Preview: AFI Gameweek 14

School’s out for summer, which means playoff football is right around the corner! Just a handful of gameweeks remain until playoff pictures are locked in and loser-goes-home matchups grace our fields, but to get there we have some important games to get through to decide playoff seeding, qualification and — in the case of this week — potentially relegation. Let’s take a look at what Gameweek 14’s 3-game slate has on offer!

Division 2
Wexford Eagles (4-0) @ Causeway Giants (3-2) — Limepark Playing Fields, Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, 2pm
Potentially a preview for the Division 2 Bowl this July 9th, the Eagles travel to the Causeway to protect their undefeated record when they take on the Giants. The Eagles have been rolling this year thanks to a relentless defense and a fast-paced, powerful offense. Coach Kevin Klatt will be thrilled with how the Eagles’ return to football has gone after missing the most of the 2022 season, and will surely see this game as a great way to see how the team is clicking heading into a big 4 weeks for the club. The Giants, meanwhile, have been keen throughout May to fix some tendencies and tweak gameplans to work themselves into high-gear come July 9th — while their record says 3-2, that includes a forfeit win from Trinity, and their last result was a 35-6 loss to this weekend’s opponents. Look for the hosts to get QB Jig McCoy rolling with some momentum-builders early while attempting to maximise the efforts of Tony McCloskey (4 sacks, 2 forced and recovered fumbles) and Ross McKenzie (2 sacks) up front to slow down the Eagles pass rush. That being said, every player on the home sideline will likely need to be at their very beset to overcome this Eagles side.

Premier Division
Belfast Knights (1-5) @ Craigavon Cowboys (0-7) — People’s Park, Portadown, Co. Armagh, 2pm
Craigavon will have spent the last few weeks rallying the troops and getting any type of home field atmosphere they can as they battle the Knights in what threatens to be the Cowboys’ final Premier Division game until at least the 2025 season. Craigavon’s exploits on the field have not gone as hoped for the Cowboys’ faithful and will surely be pulling out all the stops they can to get a result in this one. Though his appearance in their loss to Cork 5 weeks ago resulted in a knee injury, one can only assume longtime Cowboys QB Peter Loughran will have been doing everything he can to get healthy and back on the field for this one and provide a true ace up the hosts’ sleeve. As for the Knights, they are not guaranteed safety themselves, and with a tough test @ UCD to end their season, this is also a must-win game for Belfast. The Knights have certainly played more consistent football than their opponents this year, and perhaps their experience in these do-or-die situations (involved in relegation battles in 2019 and 2022) may give them the edge in this one. Regardless, both teams will want to fight hard to make this as calm as an affair as possible and cruise to safety. Of course, these are the type of stakes that tend to lead to intense matchups…

Cork Admirals (5-1) @ Westmeath Minotaurs (2-4) — Mullingar RFC, Co. Westmeath, 2pm
Finally, the Admirals travel up to Mullingar to face Westmeath. A horrible Gameweek 13 (some would say unlucky 13) for the Cork side saw the Ads be thoroughly beaten by the visiting undefeated Rebels, letting go of their own win streak in the process. Unfortunate to not at least put up a presentable scoreboard, Cork will be adamant on making up for the loss this Sunday and planning for a big result against a Minotaurs squad that has no stakes left to play for on the season after securing Premier Division safety and being boxed out of the playoff race. 2 teams with talented QBs and a plethora of weapons at their disposal, the key to this game may be both teams’ defenses: how will the Minotaurs shape up against a playoff-caliber outfit, and how do the Admirals bounce back after a hefty loss from just a week ago? 

Writer’s Predictions
Eagles 26-12 Giants
Cowboys 14-18 Knights
Admirals 24-21 Minotaurs

Review: AFI Gameweek 12

Gameweek 12 certainly did not disappoint! With Saturday and Sunday both having a game finish with a margin of less than a field goal, while another game wrapped up with an upset shutout. With plenty of knock-on effects for the last month of the season, let’s see how this Premier Division-heavy slate played out.

Premier Division
UCD (3-3) 24-25 Dublin Rebels (5-0)
A tight contest that went down to the wire at De La Salle RFC! The lead changed multiple times in this one, with both Arun Mooney and Ty Henry having great scoring days by contributing for 4 touchdowns each. The story coming out of this one will be the Rebels holding the Students to 0-4 on 2pt conversion attempts, which kept them in the game throughout. The game was decided just before the 2-minute warning, with Ty Henry throwing his 3rd passing touchdown of the day to Dave King to put the Rebels ahead by one point. A defensive stop on the ensuing drive ended the game and secured the Rebels’ fifth win on the season, keeping their undefeated season alive. UCD fall to 3-3, and while they still seem to be penciled in for a postseason appearance (provided they win one of their last 2 games: vs Panthers, vs Knights), it’s safe to say the vibe on campus right now is slightly more agitated than going into the season. The Rebels, meanwhile, are all but locked into a home playoff game this July. They travel to Cork Sunday June 4th in a showdown with the Admirals in a game that will see one team lose their perfect record.

Division 1
NI Razorbacks (3-4) 12-14 Cill Dara Crusaders (4-2)
Another close game in this one, with the Razorbacks putting up a tough test to the hosts here. The visitors got on the scoreboard first early-on through Alex Kusmirek, but the Crusaders defense showed up in a hard-fought battle where touchdowns became a premium. Ultimately, Cill Dara went over in this one, with scores from Luke Carey (who added what turned out to be a crucial 2pt conversion) and Ben Costello proving to just be enough for the hosts to hang on to victory, despite a late comeback attempt and QB sneak from Mark Thompson threatening to tie the game late. Cill Dara play the Dublin Rhinos (2-4) this coming Sunday in a return fixture that will prove to be a key matchup in the Division 1 playoff picture. The Razorbacks chase for the #4 spot is in jeopardy after this loss, with a win now needed over the 6-0 Mavericks and two losses for the Rhinos to make the Razorbacks playoff eligible.

Premier Division
Belfast Knights (1-5) 0-27 Westmeath Minotaurs (2-4)
The Minotaurs managed to reverse the result of their away trip to Belfast 3 weeks ago with a big win at home Sunday over the Knights. Joe Kinahan and Jack Lynch connected for 2 scores Sunday and ran in a third, while Shaun Dalton housed an interception that killed a Knights drive that reached the redzone. The Knights reached the redzone multiple times Sunday but couldn’t push the ball over the goalline as the Westmeath defense stood their ground. The Minotaurs, now sitting at 2-4, have created a bit of momentum on offense that they’ll look to carry through to the end of the season with tough games against current undefeated sides Cork and the Rebels. Playoffs are still mathematically possible but even the most ardent of Westmeath fans will be more focused on finishing the year with good performances rather than living or dying by playoff dreams. The Knights, meanwhile, hit a bit of a roadblock and have 2 games left on their own campaign. @ Cowboys and @ UCD remain, and with the threat of relegation still looming, the Knights need to win 1 of those 2 games to secure survival in Premier Division.

Craigavon Cowboys (0-7) 0-26 Belfast Trojans (4-2)
The Trojans put up their own shutout at home Sunday when they hosted the Cowboys and came out with a 4-score win. Mo Ramadan has been a big piece for the Trojans for years as a hybrid-FB, but had an outstanding day even for his standards this past weekend — the Trojans offensive MVP caught 1 of Dom Lynn’s 2 touchdown passes, and punched 2 touchdowns in on the ground. On defense, Head Coach Phil Gunning had asked for better play after their visit to Mullingar and they delivered, keeping the Cowboys at bay all game with multiple players getting in on numerous TFLs and limiting Cowboys yardage. A complete team performance will always act as a morale boost to any team, and its one the Trojans will be happy to have come by as they come into the last 2 games of the regular season, staring down playoff football. June 18th’s matchup with the Panthers (3-2) essentially acts as a “win and you’re in” game, and the Trojans will be chomping at the bit for that matchup. The Cowboys have just 1 game left this year, which comes June 11th at home vs the Knights. A loss relegates Craigavon to Division 1. All eyes will be on Peter Loughran’s availability at QB as his on-field presence is undeniable and a certain game-changer. A knee injury suffered at the beginning of May, though, may rule him out for that one.

Preview: AFI Gameweek 12

Don’t look now, but it’s almost the end of May… that means we have just a handful of gameweeks between now and the end of the regular season and playoffs! With fights for survival and playoff positioning truly heating up, Gameweek 12 has a lot on offer for the few games taking place this weekend. Let’s break down what each game has in store.

To start, 2 forfeits were announced earlier this week, when Trinity forfeited their game vs Causeway Giants in Division 2, and Antrim Jets forfeited their matchup with UL Vikings in Division 1. The Giants’ push towards the Division 2 final is given a massive boost, while last year’s Division 2 champions are left with the unfortunate reality that — barring a Donegal/Derry Vipers forfeit between now and the end of June that would keep Antrim’s status alive — the Jets will be facing relegation in 2024.

Premier Division
UCD (3-2) @ Dublin Rebels (4-0) — De La Salle RFC, Palmerston, 2pm
Part 2 of the 2023 edition of this meeting of giants, as UCD come back from exams to take on the undefeated hosts. UCD will have been studying for more than just exams this month, as they will be chomping at the bit to avenge their season-opening loss to the Rebels back in March. UCD’s Arun Mooney has been in great form again this year — as he was during last year’s National Championship campaign — so it will be interesting to see if the break in games for the student side has derailed that momentum or simply given him a chance to recharge the batteries to get right back to work. Speaking of in-form QBs, March and April’s Offensive Player of the Month Ty Henry has been tearing it up this season, scoring with his arm and his legs. Much like the matchup from earlier this season, this game promises to be a shootout with plenty of points scored. A must-watch this weekend.

Division 1
NI Razorbacks (3-3) @ Cill Dara Crusaders (3-2) — Newbridge College, 2pm
An intriguing matchup at the middle of the table in Division 1 this Sunday in Newbridge when the Crusaders play hosts to the Razorbacks. A win for Cill Dara leaves them sitting comfortably at the #3 seed in the division and guaranteeing playoff football for themselves. A win for the visitors, though, would make Division 1’s path to the playoffs just as intriguing to the casual fan, with the Razorbacks leapfrogging their opponents this weekend with just 1 game remaining for the Belfast side, and another Rhinos/Crusaders game to look forward to. As for this Sunday, the Razorbacks come into this one with a hot hand, outscoring opponents 58-0 in their last 2 games. Cill Dara earned a tough win over the Rhinos recently that has them where they’re at in the table right now and will fancy themselves to defend home turf. Both teams have huge incentives to win this game and the visitors will certainly look to make this a battle.

Premier Division
Craigavon Cowboys (0-6) @ Belfast Trojans (3-2) — Derramore RFC, 2pm
The Cowboys travel to Belfast this Sunday in need of a win from their last 2 games to have a chance of staying up in Premier Division. The Trojans, meanwhile, would benefit massively from a win themselves, with a result for the hosts creating some breathing room in the race to the playoffs. QB Dom Lynn will be in the spotlight again this weekend after making his first start last week @ Minotaurs since suffering an injury in preseason. How the Belfast offense functions with Lynn under center against a Cowboys team that held them to just 1 touchdown at People’s Park a few months ago will go a long way to projecting their success for the rest of the season. While a Cowboys result seems unlikely in this one, the Cowboys could do with some big plays to — if nothing else — build something towards their final game of the season at home vs Knights. A game to keep an eye on for sure.

Belfast Knights (1-4) @ Westmeath Minotaurs (1-4) — Mullingar RFC, 2pm
A game in which both teams are probably a win or 2 better than their records suggest sees the Knights travelling to Mullingar in an attempt to sweep their series with the Minotaurs. The first matchup between these two teams happened just 3 weeks ago (28-8 to the Knights) so this will likely be about which team makes the better adjustments to what they saw on the field and on tape last time out. Spencer McDowell and Co. will be looking to put up a similar start to this weekend’s game to the last time these 2 teams played, when they scored all 28 points within the first half — does Daithi McShane feature as heavily as he did, when he scored 2 touchdowns? On the other sideline, Joe Kinahan will be looking to feed his own weapons and have an offensive output more akin to last week’s matchup with the Trojans (32 points scored) than their last Knights game. A win for either team will provide a burst of momentum for them heading into final stretches of tough games to finish the season (Knights — @ Cowboys, @ UCD. Minotaurs — vs Admirals, @ Rebels)… both teams will be looking at this one as an opportunities to finish the season feeling good about their 2023 campaigns.

Writer’s Predictions
UCD 24-30 Rebels
Razorbacks 16-18 Crusaders
Cowboys 6-28 Trojans
Knights 27-24 Minotaurs

Preview: AFI Gameweek 11

Six Gameweeks remain in the 2023 AFI Kitted season, and with so much still to play for, the stakes up for grabs in each game are always mounting higher and higher. Teams this weekend play for a whole host of reasons, be they chances at division survival, playoff appearances or home field advantage in July. How does this Sunday look to shape up? Let’s take a look!

Division 2
North Dublin Pirates (0-3) @ Trinity College Dublin (1-1) — Trinity Sports Grounds, Santry, 2pm
After taking a huge blow away from home last weekend the Pirates are again on the road this weekend as they take a short trip to Santry. The hosts have a chance to get some momentum back after their exam season, with the team’s last gameday being a big loss to the Eagles (3-0). This is a game that they shouldn’t overlook here, even if they go back-to-back with a game next week too, as the Pirates haven’t exactly laid down for opponents. The visitors will be eager to replicate their performance in their trip to Limepark and play a tighter, hard-fought game and put the students to the test. It’s hard to favour the North Dublin outfit here but this writer isn’t exactly going to rule them out either.

Division 1
Louth Mavericks (5-0) @ Dublin Rhinos (2-3) — Castleknock RFC, 2pm
The Rhinos faithful may be starting to get a little antsy after last weekend’s game with the Crusaders (3-2). While they put in a great team performance, the Rhinos lost their starting QB Ethan Foster to an injury that will sideline him for the rest of the season. They’ll need to dominate on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and lean on the run game to get results in these last few games and through the playoffs if they make it in, and they’re certainly a team that can win games this way. The undefeated Mavericks with QB Nathan Hearty at the helm pose a threat that, on a short rebound, the Rhinos may not be full strength for, but if their defense can play up to their #3 defensive ranking then they may make more of a game out of this than some from Louth may anticipate. The Mavs are undefeated for a reason but the Premier Division experience the Rhinos have give them an edge that the rest of Louth’s opponents thus far didn’t have. This has the chance to be a tight clash.

Premier Division
Belfast Trojans (2-2) @ Westmeath Minotaurs (1-3) — Mullingar RFC, 2pm
An intriguing matchup here as the Trojans take the trip to Mullingar for their game against the Minotaurs. The Trojans come into this one the hotter hand, going 2-1 since April and having an exciting game with the Admirals (5-0) last weekend. QB Josh Davis has settled into the role after a slow start, with regular starter Dominic Lynn still absent through injury. It will be interesting to see how the offense lines up once Lynn is back, which could be as soon as this Sunday. With weapons on both sides of the ball the Trojans are making a bid to make a playoff appearance after narrowly missing out last season, but will need a win over a Minotaurs team that has shown in spurts that they can hang in the division. How the Westmeath offense starts this game could prove key to this one, with their second-half output largely outscoring their first-half scores this year. 

Craigavon Cowboys (0-5) @ South Dublin Panthers (2-2) — Sport Ireland Campus, Blanchardstown, 2pm
Another team making their own bid for Premier Division playoffs in 2023 is the South Dublin Panthers, who are finding their footing with Finn Kearns at QB and growing more confident as a unit. They face a winless Cowboys team that knows it needs to find ways to compete sooner rather than later as they face an uphill battle to avoid relegation this year. The Panthers have been steady this year, save for a big loss to the Rebels (5-0), and will be eager to capitalise on a struggling side and help their push to the postseason. The Cowboys, though, are a team that will be throwing everything into every tackle and every play — an experienced team like Craigavon with their backs against the wall can’t be ruled out for an upset.

Writer’s Predictions
Pirates 10-18 Trinity
Rhinos 12-24 Mavericks
Trojans 23-17 Minotaurs
Cowboys 10-23 Panthers


Preview: AFI Gameweek 10

We break into double digits this weekend as the 2023 AFI Senior Kitted season breaks into its 10th Gameweek. This weekend, AFI celebrates with 6 games across all 3 divisions with some marquee rivalry matchups, chances at revenge for games earlier in the year and — most importantly — implications for playoff football and relegation battles! With half a dozen games to break down, let’s get straight to it!

Division 1
Cill Dara Crusaders (2-2) @ Dublin Rhinos (2-2) — Castleknock RFC, 2pm
Both teams come into this one perhaps a bit shaken up from their Gameweek 8 results. The hosts, losing a tough 14-3 game to the Vikings (5-0), will probably feel a bit more confident than their visitors, who are on the road again after being beaten 34-0 by Louth (4-0) 2 weeks ago. Crusaders QB Jordan Farrell, who had been on fire up until the last matchup, will be excited to get back on form but will be up against the 2nd best defense in the division. The Rhinos, with their exciting offense that has Ethan Foster performing brilliantly thus far, will try and push the ball on an aggressive defense that tends to put pressure in the backfield. With both teams still having a chance to host a playoff game with a win here, this should be an exciting game. With both teams coming off a loss after having built some momentum, this may be a test of character for both teams as well.

Louth Mavericks (4-0) @ Donegal/Derry Vipers (1-4) — Templemore Sports Complex, Derry, 2pm
This game was a landslide earlier in the year (53-7 Mavericks) but with the Vipers wanting to put a bit of distance between themselves and the Jets (0-5) towards the final push at the end of the season there may be more fight in this one. Nathan Hearty and co. have been killing it for the Mavericks this season, with the team averaging nearly 45 points per game. Dominating just as much as been the defense, who has conceded just once on the year. Both teams have stakes in this one — the Vipers will want to gain some breathing room from the bottom while the Mavericks will want to push for a home playoff spot and the #1 seed. Linear logic is simply not a thing in football so Louth won’t win just because they won the last time, but with how dominant they’ve been in every game this year it’s hard not to call a repeat here.

Premier Division
Cork Admirals (4-0) @ Belfast Trojans (2-2) — Derramore Park, 2pm
The Trojans return home this weekend to host an undefeated Admirals team. This game is probably the most anticipated of the week, given the atmosphere at Trojans gamedays and the teams involved. The visitors are off to a fantastic start in 2023 and a home playoff berth is theirs to lose at this point. Consistent, powerful performances have put Cork in a position of control in the division, with very few outcomes for them remaining to not make the playoffs this year. Meanwhile, the Trojans will surely have the final game of the 2022 season on their minds this weekend, where they played Cork for a chance to make the playoffs and just fell short in an entertaining 26-20 game. That, coupled with the fact Big T hasn’t lost a home regular season game since May of 2019 — against Cork — results in a game that could be a thrill to watch unfold. Tough to call this one.

Division 2
North Dublin Pirates (0-2) @ Wexford Eagles (2-0) — Craanford Sports Complex, 2pm
The Pirates visit the Eagles in this Division 2 matchup. The Eagles are rolling right now after dominating displays against Trinity and the Giants. The Pirates, while not winning their last matchup (8-7 loss to Giants) will be encouraged with the battle they showed. The key here may be down to who scores first — a Pirates first score could be a great morale boost for a team that, realistically, enters as the underdog. 

Division 1
NI Razorbacks (2-3) @ Antrim Jets (0-5) — Antrim Forum, 2pm
The Jets have 3 games to correct course on the season and not return to a division they won just last year, and the first chance at correction comes this Sunday when they host the Razorbacks. The visitors come in off the back of a home win against the Vipers after having their own questions on how the season was going. The home side come in winless and potentially entering desperation zone when it comes to what scenarios keep them up. Both teams need wins here — the Jets, for the reasons above, and the Razorbacks to further solidify themselves as a clear D1 team and potentially creep into the playoff race again. Being at home gives the Jets an edge, and this game was tight on opening weekend (22-6 Razorbacks)… this one could get interesting.

Premier Division
Belfast Knights (1-3) @ South Dublin Panthers (1-2) — Trinity Sports Grounds, 2pm
Two 1-win teams with vastly different levels of momentum. The Knights are on the second half of a back-to-back after beating the Minotaurs at home last Sunday, while the Panthers’ last game was a 61-6 loss to the Rebels (4-0). 2 different styles on offense too, with the Knights running a version of the ground n’ pound offense with big guys up front, while the Panthers this season have been led on the field by WR-turned-QB Finn Kearns, who (along with his receiving corps) is lightning quick on his feet. Both teams have struggled in spots this season so this game is an intriguing game around the race for the #4 seed in the Premier Division, as both look to build something now that will keep them running into and during that playoff run. There’ll be plenty of eyes on this one Sunday, particularly with the other Premier Division game being held Saturday. This one is a dark horse candidate for a shootout too.

Writer’s Predictions
Crusaders 16-20 Rhinos
Mavericks 28-10 Vipers
Admirals 25-21 Trojans

Pirates 12-23 Eagles
Razorbacks 21-12 Jets
Knights 27-30 Panthers

Review: AFI Gameweek 9

Just 2 games in last weekend’s slate to review today, taking at opposite ends of the island, but with plenty of knock-on effects for the Premier Division picture moving forward. Who took steps forward, who stumbled at the midseason hurdle? Let’s take a look and see!

Craigavon Cowboys  (0-5) 6-28 Cork Admirals (4-0)
Making his debut for the Admirals senior squad after rising through the National Youth Football Champion program, Jake Kennedy had a productive day under center, throwing for 3 touchdowns in a performance that will have a lot of heads turning. Keeping things moving through the air through the likes of Ryan Price and Jack Cronin, the Admirals got the run game going consistently too. Spreading the load between multiple runners, Cork had more than 140 yards from 20 carries Sunday, in a game that shows the Admirals are a well-built unit from top to bottom on offense. That cohesion follows across to the defense too who, through a number of players, recorded 2 interceptions, 3 forced fumbles and a recovery — a performance they will look to replicate this Saturday in Belfast versus the Trojans (2-2).  For Craigavon, Sunday marked another tough day at the office, although there is an upward trend beginning to form here that may see the Cowboys recover just enough to avoid the drop at the end of the season. Starting off strong with an early score against a team like the Admirals will be the type of push the Craigavon coaching staff will be pushing for from their players until the end of June and it might see them come out with an upset victory before too long.

Westmeath Minotaurs (1-3) 8-28 Belfast Knights (1-3)
A great win in front of the Knights who sent their final home crowd for the season home happy as they came away 28-8 victors over the Minotaurs. The Knights opened the scoring gates early with touchdowns on their first 2 drives, and had brought the scoring up to 28-0 before halftime. Daithi McShane, quickly becoming a popular target for Spencer McDowell scored 2 receiving touchdowns on red zone targets, while on defense Johnny Hedley caught his first interception on the season. The Knights are well-known for their force in the trenches in that was at the forefront of this game. The Minotaurs, unable to consistently get push on the Knights on either side of the ball, never truly put the result of the game in doubt in the second half — despite some drives coming close to (and eventually crossing via a Joe Kinahan to Cathal Dunne connection) the goalline. Moving forward, the Knights will be keen on starting a win streak this coming Sunday when they take on the Panthers (1-3). Over their break week before they face the Trojans in Mullingar, the Minotaurs will need to figure out their first-half woes — and get back to more productive offensive performances — if they are to make a last-ditch push for playoff contention, as H2H tiebreaker losses with the Panthers, and (currently) the Knights after last Sunday has them behind the 8-ball on that front.

Preview: AFI Gameweek 9

After having multiple weeks with games taking place across every division in Ireland, Gameweek 9 focuses solely on the Premier Division. With just 2 games on the slate for Sunday, with plenty of consequences for the division’s playoff and relegation scenarios, there will be eyes from all over the island on these games. Let’s take a sneak peak at what to expect from this weekend’s action.

Premier Division

Craigavon Cowboys (0-4) @ Cork Admirals (3-0) — Old Christians RFC, Glanmire, Cork, 2pm
Two teams on two very different paths this season, as an undefeated Admirals team that looks set to make another playoff run takes on a Cowboys side that has lost 10 straight games in the Premier Division stretching back to last season. The Cowboys have really struggled this year and have lost some scores by some big scores, but the fight from them is still there. Scoring just once this season with half the season behind them, Craigavon need to find ways to get on the scoreboard soon. Their playoff scenarios officially draw dead for this season with a loss in Cork, and with how much of a roll the Admirals are on right now it’s hard to predict anything but this happening. QB Stephen Hayes has started this year exponentially stronger than 2022, with the Wolfhounds capped QB throwing for 10 touchdowns in these first 3 games. The defense has been as impressive, limiting opposing offenses to just 13.3 ppg so far. All this coupled with the long trip from Craigavon makes it very hard to call an upset here, and this game for the Cowboys may just be a case of trying to show signs of promise for their remaining games moving forward. 

Playoff Scenarios: Cowboys eliminated from contention with Loss @ Admirals

Westmeath Minotaurs (1-2) @ Belfast Knights (0-3) — Malone RFC, Belfast, 2pm
A lot closer of a game on paper sees the Minotaurs travel up to Belfast to battle the Knights. Both teams sit in the bottom half of the table right now, but there are plenty of scenarios which see one of these teams make the playoffs come July. The road to then starts this Sunday in what will be the first ever meeting between these 2 sides. In many ways these teams are antitheses of each other. The Knights have scored the majority of their points on the ground this season and have been highlighted on offense by the QB-RB pairing of Spencer McDowell and Robbie Alexander, while Westmeath have entered the season with one of the more prolific QB-WR duos in the division, with Joe Kinahan connecting with Shaun Dalton 4 times in the endzone so far this year. On defense the Knights have always been known for a tough, hard-hitting defensive front and have put pressure on opposing offensive lines in both the run and pass games consistently for years. The Minotaurs defense has been less productive as far as sacks go but has come away with 5 interceptions in just 3 games so far in 2023, which has them placed 3rd in the league in that statistic. A game of contrasting styles and a game of major importance: the first of 2 games between these teams this year, both teams have chances of getting themselves into playoff races come the end of the season, while the loser this Sunday may start to get themselves in a battle to survive a relegation battle. Can the Knights get their first win of the season or do the Minotaurs continue to establish themselves in Premier Division with a result away from home?

Writer’s Predictions
Cowboys 6-24 Admirals
Minotaurs 23-17 Knights

Review: AFI Gameweek 8

Another weekend, another high-scoring slate! 5 games took place across the island Sunday, with 3 of them going north of 40 points scored — and one of the 2 that didn’t was blitzed with torrential rain and lightning delays. Unfortunately for neutrals, Gameweek 8 wasn’t the most drama-filled, with most of the slate being blowout victories. That doesn’t mean there’s nothing to take from those games though, and as teams put more and more focus on playoff or relegation battles these results begin to matter a lot more! Let’s take a look at what unfolded, and how it might play into the end of the 2023 kitted season in July.

Division 2
Causeway Giants (2-2) 6-35 Wexford Eagles (2-0)
The return to football in Wexford went exactly as the Eagles would have hoped as they flew past the Giants in a 4-score victory. The Eagles put up 35 points in a performance that echoed the highs of their pre-Covid success in Division 1, but also pointed to the possibilities of soaring past that in years to come. Luke Fitzpatrick had another great day — taking home a pass from QB Kyle McLaughlin and rushing in 2 more scores — and is quickly becoming a rising star for this team. So too is rookie DL Rob Farrell who held the interior wall of the defensive line together well, limiting the Giants inside run game and forcing multiple negative yardage plays. A massive day for the Wexford squad sees them jump up to 2-0 and in the driving seat for a place in the Division 2 final this summer provided they can keep the engine running on this campaign. The Giants, slipping to 2-2, still have an outside shot at a final appearance but need to win at least one of their last 2 games @ Trinity or vs Wexford — but would likely be relying on other results if they could only take one of those games.

Division 1
Donegal/Derry Vipers (1-4) 0-23 NI Razorbacks (2-3)
Perhaps the start of an unexpected rivalry in this one as the Razorbacks put away and shutout a fiesty Vipers outfit. Both teams came into this one looking to recoup some lost form and start paving a way back to the potential of playoff football this season, and with those sort of stakes on the game, tempers did flare up. There were as many ejections in this game as touchdowns (3), which didn’t exactly make the referees jobs easy. Alex Kusmerik and Stuart Wylie added scores on the ground (with Dean McNeil kicking a field goal earlier in the game) and — with time expiring — Wylie added a passing TD to James Cameron. While some may see that as padding the score in a game that already had some butting of heads, the fact of the matter is those points may help the Razorbacks slide into the #4 seed if they’re lucky come the end of July. With the Mavs (4-0), Rhinos (2-2) and Jets (0-5) on the cards in their last 3, the Vipers may have run out of opportunities to punch their ticket to the postseason, but may luck out if results go their way. The Razorbacks don’t exactly have an easy path either with the Jets, Crusaders (2-2) and Mavs remaining, and they’ll be hoping they can build some good run of form before it’s too late.

Cill Dara Crusaders (2-2) 0-34 Louth Mavericks (4-0)
The Mavericks continue to wreck havoc in their return to Division 1 as they fought off the Crusaders in a statement win. After starting the year with 2 wins against the 2 teams that came up with them from Division 2 (Jets, Razorbacks), Louth have dominated Division 1 mainstays like the Vipers and, on Sunday, Cill Dara. QB Nathan Hearty had another great all-round performance, throwing for 2 touchdowns and adding a third on the ground. Brendan Simms was all over the stats sheet for this game, receiving and running in a touchdown each, as well as snagging an INT from Crusaders QB Jordan Farrell, who threw 4 total. Coming up with 2 of those was Eamon Ward, who housed one for 6 points. The Mavericks controlled all aspects of this game and they have kept their unbeaten streak rolling as they look set for playoff football. With 2 unbeaten teams left in Division 1, June 4th is looking more and more intriguing of a matchup…

UL Vikings (5-0) 14-3 Dublin Rhinos (2-2)
Speaking of that other unbeaten team, the Vikings completed their sweep of the Rhinos this regular season in what may as well be called the 2023 Mud Bowl. A game plagued with appalling weather, the conditions very quickly became leading factors in how this game played out in person. A low-scoring affair in which both offenses — usually quite fast-paced and productive — struggled to move the ball and the opposing defense downfield.  When all was said and done, however, UL proved once again that they are the team to beat in the division. Having all but locked up a playoff spot at this stage, the Vikings can get their eyes on playoff football and be all hands on deck to stake their claim as the team for promotion next season.

UCD (3-2) 46-0 Craigavon Cowboys (0-4)
The Cowboys finish a horrid April 2023 at 0-4 after a shutout loss at the hands of a UCD team that wanted to leave themselves with some breathing space for playoff contention before their May break for exams. Craigavon fought hard, as they always do, and came up with some plays on defense like a sack from Richard Lilburn and a pick from DB Austin Ramsey. Apart from that though, 2023 is proving to be a tough year for Craigavon, who are quickly spiraling into a relegation battle. Perhaps the QB change to Neil Maxwell may help in the long-run for this season, but with the Admirals (3-0), Panthers (1-2) and Trojans (2-1) all coming up, Craigavon may have to hope on the Knights (0-3) to drop games and force what would be a relegation play-off at the end of the season. Time will tell on that front for Craigavon, but one team who won’t be watching all that unfold will be UCD, who have fought back to 3-2 after an up-and-down start to the season. Arun Mooney had a great day through the air, throwing for 6 touchdowns to 5 different receivers, with RB Sean McVeigh being on the end of 2 of them and rushing in another. An ideal end to this stretch of the season for the Students sees them return to the exam halls after a big win before they come back to the field May 27th, in a rematch against the undefeated 4-0 Rebels.

Review: 2023 AFI Kitted Gameweek 7

Sunday’s Gameweek 7 had a few blowouts — a recurring feature this season — but there were some tight games that provided some tense moments and big highlights. With 6 games taking place across all 3 divisions, there’s plenty to talk about and how it will impact the next couple weeks of action. Let’s take a look at what went down.

Division 2
North Dublin Pirates (0-2) 7-8 Causeway Giants (2-0)
The scoring opened up at Limepark in the first quarter early, with the visitors getting on the scoreboard after an Adam Keating touchdown run and an extra point conversion by Casey Nannery. The Giants responded quick, getting downfield and scoring on a 70 yard rush from Nathan Chapman. Perhaps sensing they could end up in a tight game, the Giants went for a 2-point conversion, successful due to the efforts of Peter McCaughin on the ground. A defensive battle ensued, with both sides limiting the other to very few opportunities to get into scoring range. Both sides blocked a field goal, and the Giants finished the game with possession of the ball killed the clock until the final whistle went. There may have been an expectation of the Giants to do more damage in this one, but it’s hard to not credit the Pirates for putting up a game as close as this, with it being a long time since they’ve put in a performance as competitive as this. Might things be quietly on the rise in North Dublin?

Division 1
Cill Dara Crusaders (2-1) 48-6 Antrim Jets (0-5)
The Jets suffered another big defeat Sunday, this time to the Crusaders who go up to 2-1 on their 2023 campaign. Jordan Farrell and the Cill Dara offense took off on Sunday, putting up 6 touchdowns. The Jets have struggled this season and have had few positives to speak of performance-wise, but getting on the scoreboard and bringing the points conceded down a bit. 

Premier Division
Cork Admirals (3-0) 22-12 Belfast Knights (0-3)
The Admirals continue their game of “Keep Up” at the top of the table with the Rebels after travelling near the length of the island to take on the Knights. Stephen Hayes yet again threw 3 touchdowns — one each to Aaron Hogan, Ryan Price and Jahn Dasini — for a statline that seems to be as consistent as the sun rising. It’s been a staple of the Admirals’ game for as long as they’ve been in the Premier Division, and yet it so rarely have they been stopped on offense. The defense, not to be forgotten about, more than played their part, sacking McDowell twice, forcing and recovering a fumble through Matthew Sibanyoni and limiting the hosts to just 12 points. The Admirals are on course for another playoff appearance this season, while the Knights need results soon to stay away from the bottom of the division and a potential relegation battle.

UCD (2-2) 28-13 Westmeath Minotaurs (1-2)
UCD got back on track with a win over the Minotaurs in Mullingar. Things started well for the Students who took a 22-0 lead going into halftime, with rushing touchdowns from Sean McVeigh and an Arun Mooney connection to Darragh Mooney. The second half told a different story, with the newly-promoted Minotaurs challenging the National champions through the air. QB Joe Kinahan threw a touchdown each to WRs Alan Campbell and Shaun Dalton (separated by Mooney throwing for his second touchdown, this time to Sean Douglas), as Westmeath threatened to claw the game back. A goalline fumble by the Minotaurs late in the fourth quarter killed any chance of a comeback, with UCD emerging victors from an entertaining game. UCD get a big surge of momentum before their matchup with Craigavon in Gameweek 8, while Westmeath put a good fight up against the National Champions as they build towards their busy May slate.

South Dublin Panthers (1-2) 6-61 Dublin Rebels (4-0)
This one got out hand. The Rebels dominated in a game we had tipped to be a bit more of a back-and-forth, with Rebels QB Ty Henry throwing for 5 TDs and rushing for one himself. Greg (x2) and Dave Johnson, Dave King and Jack Basquille were all on the end of Henry’s passing scores, while RB Wello Omorodion punched in 2 on the ground and Joe Krause twice picked off Finn Kearns, housing one for 6 points. All over the Panthers in all 3 phases, the Rebels stretched their record out to 4-0. HC Ross McCooey has got to be impressed with the product on the field this season, not just winning games but dominating in them. Averaging fifty points per game, the Rebels don’t seem to be in any mood to slow down any time soon.

Preview: 2023 AFI Kitted Gameweek 7

This Sunday sees a 5-game slate that promises to set the tone for the middle portion of the 2023 season. Many teams will be able to suss out how close or far away they are from reaching their milestones set before we kicked off at the beginning of March, while fans and players across the country can maybe start putting an eye on filling out the rest of their division’s bracket. Big playoff implications come with the results from this Sunday, so let’s take a look to see what could happen.

Division 2
North Dublin Pirates (0-1) @ Causeway Giants (1-1) — Limepark Playing Field, 2pm
A harder game to project the impact on playoffs, as Division 2 doesn’t have an awful lot of games played just yet. The Giants kept a pretty close matchup with Trinity at the beginning of the season and then put away this week’s opponents in a 26-0 win. Keeping up the offensive improvement that seems to have come from the Giants camp will be huge for their confidence moving forward, with QB Jig McCoy looking like a pretty effective dual-threat for this offense. The Pirates will need to tighten up on defense and contain the running threat that McCoy brings while getting things working on offense. North Dublin struggled to consistently get on the scoreboard in 2022, and they’ll be making sure that doesn’t become a trend for this season too. In a game that the Pirates can’t afford to get out of hand — with back-to-backs against Trinity and the Eagles on the horizon — expect a bit more of a back-and-forth than this fixture from the end of March.

Division 1
Cill Dara Crusaders (1-1) @ Antrim Jets (0-4) — Antrim Forum, 2pm
Things went from bad to worse last week for the Jets, conceding 50+ points without scoring themselves for the second straight week. HC Donal McCloskey may very well be scratching his head at what needs to be done to fix this season, as right now they look like the team to be relegated from the division in 2023. That’s not to say there isn’t hope — there’s still 4 games left after all — and this home fixture against a travelling Crusaders side represents a chance to, at the very least, show some positive signs going into a three-week break in action for the Antrim side. Cill Dara, in the playoff conversation for this division, can’t take their eye of their opponents in a game they need to make sure they win. Letting a game like this slip through the fingers could cost them in the long run, and QB Jordan Farrell is the type to make sure his team keeps the foot on the gas.

Premier Division
Cork Admirals (2-0) @ Belfast Knights (0-2) — Malone RFC, 2pm
An absolute trek for the Admirals who come all the way up to Belfast from Cork. Stephen Hayes and co are coming off the back of a landmark win vs the national champion UCD side a couple weeks ago, and are the type of team that knows to keep pressing while the iron is hot. Always stout defensively, the Admirals provide a tough test for the Knights offense to get by, with the Knights offense struggling recently against the neighbouring Trojans team. Having Spencer McDowell on the team in black and yellow really makes a difference for the Knights, and with the team yet to claim a win on the season they’ll be fighting for every yard here. This could be a close one.

UCD (1-2) @ Westmeath Minotaurs (1-1) — Mullingar RFC, 2pm
After a tight loss in Cork, UCD will be eager to get out and back up to .500 this Sunday when they go back on the road to Mullingar. UCD will be looking to get ahead early to take advantage of a Minotaurs squad that is noticeably smaller in numbers and wear them out. With Arun Mooney under center the Students will keep the pressure on and give his talented receiver room the chances to make big plays as per usual. On the home sideline, the Minotaurs offense needs to find some consistency and threaten in all aspects if they are to come away with a result here. Playing with a defense that has gained some notoriety for their performances in Division 1 in recent years and thus far in Premier Division, the Minotaurs face the toughest challenge they have faced in their 10+ year history. These two teams played just twice in that time, with UCD taking both games. Do they leave the Midlands with a W or does Westmeath pull of a shocker?

South Dublin Panthers (1-1) @ Dublin Rebels (3-0) — De La Salle RFC, 2pm
An interesting matchup here with probably the 2 best rushing threat QBs facing off in Dublin, as Finn Kearns and the Panthers take on Ty Henry and the Rebels. The undefeated Rebels have been on fire this year, running through opponents at a blistering pace. The Panthers, off the back of a home win over the Minotaurs last week, will want to make sure they can slow the Rebels down on offense. Time of possession will be critical, and if the Panthers can win that battle they give themselves the best shot of an upset at De La Salle. Until we see it, though, it’s going to be hard to predict anyone to beat the Rebels. With two electric QBs though, this should be an exciting game!

Writer’s Predictions
Pirates 6-24 Giants
Jets 7-23 Crusaders
Admirals 24-13 Knights
UCD 23-14 Minotaurs
Panthers 21-30 Rebels

Review: AFI Kitted Gameweek 6

A big weekend of football resulted in some big results in every way, with games having huge scorelines, massive effects on the standings and team projections, and some breakout performances. After having most of the week so far to collect our thoughts on the weekend, let’s have a quick look through each game, who stood out, and how this writer sees it impacting the next few weeks of action!

Division 2
Wexford Eagles (1-0) 20-6 Trinity (1-1)
Number 13 proves to be unlucky for many, but last Sunday it was one of the key numbers to Wexford’s successful return to action this season as they came away with 13 sacks at the Sport Ireland Campus. Henry Foxton led the way in the pass rush, totaling 6 sacks in a day that sees him jump to the top of the sacks leaderboard of not just Division 2, but all of Ireland. Putting Gibbons under pressure all day, the Wexford offense made sure to capitalise, with Kyle McLaughlin throwing two passing TDs to Luke Fitzpatrick on his debut for the Eagles, with Trevor Smith adding a rushing TD to the Eagles’ scoring output from Sunday. The dominance of the Wexford defense is the story here, with the thoughts of Trinity being odds-on favourite for the division now being called into question. There’s plenty of season to go, of course, but the Eagles certainly burst on to the scene last weekend after having the start to their season pushed back twice. Talk about a momentum-builder.

Division 1
NI Razorbacks (1-3) 13-53 UL Vikings (4-0)
The Vikings finished the first half of their regular season schedule with a dominant performance at home against a Razorbacks team that has, after this result, lost all momentum it entered the season with. The Vikings outmatched the Razorbacks with a fast, relentless pace to their game, with a razor-sharp option offense that resulted in 6 rushing TDs  —  4 of which came from RB Aidan Maher. UL were as aggressive on defense, with the coaching staff likely not taking Mark Thompson’s 2 passing TDs too much to heart as they came away with 5 takeaways, scoring off the back of most of them (highlighted by an Adam O’Mahony strip six). The Vikings look well on their way to returning to the Division 1 Bowl Game this July, with UL needing just 1 win from their last 4 to guarantee playoff football. The Razorbacks, meanwhile, face an uphill battle to compete for a spot of their own, having played more games so far than the reachable teams above them. While they’ll be aiming for higher, the 4th seed seems to be the most accessible way in for the Belfast club. To get there though, they will need to find ways to adapt after a rocky start.

Antrim Jets (0-4) 0-58 Dublin Rhinos (2-1)
Speaking of rocky starts, the Jets are feeling the effects of losing players in some key areas this past offseason. Starting with a excusable 22-6 loss to the Razorbacks in the early days of the season, the Jets have since failed to log a single point on the scoresheet while bleeding points on defense. It’s not like the effort wasn’t there either: 2 takeaways (including one off a Chrissie McKee forced fumble) and 4 sacks showed some grit and fight from the Jets, but the Rhinos showed their quality with the day they had across all 3 parts of the game. QB Ethan Foster accounted for 6 total touchdowns (3 apiece through the air and on the ground), RB Craig Usher surpassed 100 yards himself rushing, Dublin had total control over special teams, and 10 sacks (and most importantly, a shutout) on defense. The Rhinos needed a big showing here to continue pressing the Vikings for that #1 seed, and they keep themselves in contention for a home playoff game moving forward. The Jets need to find some answers quick to breathe some life into an offense that needs desperately reprieve the pressures being put on their defense. A home date this Sunday against a Crusaders team that hasn’t played in a month will be Antrim’s last game until mid-May, so they will be hoping to make some sort of an impact there.

Donegal / Derry Vipers (1-3) 7-53 Louth Mavericks (3-0)
Another Sunday, another big Mavericks win. Averaging 47 points per game so far (no, that’s not a typo), the Mavericks have continued the run of form they had going in the Division 2 regular season last year with some incredible performances thus far. Nathan Hearty added 3 more passing touchdowns to his 2023 campaign. On the receiving end of 2 of those was Eamon Ward, who also came away with 2 INTs on defense (1 pick six) in a fantastic “ironman” type of day. Ward’s pick six was 1 of 3 defensive touchdowns for the Mavs defense who also added points through a Dan Finley pick 6 and a Michael O’Shea forced-and-recovered scoop ‘n score. Pushing for a home playoff game this year — potentially in a battle with UL for #1 — it’s clear their previous experience in this division has made the Mavs’ transition from Div 2 to Div 1 the easiest of the 3 teams that came up. Both teams have a bit of time off before each play again in Gameweek 8.

Premier Division
Belfast Trojans (2-1) 37-6 Belfast Knights (0-2)
A much better day on offense than what they had shown in their opening 2 games from the Trojans. QB Josh Davis got his first full start against his old side, scoring 3 touchdowns and being turnover-free through the air, with fellow Knights transfer WR Jordan Clinton and 2022 Vipers standout Chad Higgins among the 5 Trojans reaching the endzone last Sunday. Defensively, the Trojans held the Knights to small chunks of yardage, not playing overly aggressive for turnovers and keeping everything in front of them. The Knights, down usual starting QB Spencer McDowell, found it hard to get too much rolling, with the result never really being in question after the first quarter. The Trojans have rejuvenated themselves after a tough start at UCD, with the team seemingly having sorted out the offensive woes that plagued them early on. The Knights, assuming McDowell is back sooner than later, needn’t panic about their season prospects after this game, though a win soon would further ease concerns.

Westmeath Minotaurs (1-1) 9-20 South Dublin Panthers (1-1)
A back-and-forth game in Blanchardstown saw the Panthers come out victorious after being down 9-7 at the start of Q4. Finn Kearns’ ability to improvise and scramble proved key in this one, wearing out a Minotaur defense that struggled to keep the former GFL receiver in the pocket. Kearns was aggressive through the air, throwing 3 interceptions but matching that with passing touchdowns to Josh Clarke and Ray Burke (x2). The opposition QB, Joe Kinahan, had a tamer day, throwing a touchdown to Shaun Dalton (his third of the year) and an interception. Westmeath struggled to run the ball, with the Panthers being able to commit to defending the pass in the latter moments of the game. Kinahan was strip-sacked in the redzone inside the 2 minute warning which put the final stamp on a big team performance — and a big win — for South Dublin. Both sides have tough tasks facing them in Gameweek 7, and while it would be unwise to predict which of these 2 teams (if either of them) are more likely to make the #4 seed to the playoffs in July, there’s a fair chance both teams could be in or around the mix in the closing stages of the season. 

Craigavon Cowboys (0-3) 6-58 Dublin Rebels (3-0)
To wrap Gameweek 6 up, the Rebels took care of business again, putting up nearly 60 points at home against a Cowboys side that has struggled hard this 2023 season without long-time QB Peter Loughran on the field. Travelling to the Rebels was never going to be easy, and the result shows just how far ahead of the most of the field the Rebels have been so far in 2023. The one positive that the Cowboys can take from this game is finally getting on the scoreboard through a Neil Maxwell touchdown. Other than that, the story for this season in Premier Division continues to be the Rebels dominance, where they have already outscored opponents 134-52 in just 3 games. Much like last season, it’s difficult to see a team right now that is built to stop them more times than not, which makes it no surprise that they seem to be favourites for lifting the Shamrock Bowl this summer.

Preview: AFI Kitted Gameweek 6

Coming out of the Easter break, we have a vague idea of what some teams are bringing to the table — with the likes of the Rebels from Premier Division, Vikings from Division 1 and Trinity from Division 2 all fitting that bill. There are many teams, though, whose futures are a lot less clear. We’ll certainly get answers to some questions this weekend, with seven games taking place across Saturday and Sunday. Who’s playing, and could happen in each game? Let’s take a look.

Division 2
Wexford Eagles @ Trinity College Dublin (1-0) — Trinity Sports Grounds, 2pm
This game would have been a bit easier to tell a story for had weather not been a factor 2 weeks ago, with the Eagles’ host fixture being postponed due to a waterlogged pitch. Trinity do have a game’s worth of playing time in 2023 over Wexford, which will certainly be an advantage to a team that has taken in many new members even if a lot of the momentum from that game has faded in the month that has since past. The Eagles will likely look to overpower a traditionally lighter Trinity front seven with their power run game that will likely see the use of QB Trevor Smith at multiple stages. Wexford do look like they’re rebuilding a good outfit and should be looked at later in the season to come on hot, but starting the season late against a side like Trinity who was favoured coming into 2023 and already has a win on the board will always have you as an underdog heading into gameday.

Division 1
NI Razorbacks (1-2) @ UL Vikings (3-0) — Maguire’s Field, UL Sports Campus, 2pm
As said at the opening of this article, UL have been rolling this season. Starting their campaign 3-0, the Vikings have put away every challenge put in front of them. This Saturday, the Razorbacks visit, surely seething from how their time before the break went. Key injuries and suspensions have hurt the Razorbacks bad and come at an even worse time, with the team hoping to have built some momentum coming into this game. Instead, the Razorbacks make the long trek down to Limerick in a game against the division favourites. It’s a tough task for a team that has dealt with a fair bit of adversity already, and while they may not get the result to get them to 2-2, a competitive game could be all that’s needed in the Razorbacks camp.

Division 1
Antrim Jets (0-3) @ Dublin Rhinos (1-1) — Castleknock College, 2pm
2022’s Division 2 champs have not gotten off to a good start this season, and with a date this Sunday with a Rhinos team who was in the Premier Division last year, things aren’t exactly looking promising. Scoring just 6 points in their opening 3 games is likely to be causing some panic in the Jets camp, and they’re coming up against a defense that pitched a shutout in their last game. Scot McLean and co will be throwing everything at the wall and hoping it breaks down the Rhinos defense, as a loss here would be a critical hit to their season. While they’ll be coming out swinging, it’s tough to predict a winless team getting a W over a team who only just came down from the highest tier of football on the island. 

Donegal / Derry Vipers (1-2) @ Louth Mavericks (2-0) — Dundalk RFC, 2pm
A story with similar beats to the game beforehand as an Ulster team travels to take on an undefeated side who has all the momentum. The Mavs have joined the race up the top with the Vikings and the Rhinos as the 3 most likely teams (as things stand) to end up lifting the Division 1 trophy in July after dismantling the Razorbacks and the Jets by a combined score of 89-0. The Vipers, with plenty of Division 1 experience behind them, may prove a different test for the hosts, who will look to lean on QB Nathan Hearty after the stellar start he has had to the season. Just how much the visitors can push Louth’s defense — especially when they’ve struggled to score so far themselves — will be the key here. Look out for more of a battle here.

Premier Division
Craigavon Cowboys (0-2) @ Dublin Rebels (2-0) — De La Salle RFC, Palmerston, 2pm
Not a great start for the Cowboys this year, and this weekend doesn’t exactly have a bright forecast for them either. On the road against a team that went undefeated last season and appeared in the Shamrock Bowl — and a team that beat the National Champions in Gameweek 1 — the Cowboys travel to Dublin with no points scored on the season so far. QB Christian Cowan has struggled thus far to find a stable rhythm in the pass game which has let defenses swarm the run. Defensively they showed a lot tighter of a unit against the Trojans after losing to Westmeath, but QB Ty Henry and the Rebels will provide a whole different test. Unless they can strike early against Dublin like the Knights did and do keep them enough away for the rest of the game, it’s hard to see Craigavon getting back on the bus with a win in hand.

Westmeath Minotaurs (1-0) @ South Dublin Panthers (0-1) — National Sports Campus, Blanchardstown, 2pm
The Panthers host the Minotaurs Sunday at the NSC, with both teams looking to build upon their starts to the season. The visitors are hoping to get a win streak going in their first season in Premier Division after a big road win against the Cowboys at the end of March, and will likely try and make good use this Sunday of a passing game that saw them score 4 touchdowns through the air in Craigavon. On the Panthers side, we had already talked up the South Dublin outfit that held Cork to a tight game earlier in March, but those evaluations need to be upgraded a bit more after Cork’s win over UCD before the Easter break. With QB Finn Kearns not afraid to air it out or run the ball himself, and some potential veteran returns, the Panthers will be up for the challenge and will fancy themselves in what is sure to be a tight game. Any takeaways by either defense could be crucial.

Belfast Trojans (1-1) @ Belfast Knights (0-1) — Malone RFC, 2pm
Say it with me now… the Battle for Belfast! This year’s edition emanates from Malone RFC, with the Knights hosting a Trojans team that rarely seems this vulnerable. Still without QB Dom Lynn, the Trojans put both Abi Venkatraman and Josh Davis under center against the Cowboys at different points in the game, and it’s hard to say they found an answer moving forward. There’s some talented players on both sides of the ball for the Trojans and it seems like getting Lynn back at QB will push this team back to full potential, but until then they seem to be within reach for most teams, including this weekend’s opponents. The Knights had the Rebels on the ropes in the first half of their game and it took a big second half comeback from the Rebels to come out of Belfast with a win, but that sort of performance against last year’s finalists will have given both the team and the coaching staff fuel going into this one. This series is 4-1 in the last 3 seasons in favour of the visitors, but it’s not quite that easy to go on historical record based on how both teams are playing right now.

Writer’s Predictions
Eagles 16-20 Trinity
Razorbacks 10-21 Vikings
Jets 6-23 Rhinos
Vipers 14-26 Mavericks
Cowboys 7-26 Rebels
Minotaurs 21-20 Panthers
Trojans 17-16 Knights

New DoFF, Assistant DoFF Announced

AFI are pleased to announce our new Director of Flag Football, Ben Arulogun, and Assistant Director of Flag Football, Ruben Ruiz.

Ben started out with the now-defunct Dublin Vipers and is currently Chairperson of the South Dublin Panthers. Ben believes in the progress of the sport in Ireland and is excited to step into the role of Director. 

“Flag football is in a great position; we’re hosting the European Championships, and participation has grown exponentially. As the DOFF, I aim to put all my effort into developing the sport nationally and increasing our international presence. I am especially interested in having this be a more gender-inclusion sport and getting more females to play flag football. Flag football is a fantastic, accessible sport with simple rules and a great introduction to American Football.”

Meanwhile, Ruben’s roots in American and flag football stretch back to nearly two decades of experience, when he picked the sport up in Mexico. Winning the Western Mexico Flag Football Championship in 2017, Ruben soon moved to Ireland, where he has since played with the Panthers and — more recently — helped establish the Dublin City Wolves. Excited to help further promote and grow the game, Ruben was an excellent choice for Assistant DoFF.

You can contact Ben and Ruben by emailing

Review: AFI Kitted Gameweek 5

The Easter bunny arrived a little early for some teams this past Sunday, bringing some sweet results (no, I’m not sorry) to teams climbing up the rankings. Other teams will be feeling a little rotten, either caught looking ahead to the Bye Week, carrying injuries or just simply not being up to the task. It was eventful weekend which saw the blowout bug carry over from Gameweek 4, some high-scoring matchups and a huge result sure to have Premier Division playoff implications…  It wouldn’t be a very Good Friday without talking some football — let’s break last Gameweek 5 down.

*Note: rescheduling of Trinity @ Wexford Eagles — as well as Wexford Eagles @ North Dublin Pirates — is still in conversation. AFI will provide updates when they become available.

Division 1
UL Vikings (3-0) 37-8 Donegal / Derry Vipers (1-2)
Business as usual this season for the UL Vikings who took the long trek up to Derry and came up 4-score victors. QB Finn O’Donovan had another great day — like we’ve come to expect from the Vikings QB — having a clean day through the air (2 TDs to Reece Moloney and Danny Quilter while throwing 0 INTs) while also putting himself on the scoresheet with a QB run. He did this too through some Vipers pressure, who did come away with a 4-sack team performance in what was otherwise not a day to be remembered for the red and yellow. UL’s defense, on the other hand, showed up after a long trip up to the game, allowing just one Gary Melly touchdown pass while forcing an interception through Connor Kelly and recovering 2 forced fumbles. The Vipers, now sitting at 1-2, need to find ways to get on the board: not scoring more than twice in any game this season, Donegal/Derry need to self-scout over the break in action to improve on their production on offense. A team that had been penned as a potential playoff pusher, failing to score points will keep them away from the dance come July. The Vikings, meanwhile, seem ready to punch their ticket in, as 1 win from any of their remaining 5 games will all but guarantee the current #1 seed a playoff appearance. Of course, UL aren’t just pushing for “appearing” this season…

Dublin Rhinos (1-1) 24-0 NI Razorbacks (1-2)
The Razorbacks season is very quickly falling away from them. What started out as a promising introduction to Division 1 has since seen the Razorbacks shutout in 2 games and conceding 59 points. Being without HC/RB Gareth Millar for the first half certainly didn’t help things, and while the second half was more competitive, the Rhinos were still too much to handle. Rhinos QB Ethan Foster connected with his Tight End Luke Ivers early before the run game got going, with scores being added on the ground by Dylan Gladney and Adam Jenkins. The Razorbacks almost got a big break through a Diarmid Russell interception of Foster, returning it to the 10 yard line, but the Rhinos forced a turnover on downs in a crucial defensive stand. Speaking of that defense, 2 interceptions on Mark Thompson (1 by Matt Mays and 1 by Toby Luken) along with 4 team sacks kept the Razorbacks pushed back for most of Sunday. Another team that will benefit from the Bye Week, the Razorbacks will surely come out the other side of it better prepared for their matchup with the Vikings in Gameweek 6. The Rhinos, meanwhile, will be celebrating an important win before the break that leaves them 1-1 in the division, still well within the playoff chase. 

Louth Mavericks (2-0) 56-0 Antrim Jets (0-3)
That Nathan Hearty lad is quite good huh?? A stupidly good day from the Louth QB saw him responsible for seven touchdowns — 4 passing and 3 rushing — as the Mavericks put forward the biggest shutout in Irish American football seen this side of the pandemic. A true breakout performance, the Louth QB had himself a career day, but as much of a season-highlight performance Hearty had, we need to talk about some performers on defense too. Whether it was Donal Drew showing up with 2 sacks, or Dan Marshall and Jack Compton coming away with an interception each, the Mavericks swarmed the Jets offense all day and put up their second straight shutout on the season. The Jets are in serious trouble already, putting up only 6 points all season and conceding 30ppg. Perhaps the Easter break will allow for epiphanies to occur among the Jets base, and they can find a way to rescue the season. As it stands, though, things are looking like they might get out of hand.

Premier Division
Belfast Trojans (1-1) 7-0 Craigavon Cowboys (0-2)
Not exactly a barnburner this one. After an early Mo Ramadan touchdown catch put the Trojans up, it was a tough, hard-hitting affair which saw both teams flirt with momentum before ultimately stalemating for the rest of the game. Standout performances on both sides’ defenses from Jamie Baird and Paddy Somers (the latter racking up 3 sacks) gave way to a gritty Trojans win that sees them claw back a bit of the momentum lost from their big loss at UCD 2 weeks ago. Going forward both teams’ offenses need to reach the endzone a lot more often — the Trojans getting Dom Lynn back from injury at QB may cure their woes, while the Cowboys need to take this break in play to come up with some answers. The Trojans play just once more in April @ the Knights on April 16th, while the Cowboys have an incredibly tough upcoming run with games @ Rebels, vs UCD and @ Admirals all in the next 4 weeks. 

UCD (1-2) 14-18 Cork Admirals (2-0)
The biggest story from last weekend was Cork’s tight win over the reigning National Champions who fall to 1-2 in their 2023 campaign. The first thing that should be said before we go any further here: there should be no alarm bells going off in Belfield. 2 losses against last year’s #3 seed and the Shamrock Bowl finalists do not mean things are turning upside down in the UCD camp, despite how much they may have hoped or even expected to win those games. A close affair in Cork saw both teams come out the gates early before the game became more of a slugfest, a clash of heavyweights that managed to block most of their opponent’s haymakers. Both QBs played well enough to win — Mooney throwing 1 TD to Conor Hanaran while staying off the INT sheet and Hayes tossing 3 TDs (1 to Jahn Dasini and 2 to Ryan Price) but also throwing a pick each to Rory O’Dwyer and Eoghan McMahon — and both defenses came into it in the second half to lock the other offense out. The takeaway here is the Admirals grinding out a hard-fought, emotional win that saw them limit the Students to the lowest point total in a game since the 2019 playoffs. Cork sit in a good spot after beating a team they were seen as underdogs against, comfortable right now in the #2 seed with plenty of season and (presumably after this performance) good football ahead of them.

Press Release: American Football Ireland Announce the AFI Hall of Fame

Photographer David Turner sat in the same spot at Kingspan Stadium nearly 80 years apart, capturing Ireland's first ever American football game, and Ireland's 2022 National Championship game -- Shamrock Bowl XXXIV

American Football Ireland is delighted to announce the establishment of an official AFI Hall of Fame.

History of American Football in Ireland probably spans longer than you think. The first kitted game on the island was in 1946 at Ravenhill Rugby grounds between two US army teams that called themselves Yavard and Hale; they swapped the first letters of the famous university teams. Nearly 80 years later, American Football returned to Ravenhill Rugby grounds. Presently, the venue is called Kingspan Stadium and the game was none other than Shamrock Bowl XXXIV which saw UCD American Football claim their first National Title in a 52-24 win over the Dublin Rebels.

American Football Ireland itself spans almost 40 years. Then established as the Irish American Football Association (IAFA), the history of AFI includes a number of different league formats (including a brief hiatus in the early 2000s) and dates as far back as 1984. The Belfast Blitzers were the leagues’ first champions, having clinched the title in a 7-0 win over the Dublin Celts before the Shamrock Bowl was established. The first Shamrock Bowl was won by the Craigavon Cowboys in 1986. Then an invitation game, the Shamrock Bowl was adopted as the National Final in 87. The Cowboys would go on to win it again two more times in 1990 and 1992.

Following a brief hiatus in 2000, the league was reformed in 2001, with Carrickfergus Knights, Dublin Dragons, Dublin Rebels and University of Limerick Vikings. The Dublin Rebels defeated the Carrickfergus Knights in Shamrock Bowl XV, which was played in Carrickfergus. This marked the beginning of many years of success for the Dublin Rebels who currently hold a record-high 9 Shamrock Bowl titles. Their record is followed by the Belfast Trojans who won 5 titles in the 2010s. The most recent winners being the aforementioned students from UCD.

The AFI Hall of Fame looks to honour those individuals who have contributed significantly to AFI over its near-40 year history, incurring benefit to the game of Irish American Football. At the discretion of the panelists, considerations may include; performance; impact; longevity; achievements; additional involvement outside of the primary-nomination category, incurred growth or benefit to the sport.

The public may submit nominees along with any supporting documents to

Preview: AFI Kitted Gameweek 5

No early April Fools here: AFI Gameweek 5 has six games on offer. After a week made up of mainly blowouts, the last week of action before the league-wide Easter break consists of games across all 3 divisions that — on paper at least — mostly look like close matchups. With some teams surpassing more than a quarter of their schedule by 5pm this Sunday, there are players and fans alike that already are projecting the rest of their season and how they shape up for relegation or playoff battles. With it being such an intriguing weekend, let’s look at how the action might unfold.

Division 2
Trinity College Dublin (1-0) @ Wexford Eagles — Craanford Community Field, Gorey, 2pm
The hosts will be looking for a big day here with an historically passionate home crowd behind them, as they play their first home game of their rebuild after an unfortunate 2022 season. The last game this side played was, funnily enough, against Trinity in Wexford, so there’s an air of romantic poetry around this matchup as the Eagles will be looking to reverse the 22-0 loss they suffered here last year. The Eagles coaching staff is highlighted by the likes of HC/OC Kevin Klatt and Special Teams coach Brendan McAleese will likely produce a detailed gameplan for their side, but all hands will need to be on deck to overcome the challenge Trinity brings to the table. QB John Gibbons had 3 touchdowns from under center in Trinity’s game vs the Giants earlier in the year and the Students offense will be sure to try and replicate that, and the likes of Ian Richardson on defense will be favoured to cause some havoc in the pocket after notching 2 sacks in Game 1. Will they be able to go 2-0, or will Wexford get their 2023 season off to a bang?

Division 1
UL Vikings (2-0) @ Donegal / Derry Vipers (1-1) — Templemore Sports Complex, Derry, 2pm
The return fixture to a 10-10 tie from when UL hosted in 2022, the Vipers host the Vikings in an intriguing matchup. The Vipers, who started poorly @ the Crusaders before reclaiming some heat with a win @ the Jets, need a statement performance on offense alongside a defensive effort more akin to the Jets game than their season opener. The Vikings have the feeling of a team that could go undefeated on the season and will not want to give up an ounce of momentum before the break. A game that features 2 teams that have no problems playing defense and forcing mistakes in the passing game, this one might just come down to a game between QBs Gary Melly and Fin O’Donovan. While Melly has demonstrated strong leadership in tight games like their win at the Jets and at times during last season, O’Donovan’s dual-threat nature provides an extra layer for the Vikings offense that might just push this game in UL’s favour. 

Dublin Rhinos (0-1) @ NI Razorbacks (1-1) — Newforge Sports Complex, 2pm
It’s hard not to dive into the loss to the Mavericks with all the implications it has for this weekend’s matchup with the Rhinos. HC/RB Gareth Millar will be unavailable for the first-half while he serves a suspension for his ejection last week, which is massive for the cohesion of the team on the field — as well as calming the storm on the sideline pre and mid-game. A team that is already dealing with some big injuries, Razorbacks stock has fallen since the start of the season but that’s not to say they can’t turn it around. The key for the Razorbacks will be to contain Rhinos QB Ethan Foster inside the pocket as the man can get the ball in and out of his hands quick and be a threat in the run game. The Rhinos gameplan will probably be to take shots early and often on the ball while translating that aggression on the defensive side of the ball by calling plays to get the likes of Matt Mays (3 sacks vs Vikings) putting pressure on Razorbacks QB Mark Thompson to try and stretch a lead going into the halftime break. If the Razorbacks can limit the Rhinos offense in the first half they give themselves a chance to get out in front. 

Louth Mavericks (1-0) @ Antrim Jets (0-2) — Antrim Forum, 2pm
The Mavs made a massive first step forward for their reintroduction to Division 1 last Sunday with a big 33-0 W away from home. On the road again this Sunday against another familiar foe in the Jets, the lads from Louth will be eager to get a win over the team that beat them in the Division 2 Bowl last July on top of extending their 2023 record to 2-0. Keeping Brendan Simms and Dec Mulvihill fed on offense will be the main message for QB Nathan Hearty as they come up against a defense that has not exactly bleeding points this season. QB Scot McLean and the Jets know they need to find better ways to push the ball downfield this Sunday against a team that started the season with a shutout, after they themselves have only scored once in two games. Head-to-head, there’s certainly one pick on paper that seems more appealing than the other, but many thought the same of the Division 2 Bowl last season — and look how that turned out.

Premier Division
Belfast Trojans (0-1) @ Craigavon Cowboys (0-1) — Portadown People’s Park, 2pm
Both teams will be looking to bounce back after horrid starts to their seasons in March, with the Trojans getting driven out of Belfield by UCD 34-3 in Gameweek 2, while the Cowboys are recovering from a much more recent 38-0 home loss to Westmeath. Neither team looked all that confident in their first outings and left more questions than answers. QB Dom Lynn’s absence makes things difficult on a Trojans offense that had planned to have him take over the reigns from James McKelvey, and Christian Cowan did not fare well against the newly-promoted Minotaurs defense last Sunday as the Cowboys move ahead without Peter Loughran on the field. Both teams are in a bit of a rebuild phase, but there were playoff expectations on the Trojans coming into the year for a reason. With the depth they have and key weapons that they can feed in the run and short passing games, it’s tough to pick against the Trojans here. 

UCD (1-1) @ Cork Admirals (1-0) — Old Christians RFC, Glanmire, Cork, 2pm
The most intriguing game on this slate emanates from Cork, bai. The Students come into this one off the back of a 34-3 home win over the Trojans while the Admirals took home a 30-14 victory from their trip to the Panthers. Both sides impressed by scoring 30+ in their last games and have played some fantastic shootouts in recent memory. This fixture near the end of last season ended in a 26-26 tie, and neutrals will likely be looking for as close a game to that as possible. UCD knows how it wins games, creating the right blend of letting Arun Mooney do his thing at QB by spreading the ball around and of giving the likes of Sean McVeigh and Brandon Atwell at RB the chances to make big plays. On the flip side, the Admirals will likely be watching tape from the Students’ season opener with the Rebels and liking what they saw. The Rebels were able to get to Mooney more often than UCD are known to allow (pressure that created multiple turnovers), and with the Admirals forcing 5 sacks and 2 turnovers themselves against the Panthers, they will be eager to run that performance back in front of their home fans. The detail to watch in this one is UCD’s defense vs Stephen Hayes and his crew of weapons. While they kept Belfast to just 3 points, they knew what they were getting vs a team operating with a backup QB. Hayes, different in style but similar in nature to Ty Henry, is a different animal, so containing Hayes to a quiet day — not even one with turnovers — could very well get the job done for the reigning National Champions… the question is: can they do that? We’ll find out Sunday afternoon.

Writer’s Predictions
Trinity 20-14 Eagles
Vikings 24-13 Vipers
Rhinos 17-13 Razorbacks
Mavericks 23-10 Jets
Trojans 27-11 Cowboys
UCD 26-24 Admirals

Review: AFI Kitted Gameweek 4

“Touchdowns, touchdowns, touchdowns” was obviously the main message from away team coaches leading into the Gameweek 4 weekend, as every away team scored at least 4 touchdowns — and 3 of them pitched shutouts against their hosts. The last gameweek of the first month of the 2023 season created plenty of talking points as we move into April… let’s see what can be learned from each game.

Division 2
Causeway Giants (1-1) 26-0 North Dublin Pirates (0-1)
The Giants offense bounced back from the underwhelming output against Trinity earlier in the month by putting up 26 points against the Pirates this past Sunday. QB Jig McCoy took center stage, taking 2 rushing TDs in himself (including a 50+ yarder) and getting the ball to receiver Peter Phillips through the air for six. Phillips contributed on the other side of the ball, intercepting the Pirates QB as part of a set of 2 by the Giants defense, completed by a Dessie Mackey pick 6. Of course, there wasn’t much choice for the Pirates QB for the majority of the game as he was constantly pressured by the Causeway pass rush — the team totaled 7 sacks on Sunday, with 4 being attributed to Tony McCloskey (alongside a forced and recovered fumble). This Giants uniform looks set to compete in Division 2 this season, while the Pirates, whose offensive struggles in 2022 have seemed to carry over into 2023, need to strike gold on talent quick to have a chance of competing for a spot in the Bowl game.

Division 1
Louth Mavericks (1-0) 33-0 NI Razorbacks (1-1)
Despite the record difference between these two teams in 2022, this was a big upset at Newforge. The Razorbacks, fresh off a roster facelift and a big win over the Antrim Jets, were favoured by many to win here, especially at home, but the Mavs not only shut the home side out, but put 33 points on the board in doing so. Playing a close 7-0 game to halftime, the Mavericks were able to field QB1 Nathan Hearty in the second half after serving his suspension from the 2022 Division 2 final. From there, the Mavericks never looked back, scoring a further 26 points that went unanswered by the home team. Though Dec Mulvihill put the Mavs on the board in the first half with a throw to WR Alex Hanratty, getting everyone in their natural positions seemed to really kick the offense into another gear. Hearty connected with WR Brendan Simms for 6, RB Dan Finley punched one in, and — with the Razorbacks under increasing pressure due to Gareth Millar being ejected and the growing score difference necessitating more risks — the Louth defense and special teams continued to thrive. Finley had a strip sack from linebacker, Alex Simms house-called an interception, and Eamon Ward took home a fumbled Razorbacks kick return. The Mavs will be thrilled with how their re-entry into Division 1 went, while the Razorbacks will be waiting for this coming Sunday to wash the taste of this one from their mouths. A bad day all round from a team that has shown so much promise. With the Rhinos up next for them though, there’s no guarantee the Razorbacks bounce back, and while the offense will need to put points on the board regardless, the defense will need to find inspiration and organisation from within to hold strong as they will be without their HC.

Premier Division
Westmeath Minotaurs (1-0) 38-0 Craigavon Cowboys (0-1)
The Minotaurs debuted in the Premier Division with a surprise of their own, starting their 2023 campaign with a 38-0 away win. In what was expected to be a close game, all the cards fell perfectly for the Westmeath club, coming away with 5 touchdowns on offense and holding the Cowboys from their own endzone. WR Shaun Dalton caught 2 of Joe Kinahan’s 4 passing touchdowns Sunday, with receivers Alan Campbell and rookie Cathal Dunne (who also had a 50 yard rushing touchdown) added the other 2 through the air. Defensively the Minotaurs continued their run of form from 2022, crashing the pocket on Cowboys QB Christian Cowan and making life difficult for him in the backfield. There were some signs of life on the day, including some good connections with WR David Radford, but the hosts just couldn’t get the ball over the line. Time will tell whether this game reflects more on Craigavon or Westmeath, but both teams’ stories will be intriguing to follow as the season progresses. For now though, the Minotaurs have exorcised a demon of their past. 

Dublin Rebels 36-20 Belfast Knights
A tale of two halves this one. The Knights came out the gates ready to prove themselves, and with Knights veteran QB Spencer McDowell under center scoring 3 touchdowns (1 through the air via Daithi McShane and 2 on the ground himself), Belfast went into the halftime break 20-8 ahead, with the potential of a huge shock on the way. The second half was a different story, as the Rebels took over with 29 unanswered points. QB Ty Henry finished with a passing TD to WR Greg Johnson as well as 2 of his own rushing TDs, with RBs Wello Omo and Sean Leamy adding scores on the ground to round out the offensive output for the day. Defensively, an interception on McDowell and a goalline stand in the fourth quarter up 28-20 put the exclamation point on an emphatic second half performance, as last year’s Shamrock Bowl finalists capped off a magnificent March which sees them go 2-0 after beating the reigning National Champions UCD in the season opener.

The flip of the calendar to April is just around the corner, as Gameweek 5 and its dynamite slate gets closer and closer every day. Keep an eye out later in the week for our preview of this coming Sunday’s games!

Preview: AFI Kitted Gameweek 4

Gameweek 4 is upon is, with 4 games taking place this Sunday after the addition of Gameweek 2’s Mavericks @ Razorbacks game. With action across all 3 divisions this weekend, there’s plenty to look forward to around the country — let’s take a look at how this writer sees it all breaking down.

Division 2
Causeway Giants (0-1) @ North Dublin Pirates — Trinity Sports Grounds, 2pm
The Giants season opener against Trinity ended in an 18-8 loss, though there was a lot to take away from that fixture for the Causeway crew. Holding an athletic Trinity team to just 18 points shows just how much their defense can be a factor in this division, while players like Adam Smith shined in spurts on offense. The Pirates come into this game only opening their season after a yet-to-be rescheduled game vs Wexford Eagles was called off, so they will be eager themselves to get a win on the board and get back some of the momentum lost from that speedbump 2 weeks ago. Expect a close score here with both defenses swarming the opposing quarterbacks. In a game where neither team can really afford mistakes, it will likely be a game decided by the fewest mistakes and time of possession.

Division 1
Louth Mavericks @ NI Razorbacks (1-0) — Newforge Playing Grounds, 2pm
Really difficult to project how this game goes. On one hand, you have a Mavericks team that swept this series last season, that finished 7-1 in the regular season and made the bowl game. On the other, there’s a Razorbacks team that kept things within reach in both losses to the Mavericks in 2022 and have since had some major transfers in and, perhaps most importantly, already have a big win under their belt against a 2022 Division 2 opponent. The Mavericks will be itching to start their 2023 campaign off with a highlight victory here, but the Razorbacks aren’t exactly going to just let that happen either — after dominating in the trenches in their 22-6 win over the Jets 3 weeks ago, the Razorbacks will be going to that plan of attack here. The ability to get the ball into the hands of skill players like 2022 standout Brendan Simms may make or break this game for the Louth outfit.

Premier Division
Westmeath Minotaurs @ Craigavon Cowboys — People’s Park Portadown, 2pm
We go from 2 games with 1 team kicking off their season to a game where both teams are opening their 2023 campaigns. The hosts will want to quickly erase last year’s season from memory, when they started 2-0 before losing their remaining 6 games straight. With QB Peter Loughran now operating as Head Coach, there will be a spotlight on the Cowboys all season long as to how this effects performances and results on the field. The Minotaurs, meanwhile, come into this one after their weather-delayed Gameweek 2 game pushed their season opener to this weekend. The 2022 Division 1 champs take the trip to Portadown with a bit more momentum on their side than the hosts, but an historical head-to-head advantage, having never lost to their visitors this weekend. Another close game is likely here, so another tough game to call — historical h2h vs recent form, can Craigavon start off strong against a familiar opponent, or do the Minotaurs finally get one up on the Cowboys? 

Dublin Rebels (1-0) @ Belfast Knights — Malone RFC, 2pm
The final game on the slate this Sunday, the Rebels march up to Belfast after a statement win in Gameweek 1 @ UCD. After scoring 40 points against 2022’s National Champions, it’s hard not to see a similar offensive performance in this one, given how this fixture played out last season (30-7 Rebels). QB Ty Henry will likely be telling his offense to keep the foot on the gas to not lose focus after their great start on March 5th, and with the wealth of talent they have on that depth chart they’ll be sure to earn their reps in this one. The Knights, meanwhile, face a tough task after having any wave of momentum they were carrying into this season subdued by the aforementioned @ Minotaurs game delay. The Knights need to put up a good showing here to put the rest of the league on notice that they will put up a fight in every game this season, and perhaps show themselves that they are not just “survivors” from the 2022 campaign. While a Rebels win may be a popular pick (and perhaps the likely outcome), the Knights keeping things close here would be a massive statement from a team in need of gritty performances.

Writer’s Predictions
Giants 14-12 Pirates
Mavericks 13-24 Razorbacks
Minotaurs 23-20 Cowboys
Rebels 30-14 Knights

Review: AFI Kitted Gameweek 3

Gameweek 3 provided the return to action we all desperately needed after the speed bump that was Gameweek 2 (or, more accurately, the lack of Gameweek 2). First, some admin to address on that gameweek:

Eagles @ Knights is still awaiting a confirmed reschedule date. Information on this will be available as soon as we have it.
Knights @ Minotaurs has been rescheduled to Sunday May 28th during Gameweek 12
Mavericks @ Razorbacks has been rescheduled to this coming weekend for Gameweek 4, and will kickoff Sunday March 26th at 2pm.

Now that we have that out of the way, let’s dive into what happened last Sunday!

Division 1
Donegal / Derry Vipers (1-1) 12-0 Antrim Jets (0-2)

A rough day at the office for the Jets, who not only lost in their home opener, but failed to put up a point in doing so. With so many questions about the Jets coming into the season (chief among them, what they’d look like on offense after a few transfers to the Razorbacks), the Jets have failed to get off the ground in the early part of the season. They’ll be sure to get to the bottom of those problems quick, as a fairly quick turnaround before their 2022 Division 1 final rematch with the Mavericks in Gameweek 5 awaits them. The defensive output improved from Gameweek 1, with great performances from Curtis McLeish (2 sacks, fumble recovery) and Marc MacFayden (1 sack, forced fumble), so Donal McCloskey and Co at least have something to hang their hat on from this game. The Vipers, meanwhile, pick themselves up from a heavy loss in Gameweek 1 with a shutout win on the road, with RB David Ferris punching one in on the ground and QB Gary Melly connecting with Harry McLaughlin for 6 as well. It’s the Vipers defensive performance that stands out from this game, totaling ten team sacks (including 4 from Josh Reed), 2 forced fumbles and recoveries, and an interception from Oisin Fleming. Maintaining this kind of performance will truly push the Vipers towards top contendership — that will be a test in this division, particularly when hosting the Vikings (2-0) in Gameweek 5.

Cill Dara Crusaders (1-1) 6-23 UL Vikings (2-0)
The Vikings got their second win of the season and at home this year by putting away the Crusaders in a game that stayed tight until midway through the fourth quarter. QB Finn O’Donovan ran in 2 scores for UL (including a 73 yarder) while managing the game through the air, keeping Cill Dara honest on defense to open up lanes for both himself and RB Aidan Maher, who scored a touchdown of his own. The main takeaway from a UL perspective, however, is the performance on defense. The Vikings coaching staff has met this Crusaders offense 3 times in the last year, and it has crafted gameplans to hold Cill Dara to fewer and fewer points each time (39, 18, 6). It’s the type of true self-assessment and preparation longtime AFI followers have come to expect from the Vikings — they were in the Premier Division as recently as 2019 — and it must give fans and coaches alike a massive amount of confidence seeing the players take to it. Speaking of those players, they have to take a lot of the credit too, pressuring the Crusaders backfield all day into 4.5 team sacks and interceptions from Adam O’Mahony and Conor Kelly. How the Crusaders bounce back will be key, as they’d have come into last Sunday expecting more points considering their 42-point performance on opening weekend. Getting Jordan Farrell back to take the helm at QB would be a big positive, allowing Rob Brown (who, it should be noted, did get Cill Dara on the scoreboard with a pass to Ben Costello) to slide into WR, a role that he has played that past few seasons. 

Premier Division
Cork Admirals (1-0) 30-14 South Dublin Panthers (0-1)
Finn Kearns stepped up at QB for South Dublin last weekend, keeping the Panthers in a game that, like the previous one, was a one-score game until late on. The Panthers kept it close all afternoon, with Cork’s clock management being a big key to their success. The Admirals scored to go up 14-7 with one minute to go in the first half, and — after holding strong at 22-14 towards the end of the game, turned the ball over and scored off the following drive to put the game away. Cork QB Stephen Hayes had a great day, throwing 4 touchdowns (2 to Jack Cronin) while the defense surrounded Kearns all day, finishing the day with 5 team sacks, and 2 interceptions from Dan Sheedy. Both teams came out of this game with positive future projections for the end of the season, with the Admirals getting a win and momentum on board before hosting UCD in Gameweek 5, while the Panthers fought a lot closer of a game than some had thought here, and have plenty of time to prepare for Gameweek 6 (vs Minotaurs). 

Belfast Trojans (0-1) 3-34 UCD (1-1)
A horrid start for a reloading Trojans side who were not helped by the football gods at all — facing a UCD side out for blood after losing opening weekend, already down QB1 with Dominic Lynn injured, the Trojans found out on the day their QB2 was unavailable. As teams found out last season, it’s a difficult feat beating UCD on your best day, and with everything going against them it was never going to end well for a Trojans side who, to give them credit, never relented and kept fighting. UCD though, themselves playing Eddie Goggins Sr at QB, also never stepped off the gas. Goggins Sr played a great game, throwing for 5 touchdowns, 2 interceptions and around 250 yards. Sean McVeigh had undoubtedly the performance of the season so far, reaching the endzone 3 times and topping 200 total scrimmage yards. UCD jump-started their National title defense after a bit of a stutter against the Rebels on opening weekend and will surely be looking forward to replicating this performance on April 2nd in Cork. The Trojans, meanwhile, will need to find ways to protect their run game with their third QB while they wait on Dom Lynn to return to action. If not healthy in time for their next matchup in Gameweek 5 at Craigavon, that matchup could be a lot closer than their 2022 encounter.

Review: 2023 AFI Kitted Gameweek 3

With weather completely putting a dampner on Gameweek 2 — so much so that it never even got to kickoff — Gameweek 3 has a lot of work to do to get the 2023 AFI Kitted season back on track. Thankfully, with 4 games full of intrigue across Ireland’s Premier Division and Division 1, there is a lot of excitement surrounding the fixtures taking place this St. Patrick’s weekend. Who’s on the field this Sunday, and how does this writer see things shaping up? Let’s have a look as we breakdown each fixture for the weekend ahead.

Division 1
Donegal Derry Vipers (0-1) @ Antrim Jets (0-1) — Antrim Forum, 1pm

Don’t let both teams being 0-1 fool you, both teams are still on track to have a competitive season pushing for playoff spots. The Vipers find themselves on the road again after the long trip to Newbridge in a 42-14 losing effort —  thankfully for the Vipers the trip to the Antrim Forum isn’t nearly as long for them. The pass defense will want to have found ways in the last 2 weeks to create more pressure from the front 4 after only creating a single sack in the Crusaders game, though they’ll want to keep their ball hawking instincts on the back end after nabbing 2 interceptions. Jets QB Scot McClean, pressured a fair bit himself on opening weekend, will be looking to make more plays like he did last year, when he ended up as the top scorer in Division 2. Of course, the Jets run defense will also want to have tightened up a bit after their 22-6 loss to the Razorbacks in Gameweek 1 (especially for their home opener) after allowing 3 TDs on the ground — which would be the Vipers preferred way of moving the ball. It’s a case of who can react to their defensive lows from March 5th in this one, and with it being as tight of a call as it is, the home team gets the nod, for the advantage of not having to travel if nothing else.

Cill Dara Crusaders (1-0) @ UL Vikings (1-0) — Maguire’s Field, 1pm
Both teams made big statements in Gameweek 1 with big wins. Cill Dara stomped the Vipers out of Newbridge in the aforementioned 42-14 game, while the Vikings won a close game with last season’s Premier Division-relegated Dublin Rhinos. The Crusaders and QB Jordan Farrell throwing for 5 passing TDs gives the Crusaders a massive boost ahead of a test they couldn’t pass twice last season — losing in the oft-mentioned 47-39 shootout early in the 2022 season before also falling short in the 21-18 playoff game. This time, though, they travel to Limerick with a lot of momentum, and while UL were able to hold one of the stronger teams in the division to 14 points 2 weeks ago, we’re sure scoring 17 has the offense questioning and reworking a few things heading into Sunday. Do the Vikings win their third straight game against the Crusaders or is it third time’s the charm for Cill Dara? More importantly, for neutrals following this game, are we treated to another well-fought, down-to-the-wire game this Sunday??

Premier Division
Cork Admirals @ South Dublin Panthers — Trinity Sports Ground, 1pm

A weird game to approach really, with the Admirals being isolated down south it’s hard to know what to expect of them in the opening weeks of each season (see last year where an 0-2 start turned into a 5-2-1 #3 seed season). The Panthers, meanwhile, have had a few star players transfer out and (in the past 12 months) had 3 high-ranking coaches depart. While the Panthers have always created promising, young talent, the apparent lack of established players or announced Head Coach for this season has many wondering what to expect of a club who earned a playoff appearance in the 2022 Kitted season and won a National Championship in flag football just 4 months ago. The Panthers will have the majority of their passing offense weapons, it’s still unclear who will be throwing to them. On top of that, with an offensive line that’s lost a few pieces since July 2022, and and the fact they got beat 24-2 at home to this Admirals team last season, it’s hard to see the Panthers drastically improving on that result this weekend, at least not enough to see them come out on top. The Admirals, meanwhile, will be looking to start stronger than they did in 2022 and try to dominate on offense through QB Stephen Hayes and his long list of weapons. The intrigue in this one comes from how secretive (for better or worse) the Panthers have been coming into this 2023 season and if they can come out and cause an upset at home.

Belfast Trojans @ UCD (0-1) — UCD Sports Campus, 1pm
The Trojans open their year on the road to a UCD team that will be out to defend their home turf with a better result than their 26-40 loss to the Rebels (in what was, admittedly, a great game). The Trojans have a fresh face at QB in Dom Lynn this season after multi-time Shamrock Bowl winner James McKelvey hung up the cleats this past season, and have some fresh transfers coming into their offensive fire power too. With a wealth of coaching experience and their pedigree the Trojans are rightly considered as playoff and potential Shamrock Bowl contenders every year and, providing their away record from 2022 improves (0-4 on the road, 4-0 at home), they should be considered the same way for 2023. UCD, after stumbling off the blocks in their National Championship defense, will be eager to stabilise their path to reclaiming the title this July with a win here. They will do so without star LT Harry Kerr, who suffered a serious knee injury in the Rebels. UCD, a team who has shown their ability to adapt in the past, will need to do so again if they are to get back on pace in 2023. A Trojans team with nothing to lose, though, would love to upset a team they will be competing with for a playoff spot this season.

The 4 games scheduled for this weekend are bound to have a rollercoaster of emotions and non-stop action. Let’s just hope the weather is a bit calmer than last week’s…

AFI Kitted Gameweek 2 — Preview

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.

Premier Division
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.

Division 1
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!

Division 2
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.

Writer’s Predictions
Knights 16 – 17 Minotaurs
Mavericks 13 – 20 Razorbacks
Eagles 22 – 15 Pirates

2023 Kitted Season Gameweek 1 — Review

Gameweek 1 promised fireworks, and OH BOY did it deliver! 207 points were scored across the 5 games around Ireland this past Sunday, with all but one game ending with a 2-score margin, including one that was settled by a 3-point victory. With Gameweek 2 already fast approaching, let’s take a look at what happened in the 2023 Season Opening games!

Division 2
Causeway Giants 8 – 18 Trinity

A highly competitive game saw Trinity come out of Limepark as 10-point victors. Despite turning the ball over 3 times through the air (2x Dessie Mackie, 1x Nathan Chapman), Trinity Rookie QB John Gibbons stepped under center for the first time in a competitive setting and threw 3 TDs — twice to Conor Keeley and once to Lorenzo Bogni — in an admirable first-timer performance. RB Sean Emmanuel also had himself a day despite his limited appearances, eclipsing the 100 yard mark on just 6 runs. Trinity made it a difficult day on offense for the hosts, getting to the Causeway QB 3 times through Ian Richardson (x2) and Griff Steinmann, who came away with 12 total tackles on the day too. It would be unfair to say the Giants didn’t move the ball at all though, as they were certainly making plays themselves. RB Adam Smith punched in the sole Giants touchdown (Adam Wilson adding the 2pt), and the defense were certainly aggressive in turning the ball over to help out their offense as much as they could. On top of the aforementioned 3 interceptions, Tony McCloskey forced and recovered a fumble, while Gary Colgan recovered the ball on a blocked Trinity punt, with the Giants totaling 5 takeaways on the day. Unfortunately they could not keep secure possession of the ball themselves, with Trinity’s James O’Leary coming down with an interception and the defense forcing and recovering two fumbles of their own. Both teams have things to clean up (as to be expected from a week 1 contest), but this contest showed promise for both teams moving forward in Division 2.

Division 1
NI Razorbacks 22 – 6 Antrim Jets

The run game dominated the box score in this one, with all 4 touchdowns coming on the ground. Both team’s QBs got involved too, with the Jets’ Scot McLean scoring their touchdown while Razorbacks QB Mark Thompson added two of his own to go along with player-coach Gareth Millar’s score. The Razorbacks controlled a lot of the game on the line of scrimmage, especially on defense, highlighted by 2 team sacks and a goalline stop by Nathan Toney and Louis Kusmirek on 4th down to keep the Jets to just their 6 points. The Jets themselves put up some great plays of their own on defense, including a forced-and-recovered fumble by DT Marc MacFayden, and a Stewart Lee MacFayden blocked FG. Unfortunately for the Jets they couldn’t quite get the offense off the ground, and with a game Razorbacks team in front of them, Antrim’s return to Division 1 did not go as planned. The Razorbacks, however, will be delighted with their Division 1 debut, and will certainly bring this momentum with them in their quick turnaround to Gameweek 2.

Cill Dara Crusaders 42 – 14 Donegal / Derry Vipers
The Crusaders got their 2023 season off to a flying start with a 6 touchdown performance against a typically strong Vipers side. QB Jordan Farrell put up 5 touchdowns to 4 different receivers (Kealan Farrell x2, Robert Brown, Karl Bracken, Ben Costello) while RB Luke Carey added his first on the ground of the year for the Crusaders. Of course, the defense made sure to shine too, with 4 sacks and 4 takeaways to coming from Sunday’s performance — LB Cormac Butler had himself a day, with 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and plenty of pressures on the Vipers QB. Donegal/Derry did get through on multiple occasions though, including a rushing TD from QB Gary Melly, and an offensive fumble recovery TD from Mark Gillen after a goalline fumble. The Vipers did manage to intercept Farrell twice, one each from JP McKee and Harry McLaughlin, showing some positive signs in pass defense that HC Paddy Maguire can build on going forward. It’s Cill Dara and their dominance, though, that’s the main takeaway from this game — can they keep this up and get to the Division 1 Bowl for the first time in club history this season?

UL Vikings 17 – 14 Dublin Rhinos
A much tighter affair in the end, the Vikings edged out a fighting Rhinos outfit in their first steps to getting back to the Division 1 Bowl game this season. UL started hot, building a 17-0 lead through 2 rushing TDs from Finn O’Donovan and an added field goal through Danny Quilter. Rob Browne and William Campbell picked up where they left off last season with a sack each, though as the game went on the Dublin side clawed their way back into it. Despite a setback through an Adam Ward interception for the Vikings, Rhinos RB Gary O’Rourke led the team in rush yards (70) and QB Ethan Foster kept his offense pushing down the field and started mounting a comeback, twice running in touchdowns (and one 2pt conversion). The Rhinos defense, which had starred in spurts in the Premier Division last season, was all over the UL backfield, totalling 6 sacks — three coming from Matt Mays. A tense final minutes of the game saw the Vikings come out on top, and it will be interesting to see how both teams carry themselves out of this one into their next fixtures.

Premier Division
UCD 26 – 40 Dublin Rebels
The game of the week for sure, and probably the game you clicked on this article for. The Premier Division opener was every bit of the banger it was hyped up to be, with plenty of highlight plays and standout performances to tout. Chief among those was Rebels QB Ty Henry, who opened his 2023 account with 4 passing TDs (Greg Johnson, Dave King, Jack Basquille x2), 2 rushing TDs and an interception of a tipped Arun Mooney pass while on defense. Henry operated great under the heavy pressure of UCD’s front 7, which did get through enough to keep UCD in the game — 3 sacks, including a strip sack from Eddie Goggins Jr that was taken to the house by Thomas Fitzgerald, and 2 other fumble recoveries being the highlights of the aggressive play by UCD’s defense. On offense, UCD never fully clicked, with QB Arun Mooney struggling overall despite a great TD pass to Pete Masterson midway through the game. RB Sean McVeigh featured heavily, punching in 2 scores, but between their own turnovers and the Rebels playing at their best, UCD’s National Championship defense has gotten off to a delayed start. Still, both teams combined to play a fantastic game of football, and — if the 2022 script is anything to go by — UCD losing in the regular season to the Rebels doesn’t bode well for the rest of the teams in the division going forward.

Gameweek 2 features a smaller, 3-game slate after last Sunday’s action-packed schedule. Make sure to keep an eye out for our preview for March 12th’s matchups, which feature a game from each division!

Preview — AFI Kitted Gameweek 1

We made it! The 2023 Kitted Season is here, and we have some fantastic games on the slate for Opening Weekend. With all the twists, turns, ups and downs of an American football season ahead, let’s have a look at how things might shape up when the dust settles this Sunday evening!

Premier Division
Rebels @ UCD — UCD Sports Campus, Belfield, 1pm
In what we’re sure will be the most attended game of this weekend, University College Dublin’s Sports Campus hosts the rematch to last season’s Shamrock Bowl, with the hosts looking to start their National Championship defense with a statement win against the team whose undefeated streak they snapped in the championship game. On the Rebels side, they will be looking to not only enact some kind of revenge from that Bowl game loss in August, but to also start their own march to this year’s Shamrock Bowl with a win. A battle of the 2 best performing QBs from the 2022 season (UCD’s Arun Mooney and Rebels’ Ty Henry) and 2 stout defenses, this game is all but guaranteed to be a barn-burner. Good luck calling this game either way — just enjoy the carnage that ensues at 1pm

Division 1
Donegal / Derry Vipers @ Cill Dara Crusaders — Newbridge College, 1pm
6 of Division 1’s 7 teams compete in Gameweek 1, and we start with the game that features two teams who competed in this division last year. These sides played a tight game at the end of the regular season last year which decided playoff seeding for both teams, and with the offseasons that both sides had this past winter, we’re expecting another close affair this weekend. The X-factor to consider for this game, as with most games involving the Vipers, is the travel aspect, with the red and yellow travelling the guts of 4 hours for their season opener. If the Vipers win this one, it will be through a ground game that may need time to warm up. On the flip side, a strong performance from the Crusaders passing attack may get them over the line and give the home crowd an opening weekend win to cheer for.

Antrim Jets @ NI Razorbacks — 1pm
A fascinating fixture this, with the 2022 Division 2 champions traveling to face a squad they played 2 tight games with last season — with the added wrinkle this season being the exodus of some talent from the Jets to clubs like the Razorbacks. There has been some jabs back and forth in the lead up to this game, and both teams know that getting a Week 1 win up on a team with an increasingly hot rivalry will be a massive morale boost going forward. QB Scot McLean leads the charge for the Jets who will look for him to work similar magic to what he managed last season. The Razorbacks, meanwhile, will be relying on the experience of players and coaches (old and new) from an array of levels of football across Ireland and Europe (including Irish Wolfhound Alex Kusmerik) to keep the Jets from taking off at the start of this season. Expect a great game here.

Dublin Rhinos @ UL Vikings — Maguires Field, UL Sports Campus, 1pm
A battle at the top of the preseason seedings for Division 1 sees the 2022 Bowl game finalists host a Rhinos side who couldn’t avoid relegation from Premier Division last season. QB Ethan Foster and co. will be looking for much more offensive output this season than last, which will make things easier for their defensive stars and allow them to be more aggressive and make some plays. Kickstarting their season with a good performance on offense against a game UL defense will go a long way to instilling some confidence in the Rhinos offense going forward. The Vikings, on the other hand, will be in no mood to letting teams into games after their tight loss in last year’s final, and will be out for blood and points on the board of their own this season. While it’s always tough to predict how a relegated team will fare in their new division, it’s hard not to see the Vikings defend their home turf here.

Division 2
Trinity @ Causeways Giants — Limepark Playing Fields, 1pm

Coming down to Division 2 in 2023 after failing to finish their 2022 season, Trinity come into this season with a lot of fresh faces. QB Ben Dowling remains, though will be without his 2 most prolific options from previous years (as noted in our Divisional previews). With a lot of new personnel for this season, perhaps Division 2 will be a good litmus test for this new-look Trinity outfit, a lot of whom got their first run-out in their annual Intervarsity blitz with UL and UCD, which they surely picked up some great experience from. On the Giants side, they too are a bit of an unknown force on offense, with the Boorman brothers that did provide sparks to their offense last season now off to ventures new. Defensive MVP and captain Ross McKenzie will need to rally his troops on his side of the ball after the 44-0 beating they took from travelling Masters side Sealand Seahawks, and prep them for what will sure to be a quick-hitting, slippery Trinity offense. The scoreboard may not light up in this one but it is sure to be an intriguing game for this division nonetheless.

Contributor’s Predictions
Rebels 27-28 UCD
Vipers 14-18 Crusaders
Jets 16-20 Razorbacks
Rhinos 13-21 Vikings
Trinity 14-7 Giants

How do you think this weekend will go? Do defenses dominate or do offenses overcome with opportunities galore? Let us know through our socials on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!


2023 AFI Season Preview – Prem Division

It’s almost here! The 2023 AFI Kitted Season is upon us, with every Irish American football enthusiast staring a hole though Kickoff Sunday March 5th on their calendar. Days remain until it all begins, so let’s break down each division as they enter the 2023 season!

UCD (6-1-1 in 2022 Premier Division, 2022 National Champions)
Shamrock Bowl XXXIV winners UCD will look to defend their National championship this year in a fierce Premier Division. There is very much a “run-it-back” feel on campus, with coach-defined “football-nerd” Arun Mooney, Sean McVeigh, Cian Lawlor and co. ready to cause defensive coordinator fits around the country on  a weekly basis as they did last year. With Wolfhounds staff galore on the UCD sideline, the Students also brought in some powerhouse talent this offseason, with Graham Jenkinson joining the O-Line, among some other big transfers in. DB Eoghan McMahon headlines the defensive backfield after a stellar rookie season, as the UCD defense will continue to cause chaos on football fields this season. Will they repeat their Shamrock Bowl success? That remains to be seen, but they are surely favoured preseason to at least return to the final dance in 2023.

Dublin Rebels (8-0 in 2022 Premier Division, Shamrock Bowl XXXIV finalists)
The Rebels completely up-ended expectations in 2022 after their previous 3-5 campaign, going undefeated in 2022 and pushing their way into the Shamrock Bowl. Conceding less than 80 points during the regular season, the Rebels offense also averaged more than 40 points per game. Captained by QB Ty Henry, boasting a young wideout corps of Greg and Dan Johnson and Dave King, and with Wello Omorodion to pound the rock with, the Rebels were a force of nature last year and look set to be just as dominant in 2023. Adding DE Evan Allen to an already frightening front 7 that includes the likes of Conrad Cook and Kenny McCarthy, look for DBs like Rex Harding and Cathal Keane to continue to prop themselves up the interceptions list this season as QBs force throws under pressure. The Rebels seem intent on forcing a Part II to last year’s Shamrock Bowl, just with a different final result.

Cork Admirals (5-2-1 in 2022 Premier Division)
After a rocky start in 2022, the Admirals went on a 6-game unbeaten stretch which saw them race into the playoffs and hold the eventual champions to a tie game at home. Though the ensuing playoff game did not finish how they’d have liked, getting to that point after the rough patch they endured had to be seen as a success in its own right. QB Stephen Hayes calmed the Admiral following after a quiet first two games with an 18 TD season, with the likes of WR Jahn Dasini and Kit O’Keefe reaping the benefits. Not to be ignored is the stagnant Admiral defense, who pitched 2 offensive shutouts in 2022, thanks in large part to contributions from the likes of DB Liam O’Leary, pass rusher Shane Hourihane and all-round athlete Ayo Mumuni.  Always a dark horse, a new threat to look out for over the next few years is the 2x National Youth champions starting to graduate to the Senior side. Look out for RB Jake Kennedy to make an impact this season.

South Dublin Panthers (4-4 in 2022 Premier Division)
An up-and-down year in the kitted season continued on into the offseason it seems for the Panthers. Their flag team went undefeated and winning a National Championship in its own right before learning of departures of both players and coaches in the lead up to and after Christmas — with both Kevin Klatt and Brendan McAleese stepping away from the South Dublin club in favour of joining the Wexford Eagles, while the transfers of both Allen and Jenkinson will affect both sides of the trenches this season. Ian Cahill steps away from signal-caller duties to assist at linebacker this season, making the QB room in South Dublin unclear. Young receiver Jamie Leonard will likely be relied upon to keep the passing game moving for whoever steps in at QB and keep the Panthers on the board. On defense, South Dublin will need to rely upon DB Andrew Reddy to keep opposing arial attacks at bay. It’s difficult to predict how the Panthers season could go with so much change in just one offseason, but one thing’s for sure — there will be plenty of eyes on the South Dublin side from all around the country.

Belfast Trojans (4-4 in 2022 Premier Division)
The Trojans were a tale of two halves in 2022 — going unbeaten at home but, with a daunting away schedule, were unable to pick up a win on the road. Going 4-1 in the final stretch of the season, ending in a banger of a game with Cork — in which a win would have qualified the Trojans for a playoff date. Unable to defend their 2019 National title, the Green Machine have had themselves a great offseason, picking up Vipers standouts Darren Quinn and Chad Higgins, Knights WR Jordan Clinton as well as bringing back some key pieces from injury. The defensive backfield, highlighted in their home stretch by DB Thomas Boyde, vastly improved from their unusually poor start to 2022, and seems ready to pick up where they left off from their great finish to the season. The wildcard for the Trojans is new QB Dominic Lynn, who steps in for retired Trojans legend James McKelvey. Can Lynn propel the Trojans back to their mid-2010s glory? We might get a glimpse of that this year.

Craigavon Cowboys (2-6 in 2022 Premier Division)
What could have been for the 2022 Cowboys. Starting 2-0, including a blowout of the Rhinos in the opener, what looked like a hot start soon turned into a quick meltdown, failing to pick up a win in their remaining 6 games. Craigavon will have been self-reflecting all off-season to figure out how to avoid a similar fate this season, and with QB Peter Loughran at the helm there is certainly scope for the Cowboys making a run for the playoffs this season. LB Shayne Mone will look to inspire more hard-nosed performances on defense, especially against higher-seeded opposition — despite their reputation coming into the Premier Division, the Boys in Orange finished the year with the lowest-ranked defense in the division in 2022. Keeping games within reach and tightening up on defense will for sure be the points of emphasis for the Cowboys this season, who will surely be aiming for more than just Premier Division survival in 2023.

Belfast Knights (1-7 in 2022 Premier Division)
The Black and Gold left it until the final whistle of last season to remain in the Premier Division for 2023, beating the Rhinos 34-0 in a game that ended up being a win-and-stay-in for the division. Having escaped relegation after their 2019 season, and again last July, the Knights will certainly be pulling every trick from their sleeve this season to keep themselves afloat. Losing key performers like DE Danny Moll and the aforementioned Clinton will not help, but the return of long-time Knight Marty Caskey to the lineup this season will give QB Stephen McDowell a trusted target on offense. HC Adam Devenney will be maximising the usage of team defensive MVP Robbie Alexander and DB Josh Harvey who showed up in some big ways in 2022. Coupling consistent performances from their offense and defense in crucial games will keep the Knights in contention this season, and — with some breakout performances and some luck going their way — could perhaps fight for the #4 seed in the playoffs. Overcoming a recent historical drop in W-L record, though, will be priority number one for the Knights.

Westmeath Minotaurs (7-1 in 2022 Division 1, Division 1 Champions)
After losing a 28-27 classic in the 2019 Division 1 final to Craigavon, the Minotaurs bounced back to the Bowl game last season and came from behind against the Vikings for a 16-13 win to secure the title and promotion. Strong defensive performances became a staple of the Minotaurs keys to success in Division 1, with team sack leader Steven Nally and Division 1 interception leader Peter Dempsey likely to be huge factors again in a Minotaur defense that has yet to compete against this level of football — with 2023 being the club’s first ever appearance in the Premier Division. On offense, young QB Joe Kinahan has a deep group of weapons including WR Alan Campbell and RB Rafael Monteiro, though the team may potentially be missing WR Jack Lynch for some time. Still, with HC Bill Dougherty at the helm, the Westmeath Minotaurs will likely not need much motivation this season with everything at stake, and don’t seem set on merely being a cameo performer in Ireland’s Premier Division.

The 2023 AFI Kitted Season is right around the corner, with more than 80 games scheduled between now and July 16th. Now we want to hear from you: who’s season are you most excited to follow in 2023?? Let us know on our Instagram, Facebook or Twitter!

2023 AFI Season Preview — Division 1

It’s almost here! The 2023 AFI Kitted Season is upon us, with every Irish American football enthusiast staring a hole though Kickoff Sunday March 5th on their calendar. Days remain until it all begins, so let’s break down each division as they enter the 2023 season!

NI Razorbacks (3-5 in 2022 Division 2)
The Razorbacks made the headlines this offseason both with their promotion to Division 1 and with what can only be described as an excellent recruitment campaign between July and March. While home grown talent from 2022 was much celebrated in their own right last season, bringing in the likes of DE Danny Moll from the Knights, RB Declan Curran and LB Ryan Beckett from rivals Antrim Jets, and other key imports have led to the Razorbacks seeming like a force to be reckoned with this season. Having experience from players who have competed in all 3 divisions of AFI football will be a big boost to their rookies, and will obviously make HC Gareth Millar’s job a lot easier come gameday. Just how well these new pieces gel together will be the difference-maker, particularly on offense in a division that has an array of strong defenses they will need to compete against.

Louth Mavericks (7-1 in 2022 Division 2, Bowl finalists)
The Mavericks faded off towards the end of the 2022 season, ending in the capitulation that was the Division 2 Bowl game against the Jets. Louth do have the sting from that final to fuel them this season, however, with their being sure-fire efforts put in this offseason to not have that feeling replicated in 2023. Known names like Dec Mulvihill and QB Nathan Hearty return this season, as does 2022 breakout RB/DB Brendan Simms, who appeared all over the stats sheets in Mavericks games last season. The athletic young flex piece was a key part of Louth’s success last year, and Coach Angelo will surely look to find more ways to get him, as well as promising rookie WR Alex Hanratty, open in a tough division. The Mavericks may have an extra leg up on their Division 2 promotees considering their club experience in this division and against these teams, with the  UL Vikings being the only team they have never crossed paths with. In their 10th anniversary as a club, will the Louth Mavericks make a good push towards playoff contention in 2023?

Antrim Jets (5-3 in 2022 Division 2, Division 2 Champions)
Last year’s Division 2 Champions, despite being promoted, are a slightly unknown quantity. As noted, they have lost a few star players, and while that may cause some concern on the surface, HC Donal McCloskey will be confident in his new recruits heading into Division 1’s kickoff, as noted on his appearance on Talkin’ Balls Podcast. The Jets will be willing to air things out this year as they did last year, with QB Scot McClean leading the charge on offense. Matt Graham and other experienced pieces on defense will keep that unit solid against some of the higher powered offenses they will face this season — the Jets pitched 4 offensive shutouts last season, and they’ll be looking for similar production this season in their push towards the 2023 Division 1 playoffs.

Donegal / Derry Vipers (3-4-1 in 2022 Division 1)
The Vipers enter this season still in a bit of a transition but definitely gearing towards a promising period for the club. LB/DB Darren Quinn and WR Chad Higgins will be big losses for the red and yellow, especially in the opening stretch of the season, but the introduction of some key players from the Vipers youth squad and their development during this season will likely make HC Paddy Maguire’s side even stronger into the playoff stretch. The Vipers have remained a consistently competitive squad in this division, with 2023 shaping to be no different. After getting their first taste of playoff football for the first time since 2018, Donegal / Derry will be firing on all cylinders this season to get back there again and punch their ticket to the Division 1 Bowl game.

Cill Dara Crusaders (4-4 in 2022 Division 1)
The Crusaders come into this season in good shape to push towards the Bowl game in Division 1. Playing two fantastic games with last year’s finalists UL Vikings (including a 2-point margin loss in the playoffs and an 86-point thriller in Newbridge), Cill Dara have been a quiet breeding ground for Ireland’s top home-grown talent — former GFL and current LNFA QB Matty O’Meara, Tomi Oweyo of the ELF’s Munich Ravens, and current QB Jordan Farrell all being developed in Cill Dara’s system. RB Luke Carey, another fast riser from last year, will look to keep his form from last year carrying forward and make some big plays for the Crusaders offense. Cill Dara’s pass defense has improved on paper in the offseason too, with UCD’s Carl Bracken coming on board at Safety, Cormac Butler returning from injury and, of course, Craig and Kyle Dooley attacking off the edges. Considering their history with UL in close games, with the Rhinos and with players on the rise, the Crusaders will be a team to look out for come the end of the season.

UL Vikings (5-2-1 in 2022 Division 1, Bowl finalists)
Coming so close to promotion last season, the Vikings come into this season as one of the favourites to win Division 1 in 2023. Much of this relies on the work of OC Liam Ryan, who has been around the football scene in Ireland for two decades and introduced the triple option element to the UL offense that baffled defenses in this division last year. RBs Sean Grace and Eoin Rudkins both had amazing years last year cutting through teams on the ground, while on defense the likes of DE William Campbell and Robert Browne terrorized offensive lines, eclipsing 15 sacks on the season between them (the most prolific pass rush duo in Ireland in 2022). Being able to build off of the success of last season, along with the itch to correct last July’s heartbreak and a strong coaching staff that will keep them focused and level-headed, the Vikings look set for another Bowl game appearance this year barring any setbacks.

Dublin Rhinos (1-7 in 2022 Premier Division)
The Rhinos come down to Division 1 after a disappointing season last year. With the relegation battle coming down to a winner-stays-up with the Belfast Knights last July, the Rhinos kept themselves competitive in spurts during 2022, the highlight of which being a shock upset of the Craigavon Cowboys in April. QB Ethan Foster and co. will look to rebound in a division without the likes of the Rebels or UCD to try and prepare for. Rookie WR Jeremy Capt performed well in a preseason friendly with the Belfast Trojans, and could feature more heavily for the Rhinos this year. Coach David Hosford and long-term Rhino Steve O’Rourke will do well to motivate his players coming into a division the Rhinos won back in 2018, and with an itch to get back to the Premier Division the Rhinos will be pushing themselves to being leading player coming towards the 2023 playoffs.

2023 AFI Season Preview — Division 2

It’s almost here! The 2023 AFI Kitted Season is upon us, with every Irish American football enthusiast staring a hole though Kickoff Sunday March 5th on their calendar. Days remain until it all begins, so let’s break down each division as they enter the 2023 season!


North Dublin Pirates (0-8 in 2022 AFI Division 2)
The Pirates come into 2023 looking to bounce back after a disappointing season last year. Struggling and going 0-8 in 2022, the Pirates have done a good job in the offseason rallying the troops and preparing for the season ahead. Head Coach Ross Neville will have an interesting decision at QB, as he not only has Rian Molloy from years past at his disposal, but also the likes of Connor Coleman and Darragh Horgan who joined from the now-defunct Meath Bulldogs almost a year ago, and have been competing for starting reps this season. Will this battle for QB1, alongside some promising rookies like Richie Grimes and Niall McMahon, help the North Dublin outfit strike gold on offense? Similarly, does the new blood mix with the wealth of experience the Pirates have at hand on defense to help propel the squad back to the performances they saw pre-pandemic?

One thing that will certainly help is the history they have with the squads they will be competing with this season. While the Pirates and Eagles have only taken the field against each other once ever (2018 IAFL-1 in a landslide Wexford win), the Pirates are familiar with the Giants — playing 2 tight games last year as well as a one-score game in 2019 in IAFL-2 — and have not only shared playing fields with Trinity College Dublin, but have trained and scrimmaged this preseason with the talented student team. With 2 home games in quick succession to start the year, can the Pirates finally scratch the itch that they’ve been waiting for since 2019 and get a W on the board and, perhaps, push the rest of Division 2 for a bowl game spot?

Causeway Giants (3-5 in 2022 AFI Division 2)
e Causeway Giants enter AFI Division 2 as one of two teams to remain in the division after the 2022 season. The Giants finished 3-5 last year, including some competitive games with the newly promoted Razorbacks, Division 2 champions Antrim Jets and a highlight 25-7 win over promoted Louth Mavericks. The Giants were very stop-start on offense last year, having as many scoreless games as they had games above 20 points. Losing Boorman brothers Rauiri and Tiarnan will not help matters on that side of the ball, though new Head Coach Conan Jal is confident in the system he has brought from across the Irish Sea. With a developing, competitive rivalry brewing with the North Dublin Pirates on the cards, as well as former Division 1 sides in Trinity College Dublin and Wexford Eagles (to whom they are unknown quantities), the Giants will be looking forward to making an impact in Division 2 and continuing their upward rise as one of Ireland’s youngest clubs.

The Giants defense, on the other hand, was a shining light for the vast majority of last season, stonewalling offenses to 16 points or less in 5 of their 8 games. No doubt the standout performer, division sack leader and team defensive MVP Ross McKenzie — as well as the return of players like Adam Wilson and Francis D’Souza — was crucial last year and provides the experience and leadership that rookies and veterans alike will look towards in tough battles this season that may crop up should the restructured offense not light up the division as much as they hope, 2022 was a big year for the Causeway Giants, improving on their 1-7 record from their debut season in 2019. This year, the Giants look ready to improve further and get their year-end record above .500 for the first time in club history — and perhaps make the Division 2 Bowl while they’re at it.

Trinity College Dublin (4-4 in 2022 AFI Division 1)
Trinity compete this season in Division 2 after forfeiting the second half of what seemed to be leading to a promising season in last year’s Division 1. An overhaul in personnel will take the field this season after the Students lost star player Brandon Atwell to UCD in the run-in to last year’s playoffs. The club, Head Coached by Garland Drake, will be aiming to capitalise on the experience new players got during November’s Intervarsity Blitz, where they shared the field with Division 1’s UL Vikings and National Champions UCD. 

The keys for Trinity this season will be to pick up where they left off in 2022 and put up strong performances on both sides of the ball, as well as keep up on-campus recruitment through the season to be able to finish their 6-game schedule, something that has evaded the team for multiple seasons. Doing so without O’Dwyer brothers Conor and Rory — the former having stepped back from the kitted scene this year and the latter having moved across the capital to UCD — will make things more difficult on offense for Trinity, as both were long-time star players on an explosive offense. Despite this setback, a strong start to the season, coupled with more stability off the field, will likely see the Students push for the Division 2 Bowl Game this July.

Wexford Eagles (0-8 in 2022 AFI Division 1)
Like Trinity, Wexford’s 2022 forfeits bring them down to Division 2 for this season. Playing just 2 games last year before ending their season, the rebuild since then has opened quite a lot of eyes. Announcing Kevin Klatt as their Head Coach — before quickly announcing their DC as Brendan McAleese — was a massive shock considering their parting of ways before the 2022 season, on top of the fact that both had been considered next in line for the South Dublin Panthers openings. Given how popular Klatt has been in the Wexford area, the Eagles’ offseason recruitment has been a success, with the team finding talent in most areas of the field that will only serve to improve the current batch of talent they already had. Bringing back dual-threat QB Trevor Smith and Klatt’s innovative offense will likely lead to some exciting plays in Wexford games.

The Eagles games against Trinity will likely bring the most intrigue in Division 2 matchups on a national scale considering both just came down from Division 1, and considering both teams aren’t too far removed from playoff berths in that division, the home-and-away series between these 2 sides will likely have plenty of eyes on them, and may come down to clutch defensive plays by the likes of Terry Carey and Henry Foxton. However, the Eagles would be unwise to overlook the likes of the Giants and Pirates, as both have the chances to cause some upsets. 

AFI, Talkin’ Balls Podcast, Domestic Game Podcast Announce “GreenZone”

American Football Ireland are pleased to announce a new partnership between The Domestic Game Podcast and Talkin’ Balls Podcast, to bring you GreenZone, a weekly coverage of all things Irish American football run by some of the island’s biggest football enthusiasts! GreenZone will be the Irish gridiron community’s player-run hub for weekly score recaps and highlight reviews, storyline tracking and club news, and general coverage of the game here in Ireland.

“We’re really excited about the first steps of our partnership with the folks at the Domestic Game and American Football Ireland,” said Talkin’ Balls Podcast co-host and Antrim Jet Neil Adams, “It’s a privilege to be another prominent voice promoting the game, the scene and its reach here in Ireland. We hope to do our fans — and the community at as a whole — proud.”

Commenting on the prospect of the GreenZone, AFI Board member and Domestic Game Podcast founder Kelly Dwyer was understandably upbeat: “This is a great positive for the football community in Ireland. The mission of The Domestic Game is to increase the coverage of Irish American Football in media. We’re delighted the folks at Talkin’ Balls have joined us in that cause! Coverage of this game is beneficial to both AFI and its members and will strengthen AFI’s reach in an increasingly competitive and athletic sporting market. Ultimately, we’re excited to produce more content featuring our domestic athletes, coaches & members, and to see how the creativity and passion of the folks at Talkin’ Balls will enhance that content!”

The first episode of GreenZone will take place next Wednesday evening on the Talkin’ Balls Podcast as hosts Neil, Chris, Dave and Chrissie speak to Antrim Jets HC Donal McCloskey about their upcoming Division 1 season opener vs NI Razorbacks, as well as league-wide transfer news, preseason hype and more!

AFI Announces 3 Appointments, 2 Vacancies to Management Team

The Board of American Football Ireland today announced the appointment of Tom McCormack as its Chief Communications Officer, Bill Dougherty as its Director of Coaching, and Nuala Collins as its Child Protection Officer. Two new Management Team positions have also been made available — Director of Flag Football, and Director of Youth Football. New information can be found in the Open Positions section here.

Tom has extensive experience and expertise in sports marketing and communications having previously worked with Leinster Rugby, Six Nations Rugby, the British & Irish Lions and PRO 12 Rugby. An avid American Football fan, Tom is a former backup tight end with the Dublin Celts, and is no stranger to the landscape of the sport here in Ireland. He previously advised the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Media Department in 2012 when they played Navy in the Aviva Stadium.

Tom also worked with the late great Dan Rooney and colleagues in the American Ireland Fund, and with Sir Tony O’Reilly on Heinz and other corporate interests. He is a former President of the Ireland-America Society and an active part of the global Steelers Nation! Other professional governing bodies that he has worked with are the Institute of Chartered Accountants and the Society of Chartered Surveyors.

Bill Dougherty has previously held other roles within AFI, including Director of Youth Football, and has now moved across to Director of Coaching. Current Head Coach of the Westmeath Minotaurs, Bill has been involved in American football in different aspects for most his life. Becoming a part of the AFI community in 2016, Bill has since been a key part in driving the growth and development of the on-field product and administrative side of the game, and we are thrilled to have him involved in the teaching and progressing of Ireland’s American football coaches in all levels of the sport.
Nuala Nuala has worked in Child Protection and Safe Environment capacities since 2006. Prior to Child Protection Nuala has worked in various Health Care Settings, primarily Mental Health since 1995. In 2006, Nuala began working for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse in New York as the Director of Safe Environment and Victim Assistance. From there Nuala worked for Acquired Brain Injury Ireland as the Training Manager where she also became a HSE trained Member of the Safeguarding Team for ABI Ireland.
Currently, Nuala is the Manager of an Assisted Living Facility for the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary in Dublin. In all of these roles, Nuala has played an active role in the development and implementation of their Safeguarding and Child Protection policies and trainings. In all of these roles, Nuala has worked extensively with individuals that have been impacted either directly or indirectly by abuse in all forms and firmly believes that it is the responsibility of communities as a whole to create Safe Environments for children and all those vulnerable.

2023 AFI Kitted Schedule Released

The 2023 AFI Kitted Schedule is now LIVE, which means we can all finally look ahead and start projecting results and performances for teams this season, as well as mapping out which games to attend around our local areas! With the full schedule for all 3 divisions found on our homepage, the league kickoff on March 5th will fast fall upon us. We’ll be coming out with team profiles in the preseason and previews for each week as they come around, but let’s have a look at some interesting games and storylines the month of March has on offer!

March 5th — Opening Weekend
UCD vs Dublin Rebels — UCD Sports Grounds, 1pm
How could we not start with this one?? A repeat of last year’s Shamrock Bowl, as well as a return fixture of what many considered to be 2022’s game of the year (a 34-30 home win for the Rebels), this game is hotly anticipated for a reason. With 2 star QBs in Arun Mooney and Ty Henry, last season’s top offenses and frightening defenses, the highlight game from opening weekend is truly a clash of titans.

NI Razorbacks vs Antrim Jets — Newforge Sports Complex, 1pm
Overshadowed by the previous game, football fans should absolutely consider this Division 1 kickoff game in Belfast. Two up-and-coming teams who were promoted to Division 1 for 2023, this game has an a bit of extra fuel behind it due to some transfers between these clubs feeding a rivalry already in place. Expect fireworks in this one as both look to prove themselves in a new division.

March 12th
Westmeath Minotaurs vs Belfast Knights — Mullingar RFC, 1pm
2022’s Division 1 champions host a Knights team that has struggled in the Premier Division in recent years. Spencer McDowell and Co. will be looking to start off on the right foot this year with a clean slate in front of them, while the Westmeath outfit will be eager to keep their upward trajectory going and start their first campaign in the Premier Division with a win themselves. 

March 19th
UL Vikings vs Cill Dara Crusaders — Maguire’s Field, 1pm
These teams played out a 39-47 thriller last year in Newbridge, later followed by a tense 21-18 playoff game —  both in favour of the Vikings. UL will want to not only defend their home turf but kickstart a championship campaign after coming so close in 2022’s Division 1 bowl. Cill Dara, after taking many by surprise last season, will be out to avenge their previous results against this UL side. Expect another cracker on Paddy’s Weekend.

March 26th
North Dublin Pirates vs Causeway Giants — Trinity Sports Ground, 2pm
Division 2 has some intriguing matchups on offer, with this — a matchup with the 2 sides who remained in the division from last year — being one of them. How the Pirates have self-scouted after their disappointing 2022 outing, along with how the Giants build off of some impressive defensive performances last year, will be keys to victory for both teams in what should be a tough, hard-hitting football game.

All this and more takes place in just the first four weeks of a packed AFI schedule. 81 games separate us between now and Shamrock Bowl XXXV, and we’re expecting even more twists, turns and surprises than last season!

2023 AFI Kitted Season Format

The 2023 AFI Kitted Schedule release is imminent, with many players and fans around the country excited to see how their season will shape up this year. To whet the appetite and put any unsure minds to rest, we thought it best to put together a quick guide as to how the 2023 kitted season will go down. And yes — full fixture lists ARE coming soon!

AFI Premier Division
An 8-team division, teams will play 8 games, playing each other once — making 7 games — while playing a similarly seeded opponent for their 8th game. #8 plays #7 twice, #6 plays #5 twice, and so on. Schedule seeding is based on team performance from the 2022 season. UCD, as Shamrock Bowl XXXIV winners, are the #1 seed, with finalists Dublin Rebels taking the #2. This year’s #8 is the Westmeath Minotaurs, winners of 2022’s edition of AFI Division 1 — 2023 marks the club’s first appearance in the top tier of Irish American football. The remaining seeds are filled by the Belfast Knights (7), Craigavon Cowboys (6), Belfast Trojans (5), South Dublin Panthers (4), and Cork Admirals (3), whose seeding is based on their final standings in this division last year. 

Premier Division playoffs take place July 2nd, with Shamrock Bowl XXXV crowning Ireland’s National Champion on July 16th.

AFI Division 1
A 7-team division, teams will play 8 games, playing each other once — making 6 games — while playing similarly seeded opponents for their 7th and 8th games. Dublin Rhinos take the #1 seed after their relegation from Premier Division in 2022, while UL Vikings (as finalists in last year’s Division 1 Bowl game) are the #2 seed. Division 1 sees 3 promoted teams enter: NI Razorbacks #7, who enter the division for the first time in the club’s history based on their competitiveness in Division 2 last year and their club growth in the offseason; Louth Mavericks #6, finalists in Division 2 last year, replacing the relegated Trinity College Dublin; and Antrim Jets #5, 2022 Division 2 champions. Donegal / Derry Vipers and Cill Dara Crusaders, #4 and #3 respectively, are seeded based on their final ranking in Division 1 last year.

Division 1 playoffs will take place June 25th, with the final taking place in a double header with Division 2 on July 9th

AFI Division 2
A 4-team division, each team plays each other twice for a 6-game season. Trinity College Dublin and Wexford Eagles will compete in Division 2 this season after penalty point deductions saw them relegated from Division 1, while Causeway Giants and North Dublin Pirates remain in the division as they continue to grow and develop their football operations. 

Division 2 playoffs kickoff June 25th, with the final coinciding with Division 1’s Bowl game on July 9th.

AFI are excited to see the game continue to grow on and off the field, and are looking forward to all of our teams putting on some outstanding performances this year! Make sure to check out our — and our clubs’ — social channels for upcoming schedule information!