After a scintillating Gameweek 1 schedule, Gameweek 2 provides a bit more of a focused slate, with 3 games for Irish football fans to keep their eyes on this Sunday. With first-time matchups, division debuts and rivalries renewed in this week’s games, there’s a lot to be excited about — let’s dive into it.
Belfast Knights @ Westmeath Minotaurs — Mullingar RFC, 1pm
Westmeath take their first ever steps into the Premier Division, taking on a Knights team that has struggled in recent years to find results in close games t 2 full seasons looks bad on paper, 5 of those losses were by 1 score or less. It will be that ability to get over the line in close games, such as one like this Sunday’s, that will keep the Knights above water and on the road to improvement this year. QB Spencer McDowell has never been shy to use his legs as part of this Knights offense, and chances are (without the likes of WR Jordan Clinton or TE Marty Caskey to work with) we may see a heavy workload for him Sunday. The Minotaurs come into Sunday with their own question marks, with QB Joe Kinahan both being without last year’s top weapon Jack Lynch and sustaining an injury that may keep him out of this matchup altogether. RB Rafa Monteiro was the team’s rush yardage leader in their 2022 Division 1 Championship campaign and he will likely see a lot of the ball Sunday too. With both teams boasting defenses that have the ability to keep offenses to a minimum on the scoresheet, with offenses that have shown that they’re able to fire points on the board too, and with some health questions on both teams, it’s a hard game to predict. With both teams meeting again later in the year — and with both teams tipped to not be in the playoff race this year — it’s a game that will have massive implications to avoiding relegation in July, so expect a physical, close game here.
Louth Mavericks @ #2 NI Razorbacks — Newforge Country Club, 1pm
Another matchup from last year’s Division 2, the Razorbacks have a quick turnaround from their 22-6 victory over the Antrim Jets to host Division 2 finalists Louth Mavericks. The visitors will be looking for similar production to last year from flex piece Brendan Simms, who appeared all over the place on offense and was a menace in the defensive backfield with multiple pick 6s. TE Dec Mulvihill returns to the field again to be the massive redzone target that he is for QB Nathan Hearty, who will look to manage games as well as he did to get his side to the Bowl game last year at 7-1. The Razorbacks will play their game with a mix of QB rolls and handoffs to the likes of Suntan Millar, while the defense will aim to stay as aggressive and tight-knit as they were last Sunday when they held the Jets offense to just 6 points. These teams split their series in 2022, so this game could be another tight affair this Sunday!
Wexford Eagles @ North Dublin Pirates — Trinity Sports Grounds, 1pm
Both teams kickoff their 2023 campaigns looking to rebound after falling on hard times in recent years. With the Pirates going 0-8 in 2022 and the Eagles needing to forfeit most of their Division 1 season, it’s clear COVID hit these teams hard. However, the past 9 months have served as a great test that both teams have pushed through: successful recruitment drives on both sides proved to be a great sign of promise for the strength of both clubs going forward. Of course, wins don’t count in the offseason, and both teams will be battling it out in Santry to get that first win out of the way early. This point counts for two for the Pirates, who have been waiting since 2019 — due to the lack of activity in 2020, 2021 and a winless 2022 campaign — and have been (and will be) itching for a win this year. With both teams relative unknowns, both to each other and to most of the league, it’s a weird game to predict, but this writer gives the edge to the visitors purely due to the experience of incoming coaches Kevin Klatt and Brendan McAleese and QB Trevor Smith. This could quietly be a fantastic matchup though.
Knights 16 – 17 Minotaurs
Mavericks 13 – 20 Razorbacks
Eagles 22 – 15 Pirates