We break into double digits this weekend as the 2023 AFI Senior Kitted season breaks into its 10th Gameweek. This weekend, AFI celebrates with 6 games across all 3 divisions with some marquee rivalry matchups, chances at revenge for games earlier in the year and — most importantly — implications for playoff football and relegation battles! With half a dozen games to break down, let’s get straight to it!
Cill Dara Crusaders (2-2) @ Dublin Rhinos (2-2) — Castleknock RFC, 2pm
Both teams come into this one perhaps a bit shaken up from their Gameweek 8 results. The hosts, losing a tough 14-3 game to the Vikings (5-0), will probably feel a bit more confident than their visitors, who are on the road again after being beaten 34-0 by Louth (4-0) 2 weeks ago. Crusaders QB Jordan Farrell, who had been on fire up until the last matchup, will be excited to get back on form but will be up against the 2nd best defense in the division. The Rhinos, with their exciting offense that has Ethan Foster performing brilliantly thus far, will try and push the ball on an aggressive defense that tends to put pressure in the backfield. With both teams still having a chance to host a playoff game with a win here, this should be an exciting game. With both teams coming off a loss after having built some momentum, this may be a test of character for both teams as well.
Louth Mavericks (4-0) @ Donegal/Derry Vipers (1-4) — Templemore Sports Complex, Derry, 2pm
This game was a landslide earlier in the year (53-7 Mavericks) but with the Vipers wanting to put a bit of distance between themselves and the Jets (0-5) towards the final push at the end of the season there may be more fight in this one. Nathan Hearty and co. have been killing it for the Mavericks this season, with the team averaging nearly 45 points per game. Dominating just as much as been the defense, who has conceded just once on the year. Both teams have stakes in this one — the Vipers will want to gain some breathing room from the bottom while the Mavericks will want to push for a home playoff spot and the #1 seed. Linear logic is simply not a thing in football so Louth won’t win just because they won the last time, but with how dominant they’ve been in every game this year it’s hard not to call a repeat here.
Cork Admirals (4-0) @ Belfast Trojans (2-2) — Derramore Park, 2pm
The Trojans return home this weekend to host an undefeated Admirals team. This game is probably the most anticipated of the week, given the atmosphere at Trojans gamedays and the teams involved. The visitors are off to a fantastic start in 2023 and a home playoff berth is theirs to lose at this point. Consistent, powerful performances have put Cork in a position of control in the division, with very few outcomes for them remaining to not make the playoffs this year. Meanwhile, the Trojans will surely have the final game of the 2022 season on their minds this weekend, where they played Cork for a chance to make the playoffs and just fell short in an entertaining 26-20 game. That, coupled with the fact Big T hasn’t lost a home regular season game since May of 2019 — against Cork — results in a game that could be a thrill to watch unfold. Tough to call this one.
North Dublin Pirates (0-2) @ Wexford Eagles (2-0) — Craanford Sports Complex, 2pm
The Pirates visit the Eagles in this Division 2 matchup. The Eagles are rolling right now after dominating displays against Trinity and the Giants. The Pirates, while not winning their last matchup (8-7 loss to Giants) will be encouraged with the battle they showed. The key here may be down to who scores first — a Pirates first score could be a great morale boost for a team that, realistically, enters as the underdog.
NI Razorbacks (2-3) @ Antrim Jets (0-5) — Antrim Forum, 2pm
The Jets have 3 games to correct course on the season and not return to a division they won just last year, and the first chance at correction comes this Sunday when they host the Razorbacks. The visitors come in off the back of a home win against the Vipers after having their own questions on how the season was going. The home side come in winless and potentially entering desperation zone when it comes to what scenarios keep them up. Both teams need wins here — the Jets, for the reasons above, and the Razorbacks to further solidify themselves as a clear D1 team and potentially creep into the playoff race again. Being at home gives the Jets an edge, and this game was tight on opening weekend (22-6 Razorbacks)… this one could get interesting.
Belfast Knights (1-3) @ South Dublin Panthers (1-2) — Trinity Sports Grounds, 2pm
Two 1-win teams with vastly different levels of momentum. The Knights are on the second half of a back-to-back after beating the Minotaurs at home last Sunday, while the Panthers’ last game was a 61-6 loss to the Rebels (4-0). 2 different styles on offense too, with the Knights running a version of the ground n’ pound offense with big guys up front, while the Panthers this season have been led on the field by WR-turned-QB Finn Kearns, who (along with his receiving corps) is lightning quick on his feet. Both teams have struggled in spots this season so this game is an intriguing game around the race for the #4 seed in the Premier Division, as both look to build something now that will keep them running into and during that playoff run. There’ll be plenty of eyes on this one Sunday, particularly with the other Premier Division game being held Saturday. This one is a dark horse candidate for a shootout too.
Crusaders 16-20 Rhinos
Mavericks 28-10 Vipers
Admirals 25-21 Trojans
Pirates 12-23 Eagles
Razorbacks 21-12 Jets
Knights 27-30 Panthers