The views and opinions expressed in this article in no way reflect those held by American Football Ireland. The below article is intended to be entertaining and promote around American Football Ireland games.
We’ve made it to the postseason folks! Well, by Saturday 5pm we’ll be there anyway. One game remains in the Division 2 regular season, taking place Saturday afternoon at Newforge Sports Complex, the venue for the Division 1 and Division 2 Bowl game double-header. Of course, Sunday sees the Division 1 semi-finals take place, with the usual #1 vs #4 and #2 vs #3 setup also used in Premier Division. With that, let’s preview the 3 games taking place this weekend — and remember, this is all in *one* writer’s opinion!
#4 Causeway Giants (3-4*) @ #3 NI Razorbacks (4-3) — Newforge Sports Complex, Belfast, 2pm
A game that sees two teams looking to end their seasons on a positive note, the Razorbacks will be extra eager to do so as the home side. The introduction of veteran RB Gareth Millar to the offense has been incredibly beneficial for the Razorbacks offense this season, while TE Zakk Appleyard has proven to be a reliable option for QB Mark Thompson. On defense, DE Corey Adair has been no stranger to opposing QBs, being at the top of the sack leaderboard for most of the season. The DE’s talents have made the jobs of the Razorbacks’ defensive backs a little easier, which has led to better coverage, forcing offenses off the field quicker — a result that leaves the Razorbacks with the #1 defense in the division before this last game. Keeping the pressure on a dual-threat QB will be key to keeping that #1 defense and, more importantly, earning their way to the win.
The Giants are coming off a monster upset in their favour, still thriving off their 25-7 win over the Mavericks three weeks ago. The Ruairi/Tiarnan Boorman connection has been lauded before, the pair combining their abilities with unique chemistry to be responsible for every Giants passing TD this season. The Causeway crew can run the ball as well with plenty of weapons though, and while the Boormans can be seen in this side of the offense too, respect must be given to RB Matthew Clyde who leads the team in rushing TDs. The Giants D-line is arguably the strength of this team, with the duo of Ross McKenzie and Michael McCafferty tallying 7.5 sacks between them so far. The Giants have also scored plenty due to their defense, with short drives due to turnovers and scores directly by the defense attributing to the Giants Points For column. The Giants were shutout in their last 2 away trips, but with the lack of playoff stress and the boost they’ll be carrying with them from the Mavericks upset, they may just get out of Belfast with a win Saturday.
#3 Cill Dara Crusaders (4-4) @ #2 UL Vikings (5-2-1) — Maguire’s Field, Limerick, 2pm
An interesting game here for sure. These teams faced off in Newbridge earlier in the season and came out with the highest scoring game in Ireland, a 39-47 win in favour of this weekend’s home team. QB Kieran Gilhool has his best game of the campaign against the Crusaders, throwing for 3 TDs in the shootout. A pair of backs in Eoin Rudkins and Sean Grace will be eager to punch the ball into the endzone themselves too, with both likely to see plenty of the ball Sunday. The Vikings defensive line have picked up tremendously in the latter half of the year, with Jake Kelly and Robert Browne picking up 12 sacks just between the two of them. Pressuring the QBs remaining in these playoffs will be crucial to their success, as seen in their 26-7 win over #1 Minotaurs at the end of their regular season.
Cill Dara make this game interesting because of their dominating win over the Vipers last weekend, a 24-8 result that saw the Vipers score right at the death. QB Jordan Farrell is a charismatic QB who can inspire giant-killings, and with him throwing the most TDs in the division (9) he knows how to get the ball into the endzone through the likes of brother Kealan (2) and Robert Brown (4). Sack leader Craig Dooley (9) paired with young DL Hendre Erasmus (4) has made for a pass-rush that rivals the Vikings, so they matchup with the Limerick side well. This game is sure to be an interesting watch, but will it exceed the 86 points scored in the prequel to this semi-final?
#4 Donegal / Derry Vipers (3-4-1) @ #1 Westmeath Minotaurs (7-1) — Mullingar RFC, 2pm
The Vipers come into this with little momentum but a much bigger squad available than what they travelled to Newbridge with. RB Pete Farrell grinded out tough yards against a game Crusaders defense Sunday and will look to do the same in Mullingar, while WR Chad Higgins will look to make multiple explosive plays on offense and defense. Darren Quinn and Danny Mullen will be keen to create more turnover-worthy plays this weekend too, with both players coming close on multiple occasions against Cill Dara.
The Minotaurs come into this postseason as the #1 seed, the first time they have done so in the club’s history. WR Jack Lynch has been a big reason for that, leading the division with 6 receiving TDs. QB Joe Kinahan has thrown 8 total scores on the year and ran 2 in himself, while the defense has also scored on the season through a pick 6 by DB Jason Owens. Speaking of that ball-hawking defense, Owens (2), S Niall Folan (3) and CB rookie Peter Dempsey (7) have been reading QB eyes and will be keen to add to their tallies for this campaign. The Vipers will be hoping for a “third time’s the charm” storyline, but it’s difficult to see where the cracks form in the Minotaurs for Donegal / Derry to capitalise on.
Giants 17 – 14 Razorbacks
Crusaders 22 – 28 Vikings
Vipers 10 – 21 Minotaurs