Category: Competition

Preview: AFI Gameweek 7

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

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

AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

AFI Division 2

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

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

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

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

Review: AFI Gameweek 6

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

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

 

AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

AFI Division 2

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

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

Preview: AFI Gameweek 6

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

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

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

 

AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

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

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

 

AFI Division 2

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

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

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

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

Ireland to host 2023 IFAF European Flag Football Championships

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

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

 

Review: AFI Gameweek 5

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

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

AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFI Division 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Preview: AFI Gameweek 5

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

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


AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

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

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

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


AFI Division 1

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: AFI Gameweek 4

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

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


AFI Premier Division

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

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

AFI Division 1

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

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


AFI Division 2

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

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


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

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

Preview: AFI Gameweek 4

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

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

AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

AFI Division 1

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

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

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

AFI Division 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Review: AFI Gameweek 3

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

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


AFI Premier Division

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

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

 

AFI Division 1

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

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


Trinity 6 – 0 UL Vikings

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

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

 

AFI Division 2

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

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

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

Preview: AFI Gameweek 2

Joe Kinahan

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

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

SATURDAY

CHARITY FRIENDLY

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

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

 

SUNDAY

AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

AFI Division 2

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

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

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!

Semi-Final Results: AFI Madden Championship Series 2020

With 60 games played, only 2 games remain as we are now at the Championship Game stage of both the PS4 and Xbox One series! 64 competitors from 22 clubs started the journey and we have now whittled our way down to only 4 competitors remaining. Here’s what happened at the semi-final stage.

Jonathan Hedley of the Belfast Knights was the first person into the AFI Madden 20 PS4 Championship Game having won 31-14 in the semi-final played last Thursday against Killian O’Loughlin of the MU Hurricanes.

Jahn Dasini of the Cork Admirals then beat Rory O’Dwyer of Trinity College in a nail bitter 31-28 win in the first semi-final game played on Sunday. Watch it again: https://youtu.be/NLf4bj65btQ.

Jonathan and Jahn will go head to head for the PS4 Championship this Sunday at 1pm – watch it live at twitch.tv/americanfootball_ireland.

In the Xbox One championship, James Smyth of the South Dublin Panthers beat Conor O’Neill of the Belfast Trojans in an all field goal affair, winning 12-9 after overtime! Watch it again: https://youtu.be/JtGj04VJruQ.

Darren Quinn of the Donegal/Derry Vipers then beat Ross O’Neill of the Downpatrick Saints in the last semi-final with a full-time score of 24-7, with the score being 0-0 at half time! Watch it again: https://youtu.be/GuWRo7B2qdc.

James will take on Darren for the Xbox One Championship this Sunday at 2pm – watch it live at twitch.tv/americanfootball_ireland.

Huge thanks to our two special guest commentators: Gary Sommerville (facebook.com/paddypigskin) and Chris Simpson (twitch.tv/trumpetmonkey) – it was a highly entertaining afternoon and we can’t wait to do it all again this Sunday!

Statements Of Intent (Flag & Youth)

A reminder to all clubs that statements of intent (non-binding) to compete in the 2020 flag and/or youth seasons should be sent to AFI by the deadlines set below:

  • For flag football, by 8pm on Thursday 18th June. This should be sent to robbie_ca@americanfootball.ie
  • For youth football, by 8pm on Monday 22nd June. This should be sent to bill@americanfootball.ie

Win A £100 Football America UK Voucher

Just in time for the holiday season! This competition will run over our Facebook, Instagram and Twitter profiles – enter on all three platforms to be entered into the draw three times!

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/iafaireland/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/iafaireland/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/iafaireland

Competition closes midnight 24 December 2019 with the winner being announced on Christmas Day – good luck!

UCD Retain The Intervarsity Championship

On Saturday 16 November, the UL Vikings hosted UCD for the 2019 edition of the Intervarsity Championships. The Intervarsity Championship is a much sought-after piece of silverware by our member college teams as well as playing a pivotal role in giving their new players competitive game experience before the new season kicks off in March.

It also marked another significant milestone for UL in particular. The University of Limerick have invested heavily in their sporting facilities, and this was the first time the Vikings were able to welcome a team to the new facilities including a new 3g pitch.

Both teams battled hard in the cold weather, and it would be UCD who would come out 17-8 victors and return the Intervarsity Championship to Dublin for another year – congratulations UCD!

Shamrock Bowl 33 Logo and Venue Announced

The IAFA board is delighted to announce Shamrock Bowl 33 will be held on August 4th in none other than Energia Park. With its great central location and access to local amenities, Energia Park will make a great venue for the Shamrock Bowl and a fantastic day out for all football fans and their families alike.

The IAFA board is also delighted to announce (after a long and strenuous selection process 😉) the winner of the IAFA Shamrock Bowl 33 logo competition.

We’ve received several very good entries, all strong contenders, and we would like to thank everyone who submitted one. Unfortunately, we could only use the one.
So, and without further ado, the lucky winner is Robert McCann from the South Dublin Panthers.

Robert will be receiving a nice little hamper for his effort including the following:

  • a €200 All-4-One Voucher
  • 2 VIP tickets to Shamrock Bowl 33 on August 4th
  • 2 Tickets to the U20’s Wolfhounds v Bristol Pride home game
  • Selected IAFA and Wolfhounds merchandise
Well done Robert!! 👏✋🤚
SB-LOGO#003.5

Shamrock Bowl 33 Official Date & Logo Design Competition

The IAFA board is delighted to announce the official date of Shamrock Bowl XXXIII which will be held on August 4th (venue TBC).

To celebrate the announcement the IAFA board has the pleasure to launch an open competition for one of you to design the logo to be used for Shamrock Bowl XXXIII .

The winning prize includes the following:

  • a €200 All-4-One Voucher
  • 2 VIP tickets to Shamrock Bowl 33 on August 4th
  • 2 Tickets to the U20’s Wolfhounds v Bristol Pride home game
  • Selected IAFA and Wolfhounds merchandise

Starting Today, IAFA will take any submission until close of the competition on June 15th.

The rules are simple:

  • Maximum of one design per participant
  • Any submission made after June 15th 11pm will not be entered for selection
  • Be as creative as you wish keeping the following requirements:
    • The design must include the following elements:
      1. the words “Shamrock Bowl XXXIII” must be included.
      2. the colours green, black and gold.
      3. the theme Irish American Football and its heritage
    • The file requirements are:
      1. Type: AI, PDF, EPS, PSD
      2. Resolution: at least 300 DPI
      3. Size: Maximum 10 MB
      4. Shape: should fit within a 1200px by 1200px area
      5. Background: white
      6. Fonts: if used please submit the font name within the file

Submission deadline: Saturday 15th of June – 11PM

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