Category: Division 1

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Preview: AFI Senior Football GW2

The dust has settled from Gameweek 1, any overreactions have calmed, and now we’re all waiting for our next fix of American football action… just as well we don’t have to wait 33 weeks like we did for GW1! Gameweek 2 is right around the corner, and with 5 teams making their first strides into the 2024 Senior Football season, there’s plenty of buzz around this weekend. Let’s see all the noise is about…

First of all, we can’t talk about the big AFI events happening around the island this weekend without talking about We Run the World! Celebrating Friday’s International Women’s Day, WRTW is running their very first female-only flag football tournament at the Sport Ireland Campus, Dublin on Sunday March 10th. Domestic teams and teams flying from all around the world will be competing for the chance to experience the WRTW National tournament in Philadelphia this tournament, and will feature many prominent flag footballers, including the likes of Phoebe Schecter, and even some of our own Irish Wolfhounds! This event is unfortunately closed to the public but we are very excited about this partnership with WRTW, Flag Football Life and UK Dukes going forward!

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, we have 3 kitted games taking place around the island Sunday:

Westmeath Minotaurs @ South Dublin Panthers — Trinity Sports Campus, Santry, 1pm
The first in these teams’ 2-game series, this matchup happened just once last year, ending in a 23-9 victory for the South Dublin side that broke a lot of momentum the visitors had going after a strong season opener. The Panthers had a few skeptics with the choice to put a very talented (and European-travelled) wide receiver in Finn Kearns under center last season, but they proved that having an athlete as — well — athletic as Kearns poses problems for defenses that are difficult to solve. With a talented receiving corps and strong run game with U19 Wolfhound graduate Conor Hoskins leading the charge, the Panthers will look to show how competitive they can be this season with a win Sunday. Westmeath have some explosive offensive weapons themselves, with the likes of Shaun Dalton and Cathal Dunne both impressing last year catching touchdowns from QB Joe Kinahan in the Minotaurs’ debut season in Premier Division. Both teams have gritty defenses — something that came to the forefront in this fixture last season — so look for this one to be tightly contested.

Belfast Trojans @ UL Vikings (0-0-1) — Maguire’s Field, UL Sports Campus, 2pm
Not just because they have a 9hr round-trip in their immediate future, but the Trojans will be eager to come away with a result here. Dom Lynn and co. started off on uneven footing last year due to an injury the former suffered in preseason, and with the margins they sneaked into the playoffs by, they know every game counts. With talented pieces across the offense to get the ball to and a very experienced coaching staff (including Coach Jimmie Johnson from ELF’s Paris Muskateers) to help bolster the defense and special teams, the Trojans are certainly gearing themselves up for a run at the Bowl this year. Of course, blocking that path are the UL Vikings, who may well just come out of Sunday with one of the most unlikely 8-day stretches we’ve ever seen from a Premier Division promotee. Just a week after doing the unthinkable and coming back to tie with the Admirals after being down 24-0 at halftime, the Vikings have the opportunity to upset one of the most established and storied franchises in American Football Ireland. They’ll certainly be out with a point to prove, and they showed last week they have an edge to them, and it really is difficult to see how this shapes out.

Craigavon Cowboys @ Donegal / Derry Vipers — The Vale Center, Greysteel, 1pm
The Craigavon Cowboys, fresh off of debuting a new look, have returned to Division 1, with this fixture being their first in the division since 2019. QB Peter Loughran leads the charge for the ‘Boys on offense, which is sure to upset every DC in the division not coaching in Craigavon. The Cowboys defense will need to hold up a little better than last year’s efforts against Premier Division competition, and it’s a unit that will need to be put under a lot of pressure if the Vipers are to keep up in this one. With some pieces coming into the fold now after coming through the youth academy ranks, the Vipers are in a transition phase as they start to see the next generation take the reigns. With experienced players around them they can certainly be put into positions to succeed, and as we saw last week, anything can happen in a team’s season opening game. We’ll have an idea Sunday evening what exactly both sides are working with in 2024. For now though, it’s difficult to call for an upset in this one against a Cowboys team that many have pencilled in for a Bowl appearance.

Writer’s Predictions
Minotaurs 21-23 Panthers
Trojans 24-16 Vikings
Cowboys 27-13 Vipers

Review: AFI Senior Football GW1

What a start to the season! The 2024 Senior Football season got under way last Sunday with 4 games across the island, and with one team starting their season hot with a home shutout, another making a second-half comeback that may well be talked about throughout the season, a Shamrock Bowl rematch and a total of a whopping 227 total points across 4 games… it’s safe to say a lot happened Sunday, so let’s get right into what went on!

UCD (1-0) 42-40 Dublin Rebels (0-1)
WHAT. A. MATCH. Both teams really left it all out there in their season-opener, with lead changes, takeaways and touchdowns galore. Standing out above the rest for their performances were the likes of Dan Johnston, who caught 3 of Rebels QB Ty Henry’s passing touchdowns, UCD’s Brandon Atwell who has 2 rushing TDs on offense on top of a sack and a fumble recovery on a 2-pt try returned for 2 points on defense, and UCD’s Tom Donovan hauling in 2 long touchdown passes from QB Arun Mooney — including that catch — as well as the game-sealing interception as time expired to make the upset result official. We don’t expect the Rebels path to the postseason to be too disrupted despite the bump in the road this causes, but UCD will be flying high with momentum in abundance after being responsible for the reigning national champions’ first regular season loss since before the pandemic.

UL Vikings (0-0-1) 24-24 Cork Admirals (0-0-1)
… And they almost finished the comeback too! Of course, it would be unfair to talk about a comeback without talking about how Cork took their lead in the first place: a strong Cork run game with RB Fionnan Cremin opened the scoring for the Admirals, which opened passing lanes for youth graduate QB Jake Kennedy to connect with Declan Maye twice on touchdown passes before halftime. UL completely turned it around in the second half, actually outscoring Cork as far as touchdowns go, but failed to convert the extra point attempts on all 4 touchdowns of their second half comeback — which included a 70 yard rushing score by QB Fin O’Donovan, resulting in the 24-24 tie. This will undoubtedly feel like a win for the Vikings after being so far down and gives them a boost going into this weekend’s matchup with the Belfast Trojans, while the Admirals will be watching back tape from this game wondering how they let this one get away from them.

Wexford Eagles (0-1) 19-34 Louth Mavericks (1-0)
The Mavs took control of this one early and jumped out ahead to a 34 point lead by the start of Q4. Nathan Hearty got off to a slower start than projected purely as far as passing touchdowns go, but commanded a consistent offense through the air and the ground, ultimately getting his unit in positions to have Alex Minto and Dan Finley (x2) add rushing touchdowns to the Mavericks total. Eamon Ward’s pick 6 completed Louth’s scoreline for a strong Game 1 performance that will set them up with confidence going forward. The one talking point from this one was Wexford’s Q4 performance, which aimed to send the local crowd home with some optimism looking ahead, tallying 3 touchdowns in the last period of the game through Paddy Brissett, Luke Fitzpatrick and Henry Foxton. 

NI Razorbacks (1-0) 44-0 Antrim Jets (0-1)
A convincing home win is exactly what was expected of the Razorbacks, and they delivered big. 3 big turnovers — with 2 touchdowns on the drives they resulted in — helped the ‘Hogs defense pitch a shutout while the offense did their part, with 6 individual players reaching the endzone in front of their home fans. It’s the start the Razorbacks needed to push them on their way to challenging for a playoff spot this year. Meanwhile, for the Jets, it’s a tough loss to take that too closely resembles their struggles from last year. From a Jets — and neutral — perspective, you’d hope Antrim can turn things around over the course of this season and begin to get more competitive, and perhaps with more than a month until their next game that they can get some fixes worked on.

Preview: 2024 AFI Senior Football GW 1

and breathe…

We have finally made it to the start of football season!!! Four 1pm games kick off the 2024 Senior Football season, and we just cannot wait — and we’re sure you’re the same! So let’s get straight into our lightning round previews for each game and have a look at Opening Weekend!

Dublin Rebels @ UCD — UCD Sports Campus, Belfield, 1pm
A certain face-painted menace once said “I think you and I are destined to do this forever,” and this writer can only assume the UCD and Rebels camps feel the same way. 5 games since March 2022 with another one on the cards Sunday, this fixture is a huge way for both teams to open the season. With 3 of those previous 5 games being decided by less than 6 points — one of them by 1 point — both teams will be coming into this one with an extra pep in their step to start 1-0. Both Ty Henry and Arun Mooney are likely to make some big plays as they tend to do at the quarterback position, and this one could just be a case of whichever team has the last drive of the game may just win it. 

Cork Admirals @ UL Vikings — Maguire’s Field, UL Sports Campus, 1pm
This game could be a sleeper hit. Two fantastic, well-respected coaching staffs facing off against each other with younger athletes starting to come to the forefront of their teams. The hosts play their first top-level AFI game since 2019, developing a relentless defense alongside their athlete-friendly option offense. QB Fin O’Donovan had a fantastic season last year but faces tougher tests in this division. Cork aren’t exactly pushovers themselves, finishing 2023 as the #2 in the regular season. There will be a lot of eyes on this game to see the appearance/omission of veteran Admirals and Wolfhounds QB Stephen Hayes on Sunday, but there’s more to this game than that. The result of this really could go either way, and at any scoreline too. Definitely one to keep up to date with if you can’t be there.

Louth Mavericks @ Wexford Eagles — Gorey Town Park, Wexford, 1pm
A match ripe with storylines, the Eagles return to Division 1 after stepping away in 2022. They face last year’s finalists in the Mavericks, who may still be having “What if?” nightmares on that game-sealing high snap on the goalline back in July. D1 standout QB Nathan Hearty runs a smooth operation for the Mavericks, who are no slouches on defense too. Departing HC Angelo Arena will surely be missed and this may play into the psyche of the Louth locker room this Sunday. On the opposite sideline, the hosts have one of the most positive cultures and supportive home crowds on top of a really talented squad and unique offense. Mavericks come into this one as favourites in most people’s eyes but don’t be surprised if the Eagles pull off the upset — or at least keep it within a touchdown.

Antrim Jets @ NI Razorbacks — Newforge Sports Complex, Belfast, 1pm
The main thing to watch out for in this one is have the Jets turned things around? The 2022 Division 2 champions completely missed the mark last year in their first Division 1 campaign, failing to win a game in 2023. They aren’t dealt the worst of cards to start their season, but at the same time the Razorbacks won’t be laying down for them. A team likely to have playoff aspirations this year, they’ll be looking to set off on a strong foot. A big squad with some talented athletes, the Razorbacks could be a “value” shout for playoff qualification. There are winnable games on the Razorbacks schedule but they do need to win them if they want to earn that distinction. The Jets will be out to dampen those hopes Sunday.

Rebels 28-26 UCD
Admirals 17-14 Vikings
Mavericks 20-17 Eagles
Jets 7-23 Razorbacks

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!

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.


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.


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!


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.


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


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.


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.

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 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
— 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


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.


AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

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

AFI Division 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

Division 1
No clinching scenarios in Gameweek 10.

Review: AFI Gameweek 8

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

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

AFI Premier Division

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

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

AFI Division 1

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

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

AFI Division 2

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

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

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

Preview: AFI Gameweek 8

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

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

AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

AFI Division 1

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

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

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

AFI Division 2

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

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

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

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

Review: AFI Gameweek 5

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

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

AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFI Division 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preview: AFI Gameweek 5

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

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

AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFI Division 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: AFI Gameweek 4

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

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

AFI Premier Division

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

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

AFI Division 1

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

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

AFI Division 2

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

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

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

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

Preview: AFI Gameweek 4

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

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

AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

AFI Division 1

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

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

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

AFI Division 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preview: AFI Gameweek 2

Joe Kinahan

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

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



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

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



AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

AFI Division 2

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

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

AFI Gameweek 1 Review: Students Set the Standard

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 1 is in the books, and while there was only the one close game out of the four on offer (Causeway Giants forfeited their away game to NI Razorbacks), it was great to see teams across the country get back in action. It was also very interesting to see just how teams came out of the two-and-a-half year gap between games, whether they have stalled or built upon their 2019 campaigns, and whether they’ll be up to the task this season. So, let’s take a look into last Sunday’s action.

AFI Premier Division

UCD (1-0) 58 – 7 Belfast Knights (0-1)
In fairness, I did say this would be a high-scoring affair. With that being said, I never saw it going this badly for Belfast. What had been a plus-graded 2021 has, at least in the short-term, been completely forgotten about, as they got dismantled by UCD. The Students got off to one of the hottest starts in recent AFI memory, with QB Arun Mooney throwing for 5 TDs (3 to WR Cian Lawlor) and RBs Jack Finnegan and Sean McVeigh each adding 1 TD on the ground. The defense made sure to get on the scoreboard, with Dan Verzuh and rookie Eoghan McMahon (one of 6 rookies down as starters on Sunday) both taking an interception to the house.

UCD ride a massive wave of momentum into this week’s matchup with the 2019 national champions, while the Knights have 2 weeks to reflect and improve upon Sunday’s performance before hosting the winner of the next game on our review…

Craigavon Cowboys (1-0) 35 – 6 Dublin Rhinos (0-1)
A strong display by the ‘Boys disrupts any thoughts that Craigavon wouldn’t be pushing for playoffs this year. QB Peter Loughran was his usual self, spreading the ball around the field for 4 TDs, with WRs Neil Maxwell, Odhran O’Kane and Luis Alberto all making their debuts on the season’s receiving touchdowns list. Praise must be given to a man who could be found all over the field, Shayne Mone — Mone ran a TD in on offense, and also came away with 1 INT and 1 forced fumble on defense.

For the Rhinos, it was a much bleaker day, with one of the few bright spots being QB Ethan Foster’s 45-yard touchdown pass to Adam Jenkins to make sure the Rhinos could come away from People’s Park with some points on the board. Not the start to the season the Rhinos were looking for.

AFI Division 1

Trinity (1-0) 20 – 0 Donegal/Derry Vipers (0-1)
This was not a pretty game. Though it stayed dry most of the day, the field at Trinity Sports Ground had still found a way to be soaked, making for what was a messier affair than this writer would have expected between these two teams. LB Darren Quinn came up with an interception for the Donegal/Derry outfit, but the Vipers beat themselves on silly turnovers here, with Trinity defenders Sean Emmanuel and James Cushing scoring on fumble recoveries: one from a punt smacking off Viper helmet, and the other from a backwards pass on a broken screen play.  Neither offense really imposed their will on the opposing defense, and while QB Ben Dowling threw his first TD of the year, even he will admit WR Brandon Atwell did the brunt of the work, taking a screen play from Trinity territory to the house after he (and the aforementioned field) made every would-be tacker miss.

Trinity will be happy to come out 1-0, but both teams have better showings in them. The Vipers will surely be eager to even up the series when Trinity travel on June 5th.

UL Vikings (1-0) 12 – 6 Wexford Eagles (0-1)
Two teams entering 2022 on rebuilds went head-to-head in what ended as the first one-score game of the season. UL had an advantage going into the game based on their recent Premier Division history, and ultimately came away with the win. Wexford, though, kept things close with various tricks up their sleeve, chief among them being a Terry Carey 20-yard gain on a fake punt. Ground control equaled game control in this one, as Vikings RB Eoin Rudkins took 2 handoffs to the endzone, earning the W for UL.

Be on the lookout on our Facebook and Instagram pages soon for a preview of Gameweek 2!

Preview: AFI Gameweek 1

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 to build excitement around American Football Ireland games.

After a longer wait than we may have expected around this time two years ago, AFI American Football has finally returned! While last year’s Donaghy Group Invitational Cup and friendly series in the back end of 2021 helped tide a lot of us over, none of that can compete with the excitement and the drama of an AFI American Football season!

We are excited to bring more than 80 games across the country this year, from big rematches from the 2019 season and big rivalry games, to first-time-ever matches and (of course) our 3 divisions Bowl games, culminating with Shamrock Bowl XXXIV on August 7th at Energia Park.

With that being said, here is a preview for each game to look forward to this weekend:

AFI Premier Division

Belfast Knights (0-0) @ UCD (0-0) — UCD Sports Campus, 1pm
The Knights will be eager to truly leave their 2019 season in the past, finishing just 1-6-1 that campaign. Saying that, the Belfast outfit showed improvement in their 2021 series, winning both games. The Knights will surely rely on the playmaking of their passing offense trio in QB Spencer McDowell, and WRs Jordan Clinton and Marty Caskey to make a big impact and keep UCD’s defense honest throughout the game.

UCD will be looking to pick up where they left off 3 years ago after an impressive, if up-and-down, 2019 campaign. Finishing 5-2-1 and with the highest scoring offense in the division, UCD fell short of making it to Shamrock Bowl 33, which will surely be the aim for the club this season. A strong offensive line with Wolfhounds experience, a plethora of offensive weapons and a defense that has had names like DBs Michael Sykes and Alex Kusmirek in the secondary should make for a team to watch out for come the playoffs.

Expect a high-scoring affair in Belfield…

Dublin Rhinos (0-0) @ Craigavon Cowboys (0-0) — People’s Park, Portadown, 1pm
The Rhinos goal for this season may just be to simply forget about the last 3 years. 2019 was the Castleknock side’s return to the Premier Division, and while their 2-6 record kept them away from relegation, their points difference (-145) was the worst in the division that year. There is a lot to be positive about for the upcoming season if you’re following the Rhinos though: a good, stable coaching staff with Steve O’Rourke as Head Coach, a perhaps-revamped defense under DC Nick Newby (as seen by their 14-0 shutout @ Meath Bulldogs during their 2021 series), and a dual-threat QB in Ethan Foster.

Speaking of dual-threat QBs, Craigavon Cowboys signal-caller Peter Loughran can be as hard to stop on the ground as he is through the air. The Cowboys have quite a deep WR room for Loughran to offload the ball to too, with the likes of Eoin Hughes, Anton Nulty and speed-demon Luis Alberto all options for the ‘Boys to target on any given play. With a stout defense to boot (ranked #2 in 2019 AFI Division 1), Craigavon may be a dark horse moving forward.

Craigavon should be in control here but should be sure to not let their guard down and let the Rhinos work their way into the game.

AFI Division 1

Donegal/Derry Vipers (0-0) @ Trinity (0-0) — Trinity Sports Grounds, Santry — 1pm
The Vipers come into this game with, arguably, the most momentum out of any team competing across the island this year. Though their 2019 outing was certainly not what they had hoped — a 2-6 record with wins against the now-defunct Galway Warriors and Waterford Wolves — their 2021 went about as well as they could have hoped. Going 4-0 in the Donaghy Group Invitational Cup and winning the tournament, the QB change to Paul O’Donnell seemed to bring the squad together better than we had seen throughout 2019, keeping the Vipers above 20 points per game across the 4 game tournament. Add a strong run game and defensive play from the likes of LB Darren Quinn and CB Marty Patton, and Donegal/Derry have a solid base that could bite teams that don’t match their physicality.

Trinity come in as a polar opposite to the Vipers in more ways than one. A successful 2019 season for the students saw them finish with a 6-2 record and with the #4 seed in the playoffs, falling short in the semi-finals to eventual Division 1 champions Craigavon Cowboys. The pandemic was a lot harsher to Trinity than it was to the Vipers, though, with the university team unable to compete until November 2021 in an Intervarsity blitz with UL and UCD. Trinity came out 0-1-1 from that blitz, but surely saw development from rookies recruited as far back as 2020. If the team can get close to replicating the form they had in 2019, Trinity may well be a title contender come the end of the Division 1 season.

As for this game, early control of the scoreboard will probably decide this game. With such differing ideologies on both sides of the ball and each team’s strengths playing into the other’s weaknesses, whoever can slow down the other first — even for a drive or two — should see this one out.

Wexford Eagles (0-0) @ UL Vikings (0-0) — Maguires Playing Grounds, Limerick, 1pm
Wexford enter their first season without longtime Head Coach Kevin Klatt, who joined the South Dublin Panthers coaching staff during the pandemic. Because of this, it’s hard to say exactly what version of the Eagles we will see in 2022. Wexford finished the #3 seed in Division 1 in 2019 with a 6-2 record and the #2 Offense in the Division. Being in a tightly-contested division, emulating that production on offense will be a top priority in the Model County.

UL, while perhaps not quite as uncertain as Wexford, also come into 2022 with question marks that will be answered this Sunday and throughout the year. Posting a 3-5 record in the 2019 Premier Division, the Vikings took the step down to Division 1 this season after the pandemic robbed them of some key pieces on both sides of the ball. Despite the large rookie membership, UL still have some recognizable names — QB Eoin Rudkins stands out — and will certainly lean on that experience to bring such a young squad up to speed.

Both teams need a statement win on Sunday. Wexford have always been a gritty team that have threatened some Division 1 goliaths in the past, but it’s hard to overlook UL’s Premier Division experience that includes 7 consecutive Shamrock Bowl appearances.

AFI Division 2

Causeway Giants (0-0) @ NI Razorbacks (0-0) —  Newforge Playing Fields, 1pm
The Giants may come into this as at least the popular favourite in this game, thanks in large part to their unique cyan-coloured kits and an incredible touchdown run during the Donaghy Group Invitational Cup from Tiernan Boorman that so closely resembled Washington Commanders QB Taylor Heinicke’s score against the Buccaneers during the 2020-21 NFL Playoffs that Heinicke himself shared the play to his followers online. A 1-7 2019 season was wiped somewhat from memory after a respectable showing during the DGI Cup last year — improving their points per game from 6.25 in 2019 to 17.5 in 2021 — the Giants will want to build from that series and begin their push to playoff spots this season. 

The NI Razorbacks had a similar 2019 campaign to the Giants, also finishing 1-7, but come into this season after a winless 2021 series. A deeper squad than what the Razorbacks have seen in the past, we can probably expect from the team a run balanced offense with a lot of rotation to keep defenses guessing.

Two teams looking to move on from their 2019 performances here so it will likely be an especially physical game. These two have met each other plenty of times already in the Giants’ short history, with the Giants last match (a 3rd place game in the DCI Cup) 22-7.

Quickfire score predictions:
Knights 20 – 24 UCD
Cowboys 28-10 Rhinos
DDV 13 – 21 Trinity
Wexford 10 – 24 UL
Giants 17 – 7 Razorbacks

This season promises to be one of the most exciting in AFI history! Make sure to get in touch with clubs and let them know you’ll be supporting them on gameday. If you can’t make it to a game, make sure to follow along on our Facebook and Instagram pages where you can stay updated on final scores, touchdown scorers and more!

2020 Senior Kitted Season Cancelled

Statement from AFI Commissioner Brian Cleary “The AFI board held an online meeting to discuss the current ongoing situation and the impact of the Covid-19 outbreak.

It has been decided that the 2020 Senior Kitted season will be cancelled in its entirety. A number of factors were considered in making this tough decision. There remains uncertainty as to when this crisis will end, which makes it very difficult to publish a schedule that will allow for enough time to prepare and complete a season for our members. It may also prove very difficult to secure ambulance bookings for fixtures due to the increased workload of our front-line services. We are also very aware of the financial difficulties our clubs and members may be facing during this time and do not wish to add any more pressure than what they are already facing. Ultimately, we need to put our members physical and mental welfare first before football.

We will continue to monitor the situation and, if circumstances allow, we are open to the possibility of hosting a 2-3 week tournament at the end of the summer for clubs that wish to participate and have some form of kitted football in 2020.

With immediate effect all current Adult Kitted, Coaching, Officiating and Non-Playing memberships will be extended until 30th September 2021 and there will be no need to purchase or renew your membership for the 2021 season.

No decision has been made yet in relation to Youth and Flag football. We will continue to monitor the situation and liaise with our directors in the coming weeks and update you when we have a clearer picture on the possibility of the Youth and Flag seasons going ahead.

It is important to note that we have put our insurance on hold at this time and under no circumstances is any physical footballing activity to take place until further notice.

Please look after yourselves and your loved ones and we will continue to provide updates as the situation unfolds. If you have any queries please contact me at”

COVID-19 Statement

Statement from AFI Commissioner Brian Cleary

“In light of this mornings announcement by Taoiseach Leo Varadkar, AFI have decided to postpone all football activities including practice sessions, scheduled games and combines up to and including the 29th March.

We will continue to monitor the situation over the coming weeks and keep you updated on any plans to reschedule the season.

We have a few options to consider including a new, reduced schedule commencing end of April/start of May. We may also consider all postponed games as 15-15 ties as per the bylaws. We need further time to consider the options and want to be fair to all clubs for the remainder of the season.

We urge all our members to follow the advice of the HSE in an effort to contain this outbreak and hope you and your families all stay safe and well.”

AFI Division 1 & 2 Bowls: Venue Confirmed

The AFI board of management is delighted to confirm that the 2020 AFI Division 1 and Division 2 Bowl games will be a double header event on Sunday 2nd August and will take place at the excellent facilities of Navan RFC.

Navan RFC have previously hosted a number of AFI events including the Irish Wolfhounds vs Belgium Barbarians game in 2018. Further details of the day will follow in due course.

Navan RFC

2020 Divisions and Bowl Dates

The AFI 2020 season fast approaches, with the season starting on Sunday 8th March. 20 teams will compete across 3 divisions, with bowl games scheduled for early August.

  • Belfast Trojans
  • Cork Admirals
  • Craigavon Cowboys
  • Dublin Rebels
  • South Dublin Panthers
  • UCD
  • UL Vikings
  • West Dublin Rhinos

Shamrock Bowl: Sunday 9th August

  • Belfast Knights
  • Cill Dara Crusaders
  • Donegal/Derry Vipers
  • Louth Mavericks
  • Trinity College Dublin
  • Westmeath Minotaurs
  • Wexford Eagles

AFI Division 1 Bowl: Sunday 2nd August (Doubleheader)

  • Antrim Jets
  • Causeway Giants
  • Meath Bulldogs
  • NI Razorbacks
  • North Dublin Pirates

AFI Division 2 Bowl: Sunday 2nd August (Doubleheader)

2020 Senior Kitted Schedule Announced

The American Football Ireland 2020 Senior Kitted Football schedule has now been released which includes 89 domestic games across 3 leagues as well as 2 exhibition games, with teams visiting from Great Britain and USA.

The season will start on the 8th March, with all three American Football Ireland college teams in action as UCD take on the UL Vikings in the Shamrock Bowl Conference and Trinity College hosting the Wexford Eagles in IAFL 1.

This year will see a significant change as there are 11 Saturday domestic games scheduled. In previous years, there have been limited Saturday games per season, so 2020 will see the most Saturday games ever played.

The 2017 BritBowl champions Tamworth Phoenix will make the short journey across Irish sea to take on the 2019 Shamrock Bowl winners Belfast Trojans on the 25th April in the first of two exhibition matches. The second will see the D3 Kentucky based college Centre Colonels travel to Limerick to take on the UL Vikings, which will take place on the 30th May.

The Shamrock Bowl Conference playoffs are scheduled for Sunday 26th July, with the top four teams in the league advancing to this stage following the conclusion of the regular season. The winners of the playoff games will advance to the Shamrock Bowl game, which is scheduled for Sunday 9th August.

The IAFL 1 playoffs are scheduled for Sunday 19th July, with the top four teams in the league advancing to this stage following the conclusion of the regular season. The winners of the playoff games will advance to the IAFL 1 Bowl game, which is scheduled for Sunday 2nd August. This game will be part of a doubleheader which will include the IAFL 2 Bowl game. There will be no playoffs for IAFL 2, instead the top 2 teams in the league will advance directly to the bowl game following the conclusion of the regular season.


Shamrock Bowl Conference