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.
#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.
#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.