. The defense made sure to get on the scoreboard, with Dan Verzuh and rookie Eoghan McMahon (one of 6 rookies down as starters on Sunday) both taking an interception to the house.

UCD ride a massive wave of momentum into this week’s matchup with the 2019 national champions, while the Knights have 2 weeks to reflect and improve upon Sunday’s performance before hosting the winner of the next game on our review…

Craigavon Cowboys (1-0) 35 – 6 Dublin Rhinos (0-1)
A strong display by the ‘Boys disrupts any thoughts that Craigavon wouldn’t be pushing for playoffs this year. QB Peter Loughran was his usual self, spreading the ball around the field for 4 TDs, with WRs Neil Maxwell, Odhran O’Kane and Luis Alberto all making their debuts on the season’s receiving touchdowns list. Praise must be given to a man who could be found all over the field, Shayne Mone — Mone ran a TD in on offense, and also came away with 1 INT and 1 forced fumble on defense.

For the Rhinos, it was a much bleaker day, with one of the few bright spots being QB Ethan Foster’s 45-yard touchdown pass to Adam Jenkins to make sure the Rhinos could come away from People’s Park with some points on the board. Not the start to the season the Rhinos were looking for.

AFI Division 1

Trinity (1-0) 20 – 0 Donegal/Derry Vipers (0-1)
This was not a pretty game. Though it stayed dry most of the day, the field at Trinity Sports Ground had still found a way to be soaked, making for what was a messier affair than this writer would have expected between these two teams. LB Darren Quinn came up with an interception for the Donegal/Derry outfit, but the Vipers beat themselves on silly turnovers here, with Trinity defenders Sean Emmanuel and James Cushing scoring on fumble recoveries: one from a punt smacking off Viper helmet, and the other from a backwards pass on a broken screen play.  Neither offense really imposed their will on the opposing defense, and while QB Ben Dowling threw his first TD of the year, even he will admit WR Brandon Atwell did the brunt of the work, taking a screen play from Trinity territory to the house after he (and the aforementioned field) made every would-be tacker miss.

Trinity will be happy to come out 1-0, but both teams have better showings in them. The Vipers will surely be eager to even up the series when Trinity travel on June 5th.

UL Vikings (1-0) 12 – 6 Wexford Eagles (0-1)
Two teams entering 2022 on rebuilds went head-to-head in what ended as the first one-score game of the season. UL had an advantage going into the game based on their recent Premier Division history, and ultimately came away with the win. Wexford, though, kept things close with various tricks up their sleeve, chief among them being a Terry Carey 20-yard gain on a fake punt. Ground control equaled game control in this one, as Vikings RB Eoin Rudkins took 2 handoffs to the endzone, earning the W for UL.

Be on the lookout on our Facebook and Instagram pages soon for a preview of Gameweek 2!