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.
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!