By Jo Buchanan.
Emerald Bowl III Season Preview
With the schedule finalised and released, we take a look at the upcoming Irish Emerald Bowl III season. 12 teams split into 4 divisions will contest 8 games each to make their bid for the playoffs. 6 teams will make the playoffs (4 division winners plus 2 best runners up). The 2 best division winners will receive byes into the semi-finals while seeds 3 – 6 will contest in wildcard playoffs. With the regular season set to begin on Saturday 22nd October, we look at the top 4 teams from last season to see if they will be at the top when the playoffs come around…
Last seasons champions will open their season with real belief that they can retain the title. Their trip to the Champions Bowl will have given the players invaluable experience and Peter Loughran‘s inclusion in the Flag Football National Squad will only add to that. The ‘Boys finished 2nd place in points for (236) but will be looking to tighten up on defence after finishing with a points against total of 129 (4th overall). The Cowboys suffered a slow start last year, going 2 & 2 before winning 4 on the bounce to reach the playoffs – a stronger start will be needed this year as they travel to Edenderry to begin their campaign against the Eagles and Jets in divisional match-ups.
The Mullingar Minotaurs will be hoping to go one better than last year, but have a tough division to qualify from first. Flag Football National Team QB Conor Brennan will call the shots once again for Mullingar, with the recent international friendlies sure to add to his confidence. The Minotaurs were dominant last year, winning all 8 regular season games, scoring 369 points (1st in league) while conceding only 104 points (2nd in league). However, they failed to score any points in the final, something they must not let happen when they travel to North Kildare to start their season against last year semi-finalists Reapers and close neighbours Athlone Minotaurs.
7 of the 15 Team Ireland players that competed a few weeks ago were Vipers – they are back this year as serious contenders for Emerald Bowl III. Vipers QB Joe Grey took on a different role for the National Team playing at receiver, with the rest of their players (Andrew Bracken, Sean Douglas, Conor McGroarty, Bobby Smith, Ben Arulogun) occupying their normal positions. A 6 & 2 record last year saw them take 3rd spot overall, however they occupied number 1 spot when it came to points against (67). Continuing their defensive superiority will be key if they hope to reach the playoffs once again, they travel to DIT to take on the Spartans and UCD in their first matches.
North Kildare Reapers
A 5 & 3 record last year saw the Reapers qualify for the playoffs as 5th seeds. The Reapers saw off 4th seeds Crusaders 33-12 to set up a semi-final tie with Mullingar Minotaurs, which they would go on to lose 19-27. The Reapers have a tough schedule if they wish to repeat that accomplishment – playing Mullingar Minotaurs twice and the Cowboys and Vipers once each. They will be looking to improve their points difference from last season (61) as well as pick up a few more wins to gain an automatic semi-final spot. The Reapers start their tough season at home in North Kildare where they will face Mullingar Minotaurs and Athlone Minotaurs.
Special mention to the Waterford Wolves who have returned to flag football – the Wolves started off as a Flag Football team before focusing on their American Football programme but are now in a position to participate in both, great progress! Playoffs and Bowl games are provisionally dated in February, good luck to all teams involved!
University College Dublin
Marble City Mud Dogs
North Kildare Reapers