Preview: AFI Gameweek 12

Don’t look now, but it’s almost the end of May… that means we have just a handful of gameweeks between now and the end of the regular season and playoffs! With fights for survival and playoff positioning truly heating up, Gameweek 12 has a lot on offer for the few games taking place this weekend. Let’s break down what each game has in store.

To start, 2 forfeits were announced earlier this week, when Trinity forfeited their game vs Causeway Giants in Division 2, and Antrim Jets forfeited their matchup with UL Vikings in Division 1. The Giants’ push towards the Division 2 final is given a massive boost, while last year’s Division 2 champions are left with the unfortunate reality that — barring a Donegal/Derry Vipers forfeit between now and the end of June that would keep Antrim’s status alive — the Jets will be facing relegation in 2024.

Premier Division
UCD (3-2) @ Dublin Rebels (4-0) — De La Salle RFC, Palmerston, 2pm
Part 2 of the 2023 edition of this meeting of giants, as UCD come back from exams to take on the undefeated hosts. UCD will have been studying for more than just exams this month, as they will be chomping at the bit to avenge their season-opening loss to the Rebels back in March. UCD’s Arun Mooney has been in great form again this year — as he was during last year’s National Championship campaign — so it will be interesting to see if the break in games for the student side has derailed that momentum or simply given him a chance to recharge the batteries to get right back to work. Speaking of in-form QBs, March and April’s Offensive Player of the Month Ty Henry has been tearing it up this season, scoring with his arm and his legs. Much like the matchup from earlier this season, this game promises to be a shootout with plenty of points scored. A must-watch this weekend.

Division 1
NI Razorbacks (3-3) @ Cill Dara Crusaders (3-2) — Newbridge College, 2pm
An intriguing matchup at the middle of the table in Division 1 this Sunday in Newbridge when the Crusaders play hosts to the Razorbacks. A win for Cill Dara leaves them sitting comfortably at the #3 seed in the division and guaranteeing playoff football for themselves. A win for the visitors, though, would make Division 1’s path to the playoffs just as intriguing to the casual fan, with the Razorbacks leapfrogging their opponents this weekend with just 1 game remaining for the Belfast side, and another Rhinos/Crusaders game to look forward to. As for this Sunday, the Razorbacks come into this one with a hot hand, outscoring opponents 58-0 in their last 2 games. Cill Dara earned a tough win over the Rhinos recently that has them where they’re at in the table right now and will fancy themselves to defend home turf. Both teams have huge incentives to win this game and the visitors will certainly look to make this a battle.

Premier Division
Craigavon Cowboys (0-6) @ Belfast Trojans (3-2) — Derramore RFC, 2pm
The Cowboys travel to Belfast this Sunday in need of a win from their last 2 games to have a chance of staying up in Premier Division. The Trojans, meanwhile, would benefit massively from a win themselves, with a result for the hosts creating some breathing room in the race to the playoffs. QB Dom Lynn will be in the spotlight again this weekend after making his first start last week @ Minotaurs since suffering an injury in preseason. How the Belfast offense functions with Lynn under center against a Cowboys team that held them to just 1 touchdown at People’s Park a few months ago will go a long way to projecting their success for the rest of the season. While a Cowboys result seems unlikely in this one, the Cowboys could do with some big plays to — if nothing else — build something towards their final game of the season at home vs Knights. A game to keep an eye on for sure.

Belfast Knights (1-4) @ Westmeath Minotaurs (1-4) — Mullingar RFC, 2pm
A game in which both teams are probably a win or 2 better than their records suggest sees the Knights travelling to Mullingar in an attempt to sweep their series with the Minotaurs. The first matchup between these two teams happened just 3 weeks ago (28-8 to the Knights) so this will likely be about which team makes the better adjustments to what they saw on the field and on tape last time out. Spencer McDowell and Co. will be looking to put up a similar start to this weekend’s game to the last time these 2 teams played, when they scored all 28 points within the first half — does Daithi McShane feature as heavily as he did, when he scored 2 touchdowns? On the other sideline, Joe Kinahan will be looking to feed his own weapons and have an offensive output more akin to last week’s matchup with the Trojans (32 points scored) than their last Knights game. A win for either team will provide a burst of momentum for them heading into final stretches of tough games to finish the season (Knights — @ Cowboys, @ UCD. Minotaurs — vs Admirals, @ Rebels)… both teams will be looking at this one as an opportunities to finish the season feeling good about their 2023 campaigns.

Writer’s Predictions
UCD 24-30 Rebels
Razorbacks 16-18 Crusaders
Cowboys 6-28 Trojans
Knights 27-24 Minotaurs