Preview: AFI Gameweek 11

Six Gameweeks remain in the 2023 AFI Kitted season, and with so much still to play for, the stakes up for grabs in each game are always mounting higher and higher. Teams this weekend play for a whole host of reasons, be they chances at division survival, playoff appearances or home field advantage in July. How does this Sunday look to shape up? Let’s take a look!

Division 2
North Dublin Pirates (0-3) @ Trinity College Dublin (1-1) — Trinity Sports Grounds, Santry, 2pm
After taking a huge blow away from home last weekend the Pirates are again on the road this weekend as they take a short trip to Santry. The hosts have a chance to get some momentum back after their exam season, with the team’s last gameday being a big loss to the Eagles (3-0). This is a game that they shouldn’t overlook here, even if they go back-to-back with a game next week too, as the Pirates haven’t exactly laid down for opponents. The visitors will be eager to replicate their performance in their trip to Limepark and play a tighter, hard-fought game and put the students to the test. It’s hard to favour the North Dublin outfit here but this writer isn’t exactly going to rule them out either.

Division 1
Louth Mavericks (5-0) @ Dublin Rhinos (2-3) — Castleknock RFC, 2pm
The Rhinos faithful may be starting to get a little antsy after last weekend’s game with the Crusaders (3-2). While they put in a great team performance, the Rhinos lost their starting QB Ethan Foster to an injury that will sideline him for the rest of the season. They’ll need to dominate on the line of scrimmage on both sides of the ball and lean on the run game to get results in these last few games and through the playoffs if they make it in, and they’re certainly a team that can win games this way. The undefeated Mavericks with QB Nathan Hearty at the helm pose a threat that, on a short rebound, the Rhinos may not be full strength for, but if their defense can play up to their #3 defensive ranking then they may make more of a game out of this than some from Louth may anticipate. The Mavs are undefeated for a reason but the Premier Division experience the Rhinos have give them an edge that the rest of Louth’s opponents thus far didn’t have. This has the chance to be a tight clash.

Premier Division
Belfast Trojans (2-2) @ Westmeath Minotaurs (1-3) — Mullingar RFC, 2pm
An intriguing matchup here as the Trojans take the trip to Mullingar for their game against the Minotaurs. The Trojans come into this one the hotter hand, going 2-1 since April and having an exciting game with the Admirals (5-0) last weekend. QB Josh Davis has settled into the role after a slow start, with regular starter Dominic Lynn still absent through injury. It will be interesting to see how the offense lines up once Lynn is back, which could be as soon as this Sunday. With weapons on both sides of the ball the Trojans are making a bid to make a playoff appearance after narrowly missing out last season, but will need a win over a Minotaurs team that has shown in spurts that they can hang in the division. How the Westmeath offense starts this game could prove key to this one, with their second-half output largely outscoring their first-half scores this year. 

Craigavon Cowboys (0-5) @ South Dublin Panthers (2-2) — Sport Ireland Campus, Blanchardstown, 2pm
Another team making their own bid for Premier Division playoffs in 2023 is the South Dublin Panthers, who are finding their footing with Finn Kearns at QB and growing more confident as a unit. They face a winless Cowboys team that knows it needs to find ways to compete sooner rather than later as they face an uphill battle to avoid relegation this year. The Panthers have been steady this year, save for a big loss to the Rebels (5-0), and will be eager to capitalise on a struggling side and help their push to the postseason. The Cowboys, though, are a team that will be throwing everything into every tackle and every play — an experienced team like Craigavon with their backs against the wall can’t be ruled out for an upset.

Writer’s Predictions
Pirates 10-18 Trinity
Rhinos 12-24 Mavericks
Trojans 23-17 Minotaurs
Cowboys 10-23 Panthers