Preview: AFI Gameweek 14

School’s out for summer, which means playoff football is right around the corner! Just a handful of gameweeks remain until playoff pictures are locked in and loser-goes-home matchups grace our fields, but to get there we have some important games to get through to decide playoff seeding, qualification and — in the case of this week — potentially relegation. Let’s take a look at what Gameweek 14’s 3-game slate has on offer!

Division 2
Wexford Eagles (4-0) @ Causeway Giants (3-2) — Limepark Playing Fields, Ballymoney, Co. Antrim, 2pm
Potentially a preview for the Division 2 Bowl this July 9th, the Eagles travel to the Causeway to protect their undefeated record when they take on the Giants. The Eagles have been rolling this year thanks to a relentless defense and a fast-paced, powerful offense. Coach Kevin Klatt will be thrilled with how the Eagles’ return to football has gone after missing the most of the 2022 season, and will surely see this game as a great way to see how the team is clicking heading into a big 4 weeks for the club. The Giants, meanwhile, have been keen throughout May to fix some tendencies and tweak gameplans to work themselves into high-gear come July 9th — while their record says 3-2, that includes a forfeit win from Trinity, and their last result was a 35-6 loss to this weekend’s opponents. Look for the hosts to get QB Jig McCoy rolling with some momentum-builders early while attempting to maximise the efforts of Tony McCloskey (4 sacks, 2 forced and recovered fumbles) and Ross McKenzie (2 sacks) up front to slow down the Eagles pass rush. That being said, every player on the home sideline will likely need to be at their very beset to overcome this Eagles side.

Premier Division
Belfast Knights (1-5) @ Craigavon Cowboys (0-7) — People’s Park, Portadown, Co. Armagh, 2pm
Craigavon will have spent the last few weeks rallying the troops and getting any type of home field atmosphere they can as they battle the Knights in what threatens to be the Cowboys’ final Premier Division game until at least the 2025 season. Craigavon’s exploits on the field have not gone as hoped for the Cowboys’ faithful and will surely be pulling out all the stops they can to get a result in this one. Though his appearance in their loss to Cork 5 weeks ago resulted in a knee injury, one can only assume longtime Cowboys QB Peter Loughran will have been doing everything he can to get healthy and back on the field for this one and provide a true ace up the hosts’ sleeve. As for the Knights, they are not guaranteed safety themselves, and with a tough test @ UCD to end their season, this is also a must-win game for Belfast. The Knights have certainly played more consistent football than their opponents this year, and perhaps their experience in these do-or-die situations (involved in relegation battles in 2019 and 2022) may give them the edge in this one. Regardless, both teams will want to fight hard to make this as calm as an affair as possible and cruise to safety. Of course, these are the type of stakes that tend to lead to intense matchups…

Cork Admirals (5-1) @ Westmeath Minotaurs (2-4) — Mullingar RFC, Co. Westmeath, 2pm
Finally, the Admirals travel up to Mullingar to face Westmeath. A horrible Gameweek 13 (some would say unlucky 13) for the Cork side saw the Ads be thoroughly beaten by the visiting undefeated Rebels, letting go of their own win streak in the process. Unfortunate to not at least put up a presentable scoreboard, Cork will be adamant on making up for the loss this Sunday and planning for a big result against a Minotaurs squad that has no stakes left to play for on the season after securing Premier Division safety and being boxed out of the playoff race. 2 teams with talented QBs and a plethora of weapons at their disposal, the key to this game may be both teams’ defenses: how will the Minotaurs shape up against a playoff-caliber outfit, and how do the Admirals bounce back after a hefty loss from just a week ago? 

Writer’s Predictions
Eagles 26-12 Giants
Cowboys 14-18 Knights
Admirals 24-21 Minotaurs