Preview: AFI Gameweek 14

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

Three Gameweeks in the AFI Senior Kitted regular season remain, and with the postseason on the horizon, playoff pictures are becoming clearer and clearer by the weekend. 4 games take place around the island this Sunday, with playoff appearances and home-field advantage all up for grabs. Let’s project how the landscape of AFI will look come the end of Sunday.

Record¹ = Secured Playoff Appearance
                   ² = Secured Home-Field Advantage
                   ³ = Eliminated from Playoffs

AFI Premier Division

#1 Dublin Rebels (6-0)¹ @ #6 Craigavon Cowboys (2-4) — People’s Park, 2pm
The Rebels travel to Portadown looking to lock up the #1 seed in the division after their game of the season vs #2 UCD two weeks ago. The Rebels come into this one as big favourites and it’s hard to argue against that: an on-fire quarterback with weapons galore and a tough offensive line coupled with a hungry defense that always gets after the ball. Boasting the #2 offense and #1 defense in the division will go a long way for your claims to the #1 seed, and with the opportunity to clinch just that this Sunday, the Rebels are likely to come out of the gate hot.

The Cowboys’ season just hasn’t gone as they’d have hoped. Starting off real strong with a 2-0 record that included a 35-6 opening day performance, the Craigavon side have dropped their last 4 straight, with the Peter Loughran-led offense scoring 3 touchdowns in a game only twice all season. Having not rebounded well to their away loss to the #7 Rhinos or at home to the #3 Admirals, the Cowboys gave up a season-high 49 points in their battle with the #5 Trojans in Gameweek 10. Craigavon are safe from relegation but will hardly see this season as a success unless they can muster up a performance good enough to earn a win or two from these last two games — with two wins keeping their playoff hopes mathematically alive for now. Unfortunately for the Cowboys, it doesn’t seem likely this weekend, facing opposition that seem unstoppable at the moment.

AFI Division 1

#2 UL Vikings (4-2-1) @ #1 Westmeath Minotaurs (7-0) — Mullingar RFC, 2pm
A return fixture to the game at Maguire’s Field three weeks ago, it’s a quest for home-field advantage for UL vs a quest for an undefeated season for the Minotaurs. UL travel to Mullingar after being given a 30-0 win for Trinity’s season forfeiture from last weekend, meaning their 16-0 loss to the Westmeath side will still be fresh in their minds. QB Kieran Gilhool will need to drive his offense (including RBs Eoin Rudkins and Sean Grace) down the field a lot more efficiently that their attempts three weeks ago if they want to avoid another long travel for the semi-finals. Generating a similar pressure-to-sack conversion rate like they did in this fixture at the beginning of the month (6 total sacks) will also be key.

Westmeath, on the other hand, could be the first of three eligible teams in Ireland to go 8-0, with a win at home sealing the undefeated season for the #1 Minotaurs. Having the division’s highest scoring quarterback (Kinahan, 7) and wide receiver (Lynch, 5) on offense, along with a strong run defense and the division leader in interceptions (Dempsey, 6) stack the odds in the Westmeath outfit’s favour. One factor to consider is Westmeath’s potential to rest starters with this game having no bearing on their playoff seeding. Even with this in mind, the push to 8-0 seems to be the most likely outcome here.

AFI Division 2

#1 Louth Mavericks (6-0) @ #4 Causeway Giants (2-4*) — Limepark Playing Grounds, 2pm
A game with no consequences for the playoffs, the Giants host the Mavericks in a game that will see pride on the line more than anything else. The Giants, having started well, have been shutout in 3 straight games. While most (if not all) teams will look at the lack of playoff football as a bit of a sore spot, the development of the Giants has been admirable, having doubled upon their win total from their debut season in 2019. Sticking to this season and beyond, though, this game does provide a chance for coaches to give players and play designs game reps they may have otherwise not gotten. Making sure to get the likes of Ross McKenzie schemed up to add to how much pressure he’s put on Quarterbacks this season may be of high priority if the Giants want to keep themselves in this game — the team’s sack leader has 4 sacks in a run-heavy league and is second on the division leaderboard.

The Mavericks will also get a chance to experiment with their own personnel and scheme as Louth already have Bowl game contention locked up. Also trying to maintain an undefeated streak in their division, the Mavs can improve to 7-0 this Sunday, with the likes of RBs Brendan Simms and Dan Finley, and QB Nathan Hearty all very likely to see playing time for large portions to make sure they get over the finish line with the W in tact. Still, with young players coming up through youth and flag football ranks, it would be interesting and — particularly in the long run for Louth — beneficial for the Mavericks to make sure to get fresh blood on the field in this one, especially if the game goes the way many likely see it going.

#2 Antrim Jets (4-2) @ #5 North Dublin Pirates (0-6*) — Trinity Sports Campus, Santry, 2pm
It’s been a horrific season for the Pirates who had, up until this season, been a competitive team in Div 2. The 2 year hiatus inn AFI action due to COVID-19 was clearly cruel to North Dublin, with the team unable to find any of the tricks that made the team click before 2020. With two games left in the season it’s unlikely they find that spark that leads them to a win, however the Pirates will be sure to make some impressions on film in preparations for more individual and collective success in 2023.

This is all to say that, most likely, the Jets fly into the Division 2 bowl game with a win this Sunday. While Antrim will need to be sure to not rest on their laurels, the 35-0 result at the Forum is evidence enough that the Jets can put this game away handily enough. QB Scot McLean has been one of the MVPs of this Division, while a ruthless pass rush (5 of the top 10 pass rushers in Division 2 come from the Jets defense) will be sure to not give the Pirates offense an inch. Much like with the Mavericks, there’s potential here for the Jets to give some depth pieces plenty of game time this weekend.

Quickfire Predictions
Rebels 27 – 10 Cowboys
Vikings 10 – Minotaurs 20
Mavericks 30 – 12 Giants
Jets 32 – 6 Pirates

Clinching Scenarios
AFI Premier Division
Dublin Rebels
— clinch #1 seed with win @ Cowboys
Craigavon Cowboys — eliminated from playoff contention with loss vs Rebels

AFI Division 1
UL Vikings
— clinch home-field advantage with win OR tie @ Minotaurs

AFI Division 2
Antrim Jets
— clinch Division 2 Bowl spot with win @ Pirates

Review: AFI Gameweek 13

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

This past weekend provided plenty of interesting developments in both the Premier Division and Division 1. A loss from earlier in the season was avenged, a #1 seed was confirmed and the list of potential playoff scenarios was cut by a considerable amount. This weekend also saw the unfortunate forfeiture of Trinity’s season, which leaves them 4-4 on the season. This now means that the UL Vikings (who received a win for Sunday’s scheduled matchup), Donegal/Derry Vipers and Cill Dara Crusaders have qualified for the Division 1 playoffs . However, with one spot for home-field advantage still up for grabs in that division, along with 4 teams still eligible for the final 2 available Premier Division playoff spots, let’s see what kind of an impact Gameweek 13 left on the impending postseason!

Record: ¹ = Secured Playoff Appearance
² = Secured Home-Field Advantage
³ = Eliminated from Playoffs

AFI Premier Division

#4 South Dublin Panthers (3-3) 20 – 33 #5 Belfast Trojans (3-3)
Correcting their loss to the South Dublin side in Gameweek 3, the Trojans improved their post-Wolfhounds bye week form and home record to 3-0 Sunday. After a tight 14-13 first half, which included a 60+ yard TD for Panthers RB Ben Arulogun to open South Dublin’s scoring, the Trojans well and truly pulled away, going up 33-14 by midway through the 4th before the Panthers added on a score at the end. RBs Jona Siri and Mo Ramadan punched in 2 TDs apiece, while QB James McKelvey took one in on a QB sneak. Panthers QB Ian Cahill, trying to push his offense forward to keep up with the Trojans scoring, threw an interception by Trojans S Thomas Boyde, who picked up his 5th on the season.

The result makes things incredibly interesting in these final few Gameweeks. Though still currently below the Panthers on H2H points difference, should both teams and the #3 Admirals (4-2) finish on the same 4-4 record, Belfast could still get themselves in. This scenario requires Cork losing their game vs UCD and the Trojans beating Cork by 10 or more points. While there’s some very specific requirements for that, they could also get in straight up by record, by winning at least one more game and the Panthers losing out in games vs #6 Cowboys (2-4) and @ #1 Rebels (6-0). For the Panthers, winning both of those games is a must which will see them qualify for the playoffs.

#3 Cork Admirals (4-2) 44 – 0 #7 Dublin Rhinos (1-6)³
This one got out of hand quick. Knowing a win would keep them alive for potentially the #2 seed, Cork travelled to Castleknock and were relentless through to the final whistle. With another 5 TD performance, QB Stephen Hayes has thrusted himself into tied-2nd on the passing TD leaderboard following a static start to the season. On the end of those passes were WRs Jahn Dasini (who also had a punt return TD), Declan Maye (2), Jack Cronin and Ryan Price. 2 interceptions and sacks for the defense capped a shutout for the Cork outfit who could lose their remaining fixtures (vs #2 UCD and vs #5 Trojans) and still find a way into the playoffs pending other results. With playoff football around the corner, look for Cork to keep the heat up.

For the Rhinos it’s been a very difficult season to get through. Even including their lone 28-16 win over #6 Craigavon, the Rhinos offense has averaged less than a touchdown a game (5.71ppg), including 4 games with no points. Things have not appeared much better on defense, averaging 33.71ppg allowed on the season. With the final game of the season confirmed now to essentially be a Survival Bowl, the Rhinos will need to dig deep for a performance @ #8 Knights, a game they may very well go into as underdogs.

AFI Division 1

#4 Cill Dara Crusaders (3-4)¹ 7 – 34 #1 Westmeath Minotaurs (7-0)²
Trinity’s forfeit led this to be a moot point of a game, but with pride on the line against 2 rival teams, Westmeath came out after the final whistle with their undefeated streak in tact. Another 2 passing TD performance for QB Joe Kinahan, connecting with WR Jack Lynch (5 receiving TDs on the season) and TE Dermot Corroon. Kinahan added one on the ground with a QB sneak, while RB Andrew Paton earned his first rushing TD of the season. Westmeath’s defense put in another performance we’ve come to expect from Division 1’s #1 seed, swarming all over the run game and creating havoc in the pocket for step-in QB Robert Browne (with Jordan Farrell made unavailable for the game) through the likes of LB Steven Nally and DE Niall Corcoran. The pressure created 6 interceptions, including 3 from CB Peter Dempsey (6 on the year), and a pick 6 from S Jason Owens. The win leaves the Minotaurs a home win vs Vikings this weekend away from an undefeated regular season.

Cill Dara go to 3-4 on the season after a frustrating day which saw the odd chunk play negated by defensive stops or aforementioned turnovers. With a backup QB in the game, the Crusaders were always going to be fighting an uphill battle in Mullingar. A good early start saw Browne connect with WR Kealan Farrell on a 45 yard TD, but being unable to establish the run game with RB Luke Carey further added to Cill Dara’s problems. DE Craig Dooley picking up 2 sacks and Karl Bracken picking off Kinahan towards the end of the game added some highlights to an otherwise slow day at the office for Cill Dara. Their final game of the season (vs #3 Vipers, July 10th) will leave the loser travelling to the Minotaurs the following week. With neither team picking up great results against the Westmeath sides, both will be looking to fire on all cylinders in Newbridge.

Preview: AFI Gameweek 13

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

Happy Father’s Day Weekend, folks! With a scorcher of a weekend on the cards weather-wise, this gameweek has actually worked out to be a great card for American football across the island. 4 games take place this weekend, 2 apiece for Premier Division and Division 1, with everything from confirmation of a relegation battle to a #1 seed up for play. Will AFI Gameweek 13 be an unlucky 13 for any teams this week? Let’s try call the action ahead.

Record: ¹ = Secured Playoff Appearance
                   ² = Secured Home-Field Advantage
                   ³ = Eliminated from Playoffs

AFI Premier Division

#4 South Dublin Panthers (3-2) @ #5 Belfast Trojans (2-3) — Deramore Park, 2pm
What a turn of events for this one. The first of this 2-game series was played back in Gameweek 3, and the Panthers winning that one (let alone by a 42-13 scoreline) surprised a lot of people. The Panthers won their season opener and their next 2 games, while the Big T fell to 0-3 by May 1st. Since then the tables have truly turned: the Trojans, since returning to Deramore Park, have outscored their opponents 84-19, while the Panthers haven’t scored on offense in their last 2 games. Injuries and tougher opposition have contributed to that latter stat, and it’s a cloud the South Dublin side will look to rid themselves of this Sunday. With S Thomas Boyde lurking around the defensive backfield looking to add his 5th INT of the year, QB Ian Cahill — having thrown 7 INTs in the last 2 games — will need to take a lot better care of the ball against a team on fire right now.

A vital game when discussing potential tiebreakers for the #3 and #4 seeds in the playoffs. For a straight H2H advantage over the Panthers, the Trojans would need a 30-point victory, and while that may seem like a tall task on face value, they have won each of their home games this season by 30 or more (#6 Cowboys, #7 Rhinos). The Panthers aren’t that level of competition — they are currently in playoff positioning for a reason — and while this writer takes the Trojans to win, the Panthers should maintain their H2H points difference advantage over Belfast.

#3 Cork Admirals (3-2) @ #7 Dublin Rhinos (1-5)³ — Castleknock College, 2pm
To Dublin now where we see a team trying to avoid a relegation scrap at the end of the season hosting a rising Shamrock Bowl dark horse. The Rhinos defend their home-field for the final time this season, knowing a win will put them in great position to playing Premier Division football again next year. Dublin will be looking to the likes of Nico Marrimpoey, Gar O’Rourke and joint sack leader Samson Olusegun to keep the pressure on Cork QB Stephen Hayes, with the trio already having collected 13 sacks in 6 games this year. An aggressive pass rush has, unfortunately for the Castleknock-based outfit, not generated many turnovers and opportunities to get the offense on the field, only totaling 2 INTs so far this year. QB Ethan Foster and co. will be looking for a performance on offense akin to their 28-16 upset of the Cowboys, momentum from which they have since lost. Having scored just 12 points in the 5 games outside of that victory, the Rhinos will need to dig deep for another special game.

This one seems a lot more straightforward for the visiting Admirals. A win Sunday puts them in pretty good positioning for playoff football in July, giving Cork a 66.7% chance of qualifying this season without relying on results elsewhere. QB Stephen Hayes has been quickly shooting up the passing leaderboards, with Hayes and WR Jack Cronin building great chemistry as the year has progressed. Between the offense clicking more and more over the past few weeks and the defense and the defense not giving up more than 21 points in a single game this season, it’s hard to go with a result here that doesn’t go in Cork’s favour.

AFI Division 1

#4 Trinity (4-1*) @ #3 UL Vikings (3-2-1) — Maguire’s Field, 2pm
A difficult game to get a read on in this one, as we see a team who forfeited their last fixture travelling to a team who was shutout at home 2 weeks ago. This is the second in the UL/Trinity series this year, with Trinity grinding out a 6-0 win in Santry back in March. The Dublin Students will be eager to kick up the standard of that offensive performance, with QB Ben Dowling looking to improve on his 4 TD season. O’Dwyer brothers Conor and Rory will be key in the playmaking department for Trinity, consistently showing up as highlight performers on offense for years now. Consistent pressure on defense has been and likely will be the gameplan Sunday for Trinity, having so far schemed 6 players into at least 1 sack (including joint second in the sack list, James Cushing).

UL will likely use their option offense and designed QB runs to slow down the Trinity pass rush which should open up lanes to pass the ball, similar to how they attacked the Crusaders (#5, 2-3) defense in their 39-47 victory in Newbridge. A concern for the offense must be noted after failing to score at home when the #1 Minotaurs visited in Gameweek 11 though, and a gutsy performance from the Vikings offensive line will be needed to keep that Trinity pressure out of the way of QB Kieran Gilhool and create gaps for star RBs Eoin Rudkins and Sean Grace (3 TDs each). After a 3 sack game 2 weeks ago, sack leader DE Robert Browne will be itching for more this weekend against Dowling, though he will be competing in that department with fellow DL William Campbell. With 7 INTs on the season so far the defensive backfield has been all over tipped and rushed passes, so Vikings coaches will be looking for ways to create opportunities against a QB who has generally been very safe with the ball in his hands.

This writer will err on the side of caution and go with the home team looking to avenge their recent display on offense, as well as their loss earlier in the year. With better conditions this weekend, expect more points on the board.

#5 Cill Dara Crusaders (2-3) @ #1 Westmeath Minotaurs (5-0)¹ — Mullingar RFC, 2pm
Cill Dara come into this one knowing that an upset win Sunday is key to their playoff hopes, needing a win from either this game or @ Trinity (July 2nd) AND a victory over #2 Vipers in Derry at the end of the season to earn postseason football. QB Jordan Farrell has always been a gunslinger-type, especially this season (6 TDs: 9 INTs), but that ride-or-die style could actually be of benefit Sunday, with the Crusaders unable to play it too safe against an aggressive defense like Westmeath. RB Luke Carey (3 TDs) will also be sure to pop up in some key moments, having scored his first senior touchdown against the Minotaurs in their friendly series back in September. Craig Dooley has been the main bread-winner in the Cill Dara pass rush, tallying 4 sacks while also contributing in pressure that has led to the Crusaders’ 4 team INTs this season. Always ready for a tough game, Cill Dara will need all hands on deck for any chance of knocking off the #1 seed.

Which, on the flip side, could be locked up for Westmeath by Sunday’s end. The Minotaurs has taken a massive turn for the better near the end of the 2010s, going from leaky to water-tight over the space of 2 years, and have continued that trend this season. Much like the Dublin Rebels in the Premier Division, an understated pass rush has created more pressure than sacks, resulting in 5 INTs on defense (including 3 for division-leader CB Peter Dempsey) and no pass TDs allowed thus far. Add to that an offense picking up consistent yardage on the ground and through the air, and it makes for a difficult team to travel to. With the offense returning home for the first time since April 10th, expect a more performance by a more comfortable unit looking to put out a showing that asserts themselves as the team to beat moving into July’s postseason.

A win for Westmeath confirms home-field advantage in the playoffs, while their win and Trinity failing to beat UL would secure the #1 for the Minotaurs. Knowing what they could lock up this week, it’s hard not to back them here.

Quickfire Predictions
Panthers 17 – 27 Trojans
Admirals 24 – 8 Rhinos
Trinity 14 – 17 Vikings
Crusaders 6 – 24 Minotaurs

Clinching/Elimination Scenarios
AFI Premier Division
Rebels — secure home-field with Panthers Loss/Tie @ Trojans
UCD — secure home-field advantage with Admirals Loss/Tie @ Rhinos

AFI Division 1
Minotaurs — secure home-field advantage with Win vs Crusaders
secure #1 seed with Win vs Crusaders AND Trinity Loss/Tie @ Vikings

Make sure to keep an eye on our socials over the weekend so you can give your own predictions!

Review: AFI Gameweek 12

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

… everyone take a breath and calm down…

Gameweek 12 provided the smallest slate of games we’ve seen from a gameweek this season, but what a thrill ride it was. Between AFI Division 2’s Bowl game slots being all but filled, and the wild back and forth we witnessed in the game at the top of the Premier Division, a lot happened in last Sunday’s 2 games. How do they impact the rest of the season? Let’s have a look.

Record: ¹ = Secured Playoff Appearance
                   ² = Secured Home-Field Advantage
                   ³ = Eliminated from Playoffs

AFI Premier Division
#2 UCD (6-1)¹ 30 – 34 #1 Dublin Rebels (6-0)¹
Talk about game of the year. A surprising first half saw the Rebels take a 22 point lead at one stage, but a fantastic second half saw UCD slowly claw back that lead, making it a one-score game by midway through the fourth with the a strong rushing attack through QB Arun Mooney and RB Jack Finnegan, along with the UCD defense impressing by keeping the Rebels out of the endzone. The game had an ending fitting of the hype surrounding it: Mooney threw for his second TD on the day inside the 2 minute warning (his first to WR Sean Douglas, this one to WR Cian Lawlor), only for Rebels WR Dave King to come down with a clutch catch in traffic in the endzone on a deep ball from QB Ty Henry just seconds later.

Henry himself had 2 passing TDs (King, Cathal Keane) and contributed to 1 of 3 Rebels rushing TDs  — the others coming from King and RB Wello Omorodion. On defense, Kenny McCarthy had himself a day with a sack, a forced fumble and a recovery, while rising star CB Rex Harding came away with an INT. Not to be forgotten about, the UCD defense had some great individual performances on top of the effort that led to the almost-comeback, with Larry Doyle coming away with a sack and a safety and James Twomey totaling 2 sacks.

The #1 seed currently lies in the Rebels hands, but that could change between now and July 10th. UCD have a date @ #3 Admirals (3-2, July 2nd), where a win or less-than-20-point loss will still guarantee home-field playoffs. The Rebels travel to #6 Cowboys (2-4, June 26th) — who will be fighting for their playoff hopes — and host #4 Panthers (3-2) on the final day of the season.

AFI Division 2

#4 Causeway Giants (2-4*)³ 0 – 32 Antrim Jets (4-2)
From a tight, game of the year candidate to one that was in total control for one team. The Giants fell to the Jets 32-0 at the Forum, a result that sees the Causeway side fall out of playoff contention. With QB Nathan Chapman unable to get going on offense due to a relentless pass rush — Mark MacFadyen (3), Dean McNeill (2) and Kevin Montague combined for 6 sacks — opportunities were few and far between for the Giants, with Chapman eventually throwing an interception to Jets LB Ryan Beckett. As has been the case with the Giants this season, some incredible efforts were put in by the defense despite the scoreline: oft-praised defender Ross McKenzie had an absurd day, finishing with 2 blocked kicks, a forced fumble and an INT, while DL Francis D’Souza also shone bright, collecting 2 sacks and a forced fumble. The Giants season, at least in terms of playoff contention, may be over, but there is certainly a lot to be excited about when they compete in Division 2 in 2023.

For the Jets, it’s a result that sends the Antrim side even closer to the Division 2 bowl game. With 4 rushing TDs for the offense the Jets ground-and-pound approach proved very effective. QB Scot McLean ran one in himself but also added a score through the air, with Joey Howe on the end of it. The aforementioned pass rush swarmed all over the Giants O and never really relented, pitching their 3rd consecutive shutout. With their defense truly stepping up since their 20-16 loss to the Razorbacks and some fantastic offensive performances all season, the Jets have put themselves in great position to upset the #1 Mavericks (6-0)¹ in the last Gameweek of the season and, potentially, the Division 2 Bowl. A win in either of their remaining 2 games — @ #6 Pirates (0-6*)³ June 26th, @ Mavericks July 9th — OR a Razorbacks loss — vs Pirates July 3rd or @ Giants July 16th — will send the Jets soaring to the bowl game.

The end of the regular season is just around the corner, and with all the different scenarios for relegation and playoff qualification starting to shape up, the next few weeks of AFI football are set to be the hottest gameweeks yet! Check in later in the week for our preview of Gameweek 13, where 4 games across Premier Division and Division 1 can seal anything from a relegation head-to-head at the end of the season, to playoff qualification and even home-field advantage!

Preview: AFI Gameweek 12

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

After several consecutive weeks with 4-5 games taking place, Gameweek 12 provides a less-is-more approach: only 2 games take place this Sunday (a Pirates forfeit to Razorbacks in Division 2 brings the total down from 3), but both games are HUGE for their respective divisions. Division 2 has a win-to-keep-your-hopes-alive scenario for the Giants, Division 1 takes the week off, while the Premier Division will be showcased by perhaps the most anticipated game of this regular season. In fact, let’s start with that game!

Record: ¹ = Secured Playoff Appearance
                   ² = Secured Home-Field Advantage
                   ³ = Eliminated from Playoffs

AFI Premier Division

#1 UCD (6-0)¹ @ #2 Dublin Rebels (5-0)¹ — De La Salle RFC, Glenamuck, 2pm
Don’t even try saying you’re not excited for this one. Undefeated vs undefeated; #1 vs #2, the battle for the top of the table: this should be the game of the regular season. UCD winning this one would secure the #1 seed, as they would be 7-0, with one game remaining, and the head-to-head over the Rebels would leave the hosts finishing the season 7-1 as a moot point — although if the Rebels win they are in favourable position for that #1 seed too. UCD certainly have the talent to do it, with a — quite frankly — unfair RB duo in Sean McVeigh and Jack Finnegan who are, in case you forgot, rookies. A nasty offensive line and weapons galore in the passing game (including Sean Douglas and Cian Lawlor) has made QB Arun Mooney’s job about as easy as can be expected in the Premier Division. That’s not to take away from Mooney though, who has thrown 19 TDs through these first 6 games.

The Rebels have their own superstar QB in Ty Henry, who is tied for 2nd on the passing touchdown leaderboard while also taking in 2 himself through 5 games this year. Star WRs Greg Johnson and David King have torn it up so far this year with 5 TDs apiece, while rushing TD leader Wello Omorodion has been a problem for defenses for years now.

You’d almost predict a shootout in this one, until you realise that this game also boasts 2 of the most productive defenses seen in the Premier Division in quite some time. While the Rebels defensive line has not wowed in the sack department, they are underestimated because of their production in a stat that we cannot track: pressure, more specifically pressure resulting in turnovers. The Rebels have 16 INTs on the year, including a whopping 6 from CB Dylan Paisley, while they also have on their roster one of the best cover corners in Ireland under the age of 23 in Rex Harding. UCD, no strangers to impressive talent on defense, boast the likes of tied sack leader Larry Doyle (4), Calum Henry (3), Dan Verzuh (3 INTs, t-3rd) and rookie Eoghan McMahon (2).

So, prediction time… who knows? The matchups this Sunday is #1 offense vs #1 defense, and #2 offense vs #2 defense. It’s basically a coin flip for this writer, and in the same superstitious thinking that tails never fails, in situations like these it’s always difficult to side very slightly with the hosts. This feels like the type of game to be decided on the final possession, and it seems like football fans across Ireland can’t wait to see it unfold.

AFI Division 2

#4 Causeway Giants (2-3) @ #2 Antrim Jets (3-2) — Antrim Forum, 2pm
A must-win for the Giants, who need to win out and hope for a handful of results to go their way to sneak into the Division 2 bowl game. They will need a massive effort put in to regain the momentum needed for that run, especially after last week’s 39-0 loss to the #1 Mavs (6-0)¹. A loss eliminates the Causeway crew — who will be hoping for a return to action for Tiernan and Ruairi Boorman, the apparent X-factor players on that offense — from playoff contention. A quick bounce back from the Causeway Giants defense will be on the priority list for this Sunday too, with DL Ross McKenzie (4 sacks, t-2nd) likely being let loose to hunt down Scot McLean again after getting a sack on the Jets QB at Limepark 4 weeks ago.

A win for the Jets, meanwhile, would be a huge push towards the #2 seed into the Division 2 bowl. With the #3 Razorbacks now 3-3 due to the Pirates forfeit this weekend, a win Sunday would all but secure the #2 seed — for them to drop the place in the bowl, Antrim would need to lose out while the Razorbacks would need to win their remaining 2 games. QB Scot McLean has been the driving force behind Antrim’s push to the bowl, scoring 10 total TDs this year while leading Division 2 in both passing and rushing TDs. Inarguably the best QB in the division this season, his talents have been highlighted even more by the likes of Jay Burton and Eoin Delargy as his main pass-catching targets and a strong offensive line. Antrim are no slouches on defense either, ranking #2 in the division while dominating around the line of scrimmage and pressuring QBs with the likes of Curtis McLeish (4 sacks), Ryan Beckett and Robert Newman (both 3).

The Giants are the type of team that, when on their A game, can put a real test up against any opponent in this division. The Jets, however, have a lot stronger chances of making the bowl game, and their players know how important of a game this is for them. With them being 2-1 so far on the year at the Forum, they’ll also be keen to keep that home record above .500, so will be itching to make some plays to get them ahead early. With a defense that has really wrapped up tight since their opener (averaging 7.0ppg), it’s hard not to go with the Jets here.

Quickfire Predictions
UCD 23 – 24 Rebels
Giants 7 – 21 Jets

Playoff-Clinching Scenarios
AFI Premier Division
UCD — clinch home-field advantage and #1 seed with Win @ Rebels

AFI Division 2
Causeway Giants — eliminated from Bowl game contention with Loss @ Jets

Review: AFI Gameweek 11

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

Sunday’s 4 games across Ireland impacted the seasons of more than just the teams who competed. Playoff hopes were heightened or dashed altogether for a multitude of teams this past weekend as the sun slowly begins to set on the regular season and teams look towards playoff football. What went down, and who came out the better from each game? Let’s take a look.

Record: ¹ = Secured Playoff Appearance
                   ² = Secured Home-Field Advantage
                   ³ = Eliminated from Playoffs

AFI Premier Division

#7 Dublin Rhinos (1-5)³ 0 – 35 #5 Belfast Trojans (2-3)
Sunday, the Trojans continued to ride the surging wave of momentum they find themselves on with a 35-point blowout-shutout of the Rhinos. James McKelvey added another performance more reminiscent of his 2019 season than how this year started, throwing for 2TDs, one each to WRs Michael Ferris and Dominic Lynn — the latter taking over QB duties late in the game. RB John Haughey was a particular standout performer on offense Sunday, rustling his way through the Rhinos defense for most of the day, taking the ball into the endzone twice. Adam McElwee added a score on the ground himself late on. The gameplan that led to the shutout seemed very focused on creating havoc in the pocket, with the defense racking up 4 sacks, while DB Thomas Boyde came down with 2 INTs. The rough start has certainly woken up the Belfast side, as they are now 2-0 at home, outscoring their opponents 84-19 in that timeframe. With a shaken #4 Panthers (3-2) game on the horizon that has big H2H tiebreaker implications for playoff spots, the Trojans could be on the rise at the right time.

It wasn’t to be for the Rhinos, who fall to 1-5 and out of playoff competition with the loss in Belfast as they give up tiebreakers to the Trojans and to the Panthers and can only finish as high as 3-5. QB Ethan Foster was injured early in this one and, with an already depleted roster, it became an increasingly difficult task to get out of Belfast with a result. The defense got after it and tried to spark some life into their push for some points with some excellent individual performances. DE Samson Olusegun starred with a 3 sack, 2 forced fumbles day, kicking him up to 5 sacks on the year and up near the top of the sack leaders chart for Premier Division. On a day with a limited player pool and further injuries the Rhinos were decidedly beaten and pushed further into the relegation mix with the Knights.

#8 Belfast Knights (0-6)³ 21 – 41 #3 Cork Admirals (3-2)
A difficult season for the Knights became even more so on Sunday, suffering another large defeat despite putting a second-straight 21 point performance on the board. McDowell put in another good shift at QB for Belfast, throwing a score to WR Jordan Clinton while also taking in 2 TDs on the ground. A pick 6 by Admirals defender Owen Chandler evened McDowell’s passer rating out, though (at least on offense) the Knights should be happy with the improvement in their output over the course of the season. DB Josh Harvey came away with an INT from a Stephen Hayes pass but, other than that, it was a performance the Knights defense would like to forget. Many will look towards July 10th’s matchup with the Rhinos as a “win-an-you’re-in” type game with regards to Premier Division 2023, but a Knights loss to the Trojans and a Rhinos upset of the Admirals before that July 10th game would seal the Knights’ fate and relegate them to Division 1 next year.

Cork will look at Sunday a lot more positively, taking another step towards the playoffs while coming into their stride on offense down the stretch. A 5 TD performance from QB Stephen Hayes will reassert his position as a legitimate QB capable of bringing a Shamrock Bowl to Cork, while WR Jack Cronin added his 3rd and 4th receiving TD of the year on 2 of Hayes’ scores. A breakout day for Ryan Price included 2 receiving TDs of his own. The aforementioned pick 6 by Chandler was the highlight of the day for the Admirals defense, adding to sacks from Shane Hourihane and Reese Wynman + Aaron Hogan. The Admirals may need to take a second look at this game and figure out how they gave up 21 points, as they have tougher tests with the likes of #1 UCD (6-0)¹ in their future, as well as whoever they face away in their potential playoff game.

AFI Division 1

#1 Westmeath Minotaurs (5-0)¹ 16 – 0 #3 UL Vikings (3-2-1)
Westmeath kept their undefeated streak in Division 1 alive with a 16-0 win in UL. With the defense pitching another shutout the Minotaurs are comfortably sitting in the #1 seed, needing just 1 result to go their way to secure home-field in the playoffs. Fumble recoveries from LB Darren Sammon and DL Keith O’Grady regained possession for the Westmeath outfit in their own territory, while a field goal block and recovery by DB Jason Owens took away expected points on the board for the Vikings. On offense, QB Joe Kinahan threw his 4th and 5th passing TD on the year to WR Jack Lynch (who later left the game due to injury) and TE Conor Dougherty — who scored his first receiving score on the year. With #5 Crusaders (2-3) on June 19th and the Vikings visiting Mullingar RFC on June 26th, the Minotaurs seem to be in prime position to keep their winning ways in tact.

UL will be disappointed not to have come away with points on the board Sunday, let alone a win. With a defense that generated pressure all day against an oft-praised offensive line (Kinahan was sacked 6 times — 3 times each by Robert Brown and William Campbell), the Vikings D forced plenty of opportunities for the offense to capitalise. UL, unfortunately, could not capitilise on any of those opportunities, which included an INT at midfield by DB Adam Wixted off a tipped ball. A date with #4 Trinity (4-1*) on June 19th is next on the plate for the Vikings, which will prove vital for playoff seeding. Generating the same pressure on defense as they did last Sunday while creating more explosive plays on offense could make for a more positive result for UL.

AFI Division 2

#4 Causeway Giants (2-3*) 0 – 39 #1 Louth Mavericks (6-0)¹
It was much the same from the Mavericks Sunday, taking another step towards an undefeated season of their own and towards the Division 2 Bowl game. RB Brendan Simms had yet another 4 TD game, firmly taking hold of the top of the rushing TD leaderboard — in case that wasn’t enough, he also grabbed another INT in an outstanding individual game. RB Dan Finley was injured in this one, but made sure to score a TD and a sack on defense of his own before that. QB Nathan Hearty threw for his 2nd TD of the season, with Declan Mulvihill grabbing it and taking it to the endzone. On defense, LB Stephen Traynor took charge with an INT and 1.5 sacks, the .5 coming on an effort with DL Donal Drew, while Liam McNally took down the Giants QB twice. With their date in the final secure, the Mavs will now look to push forward with their quest for an undefeated season, with the return fixture @ Giants (June 26th) and vs #2 Jets (3-2, July 9th) the 2 remaining games in front of them.

Not the result the Giants will have been hoping for in this one, though without the Boorman brothers in their offense for this game the cards were stacked against them from the beginning. Michael McCafferty will certainly have a few more eyes on him from his own sideline as well as opposing coaches in the games to come, as he will likely see even more game reps after blocking 2 XPs Sunday. Apart from McCafferty’s display there was little to be excited about on the Causeway sideline last weekend, with this result potentially locking them out of the bowl game due to their Gameweek 1 forfeit and their current H2H record against the Jets and #3 Razorbacks (2-3). With games against both those teams there is Bowl game hope remaining, though a loss at home on the 26th to the Mavericks will likely be the nail on the head.

Keep an eye out for our Gameweek 12 Review later this week. A short slate takes places this weekend, but includes perhaps the biggest matchup we’ve had this regular season!

Preview: AFI Gameweek 11

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

School may be out for summer, but the 2022 AFI Kitted Season is still in full swing, with teams across the country throttling forward towards playoff qualification or punching the gas as hard as possible in attempts to avoid relegation battles. Gameweek 11 provides 4 games across Ireland’s 3 divisions, all with increasingly pressing playoff and demotion implications that teams will either look back on as clutch performances or missed opportunities. What teams are happening this weekend? And who is impacted from this Sunday’s action?? Let’s take a look

* Note: Trinity @ Donegal / Derry Vipers was due to take place this weekend, though we have been informed Trinity have forfeited this fixture. Vipers therefore earn the tiebreaker over the Students should it be needed at the end of the regular season.

Record: ¹ = Secured Playoff Appearance
² = Secured Home-Field Advantage
 ³ = Eliminated from Playoffs

AFI Premier Division

#7 Dublin Rhinos (1-4) @ #6 Belfast Trojans (1-3) — Derramore Park, Belfast, 2pm
Fresh off a massively impressive (and important) home-debut win vs #5 Cowboys (2-4) last Sunday, the Trojans come into this one with new life. The goal coming into the season was to defend their National Championship and, while that chances of hitting that target were/are still under threat, the Trojans seem to have found the right formula to getting back on that path. The only knock from the game that could carry forward is a still-somewhat-leaky defense (allowed 3 TDs), though when an offense can carry the game like it did vs Craigavon (49 points scored) that can be forgiven, especially when this week’s opponents provide a lot less prolific of an offense (8ppg).

The Rhinos desperately need a win in Belfast, and it’s not out of the realm of possibility. Still sitting in a relegation triple threat, the Rhinos could nearly clinch survival with an upset here. While they were outmatched in their most recent fixture with #1 UCD (6-0)¹, they showed in their 28-16 win over the Cowboys that they can pull some — pardon the irony — Trojan performances out of the bag. QB Ethan Foster has offered a dual-threat in previous games this season too, which can always provide an unpredictable element to a game. While the Trojans carry so much more momentum and will (arguably, should) be favoured here, this writer is not entirely ruling out being caught out twice in one season by the same team.

#8 Belfast Knights (0-5) @ #4 Cork Admirals (2-2) — Old Christians RFC, Cork, 2pm
The Knights are in a tough spot here. Perhaps the one team in the whole of Ireland most in need of a win this weekend, the black and gold make the cross-country travel down to an on-fire Admirals squad. The Knights welcomed back the likes of WR/K Marty Caskey and other returning faces that will make a massive impact on their offensive output, hoping to churn out more performances like their 3TD game vs the #1-ranked Rebels defense 2 weeks ago. What they will need to have rectified by Sunday is their defense, who gave up 48 points in that game, as Cork have scored 20+ points in each of their last 2 games. Similar to their Dublin-based relegation battle counterparts, the Knights are the underdog in most people’s eyes but, also like the Rhinos, could pull of the upset. A loss here turns their matchup with the Rhinos on July 10th into the Premier Division survival bowl.

The Admirals host just their second home game of the year and will be looking for a better result than that game’s 20-0 loss (Rebels). QB Stephen Hayes and his men seem to have found a rhythm on offense which should make them a more viable threat as we head towards the playoffs. Already a strong contender due to their defensive displays, an efficient offense could make this team a Shamrock Bowl contender, especially by the time mid-July rolls around. Cork will need to be sure to not let the Knights into this game and strengthen their own grip on a playoff position. Like that playoff position, though, a win Sunday is far from guaranteed.

AFI Division 1

#1 Westmeath Minotaurs (4-0) @ #2 UL Vikings (3-1-1) — Maguire’s Field, Limerick, 2pm
A battle at the top of a division thrown into disarray after Trinity’s surprising forfeit of this Sunday’s fixture with the Vipers at City of Derry RFC. The forfeit sees the Vikings jump to the #2 seed with a points difference tiebreaker over the #3 Vipers. RB duo Eoin Rudkins and Sean Grace will be out for scores this Sunday, each scoring 3TDs on the ground this year, while on defense, the Vikings will be drawing up pressure in the pocket with the likes of Rob Browne, who has a 3-sack season thus far. That defense has only given up 1 touchdown per game at Maguire’s field this season, so the Vikings know what it takes to defend home turf.

The Minotaurs come into this one after taking a 24-7 win home from their trip north to Donegal / Derry last Sunday. The Kinahan-Lynch connection has scored 3 times in their first 2 played games (Minotaurs have 2 forfeit wins from the now-folded Wexford Eagles), and the offense has a whole seemed largely improved from their season opener. Maintaining an impressive streak was their defense, who have only given up one touchdown this season. The Minotaurs likely trek to Limerick as favourites, and will secure playoff positioning with a win Sunday, as well as being a win and a half ahead of the competition for home-field advantage in the playoffs. A loss in Limerick for the Westmeath side would truly kick the division wide-open.

AFI Division 2

#4 Causeway Giants (2-2) @ #1 Louth Mavericks (5-0) — Dundalk RFC, 2pm
Another win-and-you’re-in situation, this time for the undefeated Division 2-leading Louth Mavericks. Starting the year 5-0, the Mavericks have shown they are the team to beat in Division 2, averaging 29.2ppg on offense while conceding just 6.8ppg. They are having a lot of fun on offense clearly, having so far logged 5 individual touchdown scorers, while the defense has been hunting for the ball all season, coming away with 9 takeaways. It seems inevitable that Louth will qualify for the Division 2 bowl game (July 31st), it’s just a case of when they qualify. Could it be this Sunday? Perhaps, but the Giants have a case of their own.

Sat in the #4 seed at the moment due to a point deduction from their season-opening forfeit, the Giants are aching for a win here to keep them alive in the race for the #2 seed into the bowl game. The Boorman brothers on offense seemed to have gotten things moving on offense until the shutout by #2 Jets, so will likely be coming out swinging against an even bigger opponent. DL Ross McKenzie has been bossing his way through offensive lines all season for the Giants and has inspired his team around him, having so far accounted for 4 sacks, a forced fumble, a recovery and a safety — most chances of stopping the explosive Louth offense run through him. A win away from home against a team like the Mavericks seems unlikely, but more surprising results have occurred this season…

Quickfire Predictions
Rhinos 14 – 27 Trojans
Knights 13 – 19 Admirals
Minotaurs 23 – 10 Vikings
Giants 8 – 16 Mavericks

Playoff Scenarios
AFI Premier Division
UCD
— Secure home-field advantage with Admirals Loss OR Tie vs Knights
Belfast Knights — Eliminated from playoff contention with Loss @ Admirals.

AFI Division 1
Westmeath Minotaurs — Secure playoff berth with Win @ Vikings

AFI Division 2
Louth Mavericks — Secure bowl game berth with Win vs Giants

Review: AFI Gameweek 10

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

4 games took place Sunday past for AFI Gameweek 10, and with more than 200 points scored, home debuts and playoff positions being fought for, there were plenty of fireworks on display! Now that the smoke has cleared and the dust has settled from Sunday’s action, let’s take a look back at how it all unfolded, and how that leaves both the Premier Division and Division 1, with Division 2 taking the week off.

Record: ¹ = Secured Playoff Appearance
                   ² = Secured Home-Field Advantage
                   ³ = Eliminated from Playoffs

AFI Premier Division

#1 UCD (6-0)¹ 44 – 6 #3 South Dublin Panthers (3-2)
Not a good run of form at all for the Panthers from the last few weeks, failing to defend home turf and being blown out by the current #1 seed. The offense was also shutout for the 2nd straight game (while QB Ian Cahill threw for his 11th INT on the season), with the Panthers relying on the defense again to prevent the dreaded goose egg on the scoreboard — this time DB Andrew Reddy picking off UCD QB Arun Mooney and housing it. Having started the year hot, South Dublin has actually cooled off as we roll into the summer months, being outscored 25-68 since the Easter break and going 1-2 in that timeframe. Taking that run of form into a playoff push is far from ideal, but their schedule could also prove a huge challenge: an apparently re-energized Trojans team looking to avenge their loss from earlier in the season, a desperate Cowboys side and the undefeated Rebels are all still yet to play the Panthers in the next 6 weeks.

It was business as usual for UCD, meanwhile. Mooney had his second 5TD performance this season, taking his tally up to 20. RB Sean McVeigh had himself another great day with another 2TD day on the ground, while on defense it was the near-faultless unit performance we’ve come to expect from UCD — Larry Doyle stood out with a sack and a recovery of a loose ball, while Brian Broderick and Finn Moloney split Cahill’s INTs one apiece to bring the Students’ insane takeaway tally to 15 in 6 games. UCD aren’t quite locked into a home semi-final in the playoffs, but an Admirals loss OR tie to the Knights on June 5th would secure a playoff game in Belfield.

#5 Craigavon Cowboys (2-4) 19 – 49 #6 Belfast Trojans (1-3)
Hector will be happy with this one! Kicking off their first home game of the season, the Trojans gave their season the shot in the arm it needed as they overcame Craigavon by 30 points. A massive result for Belfast coming at a vital point in the season, as a loss here would have all but ended their playoff hopes. RB John Haughey got on the scoring charts with a rushing TD, and Sunday acted as a big bounce-back game for McKelvey under center too, throwing for 3TDs (TE Gil David, WRs Ryan Brolly and Dominic Lynn) to 1 INT, his experience in this division guiding his offense through an Craigavon defense still adjusting to the skill level after their promotion from the previous 2019 season. The clear star from the day, though, was RB Jona Siri, hammering in 2TDs on the ground while also housing a kick return for more than 80 yards, a true momentum multiplier for the Trojans. The defense tightened up after a fair amount of criticism from around the league too, allowing the fewest points they’ve given up in games so far this season and coming away with an interception (Thomas Boyde). With a more forgiving back half of a schedule coming up, the Trojans are still in contention for a playoff spot despite being 1-3. It would be a heroic recovery on their season if it happened, but it is still possible all the same.

For the Cowboys, on the other hand, hope is dwindling. A strong start to the year has seen them go 0-4 since the start of April, conceding nearly 36ppg and scoring just 9ppg in that time frame. QB Peter Loughran did fare much better than his outing from Gameweek 9, matching McKelvey’s 3:1 TD:INT ratio — WR Eoin Hughes with 1, WR Luis Alberto with another 2 on his year. Jason Haire came down with the interception on the Trojans QB, but apart from that it was another disappointing day on defense for the Craigavon unit. With 2 tough games on the Cowboys schedule to go — vs #2 Rebels (5-0) and #3 Panthers (3-2) — there are still permutations for the rest of the season that can see Craigavon go back down to Division 1. They are shielded by the fact that some of those potential outcomes require specific results to happen, and are likely safe, although the Cowboys will certainly be pushing for another win out of their last 2 to not end the season on a 6-game losing streak.

AFI Division 1

#2 Trinity (4-0) 39 – 13 #5 Cill Dara Crusaders (2-3)
Trinity kept their undefeated season in tact Sunday, taking over Newbridge College on route to a 26-point victory over the Crusaders. The Dowling-O’Dwyer connection has proved a solid formula for success in the passing game for Trinity, with the pair scoring 2TDs through the air. It was RB Brandon Atwell amounting for most of the scoring though, slicing through the Crusaders defense for 3 rushing TDs, and a pick 6 on defense. Speaking of the defense, Trinity pressured Cill Dara QB Jordan Farrell all day, totaling 4 sacks on the day and forcing 3 total INTs (Atwell’s pick 6 and 2 picks from Liam Fahy). James Cushing, after a 2 sack performance last weekend, now has 4 on the season so far. Trinity look well on their way to a playoff appearance, which could be locked up as early as this upcoming Sunday with a win or a tie @ #4 Vipers (2-3-1).

For the Crusaders it continues to be a disappointing year on defense. Taking away 2 forfeit wins due to the Wexford Eagles folding, Cill Dara’s defense has conceded 38.7ppg, the highest average in the country. On offense they have shown the ability to score (see their 39-47 shootout with UL), but have also shown to be loose with their ball security — QB Jordan Farrell has already thrown 10 INTs this year. Jordan did connect with brother Kealan for a TD Sunday, and RB Luke Carey has shown to be a good addition to the Crusaders running game, adding a score on the ground (his 3rd on the year). The oft-aggressive Cill Dara defense did force mistakes on Dowling and gave their offense chances. Kyle Dooley came down with an interception, veteran Thomas Brocklebank scooped up a fumble, while Nathan Purcell had himself a day on defense by coming down with one of each. Cill Dara, with #1 Minotaurs (4-0) and Trinity again in the future, may need to rely on other results before their final day showdown with the #4 Vipers in order to make the playoffs.

#1 Westmeath Minotaurs (4-0) 24 – 7 Donegal / Derry Vipers (2-3-1)
After a 13-0 away loss in early April and with playoff hopes slowly fading, the Vipers failed to defend the Viper Pit at City of Derry RFC from the travelling Minotaurs. With Mike Naulty out through injury from the Vipers tie with the Vikings 2 weeks ago, Danny Mullan stepped under center and played a mostly clean game until an interception late in the game (WM CB Peter Dempsey). RB Pete Farrell punched his 3rd TD on the year, while on defense LB Charlie Carlin continued to shine, recovering a fumble to add to his forced fumble and 2 INTs from earlier in the season. A playoff appearance in the Vipers’ immediate future is still possible, though must get wins against #2 Trinity (home, June 5th) and #5 Cill Dara (away, July 10th) to secure a spot.

On the opposite sideline, the Minotaurs all but booked a date in the playoffs. The usually strong defensive performance was on show Sunday, with the defensive backfield closing down throwing lanes for Mullan before forcing the game-sealing interception by Dempsey, who makes it 3 INTs on the year. On offense, QB Joe Kinahan and WR Jack Lynch twice connected for touchdowns, Kinahan himself running in for the Westmeath outfit’s 3rd touchdown, while K Jay Bruton added a FG on top of the point afters to wrap up the scoring for the Minotaurs. After sputtering into the season in their 13-point opening performance, the Westmeath offense seems to have found its groove again. A win or tie @ #3 UL (3-1-1) OR a Vipers loss vs Trinity will secure playoff positioning for the Minotaurs, who will still have 3 games to play after Gameweek 11.

Preview: AFI Gameweek 10

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

Gameweek 10 has arrived, and we celebrate that milestone on the season with a cracker of a slate this weekend! 5 games take place around Ireland over Saturday and Sunday, including 2 each in Premier Division and Division 1, as well as a visit from the second team from the USA to play a game on Irish soil in 2022!

Record: ¹ = Secured Playoff Appearance
               ² = Secured Home-Field Advantage
               ³ = Eliminated from Playoffs

SATURDAY

Friendly
Centre College Colonels @ UL Vikings — Maguire’s Field, Limerick, 2pm
The Colonels are no stranger to a transatlantic flight for a friendly game, having played the Dublin Rebels back in 2014. They return to Ireland 8 years later, this time travelling to Limerick to take on UL for an end-of-semester celebration of the sport on campus. The Colonels compete in NCAA Division III Southern Athletic Association, going 8-2 in 2021. Quarterbacked by senior Trentin Dupper, the school record-tying QB for Total TDs in a season, Centre College are as excited to visit Ireland and spread the gospel of football as they were 8 years ago. For sharing culture, experiences and some football knowledge, this will be a great learning experience for both games. Focusing more on the domestic implications of this game, UL will certainly try to soak up coaching points as they can as they look towards the end of their regular season (including hosting #2 Minotaurs next weekend) and to the playoff picture.

SUNDAY

AFI Premier Division

#2 UCD (5-0)¹ @ #3 South Dublin Panthers (3-1) — King’s Hospital School, Palmerston, 2pm
A battle between #2 and #3 as we head down the latter stretch in the Premier Division, as the Students take the short trip to Palmerston looking to extend their winning streak. QB Arun Mooney has been the fast-rising star so far this year, although the entire offensive unit has put in incredible efforts to push UCD’s offense over the top. A quick-hitting run game bolstered by 3 of the best backs in the league, on top of a quick WR corps and a top tier QB in Ireland is a recipe for major success, and a big reason as to why they have been as dominant as they have been. The other reason? A heat-seeking, ball-hawking defensive unit that has forced 12 turnovers in 5 games. The production the Students have put forth on both sides of the ball this season has been nothing short of an A+, and all signs towards them carrying that with them into and through the playoffs.

The Panthers, meanwhile, will be itching to defend their home turf after an embarrassing 2-24 loss to the #4 Admirals 2 weeks ago. With little time to make adjustments for this one, the Panthers will need everyone back at 100% for what will be their toughest test to date. The likes of QB Ian Cahill, who blasted on to the scene early on, getting back to full form will be instrumental in breaking down a tough defense, while the defense will be looking to exceed expectations like they did in their 42-13 win over the Trojans to start their season. Limiting turnovers on offense and playing disciplined on defense will keep the Panthers on the ball for as long as possible — against a team that can score as well as UCD have, that may prove vital to their success.

#5 Craigavon Cowboys (2-3) @ #7 Belfast Trojans (0-3) — Deramore Park, Belfast, 2pm
Talk about a season that has gone off-script for both teams. We’ll start with the Cowboys who, after coming up from Division 1, many expected to maybe start slow and build from there, started 2-0 before beginning the 0-3 slump they find themselves in. A tough, competitive loss to the Admirals saw a good overall performance, but an unusually turnover-heavy performance from QB Peter Loughran limited the Cowboys chances. If there was ever a game for Loughran and the Cowboys to bounce back and provide an upset, this Sunday is it. A win here keeps the Cowboys in position to slip into the playoffs — a loss in Belfast likely puts an end to their season, with games vs Rebels and @ Panthers to come. 

The Trojans have also started their season unconventionally, especially for a defending National Champion. Going close against UCD in the opener, the true shock came in their blowout loss to the Panthers at the end of March, before a further big loss to the Rebels really narrowed their chances of defending the title. Perhaps it was the level of competition, or perhaps it was down to the travel, as Sunday marks just the Trojans first home game of the season. The likes of Jona Siri will be relied upon in the backfield to carry the rock against a tough Cowboys defensive line, while the defensive unit will use their inaugural home game of the season, along with the prospects of a playoff-less season for the Belfast team, as motivation to improve upon performances from earlier in the year. For what’s on the line, this could be a fantastic game.

AFI Division 1

#3 Trinity (3-0) @ #5 Cill Dara Crusaders (2-2) — Newbridge College, 2pm
Both teams will be eager to get back on track in this one, as both have gone without a game since April 10th. Trinity have gone undefeated to this point, with an especially strong defense not having conceded points in their 3 games played. Numerous players on that unit standout, but nobody has gotten himself on the stat sheet as consistently as Adam Byrne, having picked up an INT, a fumble recovery and a sack thus far. On offense, it’s the Trinity names you likely know, with O’Dwyer brothers Conor and Rory leading the charge with QB Ben Dowling. Trinity, providing they maintain numbers now that the university is off for the summer, look set to continue their push to the playoffs and the Division 1 bowl, though they could fall trap to Cill Dara if they cannot stay disciplined. 

Speaking of the Crusaders, we last saw them back in early April in the 39-47 shootout with UL. QB Jordan Farrell threw for 4 TDs in that game (5 on the year), and will be full of confidence coming into this one, as will RB Luke Carey who has scored in each of his games so far this season. A veteran defense, led by Dooley brothers Kyle and Craig (combining for 4 sacks), will have recognised how each of those 47 points were given up, and will likely come into Sunday’s game as prepared as they’ve been for a game this season. While many will favour Trinity, and perhaps should, Cill Dara pulling off the upset here should absolutely not be ruled out. 

#2 Westmeath Minotaurs (3-0) @ #4 Donegal / Derry Vipers (2-2-1) — City of Derry RFC, 2pm
Needing to pull off all the stops to get a much-needed win Sunday, the Vipers invite the Minotaurs into the Pit in the return of the 13-0 victory for the visitors. The Vipers have since played a game (a 10-10 with #1 UL), though picked up some injuries along the way, namely QB Mike Naulty. Despite this setback, the Vipers will turn to their strong defense and players like LB Darren Quinn and DB Charlie Carlin to make plays and limit the Minotaurs time on the ball, and while the likes of RB Pete Farrell will be eager to punch his way into the endzone as he has done twice this season, not being able to project a passing game due to Naulty’s injury from 2 weeks ago creates some issues from a predictions standpoint.

On the Minotaurs, they are in an unusual position. While most teams in Ireland are around the halfway mark in their season (some having past that mark already), the Westmeath outfit have only actually played one competitive game after the folding of the Wexford Eagles. Starting the season with a subpar offensive output against the Vipers in April (and before that in their 14-8 upset of the Philadelphia Blue Flame in March), QB Joe Kinahan will be hoping the last 7 weeks of fine-tuning will have paid off so he, WR Jack Lynch and the receiving corps can get on the board more often. On defense, they will be looking to keep pace with Trinity in the shutout department, having held the Vipers to 0 points in their opener while forcing 4 INTs. 

Quickfire Predictions
Colonels 48 – 14 Vikings
UCD 24 – 16 Panthers
Cowboys 21 – 23 Trojans
Trinity 18 – 14 Crusaders
Minotaurs 20 – 7 Vipers

Playoff-Clinching Scenarios
Premier Division
Belfast Knights — Eliminated from playoff contention with Cowboys win.

Division 1
No clinching scenarios in Gameweek 10.

Review: AFI Gameweek 9

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

Gameweek 9 is behind us, and with the 5 games tipping Sunday’s point total over 200, there was certainly plenty of scoring to talk about. Not only that, but playoff appearances this year for plenty of teams were secured, strengthened, casted with doubt or ruined altogether with results from last weekend’s action impacting plenty of teams around the country. Let’s see what went down, and how that impacts the rest of the season in Premier Division and Division 2 (no games occurred in Division 1).

Record: ¹ = Secured Playoff Appearance
               ² = Secured Home-Field Advantage
               ³ = Eliminated from Playoffs

AFI Premier Division

#2 UCD (5-0)¹ 37 – 6 #6 Dublin Rhinos (1-4)
UCD put forth another great performance en route to guaranteeing themselves a playoff berth this postseason. The pass game with QB Arun Mooney took a back seat to an incredibly strong run game as RB duo Jack Finnegan and Sean McVeigh punched in 2 scores each on the ground — although it should also be noted that the passing touchdown leader still added 2 to his season tally (Cian Lawlor and Darragh Mooney being on the end of them). On defense, the dominance continued, with the pass rush taking down Foster for 5 sacks (LB Larry Doyle claiming 2 himself). Perhaps scarier, UCD held Foster to as many incompletions as interceptions on the day (2), with defenders Thomas Fitz and Brian Broderick each picking off the Rhinos QB.

Speaking of the Rhinos, spirits have perhaps crashed back down to earth after their upset win over the Cowboys at the start of May. Some flash plays here and there fail to make up for a loss this size, though it must be stated that their keeping of UCD to 12 points in the first half is something they can work off going into their final 3 games. RB Craig Usher ran in for Rhinos touchdown, only their 6th on the season. The Rhinos will need a big push on offense for their last 3 games, and with games against the Trojans and Admirals coming up, they need to find ways to score quick or they may find themselves in a Premier survival bowl against the Knights come the final day of the season. 

#8 Belfast Knights (0-5) 21 – 48 #1 Dublin Rebels (5-0)
Another big day for the Rebels offense saw them sweep a more competitive Knights team than what we saw in this matchup a month ago. Oddly enough, despite them being seeded higher than UCD, the Rebels have not mathematically secured a playoff position just yet due to the result in Craigavon, though they are all but written in. What will help their case is performances like this past Sunday’s, most notably by star RB Wello Omorodion, who ran through the Knights defense for 4 TDs. QB Ty Henry made sure to welcome WR Greg Johnson back from injury with 2 passing TDs going his way, while WR Dave King added one on the ground himself. DBs Rex Harding and Dylan Paisley each came up with INTs (Paisley now has 5 on the year), minimising the amount of time the Knights had on the ball. With a bit of rest before their clash at the top at home vs UCD on June 5th, the Rebels may well be favoured to take run with the #1 seed into the playoffs.

The Knights, meanwhile, should be happy with how most of the game went. Keeping the score close at 21-26 until turnovers and the strength of the Rebels offense got the better of them in the 2nd half, McDowell and his offense had a well enough day themselves, scoring more points on the Rebels defense than had been scored on them all season long to that point. McDowell threw 3 TDs (one each to WR/TE Marty Caskey, WRs Jordan Clinton and Matt Williamson), all while being kept upright for most of the game by an especially strong offensive line performance. Defensively the Knights were not as strong as one needs to be to keep the Rebels at bay for a full four quarters, though individual efforts by the likes of Robbie Alexander (2 forced fumbles) will be appreciated moving forward into their last 3 games of the season. The Knights need at least 1 win to survive relegation, facing an upward battle with #4 Admirals (2-2) away, #7 Trojans (0-3) away and — on the final day of the regular season — #6 Rhinos (1-4) at home. 

#5 Craigavon Cowboys (2-3) 13 – 22 #4 Cork Admirals (2-2)
After silencing the Panthers in Gameweek 8 for their first win on the season, Cork bumped their win streak to 2-in-a-row after the long trip up to Craigavon. QB Stephen Hayes and co. have certainly turned it up a notch in recent weeks, throwing for 3 touchdowns on Sunday (Kit O’Keefe with the first, WR Jack Cronin with the second and the game-winner). The story on the other side of the ball was how the Cork defense got into the head of Cowboys QB Peter Loughran, with the Admirals finishing Sunday with 2 sacks and 4 interceptions on the Craigavon signal-caller. The Admirals are certainly performing like a playoff team at this stage in the season. With the defense proving they could limit the likes of UCD and the Rebels, and the offense having come on leaps and bounds since those games, the former National Champions could be a dark horse to get to (and even win) this year’s Shamrock Bowl.

Craigavon, meanwhile, could be hitting the panic button. Starting the year 2-0 after Division 1 promotion from 2019, the Cowboys have since gone 0-3, losing to UCD, the Rhinos in a massive upset, and now Cork. WR Odhran O’Kane was the man for scores Sunday for the Cowboys, catching Loughran’s lone touchdown pass, while also returning a kick to the house before halftime to keep the deficit — before Cronin’s second-half touchdown — to 1 point. DB Anton Nulty grabbed another interception on the year, but defensively the Cowboys will need to improve for sure. With their closing stretch being the Rebels at home and the #3 Panthers (3-1) away, next weekend’s battle with the Trojans may be their best chance to earn a playoff berth. 

AFI Division 2

#3 NI Razorbacks (2-3) 8 – 13 #1 Louth Mavericks (5-0)
Perhaps a tighter game than many expected, Louth kept their undefeated streak in tact and secured their series tie-breaker over the Razorbacks. The Louth defense, which has been strong in Division 2 all season long, swarmed Razorbacks QB Mark Thompson and consistently created pressure in the pass and run game, resulting in 6 takeaways, including 2 INTs from veteran Dec Mulvihill. A slower day on offense, QB Nathan Hearty and RB Dan Finley still punched in a score each to make sure Louth took another win home. 

The Razorbacks fell short of the upset Sunday but played a close game. An aggressive defensive showing paid off, only allowing 2 scores to Division 2’s most prolific offense, while also adding a safety of their own through DL Dee Lorimor and sacks through DL Corey Adair and Elliott Lloyd. Thompson did have the aforementioned 4 INT day, which certainly didn’t help matters, but a strong, growing connection with TE Zakk Appleyard has proven an effective sticks-mover in the Razorbacks offense. Credit must be given to the Razorbacks backroom and HC/RB Gareth Millar, who have revitalised the club and, against many predictions, kept the Razorbacks in bowl game-contention in the later stages of their season: with 2 games against the #5 Pirates (0-5) and #4 Giants (2-2), they could very well make it. 

#2 Antrim Jets (3-2) 35-0 #5 North Dublin Pirates (0-5)³
The Jets soared as high as they have all season against the Pirates, winning a 35-0 shutout. Antrim defended their home turf and also put themselves in good position for the #2 seed in the division, which would send them through to the Division 2 bowl. With the Mavericks facing them at the end of the regular season, the Jets will need wins over the Giants (June 12th) and Pirates again (June 26th) to secure a bowl game berth. 

For stats-crazed among us, QB Scot McLean’s 100% score rate for the Antrim Jets came to an end Sunday as — while he threw for 2 TDs and ran one in himself — RB Declan Curran got on the board twice on the ground.

The Pirates, on the other hand, had little to celebrate Sunday. They were completely outmatched in Antrim, and need a win from their final 3 games in order to not end the year on the sour note that is 0-8. With a return date at home vs the Jets, and a series with the Razorbacks on the cards, that seems more unlikely than likely, though if there’s anything that we’ve come to expect from AFI football this season, it’s to expect the unexpected!

Keep an eye on our socials tomorrow as we preview 5-game slate for AFI Gameweek 10, which includes 
 

#ShareTheKnowledge May 27th: Coach Andy Ryland

Friday May 27th @ 8pm will see the next session in the #ShareTheKnowledgeUK coaching clinic series via Zoom. May’s session will be taken by Coach Andy Ryland, former Penn State linebacker and current USA Football Senior Manager of Education. In his time with USA Football, he has been instrumental in the development of such programs as: Heads Up Football, the Master Trainer cohort, the Rookie Tackle game type, Shoulder Tackling, Advanced Shoulder Tackling, Prep for Contact and the Football Development Model.

Coach Ryland will be delivering a follow-up on his February session, focusing on “Preparation for Contact”. This session will be beneficial to current coaches as well as players and members interested in becoming coaches in the future. This session is one not to be missed! If you have signed up for previous clinics, a meeting link will be sent out to you soon. If Friday’s session will be your first, please sign-up through this this link.

Make sure to follow #ShareTheKnowledgeUK on Instagram and Twitter.

Preview: AFI Gameweek 9

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

Gameweek 9 is fast approaching, and with divisions starting to shape up as we march towards the playoffs, teams will start to give those last pushes in their campaigns, whether that be for spots in the postseason or for escaping relegation. This Sunday sees 5 games take place across the island — let’s dive into them and see how they could affect the landscape of the rest of the season ahead! Playoff scenarios for this weekend’s action have been compiled by contributors to AFI, and can be found at the end of this article!


AFI Premier Division

#6 Dublin Rhinos (1-3) @ #2 UCD (4-0) — UCD Sports Grounds, Belfield, 2pm
The Rhinos shocked the #4 Cowboys last time out in what was, at least to that point, the upset of the season. And while it would be quite the sight to see two giant upsets in a row for the Castleknock side, keeping the scoreline respectable may be the secret goal among the Rhinos coaching staff. QB play from Ethan Foster has not been consistent enough to truly trust in the Rhinos to pull off another big win (Foster has 2 passing TDs to 7 INTs on the year), and after already giving up 120 points so far this season, their defense does not match up well with the Students’ offense, who rank 1st in the league in points scored (150).

Speaking of that offense, yardage and points have come from pretty much everywhere for UCD. QB Arun Mooney has truly exploded on to the scene this year, currently sitting with 12 passing TDs so far this season, while RB duo Jack Finnegan and Sean McVeigh have been tearing through defenses for scores in their first 4 games too. Their defense hasn’t been short of playmakers either, with the likes of Dan Verzuh and Eoghan McMahon each coming away with 3 takeaways so far this year. They provide have provided the toughest tasks for every team they have faced this season, and it may end up being much the same this Sunday. It’s worth noting that with a win here, UCD would just need an Admirals win over Craigavon to secure a playoff spot, as the Students hold a head-to-head tiebreaker over Craigavon.

#1 Dublin Rebels (4-0) @ #8 Belfast Knights (0-4) — Malone RFC, Belfast, 2pm
The difficult season for the Knights may very well continue Sunday, hosting the return fixture to a 30-7 loss at the hands of the Rebels this time last month. The visitors have had a comfortable season thus far, their closest game on the scoreboard being their opener @ #6 Admirals. QB Ty Henry has breathed a new life into an offense that struggled in their last season in 2019, scoring 11 total TDs while throwing just 2 INTs. With a powerful, explosive running game to boot, the Rebels have been a force to be reckoned with on the ball this season. Couple that offense with a water-tight defense that has forced 14 turnovers in 4 games, and the Rebels look Shamrock Bowl-bound at this point in the season.

The Knights unfortunately sit at the other end of the table, currently in the relegation zone to Division 1 with a 0-4 record. The Belfast side would have hoped to have picked up at least 1 win by this point in the season, although being without the likes of QB Spencer McDowell and WR/TE Marty Caskey for most of the season to this point has certainly not helped the offensive output. After a massive opening weekend loss to #2 UCD, the Knights appeared to be getting more competitive, taking close one-score losses to #3 Panthers and #4 Panthers. The blowout loss to the Rebels derailed any momentum they were building however, and now Belfast are forced to come out of at least 1 of the next 4 games with a result or face being relegated.

Belfast will be relying on season-best performances from the likes of Robbie Alexander and Kenny McClean to slow the Rebels offense down as much as possible. Otherwise, with remaining fixtures against a surging Admirals team and local rivals #7 Trojans on the cards in the coming week, things may come down to a final day clash with the Rhinos for Premier Division survival. The Rebels secure playoffs with a win and an Admirals loss.

#5 Cork Admirals (1-2) @ #4 Craigavon Cowboys (2-2) — People’s Park, Portadown, 2pm
Perhaps the game of Gameweek 9, as not only are both teams fairly even on the standings, and not only does this matchup influence other teams’ playoff chances, but there are also some very intriguing storylines coming into this one. For the visitors — who are making a near 800km round-trip for the game — this matchup could not come at a better time. After taming the #3 Panthers at Palmerston in last Sunday’s Gameweek 8 matchup, the Admirals travel up north feeling a lot better about themselves than they may have this time 2 weeks ago. The defense has been incredible thus far despite their less-than-stellar win/loss record, conceding just 42 points in 3 games. The main questions for Cork going into this one is can they get inside Peter Loughran’s head in the same way they did Ian Cahill’s? And can the offense unlock RB Phylip Walters in the run game again? If the answer to at least one of those questions is “yes”, then the Admirals give themselves a great chance celebrating going 2-2 on the bus ride home.

As for Craigavon, the hot start has well and truly flamed out, and they may need something to reignite it quick. After storming the Rhinos out of Craigavon and taking home a dying-seconds win from the Knights, the Cowboys were handed a massive loss by UCD before being upset by the Rhinos. Arguably, they are colder now than they were hotter 2 games into the season, and the Cowboys need a win to get back on track. With an angry #7 Trojans team and the #1 Rebels next in line, a win here is crucial for the Cowboys and their hopes for competing in the playoffs this season. Plenty of teams will be watching this one very carefully.

AFI Division 2

#1 Louth Mavericks (4-0) @ #2 NI Razorbacks (2-2) — Newforge Playing Grounds, 2pm
A clash at the top of the table sees a rematch of a game that happened just 2 weeks ago, with the Mavs extending their unbeaten streak in a 24-6 win. The Razorbacks will be disappointed to not have continued their slowly-growing momentum on offense, scoring just 1 TD after scoring 3 in their upset over the Jets. QB Mark Thompson will be hoping for a better day than their away trip to Louth too after throwing a pick 6 and being sacked twice. The Razorbacks need a big win here to validate their claims for the #2 seed in the division, and to prove their Jets performance was not just a happy accident.

The visitors, meanwhile, are exactly where most expected them to be after accepting a voluntary relegation to Division 2. Sitting atop the table and averaging a 33-6 scoreline in 4 games, they will be favoured in every game for the rest of the season, as they are here. The Mavericks run game has scored more touchdowns than the rest of the division combined, and it’s hard to not predict a similarly dominant showing this Sunday.

#5 North Dublin Pirates (0-4) @ #3 Antrim Jets (2-2) — Antrim Forum, 2pm
The final game in our preview sees the Pirates travel to Antrim to take on the Jets, hoping to come away with their first win of the year. The season has not gone at all as planned for the Pirates, especially after bringing on some promising pieces from the Meath Bulldogs, who withdrew from competition before the beginning of the season. While some of those players have made some splashes — Adam Pyne has come away with some nice plays and an INT on defense — but it’s difficult to have much faith in this group considering their results and their forfeit of their most recent matchup. Here’s hoping for more positive outlooks for North Dublin moving forward.

The Jets come into this one as clear favourites and will likely move into the #2 seed after Sunday’s games. QB Scot McLean has been the backbone of this side, still contributing to 100% of the Jets scores on offense, and will be encouraging his players to be more aggressive this weekend. Projecting the Jets after this game is a bit clouded, as while they have been solid on both sides of the ball, they have failed to put up 17 points or more in a single game this season. Sunday represents a big opportunity to buck this trend as the Jets look to close in on that #2 seed in the Division 2 Bowl game at the end of July.

Quickfire Predictions
Rhinos 6 – 35 UCD
Rebels 28 – 13 Knights
Admirals 14 – 13 Cowboys
Mavericks 28 – 10 Razorbacks
Pirates 7 – 24 Jets

Playoff-Clinching/Elimination and Relegation Scenarios
Premier Division
Dublin Rebels (4-0) clinch playoff berth with: Rebels win + Admirals loss
UCD (4-0) clinch playoff birth with: UCD win + Cowboys loss
Belfast Knights (0-4) eliminated from playoff picture with: Knights loss + Cowboys win

Division 1
No scenarios for Gameweek 9

Division 2
North Dublin Pirates (0-4) eliminated from playoff picture with: Pirates loss

Review: AFI Gameweek 8

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

Gameweek 8 is in the rear-view mirror, and what a week it ended up being. Despite there being only 3 games on offer, Gameweek 8 provided the first tie game of the year, an interesting wrinkle in the Division 2 playoff race, and a massive upset in Premier Division. Let’s take a look at what happened and how it leaves the teams involved for the rest of the season.


AFI Premier Division

#3 South Dublin Panthers (3-1) 2 – 24 #5 Cork Admirals (1-2)
While it was only a matter of time before the Admirals got on the scoreboard after a cold start, a performance this strong did not seem as possible. Making the trip to Palmerston to get their season back on track, Cork made a statement to the rest of the league on Sunday, making easy work of the Panthers in all three phases of the game. The defense swarmed all over Cahill, picking up 3 sacks and a nationwide-high 5 INT. Particular stars on the Admirals defense for the day were the likes of DBs Kit O’Keefe and Liam O’Leary picking up 2 INTs each (with O’Leary taking one home for a touchdown) and LB Marty Mulrey who tallied an INT and a sack on Sunday. RB Phylip Walters made sure it wasn’t just the defense shining bright, totaling 3 TDs on the day (2 on the ground, 1 off a pass from QB Stephen Hayes). It’s obvious the Admirals were waiting for the opportunity to break out after game nearly a month ago @ #2 UCD, and it throws a few spanners into the works for playoff projections now that they hold a tiebreaker over the South Dublin side. Cork next take the sudden wave of momentum they’re riding up north to face the #4 Cowboys on May 22nd.

As for the Panthers, a lot of work needs to be done very quickly to get themselves back on track as they next face #2 UCD at home. South Dublin, who started hot with a big 42-13 win over the #7 Trojans, have been a lot less efficient in games against teams like the #8 Knights and the #6 Rhinos, and have picked up injuries along the way. Couple a less than 100% squad with a 6 turnover performance on offense, and things aren’t shaping up too well for a team going up against a UCD team being tipped for a Shamrock Bowl appearance and a potential revenge game for the #7 Trojans within the next 4 weeks. Based on their own 2019 Shamrock Bowl finalist campaign though, the Panthers love playing as the underdog, so they are a compelling narrative to follow over the next few months.


AFI Division 1

#1 UL Vikings (3-1-1) 10 – 10 #4 Donegal / Derry Vipers (2-2-1)
We all love tie games, right? Right?? Well, regardless, both the Vipers and the Vikings will be looking at last Sunday as a missed opportunity. Both teams had the chance to gain a tiebreaker over the other as we start to look closer and closer to playoff seeding, and UL had the chance to take a true 1-win lead over the division. Instead, the tie leaves the Vipers a win behind the top 3 with as many as 2 extra games played, while the Vikings (who take the top spot for now) sit only a point above #2 Minotaurs and #3 Trinity, who each have 2 games in hand over UL. The run game ruled the day here, with both teams’ touchdowns on the day being ran in by RBs Eoin Rudkins (UL) and Pete Farrell (DDV). Otherwise, it was a very physical, defense-dominated game that resulted in 6 turnovers combined between the 2 teams. Standouts from Sunday’s game include Vipers LB Darren Quinn popping up with another fumble recovery on the year, while UL LB Robert Browne particularly made an impression with 2 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.

Vipers next host #2 Minotaurs (May 29th) and will be looking for a win to distance themselves from the #5 Crusaders (2-2) and keep themselves in playoff contention. UL also next host the Minotaurs, having a bit more time to prepare for their June 5th matchup.


AFI Division 2

#4 Causeway Giants (2-2) 0 – 16 #3 Antrim Jets (2-2)
With only bowl game spots up for grabs in Division 2, things are heating up in the race to the #2 seed, as — after Antrim’s win Sunday — the Razorbacks (#2), Jets (#3) and Giants (#4) sit at 2-2. The Giants will be disappointed not to walk away with the win here, now being disadvantaged by currently losing the 2-game series with the Jets and (obviously) a 1-point deduction for their Gameweek 1 forfeit to the Razorbacks. It will be an uphill battle for the Giants and QB Ruairi Boorman, who threw 2 INTs Sunday (both to Jets DB Connor Ross). The Giants next 3 games all come in the space of 4 weeks in June (@ #1 Mavericks, @ #3 Jets, vs #1 Mavericks), and realistically need to come away with at least 2 wins from those 3 to keep up with the pack.

The Jets, meanwhile, will look back at Sunday and be incredibly proud of the effort put in by their defense, who put pressure on Boorman all day and did not allow a point scored. They came away with the aforementioned 2 INTs, as well as a nationwide-high 8 sacks on Sunday (with 3 coming from DL Curtis McLeish). QB Scot McLean added 2 TDs on the ground (still being responsible for every offensive score the Jets have this season), while Conor Davison kicked 1 XP and 1 FG to seal a 16-0 win. The Jets, whose next 3 games are vs #5 Pirates, vs #4 Giants and @ #5 Pirates, now find themselves in great position as we push into the latter half of the season and start looking at playoff spots.

AFI Gameweek 9 will feature 5 games — 3 from Premier Division, 2 from Division 2 — all with high stakes coming into the latter half of the season. Keep an eye out on our website, Facebook and Instagram for our preview of this upcoming Sunday’s action!

Preview: AFI Gameweek 8

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

A week removed from the Irish Wolfhounds Kitted team’s return to training, Gameweek 8 sees one game take place across AFI’s 3 divisions. Each of these matchups feature teams battling for playoff positions, and with many teams closing in on (or after already reaching) the halfway point in their season, these games slowly but surely start to become more vital to each team’s chances of winning silverware or escaping promotion. What’s in store this Sunday? Let’s have a look.

AFI Premier Division

#6 Cork Admirals (0-2) @ #3 South Dublin Panthers (3-0) — King’s Hospital School, Palmerstown, 2pm
This writer is finding it hard to know what to think of this one. On one hand, yes, the Panthers are undefeated thus far, but after the hot start that was their 42-13 win over the Trojans, they were held to a close game at the Knights and a closer-than-expected outing with the Rhinos. Ian Cahill & Co will be happy they are currently undefeated, but they will be looking for more convincing results going forward to put them up to the challenges the #1 and #2 seeds will provide later in the season and in the playoffs. Can they replicate their vs Trojans performance this Sunday?

The Admirals, meanwhile, are a hard team to analyse right now, having been shutout on offense by the Rebels and UCD, but also having held the 2 highest scoring offenses in the division to just 20 points apiece. The fact Irish Wolfhounds QB Stephen Hayes and his offense haven’t scored is worrying, but after having time to regroup for this one they should be ready to make up for the lack of output to this point. WR Jahn Dasini will be looking to make plays whenever possible for his QB, while the Admirals defense will be out to hold up their end of the bargain, as they have done for many years in this division.

Expect this one to be a lower scoring affair. While it would be nice to see the Admirals pick themselves up after a tough start, it’s hard not to back the Panthers after their more balanced start through all 3 units of the game.

AFI Division 1

#5 Donegal / Derry Vipers (2-2) @ #3 UL Vikings (3-1) — Maguire’s Field, 2pm
Another close one to predict at UL this Sunday. The Vipers face the near-five hour journey for this one, and after away trips to Trinity and Westmeath resulted in 0 points scored, they will be looking to have a bit more bite while on offense this weekend. Young QB Mike Naulty will be looking to lead his men to a performance more in line with their 30-12 home win over the Crusaders than their away trips thus far. Naulty has not yet thrown for a touchdown while throwing 6 INTs, but has ran in 2 TDs himself. The Vipers run game has proven to be the focal point of the offense, though WR Chad Higgins will be eager to shine as he has done when given chances so far this year.

The Vikings come into this in the #3 seed after an incredible shootout with Cill Dara before the Easter break. QB Kieron Gilhool took charge in that outing, throwing for 3 TDs in that game, but equal praise must be given to RB Sean Grace for matching that total on the ground. Both men will be looking to take advantage of any chances they get from a defense that has not provided many opportunities to teams they travel to. The Vikings defense has created turnovers in each game thus far, which also seems to lean in their favour.

All signs point to a lower scoring game here, so expect a tight one where the team forcing the most mistakes and setting themselves up for short fields walks away with the W.

AFI Division 2

#4 Antrim Jets (1-2) @ #3 Causeway Giants (2-2) — Limepark Playing Grounds, 2pm

We finish with the game in Division 2, as the Jets look to bounce back from a 20-16 upset by the Razorbacks from the start of the month. As has been discussed on these previews and other platforms already, the success of the Jets seems to rely on the performance of QB Scot McLean moreso than any other team with their signal-callers. That narrative, while certainly valid, neglects the likes of LB duo Kenny Pollin and Ryan Beckett, who have been wrecking havoc in their own right thus far this season. What may go against them is how aggressive they may be early on in this one, as they may be out to rectify the result from 2 weeks ago and try get their record (and playoff chances) back on track.

The Giants host a game in which they can certainly take advantage of a team perhaps looking to start off hot. A win here would fast track the Giants to the #2 seed, putting them in line for the Division 2 bowl game later in the year. The Boorman brothers and their offense will be out to prove a point after a disappointing 6-point showing in Santry, despite picking up the W over the North Dublin Pirates. That win came in large thanks to the DL Ross McKenzie-led defense, with McKenzie having totaled 3 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in just 2 games this season. The Giants will look to put McLean under that pressure all day long Sunday, and if they can throw the Jets QB off his game, they give themselves a great chance to put themselves in the driver’s seat for the #2 seed.

Quickfire Predictions
Admirals 10 – 17 Panthers
Vipers 14 – 10 Vikings
Jets 14 – 16 Giants

Review: Razorbacks 6 – 24 Mavericks

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

Last Sunday, Division 2’s frontrunners took another step towards the division’s bowl game as they took down the Razorbacks 24-6 at home. Louth have been on the tear they were almost unanimously expected to go on in Division 2, jumping to 4-0 on the year and 2 games ahead of the #2 seed. The Mavs have averaged more than 34ppg on offense and only 6.3ppg on defense, leading the league in both categories. The run game did the damage Sunday again, with Gerry Lawless and Dec Mulvihill each pounding a touchdown in. Both men made impacts away from the offense too: Lawless rocking up a sack on defense; Mulvihill kicking 3 XPs and a field goal on special teams. Brendan Simms, who ran in 4 TDs in the Mavs last game, took an errant throw from Razorbacks QB Mark Thompson to the house, showing his ability on both sides of the ball. The Mavericks seem set for a date in the Division 2 bowl game — it’s just a case of who will be there with them.

The Razorbacks, meanwhile, fall to 2-2 and could slip to #3 after the upcoming Gameweek 8. RB Gary Busch ran in the only score for the ‘Hogs on Sunday, his second on the season. S Daniel Lorimer also added an interception for the Razorbacks defense, while DE Corey Adair picked up a sack. The Razorbacks are still a tough team to project on the year. With a forfeit win to start the year, going 1-1 in their series with the Jets and this loss, the Razorbacks could end up anywhere from second-to-last in the division to the bowl game at the end of July. Having come from relatively little before Covid, they are an interesting team to keep an eye out for, and a dark horse for sure. Coming out of the return fixture at home to the Mavs on May 22nd with a win will be a crucial result.

Preview: NI Razorbacks @ Louth Mavericks

Not a full gameweek this weekend (Gameweek 7.5, if you will) as the rescheduled Razorbacks @ Mavericks game take place in Dundalk on Sunday. Postponed because of a COVID-19 outbreak among the Razorbacks in Gameweek 6, the match takes place in a different context in Division 2 to what it would have 2 weeks ago. Let’s see why, and if it affects this writer’s prediction for the game.

With the Razorbacks upsetting the Jets last week, this Sunday’s game is a #2 @ #1 matchup, with the ‘Hogs’ sitting in the #2 seed behind the #1 Mavericks. Last weekend’s win was crucial for the Razorbacks chances of making the Division 2 Bowl game, climbing to a 2-1 record above the Antrim outfit and above the #3 Giants on points difference. QB Mark Thompson will be feeling good going into a tough matchup this Sunday after having scored a touchdown each though the air and the ground. The Razorbacks defense has shown the ability to swarm the ball and force turnovers too, taking the ball away 4 times from the Jets at home last Sunday. That eagerness to take points off the Mavericks’ board will be crucial in giving the offense a chance this Sunday.

As for the Mavericks, they are currently cruising undefeated and in the driving seat for the Division 2 Bowl game appearance, as many expected they would be. Having not played in more than a month they will certainly be looking to get momentum rolling again, and it may be the only disadvantage they carry going into Sunday. With a relentless rushing attack that has notched up 11 TDs between 4 players in 2 games played, the Mavericks offense is a huge threat to any defense in Division 2. When you add that their own defense has clamped down on opposing offense, the odds of the Razorbacks’ coming out of this one with a win aren’t the greatest. It certainly won’t be impossible — they weren’t favoured by many going into the Jets game and caused an upset — and hopefully this game closer resembles Mavs/Jets than Mavs/Pirates. Still, it’s hard to go against the Louth side until proven otherwise.

Prediction
Razorbacks 14 – Mavericks 24

Review: AFI Gameweek 7

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

What set of results Gameweek 7 provided!! With only 3 games on the slate last Sunday, there were a lot more eyes on each game, as teams looked at the standings of their divisions and wondering just how their seasons would be affected. While we would all love a 6-game weekend to look forward to, the 3 games we did get last Sunday have shifted paths of Premier Division and Division 2 in ways many never saw coming. Let’s break each game down and find out.

AFI Premier Division

#1 Dublin Rebels (4-0) 38 – 6 #7 Belfast Trojans (0-3)
The T in “Big T” may very well stand for “Trouble”, as that is exactly where the Trojans find themselves as they approach the midpoint of their season. While their losses have come against as-of-yet unbeaten teams — so some leeway must be given their way — the defending Shamrock Bowl champions have not started this season on the right foot at all. This game was actually quite close for most of the game, with the Rebels up 14-6 at the end of the third quarter. The Trojans then suffered a complete collapse in Q4, turning the ball over twice — INTs from McKelvey to DB Dylan Paisley and LB Gustavo Souza — and giving up 24 points. Panic alarms may not be ringing just yet, certainly not when it comes to relegation anyway, but the Trojans have very quickly slipped down the seeding order for that 4th playoff spot, which now seems to be their only way to get back in the picture to defend their championship. The Trojans next host #4 Craigavon on May 29th, with both sides needing wins to keep their playoff hopes in tact.

The Rebels, meanwhile, are cruising atop the Premier Division after their dominant fourth quarter performance. QB Ty Henry threw for 3 TDs, all to WR David King (who also racked up a fumble recovery off a muffed Trojans punt return), while RB Wello Omorodion added a score on the ground. Long-time Rebel Conrad Cook made sure the defense wasn’t left off the scoring chart, taking a fumble recovery to the house in the first quarter. The Rebels found a way to break the Trojans after 3 tough quarters of football to put this one away quite convincingly in the end. The Dublin outfit travel to Malone RFC to take on #8 Belfast Knights on May 22nd, in a game that could mathematically secure the Rebels a spot in the Premier Division playoffs.

#5 Dublin Rhinos (1-3) 28 – 16 #4 Craigavon Cowboys (2-2)
Author’s note to start this review: I did not see this happening at all. To some around the league the Rhinos seemed destined to finish 0-8 after their start to the season and how they matched up against others in the Premier Division. And yet, the Rhinos put in a performance we’ve not seen from the club since perhaps their 2018 Division 1-winning campaign. QB Ethan Foster ran in one score and RB Rodrigo Nieto punched in two, with Nieto’s TDs being interrupted by a Foster-to-David O’Neal touchdown pass. Foster’s passing TD and Nieto’s second score sealed the game for the Rhinos after the lead changed hands multiple times in the second half. The Rhinos schemed up pressure brilliantly throughout the game, creating 3 sacks, 2 forced fumbles and a recovery in the game: DE Gary O’Rourke, putting in a standout shift, tallied one of each on the day. DB Patrick Gahan helped finish the game in the 4th with an INT on Cowboys QB Peter Loughran, the second on the year for the Rhinos and Gahan’s first. The Rhinos leapfrog a few teams into the #5 seed, with a trip to #2 UCD on May 22nd on the cards. Will the Rhinos ride the wave from last Sunday to another shock upset? Only time will tell.

The Cowboys, meanwhile, will certainly be looking back at the weekend as a missed opportunity. The strong start to the season has flamed out, with the Craigavon side not reacting well to their loss to UCD a few weeks ago. QB Peter Loughran threw for 2TDs to WR Luis Alberto, but there was little else to speak of from the rest of the team. With a brief break to prepare for back-to-back clashes with the #6 Admirals (May 22nd) and the #7 Trojans (May 29th), it will be interesting to see what version of the Cowboys we see in those games: the side that came out guns blazing in Gameweek 1, or the more reserved side we’ve seen since then? Coaches will be hoping for the former as Craigavon look to put their return season to the Premier Division back on track.

AFI Division 2

#2 NI Razorbacks (2-1) 20 – 16 #4 Antrim Jets (1-2)
The Razorbacks denied the Jets the clean sweep in their series with the closest result from Sunday’s action, claiming a 20-16 victory that sends them to the #2 seed. QB Mark Thompson scored once each on the ground and through the air (the latter going to TE Zakk Appleyard for his first TD of the year). RB Gary Busch was also on the scoresheet with a rushing touchdown. The Razorbacks defense played their part too, coming away with 2 INTs and 2 fumble recoveries — DE Jonny Graham tallied up a force and a recovery, while DB Liam McCarren notched an interception late on to seal the win. The result puts the Razorbacks ahead of the Giants with the same 2-1 record, though the ‘Hogs’ have a tough test ahead with the #1 Mavericks (3-0) in Gameweek 8’s lone matchup.

The Jets fall to 1-2 and the #4 seed after a failed comeback attempt. QB Scot McLean keeps his streak of being involved in every offensive TD Antrim have scored this season, adding another score on his passing and rushing touchdown tallies. It’s an interesting situation for the Jets now, who give up the “points difference in head-to-head” tiebreaker in this series, which may end up affecting playoff seeding later in the year. Still, while they would have hoped for a better defensive output, this loss doesn’t derail Antrim’s chances at the Division 2 final too much. And, with McLean under center, the Jets may soar up the standings in time for that game.

Preview: AFI Gameweek 7

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

Another Sunday, another gameday on the horizon as the focus of players and coaches around the league shift back to domestic football after a brief shift of attention towards last night’s Round 1 of the 2022 NFL Draft. While the futures of certain NFL clubs and draft prospects changed forever after Thursday night/Friday morning’s extravaganza, the immediate situations for clubs in Ireland striving for playoff appearances or fighting for survival in their divisions will be affected by the 3 games taking place this Sunday across the island. “What games?”, we hear you ask. Let’s start off with the most enticing one…

AFI Premier Division

#5 Belfast Trojans (0-2) @ #2 Dublin Rebels (3-0) — De La Salle RFC, Glenamuck, 2pm
This is not your typical “undefeated vs winless” matchup. Opponents in Shamrock Bowl 30 and praised for a long time as 2 of Ireland’s best American football clubs, the Rebels and Trojans will both be out to prove to the rest of the division that they are the real deal. Belfast have certainly had a slow start to the season, conceding an uncharacteristic 35 points per game over their first 2 matchups, and did not impress offensively in their most recent game when they visited the Panthers in a 42-13 loss. One thing thing that must be kept in the back of everyone’s mind when reading these previews is that you should never count “Big T” out. McKelvey and Co. have had slow starts in previous years that ended with them hoisting the Shamrock Bowl above their heads. While that is not necessarily a prediction for this season, and while the push may not begin in this game, a playoff appearance is still on the cards for Belfast.

It’s hard to see them coming away with a result in this one, though. The Rebels are on fire right now, coasting through games with an average margin of victory of nearly 32 points. QB Ty Henry is at 6 passing TDs and 2 INTs on the year, on top of running in 2 TDs himself, and has truly revitalised on offense that struggled in their previous season in 2019. The Rebels defense has been as impressive, racking up 11 takeaways on defense so far in just 3 games. A true force at the moment and a contender for Shamrock Bowl honours, the Rebels look set to move to 4-0 (and potentially to the #1 seed) in this one.

#4 Craigavon Cowboys (2-1) @ #8 Dublin Rhinos (0-4) — Castleknock College, 2pm
After recovering from a difficult 44-8 loss to #1 UCD before the Easter break, Craigavon travel to Castleknock for the return fixture of their 35-6 season opening win over the Rhinos. There’s not too much that can really be said about this one as it seems to be the most set-in-stone result of the weekend. The Rhinos improved on defense vs Panthers in their recent matchup compared to their first 2 performances, and have totaled 11 sacks in 3 games, which is near the top of the division in that metric. Unfortunately for the Rhinos they have not been able to get their offense going, with QB Ethan Foster’s opening day TD to Adam Jenkins being the only score they’ve put up thus far. Considering Craigavon will be out for blood after giving up 44 points in their last game, and that this matchup earlier in the season was fairly one-sided, it’s likely Craigavon add another win to their season this Sunday.

AFI Division 2

#4 Antrim Jets (1-1) @ #3 NI Razorbacks (1-1) — Newforge Playing Grounds, 2pm
We finish off this week’s review with the lone game in Division 2. The Jets took this one at home last time out and now travel to Newforge looking to sweep the series. The Razorbacks come off a COVID outbreak that set their game with the #1 Mavericks back to May 8th, so may come into this one a little rusty. They do have that home-field advantage, and knowing how close they came last time out will certainly encourage the Razorbacks to be a bit more aggressive in this one. 

Razorbacks QB Mark Thompson will be looking for a better day this Sunday than these teams’ previous meeting, throwing for only 1 TD with 4 INTs (including one for a pick 6). They will look to DE Corey Adair (who had multiple sacks in their last outing) to get after Jets QB Scot McLean, who thrown or rushed for every Jets touchdown this season (2TD:1INT, 1 rush TD). This one may come down to McLean’s performance Sunday and whether he can lead his team to capitalise on any mistakes the Razorbacks give up in this one.

Quickfire Predictions
Trojans 14 – 27 Rebels
Cowboys 28 – 6 Rhinos
Jets 20 – 16 Razorbacks

Keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram stories for a chance to give your thoughts on this weekend’s stupendous offering by voting on winners’ polls and leaving us your predictions for Sunday’s action!

Review: AFI Gameweek 6

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

With the first gameweek since the Easter break in the rear mirror, the midpoint of the season is fast approaching. With players looking to impress the Irish Wolfhounds staff scouting for talent for the upcoming camp, and (more importantly) teams looking to take the next step towards playoffs or away from relegation, there was plenty to play for last Sunday. How did teams get on? Let’s break each game down.

 

AFI Premier Division

#7 Belfast Knights (0-4) 7-30 #2 Dublin Rebels (3-0)
The Rebels continued their undefeated streak last Sunday with a big win over the winless Knights. Much has been said (on these previews and reviews, as well as podcasts like The Domestic Game) about Dublin’s passing attack, but it was the run game that truly shun at the weekend. Long-time Rebels RB Wello Omorodion ran in 2 of Dublin’s 4 rushing TDs on Sunday, including a 90-yarder that saw multiple broken tackles and the domination on the line of scrimmage, at least in the run game, that set the tone for the rest of the day. Their strength on the line of scrimmage was on Dublin’s defense, who earned 2 sacks and, due to that pressure, 4 interceptions, with one of each coming from defender Kenny McCarthy. The Rebels sit #2 in Premier Division at 3-0, already having beaten their 2019 win total this early into the season.

The Knights, on the other hand, were outmatched for most of the day in this one, although did have some moments they can look back on and look to replicate for the rest of the year: already noted was the Rebels ability to control the line of scrimmage in the run game, but the Knights got after QB Ty Henry for most of the game, creating 4 sacks (2 of them by DE Danny Moll, his first and second on the year). QB Spencer McDowell was picked off twice by the Rebels defense, but did make sure to throw for a TD to avoid the shutout loss. The Knights came close in their last 2 games, but are clearly a step below the top of the division. While this loss all but rules them out of sneaking in the back door for the playoffs, they have (at least according to the standings) passed through the hardest part of their schedule, and will be eager to strike the 0 from the win column in the second half of their season.

#3 South Dublin Panthers (3-0) 17-0 #8 Dublin Rhinos (0-3)
To be quite honest, it’s hard to have many takeaways from this game, other than the defensive effort put forward by the Rhinos considering recent results. The hosts sacked Panthers QB Ian Cahill 4 times, with DE Gary O’Rourke picking up 3 of them. They also picked off Cahill once, with Matt Mays taking away a Panthers score with an interception in the endzone.  That efficiency was not matched by the Rhinos offense, who struggled to get the ball moving all day (a trend that has haunted them through every game so far this season). The Rhinos have not yet found what works for them this year, having not scored since Week 1 vs the Cowboys — their lone touchdown of the season. They have also given up their 10th turnover in 3 games, and need to change those fortunes quick. They currently sit #8 and in the relegation spot, and with dates against Craigavon and UCD on the horizon, their schedule isn’t exactly getting any easier.

South Dublin, still recovering from some knocks picked up from their game 2 weeks ago, did not pick up the type of win they likely were looking for going into this one. QB Ian Cahill threw for 2 more TDs (one apiece for WRs Ryan Eccles and Josh Clarke), and DEs Evan Allen and Antony Burke collected 2 sacks each on defense. The dominance was still there for most of the game from the South Dublin side, but with injuries to key positions they were tamer than what many would have expected on paper. Still, the Panthers continue their winning streak despite some injuries, and now have a few more weeks to recuperate before a date with the Admirals on May 15th.

#6 Cork Admirals (0-2) 0-20 #1 UCD (4-0)
A somewhat similar story from Belfield, as UCD win despite a more pedestrian day on the scoreboard, at least by their standards. QB Arun Mooney connected with WR Conor Hanaran twice for TDs, while RB Sean McVeigh ran one in on the ground with McVeigh and RB partner Jack Finnegan combining for 177 yards. The Students’ defense, while not being overly aggressive, impressed in a big way: allowing less than 100 yards of total offense and only allowing Cork complete 5/28 passes, UCD shut out the Admirals defense not just on the scoreboard, but on the field in general.

The Admirals, meanwhile, now sit 0-2 without score to this point, and now need to self-reflect on what needs to be done to start giving themselves chances to win. The defense made some plays in the pass game, sacking and intercepting Mooney twice, but not capitalising on those turnovers and big plays will cost the Admirals games further down the line. Playing away to the Panthers in three weeks will be a big test.

 

AFI Division 2

#2 Causeway Giants (2-1) 6-0 #5 North Dublin Pirates (0-3)
A difficult watch at Trinity Sports Grounds with the lone score in this one coming in the fourth quarter. This game ended up being the complete opposite of the first matchup between these two, a 31-16 win for the Giants. North Dublin’s struggles continue in Division 2, currently winless and after giving up their series with the Giants. The Giants move to #2 in the division at 2-1, and while they are in that position for the time being, the Gameweek 1 forfeit to the Razorbacks may come back to haunt them when it comes to sorting out playoff positions at the end of the year.

Unfortunately no stats or reports were submitted for this game, though both teams will surely be happy with their performances on defense. Work will need to be done to fix offensive deficiencies moving forward in order to keep competing in the division, whether that be for playoff positions or to avoid bottom place. The Pirates have a quick turnaround as they play the Mavericks this Sunday, while the Giants have until mid-June to prepare for the Jets.

Preview: AFI Gameweek 6

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

The Easter break has come and gone, and on top of some MASSIVE flag football news and an EXCLUSIVE promo for the Aer Lingus College Football Classic, we also have a preview of this weekend’s action to bring you! With teams looking to either keep pre-bye week form rolling, or to kickstart a season that was struggling up to that point, a lot rides on these next few weeks as we rock into the middle of the season and start looking at more accurately projecting the playoff pictures across each division. Let’s have a look at what this Sunday has to offer.

Note: Originally scheduled for this week was NI Razorbacks @ Louth Mavericks. This game has been postponed. An update on when this fixture will take place will be available soon.

 

AFI Premier Division

#7 Belfast Knights (0-3) @ #2 Dublin Rebels (2-0) — De La Salle RFC, Palmerston, 2:30pm
The Gameweek 1 demolishing by UCD didn’t really do the Knights any favours for the start of their season, especially when they were permitted back into the Premier Division after previously being relegated in 2019, but that seems to have been a once-off result. Their latest 2 games, while also losses, saw the Knights fight in very competitive games. Robbie Alexander has collected 2.5 sacks and a forced fumble on the season and has definitely been a high-point on a defense that has tightened up after the season opener — Belfast has given up 58, 13 and 19 points in games this year. They will certainly be looking to replicate the latter 2 games than their opener this weekend against an offense that can capitalise on defenses not being on their A game.

The Rebels come into this after shutting out the Admirals and Rhinos 20-0 and 52-0 respectively. With QB Ty Henry feeling himself so far this season (6:1 TD:INT ratio, 1 rushing TD), the Rebels are a dangerous outfit. While they face a defense that has reinforced itself after Gameweek 1, Dublin are hosts this Sunday, which will help boost their chances of victory. With a stout defense of their own, the Rebels are favoured going into this one and it’s hard to go against them here.

#3 South Dublin Panthers (2-0) @ #8 Dublin Rhinos (0-2) — Castleknock RFC, 2pm
Another undefeated vs winless matchup here as the Rhinos host South Dublin. The Panthers come off a close game with the Knights in Gameweek 5, but will be happy to walk into this game undefeated so far, still rolling off the momentum from their 42-13 win over the Trojans. QB Ian Cahill has truly impressed thus far, throwing 7 TDs to 3 INTs. Coming up against a defense that has given up 87 points in 2 games, he and his offense will be looking to add to that tally.

The Rhinos, meanwhile, need to recover quickly, as they face return matches with the Cowboys and the Panthers in their next 2 games after this Sunday. To say they need to take advantage of any preparation they have done over the break is an understatement, as they are at a real risk of relegation even at this early stage in the season. QB Ethan Foster will need his best performance yet to keep the Rhinos in this one.

#5 Cork Admirals (0-1) @ #1 UCD (3-0) — UCD Sports Grounds, Belfield, 2pm
UCD play hosts in a game that they will favour themselves in — not just by record comparison, but by the fact that they have been able to knock the COVID hiatus rust off while the Admirals haven’t. UCD are going into the halfway point of their season, while Cork’s lone game so far was a 20-0 loss to the Rebels. While that is certainly not a metric to judge the Admirals on (the team had not competed in scrimmages during the league hiatus and they could return to regular form later in the year), it’s just hard to ignore what UCD have done to this point. Averaging 43.3 ppg on offense and 14 ppg on defense, the Students have impressed and blown past the majority of expectations put on them. This writer is on the UCD train until otherwise stated. Cork may keep this closer than many expect, but (while trying to dodge the commentator’s curse) this feels like UCD going 4-0.

 

AFI Division 2

#4 Causeway Giants (1-1) @ #5 North Dublin Pirates (0-2) — Trinity Sports Campus, Santry, 2pm
The Pirates are in a bit of a tough spot right now: their home venue for the season has changed, they come off the back of a 52-8 massacre by the Mavericks in Gameweek 4, and their Meath Bulldogs imports (who may have been able to add a bit of juice to this side) have not, at least on the standings, made the impact the Pirates were looking for. Of course, there is still plenty of daylight left in the season, and what better way to build some positivity heading into the midway point of the year than to get a revenge win at home to keep your team’s playoff chances alive? QB Rian Molloy has thrown a touchdown in his first 2 games but, while getting the passing game going is a promising sign, more will be needed of him against a team North Dublin have already lost to.

Speaking of their opponents, the Giants will have been sitting on their 31-16 win over the Pirates for more than a month, having not played since that game on March 20th. The only game they have *played* so far this season (the loss coming on a forfeit to the Razorbacks in Gameweek 1), the Giants defense were arguably bigger stars than their offense — with 2 interceptions (1 returned for a touchdown) and 2 fumble recoveries on the day, the Giants swarmed all over the ball in Limepark. Knowing they may only need to replicate that gameplan, on top of the fact they have been sitting on a win for a month while the Pirates have needed to recover from a blowout loss, the Giants will surely be confident going into this one.

Quickfire Predictions
Knights 14 – 28 Rebels
Panthers 34 – 8 Rhinos
Admirals 10 – 24 UCD
Giants 27 – 14 Pirates

Keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram stories for a chance to give your thoughts on this weekend’s stupendous offering by voting on winners’ polls and leaving us your predictions for Sunday’s action!

April #ShareTheKnowledge Clinic: Coach Nick Fitzgerald

AFI and #ShareTheKnowledgeUK are happy to announce that on Friday April 29th @ 8pm, Coach Nick Fitzgerald will be conducting another online coaching clinic.

Coach Fitzgerald has been around the coaching scene for decades, having served in various coaching roles during his career for teams such as the University of Albany, in the Arena Football League, and is a decorated high school football coach. Coach Fitzgerald has also conducted clinics for NFL International and BAFCA, and is the President of the Capital Region Football Hall of Fame.

April 29th’s clinic is titled: “Special Teams: Maximising the 3rd Phase of Football”. The clinic will highlight punting, kicking and snapping skills, design concepts for blocking and returning kicks and punts, setting up XPs, and how to organise drills and strategies to get the most out of your special teams.

You will receive an email if you have already signed up to a #ShareTheKnowledgeUK clinic in the past. If you haven’t attended a clinic before, you can sign up here: https://bit.ly/38Wu8ax

Make sure to follow #ShareTheKnowledgeUK on Twitter and Instagram.

2022 Aer Lingus College Football Classic Exclusive Presale Event

We are pleased to announce that, as part of our partnership with Irish American Events Limited, AFI will have an exclusive presale event for the 2022 Aer Lingus College Football Classic, from Friday April 22nd at 10am. The game takes place on Saturday August 27th at Aviva Stadium, and sees the Nebraska Cornhuskers taking on the Northwestern Wildcats in the 2022 NCAA Football Season Opener. This will be the first NCAA Football game to take place in Ireland in 6 years, when Georgia Tech beat Boston College in a close 17-14 game that went right down to the wire.

AFI have an exclusive access code to the presale event for this year’s game, which will allocate €5 from every ticket sale back to AFI for future projects and development of departments and clubs. Using this code will not only give you YOUR chance to attend this incredible gameday, but will also allow you to support the local game here in Ireland.

Using code AFICFB2022 you can secure your tickets to the biggest game the on the Opening Weekend of the 2022 NCAA Football season. This is an event that cannot be missed, so be sure to get in on this offer and experience how this is #MuchMoreThanAGame

Ireland to host 2023 IFAF European Flag Football Championships

American Football Ireland are delighted to announce that Ireland will host the 2023 IFAF European Flag Football Championships. The tournament will see more than a dozen European nation teams compete in Senior Men’s and Senior Women’s games from 18-20th August 2023 at University of Limerick to crown the 2023 European Flag Football Champions.

AFI would like to thank IFAF President Pierre Trochet, IFAF Managing Director Andy Fuller, IFAF Director of Competitions Roope Noronen and all who were involved in the bidding process for this fantastic event. This tournament will help strengthen the public opinion of flag football and American football in Ireland, as well as further develop the on-field product for both sports. We are excited for the opportunity to host and learn from our peers across Europe and provide for elite players from Ireland and abroad the platform to achieve their full potential in the sport.

 

AFI Appoints New Team Ireland Flag Football Head Coach, Interim Team Manager

American Football Ireland are delighted to announce the appointments of Dan Shaw and Joe Kinahan to the roles of Wolfhounds Flag Head Coach and Interim Wolfhounds Flag Team Manager, respectively. 

Dan Shaw has more than 8 years of experience in flag football in Ireland, previously being involved with the Belfast Trojans and Ulster Elks flag teams before helping establish the Belfast City Lions. With the Lions, Coach Dan helped lead the Lions to promotion from AFI Flag Division 1 in their inaugural season. He has previous experience in the Wolfhounds Flag setup, having been Defensive Co-Ordinator through 2020 and 2021. 

On his appointment, Coach Dan had this to say:
“I am honoured to be appointed head coach and look forward to leading the programme into the championships next Summer. In my 8 years in flag football I have worked to earn the chance to coach at the national level and look forward to working with the best players and coaches that Ireland has to offer.”

Joe Kinahan has been involved with flag football in Ireland, having been a part of the Westmeath Minotaurs flag team until 2017. From there, Joe joined the MU Hurricanes, a club for which he served as chairman for 2 years. Joe was recently appointed Assistant Director of Flag Football for AFI, and is excited to continue his involvement in flag football:

“It’s no secret to anyone who knows me how much I care about flag football, and specifically flag football in Ireland. While I am only operating in this role in the interim, I am thrilled to be able to help Coach Dan and Wolfhounds General Manager Alan Orr, 2 people I have a lot of respect for, to scout and to select the very best flag football players across Ireland to represent the island in any tournaments that may present themselves over the next few years.”

AFI would also like to formally announce Stephen McDonnell is stepping down from the AFI board. AFI President Aidan Maguire had this to say on the hard work Stephen has done in many roles, including Interim Director of Coaching:

“At this time I would like to thank Stephen “Mack” McDonnell for volunteering his free time to help with the growth and development of American Football Ireland. Steve joined the AFI Board during the height of the Covid pandemic and helped with AFI’s navigation through such uncertain times. Steve’s input in relation to the new soon to be released, blended learning coaching course has been second to none.  On behalf of all AFI Members, I wish him all the best in the future as he begins a new journey in life”

AFI wish Stephen McDonnell the best in his future endeavors, and are excited about the direction of the Wolfhounds Flag programme under Head Coach Dan Shaw and Interim Team Manager Joe Kinahan.

Review: AFI Gameweek 5

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

What a weekend that was! Last Sunday 6 games took place across the island, all with great effects on each team’s seasons moving forward. With games split evenly between Premier Division and Division 1, matchups had impacts on the playoff pictures and relegation battles of both divisions as we head into the Easter break. Who came out on top going into the week off? Who can start dreaming about Bowl game appearances, and who may start having nightmares about dropping a division? Let’s see based on how Sunday’s action went.

AFI Premier Division

Craigavon Cowboys (2-1) 8 – 44 UCD (3-0)
This was more one-sided than many may have expected. In our preview we talked up the passing game of UCD, but the RB duo of Sean McVeigh and Jack Finnegan and the students’ defense really shone here: there were 135 rushing yards and 4 combined TDs between McVeigh and Finnegan; star defender Dan Verzuh picked of Cowboys QB Peter Loughran twice; Larry Doyle had a hell of a day with a sack, forced fumble and 4 TFLs to his name.

The Cowboys defense tried their best in a tough game, taking away 2 INTs and forcing another 2 fumbles, but the offense was unable to match that intensity. QB Christian Cowan got into the game and threw the Cowboys only score ti WR Luis Alberto, but that was all the hosts could muster against a game UCD defense. The big loss leaves Craigavon 2-1 and with most (if not all momentum) lost going into the break. Their next game is on May 1st for their away trip to the Rhinos, and will still likely go into that game as favourites after their 35-6 win over the Castleknock side in their season opener. Still, the loss will certainly sting and will remain in the back of the Cowboys’ minds until that Rhinos fixture.

Belfast Knights (0-3) 13 – 19 South Dublin Panthers (2-0)
We go from a game that got out of hand to a game that finished within touching distance from the Knights. McDowell and McCrystal ran Belfast’s scores in on the ground, and the Knights defense certainly created a lot of pressure on Panthers QB Ian Cahill, earning 3 sacks and 3 INTs on the day. The comeback wasn’t to be though, with the South Dublin side surviving a late comeback from the hosts.

Speaking of the Panthers, Cahill evened out his 3 INTs with 3 passing TDs, throwing 2 to WR Sean Goldrick and a third to WR Raymond Burke. Burke and RB Ben Arulogun, along with other key Panthers players, picked up injuries that kept them from returning to the game, so the Panthers injury report going into the bye week may be a bit longer of a list than they will have hoped after 2 games. Strong defensive performances, including individual efforts like DE Evan Allen’s 2 sacks and fumble recovery, will be crucial to South Dublin’s season moving forward if offensive weapons will be limited coming out of the Easter break.

Dublin Rhinos (0-2) 0 – 52 Dublin Rebels (2-0)
The Rebels took control of this one early and did not let that grasp slip. RB Wello Omo took 2TDs in on the ground, while QB Ty Henry threw for 5 TDs (including 3 to WR Greg Johnson) in this one, the season-high across the league for one game. The defense was sure not to be left without any highlight performances, with DB Dylan Paisley’s 3 INTs being the standout. Ricky Paisley added a 4th interception, while Rebels veteran Conrad Cook scooped up a fumble and took it to the house. Rebels sit at #2 in the division now, having scored 72 unanswered points in their 2 games thus far.

The Rhinos are in a lot more alarming territory after sinking to 0-2 with a -81 points difference. This game fell out of the Rhinos hands quickly, with costly turnovers giving the ball and the game away early on. Some individuals can take some pride away from Sunday (defender Sam Olusegun finished with 2 sacks and a forced fumble), but the Rhinos need to find ways to regroup both in games and in the season, or they could find themselves stuck in an uphill battle for the entire season. With 2 games against UCD broken up by the Cowboys return fixture all in the space of the first 30 days coming out of the bye week, they will need to find inspiration from somewhere to climb out of their current #8 position.

AFI Division 1

Westmeath Minotaurs (2-0) 13 – 0 Donegal / Derry Vipers (1-2)
The Division 1 game with arguably the most intrigue going into it (#2 vs #3 before Sunday’s result) ended up being the lowest scoring game of the weekend. Westmeath’s passing attack through QB Joe Kinahan and WRs Jack Lynch and Shaun Dalton got going early, with Lynch grabbing his first receiving TD of the day towards the end of the first quarter. Both offenses stalled from there, with sputters every now and then, including a jump-ball catch from Vipers WR Chad Higgins, and hammering runs by Minotaurs FB Jay Bruton. Westmeath’s defense helped seal the win for the Minotaurs, taking the ball from the Vipers on 4 INTs (2 apiece by CB Peter Dempsey and S Niall Folan).

Both teams now go without a game until May 15th, with the Vipers making the long travel down to Limerick, and the Minotaurs being hosted by the Wexford Eagles. The key for both teams’ regular seasons ending in playoff berths will be improving on on offensive, with both sides turning in lackluster days with the ball in their possession.

Cill Dara Crusaders (0-2) 39 – 47 UL Vikings (2-1)
What a very pleasant surprise for the spectators in Newbridge on Sunday! The highest scoring game of the season so far, UL came out one-score victors in a shootout. For the hosts, Cill Dara can at least be a bit more confident in their offensive output moving forward and can look back at a lot of performances to try and replicate coming out of the break. QB Jordan Farrell had a much better day in Newbridge, throwing for 4TDs to 3 WRs in Sidney Pindi, Robert Brown and younger brother Kealan. The Crusaders defense was aggressive all day, and while that aggressive nature may not have paid off Sunday, the creating of 3 sacks and 3 turnovers will delight Crusaders coaches and they will surely look into how they got to that point to bring those performances in again throughout the season.

Speaking of creating turnovers, the Vikings came away with 3 turnovers themselves: interceptions from Jace Rea, Adam Keane and Luiz Quadros (the latter returning his for a pick 6) helped the Vikings get back on offense and get points on the board. RB Sean Grace had a fantastic day on the ground, rushing into the endzone for 3 TDs. That powerful run game also slowed the pass rush down at times, enough for QB Kieran Gilholl to throw for 3 TDs, with Danny Quilter grabbing 2 of them.

The Crusaders currently sit at #5 in Division 1 and outside of playoff positioning, though with their next game being another hosting duty (Wexford Eagles on May 1st), they will have time to sharpen up for a game they will be favouring as their first win of the year. UL jump to #3 with a 2-1 record, next hosting the Vipers on May 15th. The Vikings young offense will likely be looking to put in another good performance to keep themselves in good shape for a playoff berth.

Wexford Eagles (0-3) 0 – 22 Trinity (3-0)
We end on another one-sided affair, with Trinity continuing their remarkable run of form on defense, having not conceded a single point in their first 3 games of the year. With Conor O’Dwyer in at QB Sunday Trinity had 2 passing TDs through the air (one to Brandon Atwell, one to Conor Keeley), while adding a third TD on the ground through Rory O’Dwyer. O’Dwyer also had an INT on defense, as did Adam Byrne. Trinity can look forward to the break now sitting atop the division, and have plenty of time to scout future opponents between now and their next game on May 22nd (Crusaders).

The Eagles, now 0-3, will need to figure things out on both sides of the ball. While their defense hasn’t been leaking too much (2 games played, 34 points conceded, one 30-0 forfiet loss) their offense has not gotten off to a good start, with the lone TD from their season opener against UL being their only points so far on the year. Their matchup with Cill Dara on May 1, against an aggressive defense, may provide a few opportunities to get some points on the board if they prepare for a tough day on the line.

And that’s it for kitted football until April 24th! While there won’t be games over the Easter break, we won’t be short of content on our Facebook and Instagram over the next few weeks, including announcements we can’t wait to make!

Preview: AFI Gameweek 5

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

Gameweek 5 has arrived, and right before we head into the first of multiple league-wide bye weeks, we have the most stupendous weekend of AFI football on offer so far this season with 6 games taking place across the island — 3 in Premier Division, 3 in Division 1. With top spots in both divisions up for grabs, rivalries to settle, and a #1 vs #2 battle in the Premier Division on tap this Sunday, this week will drastically effect the dominos that fall later in the year. Just how does this writer see things happening? Let’s deep dive into this week’s massive schedule to find out.


AFI Premier Division

UCD (2-0) @ Craigavon Cowboys (2-0) — People’s Park, Portadown, 2pm
Let’s face it: most of you are here for this one. Two teams that crept under a lot of preseason predictions have very quickly become the two of the hottest teams in AFI, currently sitting at #1 and #2 in the Premier Division respectively. It’s not an awful stretch to compare the sides either: two QBs playing some fantastic football (UCD’s Arun Mooney and Craigavon’s Peter Loughran); two get-out-the-way strong offensive lines to complement efficient running games; two defenses that cause havoc on opposing offenses and create takeaways like they’re going out of fashion. Both clubs have started their season’s extraordinarily, and it can only be assumed that both sides will keep that momentum riding to the playoffs regardless of the result in this one. 

This one could end up being very close, and for me it’s really up to what narrative you would rather back: go with UCD, who have had a stronger schedule so far (beating the Trojans 28-27, beating the Knights 58-7) compared to the Cowboys (35-6 win over the Rhinos, 14-13 win vs Knights); or, go with the hosts, as the home team has gone 13-3 so far across all divisions this season. While the latter is certainly a bit more superstitious, there is certainly something to be said about home-field advantage. Writer’s score predictions are at the end of this article so you’ll have to wait until you get there to see the pick!

South Dublin Panthers (1-0) @ Belfast Knights (0-2) — Malone RFC, 2pm
The Panthers have a quick shift of focus as they go from preparing for one Belfast team to another after upsetting the Trojans last weekend. A performance highlighted by QB Ian Cahill’s 4 TD day has made a lot of heads turn in South Dublin’s direction, somewhat overcoming the demons that haunted them of their Shamrock Bowl 33 loss in 2019. They travel this Sunday to Malone RFC to take on the Knights, who will be hoping for a defensive performance that more closely resembled the 14-point day vs the Cowboys than the 58 points they gave up to UCD in Gameweek 1. The Knights offense will be keen to improve upon their start to the season as well, having scored just 20 points in their two games so far in 2022. 

It’s hard to predict much else than a Panthers win here. The Panthers do need to make sure that every bit of respect is given to the Knights here to avoid an upset of their own, and we have already discussed the home team record so far this year. Saying that, it’s hard to argue against the Panthers winning here after their monumental start to the season last Sunday in Palmerstown.

Dublin Rebels (1-0) @ Dublin Rhinos (0-1) — Castleknock College, 2pm
This writer loves a good geographical rivalry game. While perhaps not being quite as big as NY Jets/Giants, a match involving two teams from the same county is always going to stir up drama at some point. The Rebels take the short trip to Castleknock after shutting out the Cork Admirals in Gameweek 2, while the hosts came away from Craigavon in the season opener on the wrong end of a 35-6 scoreline. Rhinos QB Ethan Foster will have been working on keeping better control of the ball after giving up 3 INTs in Craigavon, and he certainly has the ability to light a game up through the air and on the ground. Rebels QB Ty Henry greatly impressed in his eventual debut for the Rebels in their opener vs Cork, adding a score on the ground and through the air via WR Alan Dowdall.

Henry replicating his performance should help the Rebels on their way to a win here. After keeping the 2018 National Champions out of the endzone all day in Gameweek 2, it’s unlikely the Rebels give up enough points to be under threat in this one. Rhinos need to bring their A-game on Sunday, and if they do so they definitely give themselves a chance to come away 1-1.


AFI Division 1

Donegal / Derry Vipers (1-1) @ Westmeath Minotaurs (1-0) — Mullingar RFC, 2pm
The first of the three Division 1 games from this weekend that we’ll cover is the matchup in Mullingar. The Vipers have been more successful in this matchup in the past than the Westmeath outfit, though Westmeath did win in a shutout in their last encounter from the 2019 season. Westmeath, coming off the back of their historic win against the Philadelphia Blue Flame, will be looking to keep momentum rolling after their schedule was disrupted by the Wexford Eagles forfeit last Sunday. The Vipers, meanwhile, travel to Westmeath in better form than they were in going into last Sunday, when they beat the Cill Dara Crusaders 30-12 at the City of Derry RFC. 

Expect a physical one here, with both teams eager to capitalize on their wins from last weekend. With two strong defenses able to cancel out teams that aren’t at peak performance, it may come down to who has more weapons on the offensive side of the ball. The Minotaurs come into this game as hosts to a team they have beaten in their most recent outing and who are travelling more than 3 hours, so it’s hard to not give the nod to Westmeath in this one.

UL Vikings (1-1) @ Cill Dara Crusaders (0-1) — Newbridge College, 2pm
A first-time matchup in this one, as the Vikings travel to Kildare to battle the Crusaders in a game both needs need to win to stay in the playoff race in Division 1 early on in the year. The Vikings sit in the #3 seed right now, but are coming off the back of a shutout loss to Trinity in Gameweek 3. Cill Dara are also coming off the back of a Gameweek 3 loss, theirs coming  to the Vipers. The Crusaders home record in 2019 while in Division 2 was admirable, though the step up to Division 1, especially defending home field against a former Premier Division side, will prove a different challenge. 

The Vikings have the advantage on the standings, but having put up points in their recent loss the Crusaders may come into this game feeling more confident than UL. This matchup may rest on which version of Crusaders QB Jordan Farrell comes out on Sunday — the former U-20 Wolfhound, or the QB who threw for 4 INTs in Derry 2 weeks ago. UL will certainly be hoping for the latter, while also hoping QB Eoin Rudkins keeps better control of the ball himself, having thrown a late-game interception which ultimately cost them the game vs Trinity in Gameweek 3.

Trinity (2-0) @ Wexford Eagles (0-2) — Craanford Sports Complex, 2pm
Defending home field against the #1 seed in the division a week after forfeiting a game isn’t exactly an enviable task, but it’s one that the Eagles will have to face as they host a Trinity side that has not yet conceded a point in two games.  While that streak will have to end at some stage, one has to wonder if this weekend is when it happens, with Trinity coming up against a side coming off the aforementioned forfeit. Both Trinity and Wexford were held to 6 points by UL’s defense, and while triangular logic in football is absolutely not a safe game to play when trying to predict games, it’s an interesting observation nonetheless.

Could new HC Craig Morrell and QB Trevor Smith inspire his Eagles to a shocking win at home? Perhaps, but the more likely outcome here is QB Ben Dowling puts on another good performance, picking up a 3rd win on the year for Trinity heading into the bye week.

Quickfire Predictions
UCD 26 – 21 Cowboys
Panthers 34 – 18 Knights
Rebels 27 –  08 Rhinos
Vipers 14 – 28 Minotaurs
Vikings 20 – 08 Crusaders
Trinity 21 – 06 Eagles

Keep an eye on our Facebook and Instagram stories for a chance to give your thoughts on this weekend’s stupendous offering by voting on winners’ polls and leaving us your predictions for Sunday’s action!

Review: AFI Gameweek 4

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

The first 4 Gameweeks in the 2022 AFI Kitted Football Season have come and gone, and last Sunday’s action has certainly left a big impact on the rest of the season. Division 2’s two games from Sunday have already started shaping that division’s playoff picture, Division 1 has had a wild start due to a forfeit, and a Premier Division team’s chances at a playoff run may be more up in the air than many would have predicted at the start of the year…


AFI Premier Division

South Dublin Panthers (1-0) 42 – 13 Belfast Trojans (0-2)
Hands up if you predicted this scoreline?? A Panthers win was absolutely within the realm of possibility here, but even the Panthers themselves must be beyond excited about this win. With a bit of uncertainty going into the game regarding their head coaching situation, there was even a bit of an excuse to expect a Trojans blowout here. What actually happened was quite the opposite, as Panthers QB Ian Cahill threw for 4 TDs (3 to WR Ray Burke), while RB Ben Arulogun added 2 TDs on the ground. The Panthers defense smothered the Trojans offense in the second half, stopping multiple 4th down attempts and DB Sean Carrick picking off long-time Trojans QB James McKelvey late in the game.

The Panthers come out of their season opener with a big momentum-starter leadinng up to their game this weekend @ Belfast Knights and for the year ahead, and have silenced a lot of critics with this win alone. The bigger story here, though, may well be the Belfast Trojans, and where they go from here. The Big T have started their 2019 National Championship campaign 0-2, and have conceded 7 passing TDs in those 2 games. While they have a month to prepare for their next game (an away trip to the Dublin Rebels), shutting down QB Ty Henry will be vital to the national champions’ hopes of getting their season back on track — a loss to the Rebels (who themselves shutout Cork 2 weeks ago) would likely set the #4 seed in the playoffs as Belfast’s ceiling for the season, and would make missing the playoffs altogether a genuine possibility.

AFI Division 1

Westmeath Minotaurs (1-0) 30 – 0 (forfeit) Wexford Eagles (0-2)
Not much to preview on paper, as the Eagles elected to not travel to Mullingar for their game with the Minotaurs. This comes after the Eagles tight 12-6 loss @ UL Vikings in Gameweek 1, and ahead of their hosting of Trinity (2-0) this weekend. 

This currently leaves Division 1 in what can only be described as utter chaos. Officially, Westmeath have the best points difference in the division and currently sit in the #2 seed in Division 1, without actually playing a game yet. Trinity (having shutout their 2 opponents so far this year) sit atop the division, while the highest-scoring offense — Donegal/Derry Vipers (1-1) — sit in the #4 seed, with UL above them on points difference. The Eagles have some work to do to push themselves back into a competitive position on the standings, as Sunday’s forfeit leaves them with a -36 points difference and 0 wins on the season so far.


AFI Division 2

Louth Mavericks (2-0) 52 – 8 North Dublin Pirates (0-2)
The Mavericks jumped ahead early in this one and never really took their foot of the gas. QB Nathan Hearty added a score through the air via Kaelin Dunne for Louth, but the star of the day was clearly Brendan Simms in at RB, tallying up 4 rushing TDs for the Mavericks. A Rian Molloy passing TD to Mark Hughes made sure the Pirates were not completely shutout, and an Adam Pyne interception helped provide another positive for the North Dublin outfit to pull from the day, but it was certainly a much better day for the Mavericks.

The Pirates fall to 0-2 after their loss to the Causeway Giants in Gameweek 2, but can look forward to the return fixture of that game on April 24th when they host their first game of the season. The win leaves Louth in the driver’s seat in Division 2, having beaten the Antrim Jets (1-1) in Gameweek 3. You would have to expect the Mavericks maintain that position through to the Division 2 final in July, but as we’ve seen in the
divisions above, stranger things have happened…


Antrim Jets
(1-1)
14 – 8 NI Razorbacks (1-1)
The most competitive match of the week, the Jets came away with their first win of the year at home against a much stronger Razorbacks team than we’ve seen in previous seasons. The Jets offense ran through Scot McLean as it usually does, though instead of adding scores through the air, McLean ran a TD and 2pt in himself. The Jets were aggressive on defense, forcing 5 turnovers. This included a forced fumble by Kyle Fenton (recovered by Kenny Pollin), and 4 interceptions — 2 by DB Patrick O’Connor, including 1 he took to the house. 

Antrim’s win helps even out their loss to the Mavericks the previous week, and puts them back into the mix for hosting a playoff game in Division 2, currently sat in the #3 seed. The Razorbacks, due to points difference, still sit at the #2 spot, though will surely be focused on keeping better control of the ball moving forward to keep themselves in the playoff picture. There are no Division 2 games until April 24th, when the Razorbacks travel to Louth. They have a quick turnaround after that game, as they host the return fixture of last Sunday’s game on May 1st, hosting the Jets at Newforge Country Club.

Preview: AFI Gameweek 4

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

As we roll into Gameweek 4 there are already a number of storylines beginning to take shape: UCD’s dominance over the Premier Division has been a shock to many; Trinity’s defense has taken charge in Division 1 (as opposed to their high-scoring offense from their 2019 season); and Division 2 is a lot tighter early on than some may have assumed it would be. With the the schedule’s first bye week coming up on the horizon, we look to this week’s action, featuring teams looking to rescue momentum from early hiccups, teams looking to ride waves of momentum they have created early on, and multiple teams only beginning the season this weekend. Let’s have a look at what’s happening this Sunday…

AFI Premier Division

Belfast Trojans (0-1) @ South Dublin Panthers (0-0) — King’s Hospital School, Palmerstown, 2pm
The only match taking place in the Premier Division this weekend is a rematch of the most recent Shamrock Bowl way back in August 2019 (with the hiatus caused by you know what). While Belfast came out of that game as National Champions, the Big T find themselves in an interesting situation so early in the season — so early that the hosts haven’t even kicked off their year yet. They struggled very early on against UCD, and while they mounted a late comeback, QB James McKelvey was picked off by UCD DB Eoghan McMahon. What was promising about the Trojans performance, though, was just how well they — specifically RB Jona Siri — ran the ball, with the man himself totaling over 200 yards and 2 TDs. The Belfast back following up on that performance will be key to the Trojans steadying the course on their path to reclaiming National Championship.

Meanwhile, the Panthers will be looking at the UCD win against the Trojans and asking “why not us?”. The South Dublin side have always been a very well-drilled team, with talent at many positions on the field. With an influx of talent coming from their growing youth football setup, from flag teams like the MU Hurricanes and others around the Dublin area, as well as a small haul from the Meath Bulldogs after their withdrawal from this season, the Panthers certainly have bodies willing to make plays this year. The pressing question surrounding the Panthers is what type of team will they be without long-time HC Steve Mack, who only very recently stepped down from the role.

An interesting year and an interesting weekend lay ahead for two teams who need wins soon to put any worries — internally and externally — to rest.

AFI Division 1

Wexford Eagles (0-1) @ Westmeath Minotaurs (0-0) — Mullingar RFC, 2pm
Much has been said and celebrated online about the Minotaurs’s 15-8 win over the Philadelphia Blue Flame 2 weeks ago, and the story coming out of the game was the Westmeath outfit’s defense: HC Bill Dougherty schemed up 4 sacks and 4 takeaways (including a pick 6) against the American side, and will be looking to keep up that production heading into the year. The Joe Kinahan-Jack Lynch connection — despite scoring in that game themselves — will be eager to help improve upon what was an underwhelming day overall for the offense.

Wexford travel to Mullingar after their 12-6 loss to UL in Gameweek 1. The Eagles kept a close game in Limerick and were close to taking a win home at various moments in the game, and will look to do much the same this Sunday. QB Trevor Smith may end up using his legs more than his arm because of the Minotaurs pass rush, but based on his runs against a strong UL defense 3 weeks ago he may very well be comfortable with that. An away win here would surely be considered an upset, but Wexford aren’t strangers to those either…

Historically this game has favoured the hosts, and with how the Minotaurs have come out of the pandemic compared to Wexford it is difficult to see a break in that trend this Sunday.

AFI Division 2

North Dublin Pirates (0-1) @ Louth Mavericks (1-0) — Dundalk RFC, 2pm
After earning their first win of the year last week in Antrim, the Mavericks play hosts this Sunday to the 0-1 Pirates. The Mavericks will be pleased with the 27-12 scoreline from last week but must feel that they easy left points on the board between penalties and turnover-worthy plays. They will definitely be happy with their run game, with 4 TDs scored on the ground in Antrim and will probably look to extend on that tally this weekend. RB Nathan Hearty leads the division in rushing TDs himself with 2 and will be out to bump that number up as he runs behind his offensive line.

North Dublin will be out to limit the mistakes made in their first outing at Limepark in Gameweek 2. The Pirates offense turned the ball over into 15 points 2 weeks ago between a fumble, a pick 6 and a safety, so will look to tighten everything up for a tough test in Dundalk this Sunday. With more time to gel with their Bulldogs counterparts, this team will likely become more of a unit to compete. Right now, though, unless QB Rian Molloy can inspire his players to the point where they will themselves to a win, it’s hard to read much into this game other than “Louth Mavericks go 2-0”.

NI Razorbacks (1-0) @ Antrim Jets (0-1) — Antrim Forum Playing Fields, 2pm
With the Jets loss last week they currently sit bottom of Division 2, though that status does not do the Antrim outfit any justice. Boasting one of the stronger passing offenses in the division, the Jets are a team that can absolutely rebound both within a game and within the next few games of the season. Donaghy Group Invitational Cup finalists, the Jets will certainly be leaning on QB Scot McClean to bring them back to .500 on the year and defend their home turf for the first time this season.

The Razorbacks, the Jets opponents Sunday, are a peculiar outfit. Officially top of the division right now due to a forfeit win from their scheduled match with the Giants in Gameweek 1, the Razorbacks have welcomed a plethora of Belfast City Lions flag team players to their ranks, which immediately gives a major boost to skill position groups and their defensive back room. With that potential to burn teams with speed and agility now on top of the power they can show up front, the Razorbacks could become a real threat in Division 2.

This writer will contradict himself with his prediction, however, as it’s hard to see the Jets dropping 2 in a row. Still, both teams should be very exciting to follow in this division, particularly down the stretch towards the playoffs.

Quickfire Predictions
Trojans 24 – 18 Panthers
Eagles 06 – 27 Minotaurs
Pirates 12 – 24 Mavericks
Razorbacks 14 – 20 Jets

Make sure to follow our Facebook and Instagram stories over the weekend as we give YOU the chance to have your say and let us know who you think comes out on top in each this Sunday!

Review: AFI Gameweek 3

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

Another week gone, another fantastic round of games across the island. A strong start for a team debuting in AFI Division 2, a chance for a bounce-back result and varsity bragging rights in both AFI Division 1 games, and a nail-bitter in Belfast’s AFI Premier Division fixture ALL took place last Sunday afternoon. Let’s take a look at what happened and what it may mean for teams moving forward…


AFI Premier Division

Belfast Knights 14 – 15 Craigavon Cowboys
Well this Premier Division is certainly living up to the billing of being the highest level of American Football in Ireland!! Twice in 2 weeks there has been a very late, crucial touchdown and ensuing 2pt conversion attempt, only this time the team on the comeback completed the mission and successfully converted the try! Down late after the Knights themselves came from being behind earlier in the game, the Cowboys marched down the field, with QB Peter Loughran throwing to WR Luis Alberto with just 15 seconds on the clock and down 1 point at 14-13. Electing to go for 2 points rather than kick the XP and likely take the draw, Loughran made the play himself by running it in and giving Craigavon a 14-15 lead. He added to his clutch display inside the 2-minute warning by sacking the Knights QB once they regained the ball, winding the game clock down to 0:00.

The win gives Craigavon a 2-0 record and some much-needed juice before hosting UCD on April 10th, while also likely already securing their place in the Premier Division in 2023. The Knights, meanwhile, fall to 0-2 and remain bottom of the division, their future in a lot more jeopardy than some may have expected at this point.

 

AFI Division 1

Donegal / Derry Vipers 30 – 12 Cill Dara Crusaders
The Vipers balance out their 20-0 loss to Trinity in Week 1 with a 30-point offensive performance last Sunday at their new home in City of Derry Rugby Club. Their running game got going a lot better than it did against the students, with the Donegal/Derry outfit scoring 4 times on the ground this past weekend (RBs Pete Farrell, Leroy Harris, QB Mike Naulty x2). Cill Dara scored through the ground once by young RB Luke Carey, and through the air by a 25-yard connection between QB Jordan Farrell and WR Robert Brown, who had 7 more catches on the day. For as high-scoring a game as it was, it could have been even higher, as both offenses combined for 9 turnovers, which included, among others, 2 INTs for Vipers DB Charlie Carlin.

The Vipers go 1-1 on the season and next face the Westmeath Minotaurs on April 10th, while the Crusaders start the year 0-1 and host the UL Vikings in Newbridge in 2 weeks.


Trinity 6 – 0 UL Vikings

We go from a high-scoring affair to a defensive one. Just the one score in this one, a second passing TD for the year being added to Trinity QB’s Ben Dowling’s yearly count. UL came close late on, with WR Danny Quilter shining in the second half especially, but a untimely INT in the endzone from an Eoin Rudkins pass sealed UL’s fate for the day. 

Another low-scoring, hard-fought matchup that somewhat replicated their intervarsity encounter back in November, that leaves the two teams in two very different positions moving forward. Trinity go up to 2-0, have not yet conceded a single point and face the Wexford Eagles on April 10th. UL, meanwhile, leave Santry 1-1 with two weeks to prepare for the trip to Newbridge for their game with the Crusaders, with both teams looking to avenge a loss from this week.

 

AFI Division 2

Antrim Jets 12 – 27 Louth Mavericks
Finally, the Louth Mavericks took home their first W in Division 2 after beating the Jets in Antrim by 2 scores. While the Jets did have some impressive performances in there (QB Scott McClean threw 2 TDs, LB Kenny Pollin had a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery), the Mavericks were the story here. Adding all 4 touchdowns on the ground (2 through Nathan Hearty), they were close to adding a fifth via a Dan Marshall interception, and actually reached the endzone on a Brendan Simms kick return which was called back for a penalty. Ultimately, this went as it perhaps should have, with the Mavericks volunteering themselves for relegation from Division 1 to rebuild the club coming out of the pandemic. Still, the Jets should be feeling positive about the sparks that shown throughout this game and should very well stay competitive in the year to come.

Louth come home 1-0 and host the 0-1 North Dublin Pirates this coming Sunday, while Antrim (0-1) will hope for a quick turnaround as they host the 1-0 NI Razorbacks.

Look out for a preview of Gameweek 4 later in the week!

Preview: AFI Gameweek 2

Joe Kinahan

The 2022 AFI Kitted Season continues this Saturday and Sunday with 4 games taking place across the country. Premier Division is represented by games in Dublin and Cork, Division 2 kicks off in Limepark, while Athlone plays host to an international club friendly for charity.

Another great week of football lies ahead — let’s have a look at what’s in store!

SATURDAY

CHARITY FRIENDLY

Philadelphia Blue Flame @ Westmeath Minotaurs — Athlone GAA Club, 2pm
Raising money for Cancer Support Sanctuary LARCC, the Minotaurs host the Police and Fire Department of Philadelphia. The Blue Flame have previously travelled to Ireland for football, playing UL Vikings more than 10 years ago, and have raised more than $270,000 for several charities. The game serves as a preseason game for both teams, and it is dedicated to long-time Blue Flame player Sgt. Patrick McDonald, who killed on duty on September 23rd 2008. Both teams will be looking to fine-tune their schemes going into their competitive schedules — the Minotaurs will be eager to bring their defensive form from 2019 (#3 in points allowed) and 2021 (8 points allowed in 2 games). LB Jay McBride will certainly rally his defense around him to put up a big defensive effort, while an offense highlighted by a strong running game and a WR corps led by Jack Lynch will look to be as explosive as we’ve seen from the Minotaurs in recent memory.

The game has already raised over €2000 so far for LARCC —  if you are interested in donating, get in touch with the Minotaurs on their socials.

 

SUNDAY

AFI Premier Division

Belfast Trojans @ UCD — UCD Sports Campus, Belfield, 1pm
As if this matchup wasn’t interesting enough before last weekend (2019’s #3 seed vs 2019’s Shamrock Bowl winner is a great sell on its own), UCD only went and put 58 points on the Knights. While the Trojans will certainly be a different test for the Students, it’s hard to ignore that type of offensive production and not expect at least some of that to carry over. QB Arun Mooney had a career day last weekend and he will be looking to push his offensive weapons down the field in much the same way. Belfast must be keen to stop UCD’s momentum early, and having defenders like LB Shane Leckey definitely helps you do that. Take into account the Trojans offense is also a National Championship-winning offense, and it makes for an incredibly exciting matchup. 

This writer won’t be mad at you for predicting either team to win. Another one-score game may well be on the cards.

Dublin Rebels @ Cork Admirals — Old Christians RFC, Glanmire, 1pm
Don’t overlook this one either. The Rebels will be the first to tell you that their 2019 season was a disappointment, finishing with a 2-6 record. QB Ty Henry may well be the difference the Dublin outfit need though, infusing a spark that was perhaps lacking in 2019. The Admirals, meanwhile, will look to find the groove that brought them to an undefeated regular season in 2019. While they were unable to play in the time since due to the pandemic, they have been steadily recruiting from their youth program. Two teams with drastically different campaigns in our last full season, two teams looking for a big win to start the year

AFI Division 2

North Dublin Pirates @ Causeway Giants — Limepark Playing Fields, 1pm
An intriguing matchup taking place in Limepark. The Giants debut year in 2019 was more successful than most new teams’ debuts, especially considering the fact that the club survived the pandemic after just 1 win in that season. They did, however, have a great 2021, competing in the Donaghy Group Invitational Cup, going 2-2 and finishing #3 in the tournament. The Pirates were a lot quieter during the pandemic, but recently saw an upward spike in membership created by the Bulldogs’ removal from 2022 competition. Some strong pieces join a quietly competitive Division 2 squad, so it’s hard to completely rule out a team that, as a cohesive unit, we don’t know an awful lot about. Keep a close eye on this one.

Quickfire Score Predictions
Blue Flame 18 – 21 Minotaurs
Trojans 27 – 24 UCD
Rebels 20 – 27 Admirals
Pirates 14 – 20 Giants