2023 AFI Kitted Schedule Released

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2023 AFI Kitted Season Format

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2022 AFI AGM Board Elections

American Football Ireland would like to congratulate Paul O’Donnell and Alan Lomasney on their elections to the AFI Board. 

Paul has been a long-time player and board member of the Donegal / Derry Vipers, and was recently re-elected to his Board position after serving a previous term. His continuous contributions to American Football Ireland on a club and organisational level have been long celebrated, and we are excited for Paul to continue his hard work in driving our sport forward.

Alan has been an instrumental part in establishing the Cork Admirals youth football academy and making it as successful as it has been since its entry to youth football competition. He also coaches the senior football team which has seen similar levels of success, winning the Shamrock Bowl in 2018 and achieving playoff football for the Admirals in each season since then. We are thrilled to bring Adam on board to bring even more development expertise and have another prominent voice pushing American Football Ireland and the sport to new heights. 

Paul O’Donnell can be contacted via email at paul_od@americanfootball.ie while Alan Lomasney can be contacted at alan_lo@americanfootball.ie

Preview: 2022 Kitted Intervarsity Competition

The 2022 AFI competitive football calendar wraps up with the annual Intervarsity Competition. Every year, Ireland’s 3 college football teams battle it out on the field in a one-day competition that not only allows new players and freshmen a taste of what’s to come the following AFI season, but for the bragging rights of being recognised as AFI’s best intervarsity club.

Each club was challenged with different highs and lows during the 2022 AFI Kitted Football season, and we caught up with each Head Coach to not only see how they confronted their season, but how they will approach this coming weekend.

Trinity
Trinity College Dublin had a great start to their season in AFI Division 1. Starting off hot 4-0 with 3 wins of 20+ points, Trinity’s season was unfortunately cut short due to a depleted roster by the time the summer came around. With the likes of O’Dwyer brothers Conor and Rory, QB Ben Dowling and dual-position player Brandon Atwell all in the squad at the time — as well as a win over this weekend’s hosts — Trinity’s 2022 season had looked very promising up until this past June. Forfeits have been the elephant in the room that is difficult not to bring up when discussing Trinity as a contender in playoff stretches towards the latter half of seasons, though it is something the coaching staff is already confronting head-on in the lead up to 2023.

“Trinity is rebuilding,” Head Coach Garland Drake said, “and thus far it has ben a success. A new elected committee and team captain have proved to be bright lights for the upcoming intervarsities and the season ahead.” Getting back to games and getting players on the field and competing is clearly something the team and coaching staff are excited for as ways to further recruit for the 2023 season and get the team started back on a path back to the mid-2010s heights of Shamrock Bowl contention.

UL Vikings
This weekend’s hosts had a much brighter 2022 campaign. Finishing the regular season at 5-2-1, UL ended their campaign as 2022 AFI Division 1 finalists. An exciting, explosive run game with Division 1 rushing TD leader Aidan Maher at the foreground helped push the Vikings through in battles like their game of the year candidate 47-39 victory over the Crusaders in March, while a smashmouth, in-your-face defense highlighted by DE Robert Browne and his division-leading 7 sacks kept division champions to just 6 points in UL’s last regular season matchup.

Speaking on his team heading into this weekend and the 2023 season, Coach Liam Ryan said he is excited to get a look at another great rookie class on the field together, especially with WR-to-QB project Fin O’Donovan taking his first snaps under center in a competitive fixture this weekend. “This will be a good challenge to benchmark ourselves against,” he noted “[and with] the Rhinos coming down to Division 1 along with Crusaders, Vipers and other strong squads it should be a really competitive division again next year.” UL will obviously out to avenge their heartbreak from July’s 2022 Division 1 final, and Vikings fans should be optimistic that both the players and the coaching staff are on the same page seeing this weekend as a chance to test and prepare themselves before they start their road back to the final in 2023.

UCD
Finally, this weekend’s heavy favourites and Shamrock Bowl XXXIV Champions, UCD come into this weekend off the back of a fantastic 2022. Going 6-1-1 and being crowned 2022 National Champions in August’s final at Kingspan Stadium — as well as having 13 players and 5 staff represented on the Irish Wolfhounds squad that took on Team Spain back in October — UCD stock has never been higher. The Students competed in some of the best games of the season in 2022, including their 28-28 tie with Cork, the 28-27 nail-biter with the Trojans and both matchups with the Rebels, and have clearly built a solid foundation for the future.

Speaking of that future, Assistant Head Coach Darragh Farrell said he is delighted that this weekend’s team will be “heavily dominated by total rookies and first or second-year players [to] gain some well deserved experience,” and that there will be players rested after such a long, grueling club season and national team period has only recently been put behind them.

This year’s one-day blitz takes place Saturday November 19th at UL Sports Campus from 11am. Attendance is free, so make sure to get down and watch the last remaining fixtures in AFI’s 2022 calendar!

Preview: 2022 AFI Youth Football Playoffs

This Sunday November 6th the Sport Ireland Campus in Blanchardstown, Co. Dublin hosts the 2022 AFI Youth Football Playoffs. 4 teams will showcase the best U-18s athletes AFI has to offer, all in a bid to be crowned National Champions. The schedule for Sunday is as follows:

12:30#1 Cork Admirals (4-0) vs #4 Donegal / Derry Vipers (1-2-1)
13:30#2 South Dublin Panthers (2-1-1) vs #3 Belfast Knights (2-2)
15:00Youth Football Final

With just a few days until our 2022 National Champions are confirmed, let’s take a quick look into each team and what strengths they will rely on to bring home the big one!

#1 Cork Admirals (4-0)
The reigning National Champions picked up where they left off last season and have continued their dominance in the league. Outscoring the remaining playoff teams combined, as well as boasting a defense that has conceded just 1 touchdown all year, the Admirals are a true force that seems difficult to stop. With star RB Neil O’Leary paving the way on the ground, and a turnover-happy defense that includes FS Daniel O’Sullivan, any team facing Cork will need to play a near-perfect game to keep up with the juggernaut from the south.

#2 South Dublin Panthers (2-1-1)
The Panthers are a well-drilled side that has always played hard, competitive football. Tying with the Vipers at the start of the year, the Panthers have pitched 2 shutouts this season as well as beating their #3 ranked opponents in their previous outing. South Dublin have a knack for pulling off big results and will definitely fancy themselves in their bid for the title. Repeating their result against the Knights will put them on the right track momentum-wise.

#3 Belfast Knights (2-2)
The Knights finished this season .500 which earned them this #3 seeding and a rematch with the Panthers. Starting off hot with 2 tight wins over the Vipers and Trojans, Belfast’s black and gold lost to both the Admirals and Panthers in the final gameday coming into these playoffs. Still, combine a coaching staff that will have made adjustments following the previous result with South Dublin with a promising up-and-coming roster that includes Maxwell Scott on offense and Issac Searle on defense, and the Knights have more than a fighter’s chance to come home from Blanchardstown with the championship in hand.

#4 Donegal / Derry Vipers (1-2-1)
Facing a formidable opponent, the Vipers are more than their 28-0 loss to this weekend’s opponents at the beginning of the season. The Vipers defense proved itself to be a big strength for the team, conceding just 12 points after that game vs Cork in week 1 and forcing 2 shutouts. A strong defensive line that is bolstered by the likes of Dylan Coyle has the ability to slow offenses right down and keep games within reaching distance for the Vipers. Donegal / Derry will be looking to use more of what worked for young QB Jack McGowan in his 2 TD performance against the Trojans, and create consistent gaps for RB Gavin Weatherall to get the team on the scoreboard more consistently. If they can do that, the Vipers may very well cause an upset in the semis.

Attendance at the Sport Ireland Campus on Sunday November 6th for the 2022 AFI Youth Football Playoffs is FREE, so make sure to come down and watch the showcase of the next generation of Irish American Football!

Preview: 2022 AFI Flag Football Playoffs

2022 has proven to be a wild year for all 3 forms of American football in Ireland, but none have been quite as unpredictable as the 2022 AFI Flag Football season. Beginning back on August 20th shortly after Shamrock Bowl XXXIV, 24 flag football teams have competed for the chance to be a part of this Saturday November 5th‘s playoffs at Dromore RFC, Co. Down. Alas, 8 remain, 4 each from Premier Division and Division 1.

12:15 — Division 1 Semi-finals
#1 Belfast Knights vs #4 Antrim Jets
#2 Westmeath Minotaurs vs Cill Dara Crusaders

13:30 — Premier Division Semi-finals
#1 South Dublin Panthers vs #4 Donegal / Derry Vipers
#2 Craigavon Cowboys vs #3 Dublin Bay Raptors

14:45Division 1 final: Glas Bowl III

16:00Premier Division final: Emerald Bowl VIII

With just a few more games to go before this year’s Emerald Bowl and Glas Bowl Champions are crowned, let’s take a look at each team’s path to the playoffs.

Premier Division

#1 South Dublin Panthers (10-0) — South

The Panthers came up from 2021’s Division 1 and utterly dominated the South group this year, going undefeated and putting up some truly elite performances on both sides of the ball. Scoring a country-high 411 points in their 10 games and also boasting the #1 defense (157 points), the Panthers came out with a screaming start by handily beating group-favourite Edenderry Eagles and Dublin Rebels.  It should have come as no surprise that the Panthers have had as good a season as they’ve had — with the likes of Jo Buchanan, Sean Douglas and Ryan Eccles all making splash plays on offense and defense, as well as QB Joe Grey leading the charge for the South Dublin side.

#2 Craigavon Cowboys (10-0) — North

2021’s National Champions had themselves a perfect season of their own, going 10-0 in an otherwise very tight division. Also posting over 400 points, the Craigavon offense (and a certain QB Peter Loughran) is a juggernaut everyone around the league is very aware of. With potential national team members such as Neil Maxwell, Austin Ramsey and Scott Buchanan available though, Craigavon are more than just their well-renowned QB. With a defense that kept opposing offenses to 21 or less points in 6 out of 10 games, Craigavon have everything it takes to repeat their Emerald Bowl win from last season

#3 Dublin Bay Raptors (7-3) — South

Perhaps another surprise considering the preseason strength of the South group, the Raptors truly burst on to the scene by starting 4-0. Veteran QB Todd Zboyan led a young group of players after amalgamating with the Thomastown Tigers and crafted a team that put up more than 30 points in all but 1 game. While the likes of Jack Basquille and Jason Kolokithas will help fill the gap, the Raptors will be without standout piece on offense and defense Peadar O’Muiri. Still, the Raptors have shown to be the type of team to face big challenges head-on, and after coming 2 points short of upsetting the #1 seed, they may very well fancy themselves against the #2 seed.

#4 Donegal / Derry Vipers (6-4) — North

The Vipers might be the true upset of this playoff schedule this season. Being promoted from 2021’s Division 1, Donegal / Derry had a tough task ahead of them to stay up in a group that includes the high-scoring Hurricanes, a Trojans team that specialises in tight games, an athletic Mavericks outfit and fellow promoted side Belfast City Lions. Not only did the Vipers achieve Premier Division status for next year, but they blew past every expectation put in front of them, and put on some fantastic games while they were at it. After a sputtering start that saw some wide scorelines, 4 of the Vipers last 6 games were decided by 10 or less points, including a thriller with Maynooth that saw QB Peter Hamilton connect with star receiver Chad Higgins with just 7 seconds left on the clock to both win the game and secure their spot in this weekend’s playoffs. The Vipers knack for coming through with big plays in clutch moments will be key in their push for the finals.

Division 1

#1 Belfast Knights (9-1) — North

Relegation can demoralise some teams and lead to some hitting the reset button and taking a few years before making true attempts to climb back up — the Knights aren’t some teams. With players like Jordan Clinton and John McCrystal to get the ball to, the Knights scored fairly consistently in the 30-35 point range, landing there in 6 of their 10 games. The series with the Jets is currently in the black and gold’s favour at 2-1, so the Knights will have even more of an incentive to progress to the Glas Bowl game.

#2 Westmeath Minotaurs (8-2) — South

The Minotaurs have, for the last few years, been the team that has been *right* at playoff contention, only to have forfeits from earlier in the season to come back and haunt them. After putting a full season together, the Westmeath side put themselves on top of the South group, dropping points only to the Crusaders at the start of the season and the Rebels 2nds in their final gameweek. Scoring over 400 points this season — 1 of 3 teams in the country to do so — it seems the infusion of youth in their depths has pushed the Minotaurs to true players in the division, with the likes of Jack and Darragh Lynch, Peter Dempsey and Shaun Dalton all playing key roles.

#3 Cill Dara Crusaders (7-3) — South

The Crusaders are a different side altogether with Jordan Farrell under center compared to last season. Improving drastically from their 1-5 finish in 2021, Cill Dara are just 2 games away from adding a flag football trophy to the club’s cabinet. Luke Carey and Ethan Bolger have added some versatility on offense that perhaps was previously missing, while defensively the Crusaders have been rock solid, boasting a unit that has conceded less than 17 points a game. Much like the Vipers in the Premier Division, the Crusaders waited right until the end of the season to lock this playoff position up, just getting in ahead of the Rebels 2nds after beating UCD 30-27. Morale and momentum in the Crusaders camp is high and, with a 50-20 victory over the Minotaurs under their belts from earlier in the season, could well be on their way to lifting the Glas Bowl on Saturday.

#4 Antrim Jets (7-3) — North

The Jets are a curious team to preview. Relatively new to flag football (2021 debut season: 2-6 record), the Jets have performed past their expected goals for the season. With the highest scoring offense and 2nd best defense in the North group, their place in the playoffs was more than validated, especially considering they shutout the #1 seed in an amazing 32-0 performance and one loss was by a mere 2 points. With standouts like Jonny McCullough, Ryan Beckett and Scot McLean, the Jets can absolutely go on a run to the Glas Bowl.

Entry to the playoff event this Saturday is FREE so come down and support your team! Make sure to follow along the games on our dedicated flag football website here to find live scores and full season standings. A live stream will also be available — link to follow on our social pages.

Notice of 2022 AFI Annual General Meeting

The Annual General Meeting of American Football Ireland will take place Sunday November 27th at Clayton Hotel, Liffey Valley, Co. Dublin from 2pm.

All Clubs and Directors are required to have a representative attend the meeting to discuss the association business and take part in voting/election process.

Elections to the AFI Board of Management
There are 3 positions open for election this year:

  • 1x 3-year term — Board position term of Aidan Maguire (this is not the presidency position)
  •  1x 3-year term — Board position term of Paul O’Donnell (Completed)
  • 1x 1-year term — Board position term of Steve McDonnell (stepped down from the board during his 2nd year)
All candidates for election must be members in good standing with at least 3 consecutive years affiliation to AFI. The role of a Management Board members is to promote the growth and development of the sport in line with our governing documents and the Governance Code.
 
New Club Applications
As per Section 1 A.6 of the AFI Bylaws, all new clubs memberships are to submit a request in writing to the AFI Commissioner at least 1 month in advance of the AGM (by end of October 27th).
 

These must be sent to commissioner@americanfootball.ie

Application forms for associative membership for all new clubs can be requested from the Commissioner or Dept. Director
 
Proposed Amendments to the AFI Bylaws, and Proposals or Resolutions for Consideration
Any proposal or resolution for consideration, and voting thereon, at any AGM shall be submitted in full, via email, to the Commissioner.
 
These must be sent to commissioner@americanfootball.ie
 
The proposal(s) or resolution(s) for consideration should arrive with the Commissioner not later than 2 weeks prior to the date of the AGM at which the proposal is to be considered and voted upon (by end of November 13th). 

Irish Wolfhounds Women’s Flag Football Team Now Recruiting

The Irish Wolfhounds National Flag Football coaching staff are recruiting Irish national athletes for the Women’s Flag Football team. The coaching staff, led by Head Coach Dan Shaw, are excited to put forward a competitive team for the 2023 IFAF European Flag Football Championships next August in Limerick, which will see numerous countries’ Men’s and Women’s teams taking part to be crowned European Champions!

When asked about the Women’s national team program, Coach Dan Shaw had this to say:
Female Participation in flag football is something I have always been passionate about both at club and national level. This will be a fantastic opportunity for top tier athletes from within our own league bit also across other sports to pull on a green jersey and represent this island next summer. I am very excite to see what caliber of female squad we can put on the field for next year. 

Interested athletes can submit their sporting CV to flag_hc@irishwolfhounds.ie. The opportunity to represent Ireland in a rapidly developing sport has presented itself — find out if you have what it takes to be a Wolfhound!

Press Release: Irish Wolfhounds @ Team Spain, October 22nd

Saturday October 22nd 2022 will see the Irish Wolfhounds start their campaign in Group B of the IFAF European Championships, travelling to Madrid to take on Team Spain at Estadio Municipal Rafael Mendoza, 17:00 local time. 

The IFAF European Championship groups are seeded groups: the winner of Spain vs Ireland will play the winner of Israel vs Turkey. The winner of that match will face Germany in 2023 for qualification to Group A, the elite group of European American football national teams. 

The last fixtures to take place for the Irish Wolfhounds were more than 3 years ago, with the Irish squad earning back-to-back home and away wins over Team Belgium. The Wolfhounds look set to cause more than just a spark in Group B and, after a remarkable domestic season, will be out to further Ireland’s visibility on the radar of Europe’s elite!

Tickets to the game are free, so we encourage all Wolfhounds fans to travel with the team this October to witness a fantastic international fixture

August 19th #STK Clinic — Coach Zach Gobel

 
This Friday August 19th at 8pm will see another installment in our online coaching clinic partnership with #ShareTheKnowledgeUK. This month’s clinic will be delivered by Coach Zach Gobel, who has nearly 25 years’ worth of coaching experience at the high school level in the US. Having been a part of Option offenses at high school and college levels in his playing and coaching careers, Coach Gobel is excited to deliver his online clinic on the topic of installing Option offenses.
 
If you have already signed up to a #STK clinic before, you will receive an email soon with meeting details. If not, make sure to sign up here!
 

ON SALE NOW: Coach Rod Woodson Clinics September 3rd-4th

Tickets for the U-18 (Saturday September 3rd) and Senior (Sunday September 4th) football clinics hosted by Coach Rod Woodson in partnership with HOPE Through Football, #sharetheknowledgeuk and AFI — and sponsored by the Pittsburgh Steelers and DirecTV — are on sale NOW! AFI are privileged to help deliver this clinic to an American football community that has grown at an unprecedented rate over the last 10 years, and we are excited to learn from some of the best to ever play and coach the game!

SATURDAY
Youth football clinic — Sport Ireland Campus, Blanchardstown, Co. Dublin, 10am – 5pm
Athletes must be aged 15-18yrs old
Training shirt and lunch provided.
More information and tickets available here.

SUNDAY
Senior football clinic — Sport Ireland Campus, Blanchardstown, Co. Dublin, 10am – 2pm
Training shirt provided.
More information and tickets available here.

Review: AFI Gameweek 18

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 weekend’s Premier Division playoff matchups in Dublin saw 2 teams put on outstanding performances on their way to Shamrock Bowl XXXIV at Kingspan Stadium (tickets still available). With 102 points scored between both games, who came out on top and secured their ticket to the final? Let’s dive into last weekend’s action.

#4 South Dublin Panthers 6 – 46 #1 Dublin Rebels
The Rebels outmatched the Panthers and were relentless in securing the win Sunday. Consistently gaining yardage seemingly every play, moving the chains and playing water-tight on defense, the Rebels sprinted out of the gate and held a 24-0 lead at halftime. Not easing off the throttle, they scored another 22 points in the second half and, while the Panthers did eventually break through the defense for a score of their own, the Rebels dominated this semi-final and punched their ticket to the National Championship. With one more game to go, the 2022 Dublin Rebels could join the short list of Irish championship-winning teams who have completed undefeated seasons.

The loss is a heavy pill to swallow for the Panthers, who came into this game with a nack for upsets looking for another. Instead, the Panthers bow out of the playoffs at the semi-final stage to the #1 team in the country. Coming into this season as an unknown, particularly with an up-in-the-air coaching situation, the Panthers earned some great results where needed and proved their worth where it mattered in the regular season. With a steadier preseason in 2023 that should stabilise the foundation of the team on the field, the Panthers should be seen as Premier Division playoff contenders next season.

#3 Cork Admirals 6 – 44 #2 UCD
A balanced first half in Belfield gave way to a one-sided second half as the Students overcame the Admirals and denied the Cork side the chance to replicate the 2018 Shamrock Bowl matchup. The game was locked up early with UCD scoring shortly before the break to make it 16-6 at half. From there, UCD were disciplined and capitalized on many penalties given away by the Admirals, which shortened the field for the Students and helped them score more frequently. Couple those penalties with a growing deficit, and QB Stephen Hayes was put under more pressure to make more risky throws, and while the QB was on target more often than not, UCD were able to come away with 4 sacks and 3 interceptions. Cork’s season ends in a disappointing fashion, but their season as a whole must be celebrated — especially considering they finished 5-2-1 with the #3 seed after a 0-2 start. Expect to see the Admirals recover and reestablish themselves as potential favourites in 2023’s playoff picture.

The Students, meanwhile, build some necessary momentum as they can now set their sights on a revenge game from earlier in the season. A 40+ point performance against a tough defense and allowing just 1 score to a team that had averaged nearly 35 points in their last 4 games will absolutely boost spirits for the UCD roster. With 2 teams who have been hot all year playing with the National Championship on the line, August 7th should be a monster of a game.

Preview: AFI Gameweek 18

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.

It’s really heating up now! The Dublin Rebels, UCD, Cork Admirals and South Dublin Panthers have all had 2 weeks to prepare for the AFI Premier Division semi-finals, with personnel adjustments and gameplans drawn up and installed for this Sunday 24th. With a spot in Shamrock Bowl XXXIV at Kingspan Stadium on August 7th (tickets available here) on the line, players on all 4 teams will be playing with every bit of grit and determination they have to secure the win for their squad. How does this writer see the games go down? Let’s take a look.

#4 South Dublin Panthers (4-4) @ #1 Dublin Rebels (8-0) — De La Salle RFC, Palmerston, 2pm
An up-and-down season for the 2019 Shamrock Bowl finalists, the Panthers got results when they needed them, a 55-6 win over the Cowboys towards the end of the season ultimately putting them into this postseason matchup. QB Ian Cahill has shown he can play a blinder in big games for the Panthers, with the signal-caller hoping to conjure up a performance akin to his 4 TD game at home to #5 Trojans (4-4) at the start of the season. With weapons at the ready like RB Ben Arulogun, WR Ray Burke and emerging receiving option Trevor Smith (3 TDs in last 2 games) there are plenty of ways the Panthers can get into the endzone Sunday. LB Jo Buchanan has put up some great games on defense, as have the likes of DE Evan Allen and DB Mike Massari, all of whom will need career games to deny the Rebels offense.

Of course, that is something that has been seldom achieved this season, with the 2022 Rebels having one of the finer team regular seasons in recent memory. Finishing the season with the #1 offense and #1 defense, there’s a reason the Rebels have become the team to beat in the playoffs. Averaging 40.25ppg, the offense consisting firepower such as QB Ty Henry (#1 total TDs among QBs), RB Wello Omorodion (rush TD leader) and a wealth of WR talent including Dave King and Greg Johnson (receiving TD leader) just to name a few hit the ground running and have not stopped. Veterans such as Paul Kirkwood and Kenny McCarty have truly left a mark on how the Rebels have trucked through this season, inspiring the rest of the team by putting in true championship-level performances all season. The Panthers certainly have the chance to upset (it wouldn’t be the first time they’d have done so) but it’s hard to predict that against a team that has been on a different level in 2022 — and a team that beat them 42-13 just 2 weeks ago.

#3 Cork Admirals (5-2-1) @ #2 UCD (6-1-1) — UCD Sports Campus, Belfield, 2pm
Where to start with this one?? While the first outing between these 2 teams this season wasn’t exactly a barnburner (20-0 UCD at home), Cork’s delayed explosion on to the scene and the more recent 28-28 tie have made this game the more intriguing of the two on paper. 2 QBs — UCD’s Arun Mooney and Cork’s Stephen Hayes — who have been playing on fire and made some spectacular throws all season long. 2 receiving corps who have that sought after mix of separation and run after catch ability. 2 stone-wall offensive lines that keep that passing game alive.

There’s going to be no rolling over by either defense though. UCD’s #2 defense and Cork’s #3 defense will be keeping things competitive with how hard they play. Both teams have great pass rushes too which will push each other’s offensive line as hard as they’ve been pushed all year. UCD’s Larry Doyle leads the team with 5 sacks, Aaron Hogan leads Cork with 4, with both featuring in the top 8 in that stat across the league. It’s a true coin flip trying to call this one, and it should be a fantastic game to watch.

Quickfire Predictions
Panthers 17 – 34 Rebels
Admirals 26 – 27 UCD

Review: AFI Gameweek 17

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 weekend saw 3 games that varied in stakes, from finishing above or below .500 on the season to bowl game qualification. With the start of the postseason signaling must-win games, let’s take a look at who came out on top.

SATURDAY

AFI Division 2

#3 NI Razorbacks (5-3) 13 – 2 #4 Causeway Giants (3-5)
A defensive affair at Limepark saw the Razorbacks shutout the Giants offense en route to a win that sees them finish 5-3 on the season. QB Mark Thompson and RB Ali Best added scores on the ground for the Razorbacks, whose improvement between their 2019 debut season (1-7) — and even as recently as 2021’s Donaghy Group Invitational Cup — and this season is clear to see. A team on the rise, the Razorbacks should be considered dark horses for next season.

The Giants offense just could not find the stride they found a month ago in their 25-7 win against the Mavericks. Defensively the Giants were still as strong as expected, containing the Razorbacks to 13 points while adding 2 of their own through a Ros McKenzie safety. Speaking of McKenzie, he was the clear highlight an already strong Giants performance, totaling 2 sacks, a forced fumble, an interception and the aforementioned safety. While not scoring on offense in their season finale will hurt, the Giants should also be quite pleased with how this season has shown their growth since their debut in the 2019 season. Also ending that year at 1-7, the Giants finish this season just below the .500 mark at 3-5 with much more to show for it.

SUNDAY

AFI Division 1 Playoffs

#4 Donegal / Derry Vipers (3-4-1) 6 – 41 #1 Westmeath Minotaurs (7-1)
A dominant display from the Minotaurs at home after a poor display in their last regular season game (a 26-7 loss to #2 Vikings). After a regular season output that saw plenty more scores through the air than the ground, the Westmeath offense ran the ball into the endzone with RBs Andrew Paton (2), Rafa Monteiro and FB Jay Bruton. The defense made sure to get on the scoreboard too through Peter Dempsey and Niall Folan interception returns, sealing the win and a bowl game entry for the Westmeath side.

The Vipers put up a great fight all season, but it seems like the amount of travel this season and numbers caught up to them. Strong running from Pete Farrell kept the Vipers gaining ground early on, a Charlie Carlin interception and a touchdown through a connection between QB Paul O’Donnell and Zac Kirkwood kept the game interesting going into halftime, but it wasn’t to be for the Vipers. Improving upon their 2019 2-6 season and being a competitive force in Division 1 this season, the Vipers will likely have raised a few eyebrows as teams prepare for next year.

#3 Cill Dara Crusaders (4-4) 18 – 21 #2 UL Vikings (5-2-1)
The tightest game of the weekend, the Crusaders truly put a fight up to the Vikings and looked close to coming away with the win late on. QB Jordan Farrell connected with WR Sidney Pindi for a score after a massive 74 yard run from RB Luke Carey before halftime. Farrell added a score in himself while Carey rounding off the scoring for Cill Dara. Craig Dooley finished an incredible season performance with a sack on defense while Cormac de Butléir and Jonny Keogh scooped up a pair of fumbles in the Vikings backfield to keep the game as tight as possible.

However, the Vikings did enough on defense to limit an oft-explosive Crusaders offense to 18 points. Creating pressure in the pocket was clearly a priority for the Vikings coaching staff, sacking Farrell 3 times and pressuring him into 2 Adam Keane interceptions. Those turnovers proved to be vital as the Vikings maintained possession for much of the game. On that, the Vikings run game proved to be the deciding factor in this one, with RB Aidan Maher pounding in 2 on the ground while RB Glen Carr punched in the third. A true X-factor in the latter half of the season, the Vikings have used the run game very effectively in a division with defenses historically more familiar and more suited to stopping the run. Scoring 7 rushing TDs in their last 2 games, the performance of the Vikings offense will likely be the deciding factor in the Division 1 Bowl vs #1 Minotaurs July 31st at Newforge Sports Complex.

Preview: AFI Gameweek 17

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.

We’ve made it to the postseason folks! Well, by Saturday 5pm we’ll be there anyway. One game remains in the Division 2 regular season, taking place Saturday afternoon at Newforge Sports Complex, the venue for the Division 1 and Division 2 Bowl game double-header. Of course, Sunday sees the Division 1 semi-finals take place, with the usual #1 vs #4 and #2 vs #3 setup also used in Premier Division. With that, let’s preview the 3 games taking place this weekend — and remember, this is all in *one* writer’s opinion!

SATURDAY

Division 2

#4 Causeway Giants (3-4*) @ #3 NI Razorbacks (4-3) — Newforge Sports Complex, Belfast, 2pm
A game that sees two teams looking to end their seasons on a positive note, the Razorbacks will be extra eager to do so as the home side. The introduction of veteran RB Gareth Millar to the offense has been incredibly beneficial for the Razorbacks offense this season, while TE Zakk Appleyard has proven to be a reliable option for QB Mark Thompson. On defense, DE Corey Adair has been no stranger to opposing QBs, being at the top of the sack leaderboard for most of the season. The DE’s talents have made the jobs of the Razorbacks’ defensive backs a little easier, which has led to better coverage, forcing offenses off the field quicker — a result that leaves the Razorbacks with the #1 defense in the division before this last game. Keeping the pressure on a dual-threat QB will be key to keeping that #1 defense and, more importantly, earning their way to the win.

The Giants are coming off a monster upset in their favour, still thriving off their 25-7 win over the Mavericks three weeks ago. The Ruairi/Tiarnan Boorman connection has been lauded before, the pair combining their abilities with unique chemistry to be responsible for every Giants passing TD this season. The Causeway crew can run the ball as well with plenty of weapons though, and while the Boormans can be seen in this side of the offense too, respect must be given to RB Matthew Clyde who leads the team in rushing TDs. The Giants D-line is arguably the strength of this team, with the duo of Ross McKenzie and Michael McCafferty tallying 7.5 sacks between them so far. The Giants have also scored plenty due to their defense, with short drives due to turnovers and scores directly by the defense attributing to the Giants Points For column. The Giants were shutout in their last 2 away trips, but with the lack of playoff stress and the boost they’ll be carrying with them from the Mavericks upset, they may just get out of Belfast with a win Saturday.

SUNDAY 

Division 1 Playoffs

#3 Cill Dara Crusaders (4-4) @ #2 UL Vikings (5-2-1) — Maguire’s Field, Limerick, 2pm
An interesting game here for sure. These teams faced off in Newbridge earlier in the season and came out with the highest scoring game in Ireland, a 39-47 win in favour of this weekend’s home team. QB Kieran Gilhool has his best game of the campaign against the Crusaders, throwing for 3 TDs in the shootout. A pair of backs in Eoin Rudkins and Sean Grace will be eager to punch the ball into the endzone themselves too, with both likely to see plenty of the ball Sunday. The Vikings defensive line have picked up tremendously in the latter half of the year, with Jake Kelly and Robert Browne picking up 12 sacks just between the two of them. Pressuring the QBs remaining in these playoffs will be crucial to their success, as seen in their 26-7 win over #1 Minotaurs at the end of their regular season.

Cill Dara make this game interesting because of their dominating win over the Vipers last weekend, a 24-8 result that saw the Vipers score right at the death. QB Jordan Farrell is a charismatic QB who can inspire giant-killings, and with him throwing the most TDs in the division (9) he knows how to get the ball into the endzone through the likes of brother Kealan (2) and Robert Brown (4). Sack leader Craig Dooley (9) paired with young DL Hendre Erasmus (4) has made for a pass-rush that rivals the Vikings, so they matchup with the Limerick side well. This game is sure to be an interesting watch, but will it exceed the 86 points scored in the prequel to this semi-final?

#4 Donegal / Derry Vipers (3-4-1) @ #1 Westmeath Minotaurs (7-1) — Mullingar RFC, 2pm
The Vipers come into this with little momentum but a much bigger squad available than what they travelled to Newbridge with. RB Pete Farrell grinded out tough yards against a game Crusaders defense Sunday and will look to do the same in Mullingar, while WR Chad Higgins will look to make multiple explosive plays on offense and defense. Darren Quinn and Danny Mullen will be keen to create more turnover-worthy plays this weekend too, with both players coming close on multiple occasions against Cill Dara.

The Minotaurs come into this postseason as the #1 seed, the first time they have done so in the club’s history. WR Jack Lynch has been a big reason for that, leading the division with 6 receiving TDs. QB Joe Kinahan has thrown 8 total scores on the year and ran 2 in himself, while the defense has also scored on the season through a pick 6 by DB Jason Owens. Speaking of that ball-hawking defense, Owens (2), S Niall Folan (3) and CB rookie Peter Dempsey (7) have been reading QB eyes and will be keen to add to their tallies for this campaign. The Vipers will be hoping for a “third time’s the charm” storyline, but it’s difficult to see where the cracks form in the Minotaurs for Donegal / Derry to capitalise on.

Quickfire Predictions
Giants 17 – 14 Razorbacks
Crusaders 22 – 28 Vikings
Vipers 10 – 21 Minotaurs

Review: AFI Gameweek 16

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.

And with that, the AFI Senior Kitted regular season is (almost) over. 75 of the 76 regular season fixtures across all 3 divisions in Ireland have come and gone, and while we wait on the #4 Giants @ #3 Razorbacks in Division 2 this coming Saturday, all playoff fixtures and relegation scenarios were confirmed last weekend. Let’s dive into how each game affected clubs across the island!

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

SATURDAY

AFI Division 2

#2 Antrim Jets (5-3)¹ 16 – 32 #1 Louth Mavericks (7-1)¹
Dundalk RFC hosted a preview of sorts to the Division 2 Bowl game (Newforge Sports Complex, July 31st, 12:30pm), with the division’s #1 and #2 seeds battling it out for what position both would end up in the division standings. The Mavericks came out on top at home, scoring 4 TDs on offense and a 5th through a pick 6, all touchdowns coming from QB Nathan Hearty in some capacity. The signal-caller scored the pick 6 on defense (after already picking up an INT earlier in the game), ran the ball in twice on the ground, and added 2 passing TDs through WR/TE Dec Mulvihill and RB Brendan Simms. Veteran Maverick Alex Simms picked up 2 sacks, while Mulvihill and Anthony Vize paired up for the team’s 3rd sack. Momentum may very well be on Louth’s side for the final after an apparent dip in form two weeks ago.

The Jets lose a bit of momentum going into the final with the loss here, but do have three weeks to make adjustments to their gameplan for the Division 2 Bowl (Newforge Sports Complex, 12:30pm). QB Scot McLean has been the Jets MVP for the season and has put up some great games, and while he’s struggled against the Mavs this season, McLean is the type of quarterback to break off a superstar performance on any given Sunday. Couple him with RB Declan Curran, who has been punching in TDs for fun in the latter half of this season, and a defense that scorches past offensive lines (5 defenders with 4+ sacks), and the Jets could find third time’s the charm on July 31st.

SUNDAY

AFI Premier Division

#4 South Dublin Panthers (4-4)¹ 13 – 42 #1 Dublin Rebels (8-0)²
The Rebels achieved the undefeated regular season landmark with an emphatic win at home against a Panthers team that came out fighting for playoff football. Ty Henry continued his incredible form, throwing for 4 TDs while adding 2 on the ground himself. On the receiving end of Henry’s scoring passes were standout WR Dave King (who leads the the country, as a rookie, with 9 receiving TDs), while Dan Johnson caught his first 2 TDs of his 2022 campaign. Defensively the Rebels swarmed the Panthers offensive line and created pressure all game, creating 8 sacks — the likes of Gustavo Souza (3) and Kenny McCarty (2) getting to Ian Cahill more than once. Capitalising off that pressure was DB Cathal Keane, who came away with an INT Sunday, ending his regular season with 5 on the year. An impressive display from the undefeated Rebels, who face the same Panthers side in 2 weeks time in the semi-final.

South Dublin will take loss on the chin, as the result in the Trojans/Admirals game means they will occupy the #4 seed for the playoffs. Ironically ending their season with the inverse scoreline of how they started the year, a 42-13 loss to the team they will be playing in two weeks time (July 24th) likely wasn’t the morale booster the Panthers were looking for. Still, the Panthers have often had the ability to surprise favoured opponents, especially around this time of year (see: 2019 semi-final vs Admirals) so they are not a side to be ruled out purely on last Sunday’s result.

#5 Belfast Trojans (4-4)³ 20 – 26 #3 Cork Admirals (5-2-1)¹
The closest game of the weekend with the most playoff implications going into it, Cork emerged from the dust on home-field to secure their playoff position for 2022. Another 4 TD performance from QB Stephen Hayes put enough points on board for the Admirals defense to make enough stops to a rolling Trojans offense. 3 of those 4 TDs were caught by Jack Cronin, who had a career day in a must-win game, with brother Richie catching the other. Ayo Mumuni had a good day on the other side of the ball, tallying a sack and a forced fumble for the Admirals. Limiting an offense that had scored 40ppg in their last 4 games to just half that is a big credit to an Admirals offense looking to squeeze scoring opportunities down to a minimum for #2 UCD (6-1-1, 36.125ppg).

Big T put up an incredible fight to try complete what would have been one of the best season turnarounds in since the turn of the millennium, starting off 0-3 and still finding a way to keep themselves in playoff contention until the final whistle Sunday. The offense did what they could with a ferocious Admirals defense in front of them, with QB James McKelvey punching a TD in himself while throwing one to WR Tom Morris. Star RB Jona Siri made sure to fight his way into the endzone for a TD of his own. Defensively the Trojans had their work cut out for them, and while DE Lopez Sanuzi put in an almighty effort to get his sack and the defensive backfield had multiple pass breakups, it just wasn’t to be for Belfast, who just miss out on playoff football and their chance to defend their National Championship. An awful lot of credit must go to the Trojans for coming so close after a horrid start to the season.

#8 Dublin Rhinos (1-7)³ 0 -34 #7 Belfast Knights (1-7)³
A game that saw the winner earn Premier Division survival for 2023 and the loser be relegated to Division 1 next season, the Rhinos took the trip to Belfast which, unfortunately for the Castleknock side, ended in Rhinos relegation. An unfortunate result to a season against teams that had greatly improved from their 2019 seasons, the Rhinos became the odd team out despite the talent on their team — a pass rush consisting of Samson Olusegun, Nico Marrimposey and Gary O’Rourke put in some great performances which saw each player reach the 4 sack mark on the season, something few pass rush trios around Ireland can claim. Maintaining these players, along with a push in recruitment and finding a true identity on offense, should make the Rhinos one of the top promotion candidates from the 2023 Division 1 campaign.

The Knights, meanwhile, left it until the end of the season to get their much needed win, as they finally got offense and defense clicking together. Josh Davis was under center for the first half and ran in 2 TDs to get the Knights up early. Marty Caskey added 2 field goals on the day and, when he came into the game, QB Spencer McDowell finished off the game and sealed survival for the Knights with a pass TD to WR Jordan Clinton and a rush TD of his own. The defense, made obvious by the 0 on the board, was all over the Rhinos, allowing very little in the way of scoring opportunities or drives near their endzone, while coming up with 3 sacks — Robbie Alexander was involved in all 3, including a 0.5 credit with Graeme Best. After enduring a forgettable season, the Knights came together at the right time to earn a win they won’t forget about for a while.

AFI Division 1

#4 Donegal / Derry Vipers (3-4-1)¹ 8 – 24 #3 Cill Dara Crusaders (4-4)¹
Crusaders fans were treated to a win in their final home game of the year last Sunday, putting away the Vipers 24-8 in a game that sees them leapfrog the Donegal/Derry side into the #3 seed. QB Jordan Farrell cemented himself at the top of the passing TD leaderboard for Division 1 leaderboard with his 7th, 8th and 9th of the year (Robert Brown x2, Ben Costello), and inspired a hard-fought performance from his Crusaders offense. That all-in mentality bled over to the defense, who were relentless in stopping the Vipers rushing game and never gave QB Paul O’Donnell time to breathe — finishing the day with an interception from Erin Kelly, and nine sacks. A huge momentum boost to carry with them to Limerick to face #2 Vikings this coming weekend in the Division 1 semi-finals.

The Vipers, meanwhile, found it tough down numbers to break through the Crusaders defense, with O’Donnell sneaking a TD in towards the end of the game. DB Chad Higgins came away with an interception on Farrell, while  LB Darren Quinn was unlucky to not have either of his forced fumbles result in a turnover in favour of the red and yellow. The Vipers have impressed as a whole in their 2022 campaign, though, and with everything to play for in their semi-final @ #1 Minotaurs this Sunday they will be sure to give every bit of fight they have in them.

Coach Rod Woodson September Football Clinic

AFI are delighted to announce that Pro Football Hall of Famer and current XFL Head Coach Rod Woodson will deliver a 2-day football clinic at the National Sports Campus, Blanchardstown on Sept 3rd-4th. The clinic will be hosted in conjunction with HOPE Through Football and #ShareTheKnowledgeUK. Coach Rod has both coached and played in the NFL, having been a part of the Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers coaching staffs at different stints between 2011-2017, and a renowned cornerback — most famously for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Woodson achieved many records during his time on the field — many of which stand to this day — including most fumble recoveries and most interceptions returned for a touchdown. Woodson became a first-ballot Pro Football Hall of Famer in 2009, and in 2016 was also inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame.

AFI President Aidan Maguire had this to say on the historic September event:

“It is with great excitement that AFI can announce that NFL Hall of Famer, Super Bowl Winner and Footballing Legend, Rod Woodson will be bringing his Hope Through Football Clinic to Ireland this September. In conjunction with our AFI partners at #ShareTheKnowledge, Hope Through Football will hold a two day football clinic at the Sport Ireland Campus, Blanchardstown on September 3rd & 4th.

The growth and development of our coaches and players alike have been, and will continue to be, a key goal for American Football Ireland. In January 2021, AFI joined forces with Coach Woodson, Hope Through Football and #ShareTheKnowledge with the sole aim to improve and develop football here in Ireland. Since then, the calibre of coaching & mentorship provided by AFI coaches is constantly improving, which is encouraging all our athletes to improve their skillsets and more importantly helping them feel more empowered to develop into strong individuals in life. This is surreal for me and AFI. To attract Coach Woodson and this quality of football clinic to Ireland is a milestone event in AFIs history. I personally cannot wait and I am confident that this will be the first of many. Stay tuned to our social media platforms and website as there are more exciting announcements ahead relating to this clinic.”

More details on the weekend, including registration, scheduling and sponsors, will be released in the coming weeks.

Review: AFI Gameweek 15

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 July 4th Weekend has come and gone, and Gameweek 15 certainly provided plenty of fireworks! With 186 points scored across just 3 games (a 62 point average!) and playoff opportunities closing up, every game had a lot of weight to it. How did each game go down? Let’s see.

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

AFI Premier Division

#8 Belfast Knights (0-7)³ 26 – 43 #5 Belfast Trojans (4-3)
The Trojans kept themselves in contention for playoff football with their 4th consecutive win this past Saturday. Playing their final home game of the season, the Trojans put on a show in this rivalry game, in all 3 phases. RBs Jona Siri and Mo Ramadan combined for 3 TDs, the defense had 2 pick 6s through DBs Thomas Boyd and Donal Jones (the latter’s going the length of the pitch after intercepting McDowell’s pass on the Trojan’s goalline), and Chris Larmour housed a kick return. Never giving up the lead after going ahead early on, the Trojans have truly been revitalised during their home series, and look set to carry that form forward. After an important win for the Big T they are right within reach of playoff football — though a win away to Cork next weekend, or at the very least a tie — is necessary for them to achieve that goal, something that seemed near impossible just a few months ago.

The Knights continued their offensive hot streak but, as has been the story with the Black and Gold this season, also continued their cold streak on defense, allowing 40 or more points in each of their last 3 games. The offense kept in rhythm and kept fighting when the game was all but done, scoring at the death to get another TD on the board. Of course, when speaking about the Knights offense it’s hard to omit QB Spencer McDowell, and therein lies the issue for the Knights next weekend. Ejected in Q4 of a game in which he ran the ball twice into the endzone and threw a passing TD to WR Jordan Clinton, McDowell has ruled himself out for the first half of the survival game vs #7 Rhinos (1-6) this upcoming Sunday, a task that will certainly be more difficult without their starting signal-caller.

#2 UCD (6-1-1)² 28 – 28 #3 Cork Admirals (4-2-1)
UCD got involved in their second consecutive banger of a game, and while they didn’t quite get to see this one out for a win, the result means they did secure themselves home-field advantage for the playoff semi-final on July 24th. A slow game to start, the game was tied 6-6 at halftime. From there, both offenses turned it on, with a back and forth battle that saw the game tied late on. UCD almost sealed the game in the dying seconds, with the ball ending up as close as the Admirals’ 3 yard line, though the clock hit zero before they could get another play off. UCD finish the regular season scoring 28 or more points in each of their last 4 games, and should be seen as a favourite to at least be one of the 2 teams competing in Shamrock Bowl XXXIV.

Cork also played a great game, limiting the UCD offense to less points than the Rebels did this time last month, and putting the second-highest points scored this season on the UCD defense. QB Stephen Hayes balled out with another 4 passing TD performance, rocketing him up to 18 on the league leaderboard. Declan Maye came down with 2 receiving TDs, while Jahn Dasini had a great day on both sides of the ball, coming away witha  receiving TD and an interception on UCD QB Arun Mooney. While the Admrials performance from Saturday is certainly a positive, the tie here was nowhere near as helpful to them as it was to UCD. With a record of 4-2-1 heading into the final game of the year, they can still be caught by the #4 Panthers (4-3) and #5 Trojans (4-3), the latter being Cork’s opponents this coming Sunday. While another tie or a win at home vs Trojans will send Cork to the playoffs, a loss would mean the Admirals would be relying on the #1 Rebels (7-0) to see off the Panthers and complete their undefeated season.

#6 Craigavon Cowboys (2-6)³ 6 – 55 #4 South Dublin Panthers (4-3)
Not the way the Cowboys would have liked to end their season, the newest team to the Premier Division finished their year 2-6 with a lopsided loss to a Panthers team still looking for playoff football. QB Peter Loughran got the ‘Boys on the scoreboard with a touchdown pass to WR Miguel Heatherington, and Sean Slater forced a Panthers fumble on defense, but little else of note happened from the Cowboys camp. WR Christian Cowan took plenty of snaps at QB as Craigavon decided to see what they had on the field without starter Peter Loughran, which may serve as a preview for the future. Craigavon will certainly be glad they remained afloat in the Premier Division this season, though plenty of work will need to be done to avoid a similar 6-game losing streak happening in the future.

For the Panthers, last Sunday served as a get-back game, needing a refresh after their loss to the Trojans. They did just that, putting up 8 total touchdowns on offense, 3 coming through the air via QB Ian Cahill, 5 being punched in on the ground with the rushing offense. RB Ben Arulogun shone brightest Sunday, adding 3 of those 5 rushing TDs himself. On defense it was just as dominating of a performance, forcing 3 interceptions through Eoin Neville, Andrew Reddy and Mike Massari (who added his 3rd on the season). The Panthers next face an incredible task in the undefeated Rebels. The Panthers will need to at least match the Trojans result with the Admirals as both the South Dublin and the Belfast outfits are tied on record. An underdog win vs the Rebels will automatically secure playoff football for the Panthers, regardless of the Trojans result.

 

Shamrock Bowl XXXIV Ticket Information

American Football Ireland are excited to announce that tickets for Shamrock Bowl XXXIV will go on sale Wednesday July 6th from Midday. The first Shamrock Bowl to take place since August 6th 2019 due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the event showcases the two best American football teams on the island of Ireland, and pits them against each other to crown the National Champions!

This year’s championship final will kickoff August 7th at 3pm. Shamrock Bowl XXXIV will take place at the world-facilities of Belfast’s Kingspan Stadium — the home of Ulster Rugby — marking the first time the game will be hosted in the city since Shamrock Bowl XXIII back in 2009!

AFI President Aidan Maguire had this to say on this year’s Shamrock Bowl:

“On behalf of the AFI Board of Management I am delighted to announce that the 2022 Shamrock Bowl will be held at Kingspan Stadium in Belfast on Sunday, August 7th. The home of Ulster Rugby is a world class venue and one of the premier stadiums in the country. Having our national championship final at such a prestigious venue is another step in the growth of AFI. I want to thank Paula Bradley and her colleagues for welcoming the sport of American Football into their Stadium, as it was truly humbling to receive such support. Shamrock Bowl XXIV promises to be a great event between the 2 best teams in the country and we look forward to bringing our marquee championship final to the beautiful and historic city of Belfast”.

Tickets, available from £4 are available on Ticketmaster. More details about the event, including the two teams competing in this year’s National Championship, are to follow.

Preview: AFI Gameweek 15

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 July 4th Weekend celebrates the USA’s independence from 1776. With the close relationship between the US and Ireland, there will be many barbeques and events around the island that show our support to those we have connections with across the Atlantic — they family, friends, or teams coming over for the Aer Lingus College Football Classic on August 27th. Of course, we found the best way to celebrate the July 4th Weekend would be to put 3 games on offer over Saturday and Sunday, all involving the AFI Premier Division! Some teams are playing for home-field advantage, others for playoff spots, some for momentum heading into a relegation battle in Gameweek 16. What all teams have in common this week, though, is how badly each team needs a win this week. With so much to play for, how does this writer see it all go down? Well, let’s have a look.

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

SATURDAY

AFI Premier Division

#8 Belfast Knights (0-6)³ @ #5 Belfast Trojans (3-3) — Deramore Park, 2pm
2022’s Battle for Belfast seems a bit lopsided on paper. While both teams started in a subpar fashion at 0-3, and while the Knights have yet to win a game at 0-6, the Trojans have rescued their season while on their home stretch, now at 3-3 with very real chances at playoff football. The Knights will be involved in a lose-and-you’re-out relegation game with the #7 Rhinos next weekend (1-6)³ so can only gain momentum from this game this Saturday. A team that has not yet, to this point, gotten both the offense and defense rolling at the same time, the Knights this season have held opponents to under 20 points this season just twice, and while the offense has gotten going against tough opposition recently, the defense was outmatched (21-48, 21-41 losses). While the Knights have had some standout individual season this year — 3 TDs for WR Jordan Clinton and 3 INTs for DB Josh Harvey — having the #7-ranked Offense, QB and Defense makes the Knights the underdogs in most matchups in the Premier Division.

The Trojans, meanwhile, have soared up the rankings with their return home and the introduction of mascot Hector. The celebrated backfield of Jona Siri and Mo Ramadan have combined for 9 rushing TDs this season, which is more impressive considering both have had time off for injuries. DB Thomas Boyde has had an excellent latter half of the season too, climbing up to t-2nd on the Interception leaderboards. The success of the Trojans can also be tied to the protection of the ball by QB James McKelvey. While not lighting up the TD sheet, McKelvey has had drastically fewer turnovers in their home games (2) than the start of the season (5), and it has led to longer, scoring drives. With the way the offense has been rolling lately it’s hard to see the Knights defense come up with too many stops, and the defensive home record for the Trojans speaks for itself (13ppg conceded).

#2 UCD (6-1)¹ @ #3 Cork Admirals (4-2) — Old Christian’s RFC, 2pm
Certainly the highlight game of the weekend, UCD travel to Cork Saturday looking to make amends for their tight 34-30 loss to #1 Rebels (7-0)². The winner of this game puts themselves in fantastic shape for a home-field semi-final in the playoffs, while Cork are also competing to earn a playoff spot this weekend straight up. UCD come into this with an advantage over Cork, beating them 20-0 at home earlier in the season. UCD have been explosive all season, and despite the loss suffered 3 weeks ago they still are in a great position heading into the playoffs and are all over stat leaderboards. QB Arun Mooney has been scoring multiple TDs a game all season and is atop the passing TD chart (21), while the likes of WR Sean Douglas shares the top spot on the receiving TD leaderboard (7), while RB duo Sean McVeigh and Jack Finnegan have combined for 14 rushing TDs this season. While the #2 Offense gets some much deserved love, the #3 defense also boasts some incredible performers, with the likes of Larry Doyle (5 sacks) and Dan Verzuh (3 INTs and fumble recoveries, 1 TD) highlighting that group.

Of course, Cork are a different beast to when these 2 teams met up in April. Despite starting 0-2, Cork have still maintained the #2 defense in the division, while the offense has averaged 32.75ppg in that span. QB Stephen Hayes has been at the forefront of this revival, scoring 14 TDs through the air. A strong offensive line and consistent running game has kept passing lanes open for the likes of Jack Cronin (5 TDs) and Ryan Price (3) to get into and take the ball into the endzone. Defensively the Admirals have shown major improvements too, pitching 2 shutouts (save for a safety given up by the offense @ #4 Panthers) and conceding just 76 points on the season. Cork come into this game knowing that a win will secure playoff football, and that a win of more than 20 points against a UCD team that could be rattled leaves them in prime position to leapfrog UCD into the #2 seed in the final gameweek.

SUNDAY

AFI Premier Division

#6 Craigavon Cowboys (2-5)³ @ #4 South Dublin Panthers (3-3) — King’s Hospital School, 2pm
The Cowboys travel to Palmerston to take on the Panthers in a game that only one team has an active stake for playoff contention. The Cowboys started the year 2-0 but their season completely fell off the tracks, losing their next 5 games in a collapse that led them to elimination from playoff contention last weekend. Suffering a 58-2 loss in their final home game of their first season back in the Premier Division will have likely destroyed any morale left in the Cowboys camp coming into this one, the one bright spot coming from a Scott Buchannon safety. While QB Peter Loughran currently ranks middle of the table in passing TDs among starting QBs, Loughran and the Cowboys as a whole have given up too many turnovers to compete in games against higher level teams. Making sure to limit those turnovers away from home against a Panthers team fighting for playoffs will give Craigavon the best chance of finishing the season on a high.

The Panthers, though, will be fighting hard for that playoff spot. With the undefeated Rebels around the corner, South Dublin will always fancy their chances but should understand their most realistic chance of making the playoffs lays at finishing 4-4 and hoping the Admirals beat the Trojans next weekend. Of course, to finish 4-4 or above, the Panthers need to get through the Cowboys, who, while having no stakes in this game in relation to the standings, will want to make sure their first year back in the top division doesn’t end with a six-game losing streak. QB Ian Cahill started strong for the South Dublin side but has been seldom seen on the passing TD stat sheet in the Easter break. While injuries have hurt them and the offensive output has suffered as a result, scoring 20 points against a Trojans defense at Deramore Park did help get their hopes back on track and they managed to maintain a H2H advantage for the playoffs — should *only* the Panthers and Trojans tie on record. DE Evan Allen has been fantastic for the latter half of the season on defense, getting up to share the higher spots on the sack leaderboard at 5 on the season. Players like Allen and Mike Massari (2 INTs) will help this defense keep the Cowboys out of the endzone enough for the Panthers offense to get on the board.

Quickfire Predictions
Knights 17 – 27 Trojans
UCD 24 – 27 Admirals
Cowboys 13 – 17 Panthers

Clinching Scenarios
UCD — Secure #2 seed and home-field advantage by avoiding 20 point-or-more loss @ Admirals
Cork Admirals — Secure playoff spot with Win vs UCD AND Trojans or Panthers loss

Review: 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.

Gameweek 14 provided some massive scorelines, and some massive upsets. 3 divisions were represented across 4 games, home-field advantage was earned, and 2 of Ireland’s 3 undefeated seasons were put to rest. Just who earned themselves momentum swings heading into the playoffs, and whose stock may have dropped a tad? Let’s find out.

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

AFI Premier Division

#1 Dublin Rebels (7-0)² 58 – 2 #6 Craigavon Cowboys (2-5)³
An uncomfortable watch in Portadown saw the Rebels truly take over People’s Park en route to a statement 58-2 victory. QB Ty Henry was the expected standout for Dublin, carving out 3 passing (Greg Johnson x2, Dave King) and 3 rushing TDs all while not turning the ball over once. King made sure to come down with an INT on defense, but it was Cathal Keane who shone there, taking in 4 INTs from Cowboys QB Peter Loughran. A defensive performance that saw the Cowboys run game smothered, the Rebels rarely took their foot off the gas in this one. With home-field advantage AND the #1 seed now secured for the Rebels, their last game on July 10th could be approached in one of two ways — get some youth and depth pieces on the field to further their development and rest starters for the playoffs, or put a huge dent in local rivals #4 South Dublin Panthers’ playoff hopes and go for the 8-0 season.

Craigavon’s season, itself left with one game remaining, has gone completely wayward since the Easter break. Starting off 2-0 before losing 5 straight, the Cowboys were — at one point — considered a dark horse for the playoffs and perhaps the Shamrock Bowl. Now with playoff scenarios for them drawing dead, the Cowboys will need to sit down and figure out what went wrong for them on the field before coming into the  2023 season. An away trip to the Panthers this upcoming weekend (July 3rd) provides a chance to finish the season on a high note, though Craigavon should be wary of a team still fighting to play postseason football this summer.

AFI Division 1

#2 UL Vikings (5-2-1)² 26 – 6 #1 Westmeath Minotaurs (7-1)²
The first of two undefeated seasons to be lost this weekend, the Minotaurs had the opportunity to cement themselves as the team to beat in Division 1 with a win at home against a Vikings team they had already shutout in Limerick. Instead, the Vikings dominated the majority of the game, securing a home-field semi-final game on July 17th. The triple-option offense broke a typically unbreakable Westmeath defense, scoring more points Sunday than the Minotaurs had conceded all season. Responsible for each of the Vikings’ 4 TDs was RB Aidan Maher, taking one score to the house that saw him break 3 tackles before reaching the endzone. The defense certainly did their job too, swarming to Minotaurs QB Joe Kinahan and creating pressure whenever he dropped back to pass, resulting in seven sacks (including 5 from Jake Kelly) and an interception each from Adam Wixted and Evan Quigley. The Vikings, after this performance, will surely be favoured against whoever they face in the semi-finals, and perhaps the Bowl game too.

The Minotaurs, on the other hand, will have this game in the back of their minds for the rest of the season. Perhaps coming into this game overconfident, this weekend provided an eerily similar backstory to last (2019) season’s playoffs for the Westmeath outfit — a strong start to the season, bookended with a sizeable streak-breaking loss at the end of the regular season to a team that came in with more competitive fire. While the offense had some spurts that showed this is a team to back still (Kinahan and WR Jack Lynch connected for another touchdown), and the pass defense was still all over the ball with 2 inteceptions (CB Peter Dempsey, S Jason Owens), the Minotaurs must work over the next month to make sure the postseason does not end for them the same way that 2019 playoff run ended — an empty silverware cabinet.

AFI Division 2

#1 Louth Mavericks (6-1)¹ 7 – 25 #4 Causeway Giants (3-4*)
Another undefeated season gone, the Giants fired back from their recent heavy losses with a huge win over the #1 Mavericks. The Boorman brother connection was the highlight of the game Sunday, with Ruairi throwing 2 to Tiernan before swapping roles on a 3rd. The athletic duo went through the Mavericks defense, as did RB Matthew Clyde, who made sure not to be left of the stat sheet with a rushing TD of his own. The Giants pass rush was on its game too, collecting 4 sacks while shutting the Mavericks offense out. With a game against the #3 Razorbacks (3-3) remaining, the Giants go in with a great boost and potential to finish 4-4.

The Mavericks could not find what had worked for them all season in this one. The defense did come up with some highlights, and DB Brendan Simms came up with another impressive performance (1 sack, 1 forced fumble and recovery, 1 kick return TD), but it was not enough to inspire much on offense. With July 9th providing a preview to the Division 2 Bowl (Mavs host #2 Jets), the Mavericks have lost a bit of momentum at the wrong time. That game could make for an interesting watch in Dundalk.

#2 Antrim Jets (5-2)¹ 40 – 2 #5 North Dublin Pirates (0-7*)
Stock for the Jets keeps growing, with the Antrim side securing their place in the Division 2 bowl Sunday with another win. RB Declan Curran was the clear MVP with 5 rushing TDs, with QB Scot McLean connecting with Eoin Delargy to wrap up the scoring. An overwhelming performance from their offense carried over to their defense, with Antrim making sure they were all over the Pirates. 2 interceptions and 4 sacks from the pass rush unit were topped off with a fumble forced by Dean McNeill, recovered by Marc MacFadyen — both of whom were on the sack sheet. With the offense firing on all cylinders, and the defense not conceding in 4 games, the Jets have really built up a team to truly challenge the previously-thought untouchable Mavericks.

Credit must be given to the Pirates, in some respect. A year in which they entered with a smaller roster (even after them taking some Meath Bulldogs on loan), with an unfortunate recruitment campaign during the pandemic break, the Pirates have done their best and fought through the toughest year in the club’s history. 2022 has seen some clubs forfeit their entire seasons, and others have folded midway through the year. The Pirates, though their efforts on the field have resulted in positive points on the division standings, should be commended for trying to finish their season amid the chaos that surrounded the club in the last 2 years. Whispers of them forfeiting their final game linger, but credit to the North Dublin crowd who have done their best to play as much football as possible.

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.