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2023 Kitted Season Gameweek 1 — Review

Gameweek 1 promised fireworks, and OH BOY did it deliver! 207 points were scored across the 5 games around Ireland this past Sunday, with all but one game ending with a 2-score margin, including one that was settled by a 3-point victory. With Gameweek 2 already fast approaching, let’s take a look at what happened in the 2023 Season Opening games!

Division 2
Causeway Giants 8 – 18 Trinity

A highly competitive game saw Trinity come out of Limepark as 10-point victors. Despite turning the ball over 3 times through the air (2x Dessie Mackie, 1x Nathan Chapman), Trinity Rookie QB John Gibbons stepped under center for the first time in a competitive setting and threw 3 TDs — twice to Conor Keeley and once to Lorenzo Bogni — in an admirable first-timer performance. RB Sean Emmanuel also had himself a day despite his limited appearances, eclipsing the 100 yard mark on just 6 runs. Trinity made it a difficult day on offense for the hosts, getting to the Causeway QB 3 times through Ian Richardson (x2) and Griff Steinmann, who came away with 12 total tackles on the day too. It would be unfair to say the Giants didn’t move the ball at all though, as they were certainly making plays themselves. RB Adam Smith punched in the sole Giants touchdown (Adam Wilson adding the 2pt), and the defense were certainly aggressive in turning the ball over to help out their offense as much as they could. On top of the aforementioned 3 interceptions, Tony McCloskey forced and recovered a fumble, while Gary Colgan recovered the ball on a blocked Trinity punt, with the Giants totaling 5 takeaways on the day. Unfortunately they could not keep secure possession of the ball themselves, with Trinity’s James O’Leary coming down with an interception and the defense forcing and recovering two fumbles of their own. Both teams have things to clean up (as to be expected from a week 1 contest), but this contest showed promise for both teams moving forward in Division 2.

Division 1
NI Razorbacks 22 – 6 Antrim Jets

The run game dominated the box score in this one, with all 4 touchdowns coming on the ground. Both team’s QBs got involved too, with the Jets’ Scot McLean scoring their touchdown while Razorbacks QB Mark Thompson added two of his own to go along with player-coach Gareth Millar’s score. The Razorbacks controlled a lot of the game on the line of scrimmage, especially on defense, highlighted by 2 team sacks and a goalline stop by Nathan Toney and Louis Kusmirek on 4th down to keep the Jets to just their 6 points. The Jets themselves put up some great plays of their own on defense, including a forced-and-recovered fumble by DT Marc MacFayden, and a Stewart Lee MacFayden blocked FG. Unfortunately for the Jets they couldn’t quite get the offense off the ground, and with a game Razorbacks team in front of them, Antrim’s return to Division 1 did not go as planned. The Razorbacks, however, will be delighted with their Division 1 debut, and will certainly bring this momentum with them in their quick turnaround to Gameweek 2.

Cill Dara Crusaders 42 – 14 Donegal / Derry Vipers
The Crusaders got their 2023 season off to a flying start with a 6 touchdown performance against a typically strong Vipers side. QB Jordan Farrell put up 5 touchdowns to 4 different receivers (Kealan Farrell x2, Robert Brown, Karl Bracken, Ben Costello) while RB Luke Carey added his first on the ground of the year for the Crusaders. Of course, the defense made sure to shine too, with 4 sacks and 4 takeaways to coming from Sunday’s performance — LB Cormac Butler had himself a day, with 2 forced fumbles, 2 fumble recoveries and plenty of pressures on the Vipers QB. Donegal/Derry did get through on multiple occasions though, including a rushing TD from QB Gary Melly, and an offensive fumble recovery TD from Mark Gillen after a goalline fumble. The Vipers did manage to intercept Farrell twice, one each from JP McKee and Harry McLaughlin, showing some positive signs in pass defense that HC Paddy Maguire can build on going forward. It’s Cill Dara and their dominance, though, that’s the main takeaway from this game — can they keep this up and get to the Division 1 Bowl for the first time in club history this season?

UL Vikings 17 – 14 Dublin Rhinos
A much tighter affair in the end, the Vikings edged out a fighting Rhinos outfit in their first steps to getting back to the Division 1 Bowl game this season. UL started hot, building a 17-0 lead through 2 rushing TDs from Finn O’Donovan and an added field goal through Danny Quilter. Rob Browne and William Campbell picked up where they left off last season with a sack each, though as the game went on the Dublin side clawed their way back into it. Despite a setback through an Adam Ward interception for the Vikings, Rhinos RB Gary O’Rourke led the team in rush yards (70) and QB Ethan Foster kept his offense pushing down the field and started mounting a comeback, twice running in touchdowns (and one 2pt conversion). The Rhinos defense, which had starred in spurts in the Premier Division last season, was all over the UL backfield, totalling 6 sacks — three coming from Matt Mays. A tense final minutes of the game saw the Vikings come out on top, and it will be interesting to see how both teams carry themselves out of this one into their next fixtures.

Premier Division
UCD 26 – 40 Dublin Rebels
The game of the week for sure, and probably the game you clicked on this article for. The Premier Division opener was every bit of the banger it was hyped up to be, with plenty of highlight plays and standout performances to tout. Chief among those was Rebels QB Ty Henry, who opened his 2023 account with 4 passing TDs (Greg Johnson, Dave King, Jack Basquille x2), 2 rushing TDs and an interception of a tipped Arun Mooney pass while on defense. Henry operated great under the heavy pressure of UCD’s front 7, which did get through enough to keep UCD in the game — 3 sacks, including a strip sack from Eddie Goggins Jr that was taken to the house by Thomas Fitzgerald, and 2 other fumble recoveries being the highlights of the aggressive play by UCD’s defense. On offense, UCD never fully clicked, with QB Arun Mooney struggling overall despite a great TD pass to Pete Masterson midway through the game. RB Sean McVeigh featured heavily, punching in 2 scores, but between their own turnovers and the Rebels playing at their best, UCD’s National Championship defense has gotten off to a delayed start. Still, both teams combined to play a fantastic game of football, and — if the 2022 script is anything to go by — UCD losing in the regular season to the Rebels doesn’t bode well for the rest of the teams in the division going forward.

Gameweek 2 features a smaller, 3-game slate after last Sunday’s action-packed schedule. Make sure to keep an eye out for our preview for March 12th’s matchups, which feature a game from each division!

Preview — AFI Kitted Gameweek 1

We made it! The 2023 Kitted Season is here, and we have some fantastic games on the slate for Opening Weekend. With all the twists, turns, ups and downs of an American football season ahead, let’s have a look at how things might shape up when the dust settles this Sunday evening!

Premier Division
Rebels @ UCD — UCD Sports Campus, Belfield, 1pm
In what we’re sure will be the most attended game of this weekend, University College Dublin’s Sports Campus hosts the rematch to last season’s Shamrock Bowl, with the hosts looking to start their National Championship defense with a statement win against the team whose undefeated streak they snapped in the championship game. On the Rebels side, they will be looking to not only enact some kind of revenge from that Bowl game loss in August, but to also start their own march to this year’s Shamrock Bowl with a win. A battle of the 2 best performing QBs from the 2022 season (UCD’s Arun Mooney and Rebels’ Ty Henry) and 2 stout defenses, this game is all but guaranteed to be a barn-burner. Good luck calling this game either way — just enjoy the carnage that ensues at 1pm

Division 1
Donegal / Derry Vipers @ Cill Dara Crusaders — Newbridge College, 1pm
6 of Division 1’s 7 teams compete in Gameweek 1, and we start with the game that features two teams who competed in this division last year. These sides played a tight game at the end of the regular season last year which decided playoff seeding for both teams, and with the offseasons that both sides had this past winter, we’re expecting another close affair this weekend. The X-factor to consider for this game, as with most games involving the Vipers, is the travel aspect, with the red and yellow travelling the guts of 4 hours for their season opener. If the Vipers win this one, it will be through a ground game that may need time to warm up. On the flip side, a strong performance from the Crusaders passing attack may get them over the line and give the home crowd an opening weekend win to cheer for.

Antrim Jets @ NI Razorbacks — 1pm
A fascinating fixture this, with the 2022 Division 2 champions traveling to face a squad they played 2 tight games with last season — with the added wrinkle this season being the exodus of some talent from the Jets to clubs like the Razorbacks. There has been some jabs back and forth in the lead up to this game, and both teams know that getting a Week 1 win up on a team with an increasingly hot rivalry will be a massive morale boost going forward. QB Scot McLean leads the charge for the Jets who will look for him to work similar magic to what he managed last season. The Razorbacks, meanwhile, will be relying on the experience of players and coaches (old and new) from an array of levels of football across Ireland and Europe (including Irish Wolfhound Alex Kusmerik) to keep the Jets from taking off at the start of this season. Expect a great game here.

Dublin Rhinos @ UL Vikings — Maguires Field, UL Sports Campus, 1pm
A battle at the top of the preseason seedings for Division 1 sees the 2022 Bowl game finalists host a Rhinos side who couldn’t avoid relegation from Premier Division last season. QB Ethan Foster and co. will be looking for much more offensive output this season than last, which will make things easier for their defensive stars and allow them to be more aggressive and make some plays. Kickstarting their season with a good performance on offense against a game UL defense will go a long way to instilling some confidence in the Rhinos offense going forward. The Vikings, on the other hand, will be in no mood to letting teams into games after their tight loss in last year’s final, and will be out for blood and points on the board of their own this season. While it’s always tough to predict how a relegated team will fare in their new division, it’s hard not to see the Vikings defend their home turf here.

Division 2
Trinity @ Causeways Giants — Limepark Playing Fields, 1pm

Coming down to Division 2 in 2023 after failing to finish their 2022 season, Trinity come into this season with a lot of fresh faces. QB Ben Dowling remains, though will be without his 2 most prolific options from previous years (as noted in our Divisional previews). With a lot of new personnel for this season, perhaps Division 2 will be a good litmus test for this new-look Trinity outfit, a lot of whom got their first run-out in their annual Intervarsity blitz with UL and UCD, which they surely picked up some great experience from. On the Giants side, they too are a bit of an unknown force on offense, with the Boorman brothers that did provide sparks to their offense last season now off to ventures new. Defensive MVP and captain Ross McKenzie will need to rally his troops on his side of the ball after the 44-0 beating they took from travelling Masters side Sealand Seahawks, and prep them for what will sure to be a quick-hitting, slippery Trinity offense. The scoreboard may not light up in this one but it is sure to be an intriguing game for this division nonetheless.

Contributor’s Predictions
Rebels 27-28 UCD
Vipers 14-18 Crusaders
Jets 16-20 Razorbacks
Rhinos 13-21 Vikings
Trinity 14-7 Giants

How do you think this weekend will go? Do defenses dominate or do offenses overcome with opportunities galore? Let us know through our socials on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter!


2023 AFI Season Preview – Prem Division

It’s almost here! The 2023 AFI Kitted Season is upon us, with every Irish American football enthusiast staring a hole though Kickoff Sunday March 5th on their calendar. Days remain until it all begins, so let’s break down each division as they enter the 2023 season!

UCD (6-1-1 in 2022 Premier Division, 2022 National Champions)
Shamrock Bowl XXXIV winners UCD will look to defend their National championship this year in a fierce Premier Division. There is very much a “run-it-back” feel on campus, with coach-defined “football-nerd” Arun Mooney, Sean McVeigh, Cian Lawlor and co. ready to cause defensive coordinator fits around the country on  a weekly basis as they did last year. With Wolfhounds staff galore on the UCD sideline, the Students also brought in some powerhouse talent this offseason, with Graham Jenkinson joining the O-Line, among some other big transfers in. DB Eoghan McMahon headlines the defensive backfield after a stellar rookie season, as the UCD defense will continue to cause chaos on football fields this season. Will they repeat their Shamrock Bowl success? That remains to be seen, but they are surely favoured preseason to at least return to the final dance in 2023.

Dublin Rebels (8-0 in 2022 Premier Division, Shamrock Bowl XXXIV finalists)
The Rebels completely up-ended expectations in 2022 after their previous 3-5 campaign, going undefeated in 2022 and pushing their way into the Shamrock Bowl. Conceding less than 80 points during the regular season, the Rebels offense also averaged more than 40 points per game. Captained by QB Ty Henry, boasting a young wideout corps of Greg and Dan Johnson and Dave King, and with Wello Omorodion to pound the rock with, the Rebels were a force of nature last year and look set to be just as dominant in 2023. Adding DE Evan Allen to an already frightening front 7 that includes the likes of Conrad Cook and Kenny McCarthy, look for DBs like Rex Harding and Cathal Keane to continue to prop themselves up the interceptions list this season as QBs force throws under pressure. The Rebels seem intent on forcing a Part II to last year’s Shamrock Bowl, just with a different final result.

Cork Admirals (5-2-1 in 2022 Premier Division)
After a rocky start in 2022, the Admirals went on a 6-game unbeaten stretch which saw them race into the playoffs and hold the eventual champions to a tie game at home. Though the ensuing playoff game did not finish how they’d have liked, getting to that point after the rough patch they endured had to be seen as a success in its own right. QB Stephen Hayes calmed the Admiral following after a quiet first two games with an 18 TD season, with the likes of WR Jahn Dasini and Kit O’Keefe reaping the benefits. Not to be ignored is the stagnant Admiral defense, who pitched 2 offensive shutouts in 2022, thanks in large part to contributions from the likes of DB Liam O’Leary, pass rusher Shane Hourihane and all-round athlete Ayo Mumuni.  Always a dark horse, a new threat to look out for over the next few years is the 2x National Youth champions starting to graduate to the Senior side. Look out for RB Jake Kennedy to make an impact this season.

South Dublin Panthers (4-4 in 2022 Premier Division)
An up-and-down year in the kitted season continued on into the offseason it seems for the Panthers. Their flag team went undefeated and winning a National Championship in its own right before learning of departures of both players and coaches in the lead up to and after Christmas — with both Kevin Klatt and Brendan McAleese stepping away from the South Dublin club in favour of joining the Wexford Eagles, while the transfers of both Allen and Jenkinson will affect both sides of the trenches this season. Ian Cahill steps away from signal-caller duties to assist at linebacker this season, making the QB room in South Dublin unclear. Young receiver Jamie Leonard will likely be relied upon to keep the passing game moving for whoever steps in at QB and keep the Panthers on the board. On defense, South Dublin will need to rely upon DB Andrew Reddy to keep opposing arial attacks at bay. It’s difficult to predict how the Panthers season could go with so much change in just one offseason, but one thing’s for sure — there will be plenty of eyes on the South Dublin side from all around the country.

Belfast Trojans (4-4 in 2022 Premier Division)
The Trojans were a tale of two halves in 2022 — going unbeaten at home but, with a daunting away schedule, were unable to pick up a win on the road. Going 4-1 in the final stretch of the season, ending in a banger of a game with Cork — in which a win would have qualified the Trojans for a playoff date. Unable to defend their 2019 National title, the Green Machine have had themselves a great offseason, picking up Vipers standouts Darren Quinn and Chad Higgins, Knights WR Jordan Clinton as well as bringing back some key pieces from injury. The defensive backfield, highlighted in their home stretch by DB Thomas Boyde, vastly improved from their unusually poor start to 2022, and seems ready to pick up where they left off from their great finish to the season. The wildcard for the Trojans is new QB Dominic Lynn, who steps in for retired Trojans legend James McKelvey. Can Lynn propel the Trojans back to their mid-2010s glory? We might get a glimpse of that this year.

Craigavon Cowboys (2-6 in 2022 Premier Division)
What could have been for the 2022 Cowboys. Starting 2-0, including a blowout of the Rhinos in the opener, what looked like a hot start soon turned into a quick meltdown, failing to pick up a win in their remaining 6 games. Craigavon will have been self-reflecting all off-season to figure out how to avoid a similar fate this season, and with QB Peter Loughran at the helm there is certainly scope for the Cowboys making a run for the playoffs this season. LB Shayne Mone will look to inspire more hard-nosed performances on defense, especially against higher-seeded opposition — despite their reputation coming into the Premier Division, the Boys in Orange finished the year with the lowest-ranked defense in the division in 2022. Keeping games within reach and tightening up on defense will for sure be the points of emphasis for the Cowboys this season, who will surely be aiming for more than just Premier Division survival in 2023.

Belfast Knights (1-7 in 2022 Premier Division)
The Black and Gold left it until the final whistle of last season to remain in the Premier Division for 2023, beating the Rhinos 34-0 in a game that ended up being a win-and-stay-in for the division. Having escaped relegation after their 2019 season, and again last July, the Knights will certainly be pulling every trick from their sleeve this season to keep themselves afloat. Losing key performers like DE Danny Moll and the aforementioned Clinton will not help, but the return of long-time Knight Marty Caskey to the lineup this season will give QB Stephen McDowell a trusted target on offense. HC Adam Devenney will be maximising the usage of team defensive MVP Robbie Alexander and DB Josh Harvey who showed up in some big ways in 2022. Coupling consistent performances from their offense and defense in crucial games will keep the Knights in contention this season, and — with some breakout performances and some luck going their way — could perhaps fight for the #4 seed in the playoffs. Overcoming a recent historical drop in W-L record, though, will be priority number one for the Knights.

Westmeath Minotaurs (7-1 in 2022 Division 1, Division 1 Champions)
After losing a 28-27 classic in the 2019 Division 1 final to Craigavon, the Minotaurs bounced back to the Bowl game last season and came from behind against the Vikings for a 16-13 win to secure the title and promotion. Strong defensive performances became a staple of the Minotaurs keys to success in Division 1, with team sack leader Steven Nally and Division 1 interception leader Peter Dempsey likely to be huge factors again in a Minotaur defense that has yet to compete against this level of football — with 2023 being the club’s first ever appearance in the Premier Division. On offense, young QB Joe Kinahan has a deep group of weapons including WR Alan Campbell and RB Rafael Monteiro, though the team may potentially be missing WR Jack Lynch for some time. Still, with HC Bill Dougherty at the helm, the Westmeath Minotaurs will likely not need much motivation this season with everything at stake, and don’t seem set on merely being a cameo performer in Ireland’s Premier Division.

The 2023 AFI Kitted Season is right around the corner, with more than 80 games scheduled between now and July 16th. Now we want to hear from you: who’s season are you most excited to follow in 2023?? Let us know on our Instagram, Facebook or Twitter!

2023 AFI Season Preview — Division 1

It’s almost here! The 2023 AFI Kitted Season is upon us, with every Irish American football enthusiast staring a hole though Kickoff Sunday March 5th on their calendar. Days remain until it all begins, so let’s break down each division as they enter the 2023 season!

NI Razorbacks (3-5 in 2022 Division 2)
The Razorbacks made the headlines this offseason both with their promotion to Division 1 and with what can only be described as an excellent recruitment campaign between July and March. While home grown talent from 2022 was much celebrated in their own right last season, bringing in the likes of DE Danny Moll from the Knights, RB Declan Curran and LB Ryan Beckett from rivals Antrim Jets, and other key imports have led to the Razorbacks seeming like a force to be reckoned with this season. Having experience from players who have competed in all 3 divisions of AFI football will be a big boost to their rookies, and will obviously make HC Gareth Millar’s job a lot easier come gameday. Just how well these new pieces gel together will be the difference-maker, particularly on offense in a division that has an array of strong defenses they will need to compete against.

Louth Mavericks (7-1 in 2022 Division 2, Bowl finalists)
The Mavericks faded off towards the end of the 2022 season, ending in the capitulation that was the Division 2 Bowl game against the Jets. Louth do have the sting from that final to fuel them this season, however, with their being sure-fire efforts put in this offseason to not have that feeling replicated in 2023. Known names like Dec Mulvihill and QB Nathan Hearty return this season, as does 2022 breakout RB/DB Brendan Simms, who appeared all over the stats sheets in Mavericks games last season. The athletic young flex piece was a key part of Louth’s success last year, and Coach Angelo will surely look to find more ways to get him, as well as promising rookie WR Alex Hanratty, open in a tough division. The Mavericks may have an extra leg up on their Division 2 promotees considering their club experience in this division and against these teams, with the  UL Vikings being the only team they have never crossed paths with. In their 10th anniversary as a club, will the Louth Mavericks make a good push towards playoff contention in 2023?

Antrim Jets (5-3 in 2022 Division 2, Division 2 Champions)
Last year’s Division 2 Champions, despite being promoted, are a slightly unknown quantity. As noted, they have lost a few star players, and while that may cause some concern on the surface, HC Donal McCloskey will be confident in his new recruits heading into Division 1’s kickoff, as noted on his appearance on Talkin’ Balls Podcast. The Jets will be willing to air things out this year as they did last year, with QB Scot McClean leading the charge on offense. Matt Graham and other experienced pieces on defense will keep that unit solid against some of the higher powered offenses they will face this season — the Jets pitched 4 offensive shutouts last season, and they’ll be looking for similar production this season in their push towards the 2023 Division 1 playoffs.

Donegal / Derry Vipers (3-4-1 in 2022 Division 1)
The Vipers enter this season still in a bit of a transition but definitely gearing towards a promising period for the club. LB/DB Darren Quinn and WR Chad Higgins will be big losses for the red and yellow, especially in the opening stretch of the season, but the introduction of some key players from the Vipers youth squad and their development during this season will likely make HC Paddy Maguire’s side even stronger into the playoff stretch. The Vipers have remained a consistently competitive squad in this division, with 2023 shaping to be no different. After getting their first taste of playoff football for the first time since 2018, Donegal / Derry will be firing on all cylinders this season to get back there again and punch their ticket to the Division 1 Bowl game.

Cill Dara Crusaders (4-4 in 2022 Division 1)
The Crusaders come into this season in good shape to push towards the Bowl game in Division 1. Playing two fantastic games with last year’s finalists UL Vikings (including a 2-point margin loss in the playoffs and an 86-point thriller in Newbridge), Cill Dara have been a quiet breeding ground for Ireland’s top home-grown talent — former GFL and current LNFA QB Matty O’Meara, Tomi Oweyo of the ELF’s Munich Ravens, and current QB Jordan Farrell all being developed in Cill Dara’s system. RB Luke Carey, another fast riser from last year, will look to keep his form from last year carrying forward and make some big plays for the Crusaders offense. Cill Dara’s pass defense has improved on paper in the offseason too, with UCD’s Carl Bracken coming on board at Safety, Cormac Butler returning from injury and, of course, Craig and Kyle Dooley attacking off the edges. Considering their history with UL in close games, with the Rhinos and with players on the rise, the Crusaders will be a team to look out for come the end of the season.

UL Vikings (5-2-1 in 2022 Division 1, Bowl finalists)
Coming so close to promotion last season, the Vikings come into this season as one of the favourites to win Division 1 in 2023. Much of this relies on the work of OC Liam Ryan, who has been around the football scene in Ireland for two decades and introduced the triple option element to the UL offense that baffled defenses in this division last year. RBs Sean Grace and Eoin Rudkins both had amazing years last year cutting through teams on the ground, while on defense the likes of DE William Campbell and Robert Browne terrorized offensive lines, eclipsing 15 sacks on the season between them (the most prolific pass rush duo in Ireland in 2022). Being able to build off of the success of last season, along with the itch to correct last July’s heartbreak and a strong coaching staff that will keep them focused and level-headed, the Vikings look set for another Bowl game appearance this year barring any setbacks.

Dublin Rhinos (1-7 in 2022 Premier Division)
The Rhinos come down to Division 1 after a disappointing season last year. With the relegation battle coming down to a winner-stays-up with the Belfast Knights last July, the Rhinos kept themselves competitive in spurts during 2022, the highlight of which being a shock upset of the Craigavon Cowboys in April. QB Ethan Foster and co. will look to rebound in a division without the likes of the Rebels or UCD to try and prepare for. Rookie WR Jeremy Capt performed well in a preseason friendly with the Belfast Trojans, and could feature more heavily for the Rhinos this year. Coach David Hosford and long-term Rhino Steve O’Rourke will do well to motivate his players coming into a division the Rhinos won back in 2018, and with an itch to get back to the Premier Division the Rhinos will be pushing themselves to being leading player coming towards the 2023 playoffs.

2023 AFI Season Preview — Division 2

It’s almost here! The 2023 AFI Kitted Season is upon us, with every Irish American football enthusiast staring a hole though Kickoff Sunday March 5th on their calendar. Days remain until it all begins, so let’s break down each division as they enter the 2023 season!


North Dublin Pirates (0-8 in 2022 AFI Division 2)
The Pirates come into 2023 looking to bounce back after a disappointing season last year. Struggling and going 0-8 in 2022, the Pirates have done a good job in the offseason rallying the troops and preparing for the season ahead. Head Coach Ross Neville will have an interesting decision at QB, as he not only has Rian Molloy from years past at his disposal, but also the likes of Connor Coleman and Darragh Horgan who joined from the now-defunct Meath Bulldogs almost a year ago, and have been competing for starting reps this season. Will this battle for QB1, alongside some promising rookies like Richie Grimes and Niall McMahon, help the North Dublin outfit strike gold on offense? Similarly, does the new blood mix with the wealth of experience the Pirates have at hand on defense to help propel the squad back to the performances they saw pre-pandemic?

One thing that will certainly help is the history they have with the squads they will be competing with this season. While the Pirates and Eagles have only taken the field against each other once ever (2018 IAFL-1 in a landslide Wexford win), the Pirates are familiar with the Giants — playing 2 tight games last year as well as a one-score game in 2019 in IAFL-2 — and have not only shared playing fields with Trinity College Dublin, but have trained and scrimmaged this preseason with the talented student team. With 2 home games in quick succession to start the year, can the Pirates finally scratch the itch that they’ve been waiting for since 2019 and get a W on the board and, perhaps, push the rest of Division 2 for a bowl game spot?

Causeway Giants (3-5 in 2022 AFI Division 2)
e Causeway Giants enter AFI Division 2 as one of two teams to remain in the division after the 2022 season. The Giants finished 3-5 last year, including some competitive games with the newly promoted Razorbacks, Division 2 champions Antrim Jets and a highlight 25-7 win over promoted Louth Mavericks. The Giants were very stop-start on offense last year, having as many scoreless games as they had games above 20 points. Losing Boorman brothers Rauiri and Tiarnan will not help matters on that side of the ball, though new Head Coach Conan Jal is confident in the system he has brought from across the Irish Sea. With a developing, competitive rivalry brewing with the North Dublin Pirates on the cards, as well as former Division 1 sides in Trinity College Dublin and Wexford Eagles (to whom they are unknown quantities), the Giants will be looking forward to making an impact in Division 2 and continuing their upward rise as one of Ireland’s youngest clubs.

The Giants defense, on the other hand, was a shining light for the vast majority of last season, stonewalling offenses to 16 points or less in 5 of their 8 games. No doubt the standout performer, division sack leader and team defensive MVP Ross McKenzie — as well as the return of players like Adam Wilson and Francis D’Souza — was crucial last year and provides the experience and leadership that rookies and veterans alike will look towards in tough battles this season that may crop up should the restructured offense not light up the division as much as they hope, 2022 was a big year for the Causeway Giants, improving on their 1-7 record from their debut season in 2019. This year, the Giants look ready to improve further and get their year-end record above .500 for the first time in club history — and perhaps make the Division 2 Bowl while they’re at it.

Trinity College Dublin (4-4 in 2022 AFI Division 1)
Trinity compete this season in Division 2 after forfeiting the second half of what seemed to be leading to a promising season in last year’s Division 1. An overhaul in personnel will take the field this season after the Students lost star player Brandon Atwell to UCD in the run-in to last year’s playoffs. The club, Head Coached by Garland Drake, will be aiming to capitalise on the experience new players got during November’s Intervarsity Blitz, where they shared the field with Division 1’s UL Vikings and National Champions UCD. 

The keys for Trinity this season will be to pick up where they left off in 2022 and put up strong performances on both sides of the ball, as well as keep up on-campus recruitment through the season to be able to finish their 6-game schedule, something that has evaded the team for multiple seasons. Doing so without O’Dwyer brothers Conor and Rory — the former having stepped back from the kitted scene this year and the latter having moved across the capital to UCD — will make things more difficult on offense for Trinity, as both were long-time star players on an explosive offense. Despite this setback, a strong start to the season, coupled with more stability off the field, will likely see the Students push for the Division 2 Bowl Game this July.

Wexford Eagles (0-8 in 2022 AFI Division 1)
Like Trinity, Wexford’s 2022 forfeits bring them down to Division 2 for this season. Playing just 2 games last year before ending their season, the rebuild since then has opened quite a lot of eyes. Announcing Kevin Klatt as their Head Coach — before quickly announcing their DC as Brendan McAleese — was a massive shock considering their parting of ways before the 2022 season, on top of the fact that both had been considered next in line for the South Dublin Panthers openings. Given how popular Klatt has been in the Wexford area, the Eagles’ offseason recruitment has been a success, with the team finding talent in most areas of the field that will only serve to improve the current batch of talent they already had. Bringing back dual-threat QB Trevor Smith and Klatt’s innovative offense will likely lead to some exciting plays in Wexford games.

The Eagles games against Trinity will likely bring the most intrigue in Division 2 matchups on a national scale considering both just came down from Division 1, and considering both teams aren’t too far removed from playoff berths in that division, the home-and-away series between these 2 sides will likely have plenty of eyes on them, and may come down to clutch defensive plays by the likes of Terry Carey and Henry Foxton. However, the Eagles would be unwise to overlook the likes of the Giants and Pirates, as both have the chances to cause some upsets. 

AFI, Talkin’ Balls Podcast, Domestic Game Podcast Announce “GreenZone”

American Football Ireland are pleased to announce a new partnership between The Domestic Game Podcast and Talkin’ Balls Podcast, to bring you GreenZone, a weekly coverage of all things Irish American football run by some of the island’s biggest football enthusiasts! GreenZone will be the Irish gridiron community’s player-run hub for weekly score recaps and highlight reviews, storyline tracking and club news, and general coverage of the game here in Ireland.

“We’re really excited about the first steps of our partnership with the folks at the Domestic Game and American Football Ireland,” said Talkin’ Balls Podcast co-host and Antrim Jet Neil Adams, “It’s a privilege to be another prominent voice promoting the game, the scene and its reach here in Ireland. We hope to do our fans — and the community at as a whole — proud.”

Commenting on the prospect of the GreenZone, AFI Board member and Domestic Game Podcast founder Kelly Dwyer was understandably upbeat: “This is a great positive for the football community in Ireland. The mission of The Domestic Game is to increase the coverage of Irish American Football in media. We’re delighted the folks at Talkin’ Balls have joined us in that cause! Coverage of this game is beneficial to both AFI and its members and will strengthen AFI’s reach in an increasingly competitive and athletic sporting market. Ultimately, we’re excited to produce more content featuring our domestic athletes, coaches & members, and to see how the creativity and passion of the folks at Talkin’ Balls will enhance that content!”

The first episode of GreenZone will take place next Wednesday evening on the Talkin’ Balls Podcast as hosts Neil, Chris, Dave and Chrissie speak to Antrim Jets HC Donal McCloskey about their upcoming Division 1 season opener vs NI Razorbacks, as well as league-wide transfer news, preseason hype and more!

AFI Announces 3 Appointments, 2 Vacancies to Management Team

The Board of American Football Ireland today announced the appointment of Tom McCormack as its Chief Communications Officer, Bill Dougherty as its Director of Coaching, and Nuala Collins as its Child Protection Officer. Two new Management Team positions have also been made available — Director of Flag Football, and Director of Youth Football. New information can be found in the Open Positions section here.

Tom has extensive experience and expertise in sports marketing and communications having previously worked with Leinster Rugby, Six Nations Rugby, the British & Irish Lions and PRO 12 Rugby. An avid American Football fan, Tom is a former backup tight end with the Dublin Celts, and is no stranger to the landscape of the sport here in Ireland. He previously advised the Notre Dame Fighting Irish Media Department in 2012 when they played Navy in the Aviva Stadium.

Tom also worked with the late great Dan Rooney and colleagues in the American Ireland Fund, and with Sir Tony O’Reilly on Heinz and other corporate interests. He is a former President of the Ireland-America Society and an active part of the global Steelers Nation! Other professional governing bodies that he has worked with are the Institute of Chartered Accountants and the Society of Chartered Surveyors.

Bill Dougherty has previously held other roles within AFI, including Director of Youth Football, and has now moved across to Director of Coaching. Current Head Coach of the Westmeath Minotaurs, Bill has been involved in American football in different aspects for most his life. Becoming a part of the AFI community in 2016, Bill has since been a key part in driving the growth and development of the on-field product and administrative side of the game, and we are thrilled to have him involved in the teaching and progressing of Ireland’s American football coaches in all levels of the sport.
Nuala Nuala has worked in Child Protection and Safe Environment capacities since 2006. Prior to Child Protection Nuala has worked in various Health Care Settings, primarily Mental Health since 1995. In 2006, Nuala began working for the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse in New York as the Director of Safe Environment and Victim Assistance. From there Nuala worked for Acquired Brain Injury Ireland as the Training Manager where she also became a HSE trained Member of the Safeguarding Team for ABI Ireland.
Currently, Nuala is the Manager of an Assisted Living Facility for the Missionary Sisters of the Holy Rosary in Dublin. In all of these roles, Nuala has played an active role in the development and implementation of their Safeguarding and Child Protection policies and trainings. In all of these roles, Nuala has worked extensively with individuals that have been impacted either directly or indirectly by abuse in all forms and firmly believes that it is the responsibility of communities as a whole to create Safe Environments for children and all those vulnerable.

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!

Preview: 2022 Kitted Intervarsity Competition

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Notice of 2022 AFI Annual General Meeting

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

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

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

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

These must be sent to

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

Irish Wolfhounds Women’s Flag Football Team Now Recruiting

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coach Rod Woodson September Football Clinic

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

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

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

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

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

Preview: AFI Gameweek 15

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

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

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


AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

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


AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

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

Review: AFI Gameweek 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 9

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

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

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

AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

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

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

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

AFI Division 2

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

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

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

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

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

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

#ShareTheKnowledge May 27th: Coach Andy Ryland

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

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

Make sure to follow #ShareTheKnowledgeUK on Instagram and Twitter.

Review: AFI Gameweek 8

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

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

AFI Premier Division

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

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

AFI Division 1

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

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

AFI Division 2

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

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

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

Preview: AFI Gameweek 8

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

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

AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

AFI Division 1

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

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

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

AFI Division 2

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

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

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

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

Review: Razorbacks 6 – 24 Mavericks

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

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

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

Preview: NI Razorbacks @ Louth Mavericks

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

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

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

Razorbacks 14 – Mavericks 24

Review: AFI Gameweek 7

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

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

AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

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

AFI Division 2

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

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

Preview: AFI Gameweek 7

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

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

AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

AFI Division 2

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

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

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

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

Review: AFI Gameweek 6

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

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


AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

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

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

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


AFI Division 2

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

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

Preview: AFI Gameweek 6

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

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

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


AFI Premier Division

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

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

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

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

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


AFI Division 2

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

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

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

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

April #ShareTheKnowledge Clinic: Coach Nick Fitzgerald

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

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

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

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

Make sure to follow #ShareTheKnowledgeUK on Twitter and Instagram.

2022 Aer Lingus College Football Classic Exclusive Presale Event

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

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

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