Preview: 2024 AFI Senior Football GW 1

and breathe…

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

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

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

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

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

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