Preview: AFI Gameweek 18

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.

It’s really heating up now! The Dublin Rebels, UCD, Cork Admirals and South Dublin Panthers have all had 2 weeks to prepare for the AFI Premier Division semi-finals, with personnel adjustments and gameplans drawn up and installed for this Sunday 24th. With a spot in Shamrock Bowl XXXIV at Kingspan Stadium on August 7th (tickets available here) on the line, players on all 4 teams will be playing with every bit of grit and determination they have to secure the win for their squad. How does this writer see the games go down? Let’s take a look.

#4 South Dublin Panthers (4-4) @ #1 Dublin Rebels (8-0) — De La Salle RFC, Palmerston, 2pm
An up-and-down season for the 2019 Shamrock Bowl finalists, the Panthers got results when they needed them, a 55-6 win over the Cowboys towards the end of the season ultimately putting them into this postseason matchup. QB Ian Cahill has shown he can play a blinder in big games for the Panthers, with the signal-caller hoping to conjure up a performance akin to his 4 TD game at home to #5 Trojans (4-4) at the start of the season. With weapons at the ready like RB Ben Arulogun, WR Ray Burke and emerging receiving option Trevor Smith (3 TDs in last 2 games) there are plenty of ways the Panthers can get into the endzone Sunday. LB Jo Buchanan has put up some great games on defense, as have the likes of DE Evan Allen and DB Mike Massari, all of whom will need career games to deny the Rebels offense.

Of course, that is something that has been seldom achieved this season, with the 2022 Rebels having one of the finer team regular seasons in recent memory. Finishing the season with the #1 offense and #1 defense, there’s a reason the Rebels have become the team to beat in the playoffs. Averaging 40.25ppg, the offense consisting firepower such as QB Ty Henry (#1 total TDs among QBs), RB Wello Omorodion (rush TD leader) and a wealth of WR talent including Dave King and Greg Johnson (receiving TD leader) just to name a few hit the ground running and have not stopped. Veterans such as Paul Kirkwood and Kenny McCarty have truly left a mark on how the Rebels have trucked through this season, inspiring the rest of the team by putting in true championship-level performances all season. The Panthers certainly have the chance to upset (it wouldn’t be the first time they’d have done so) but it’s hard to predict that against a team that has been on a different level in 2022 — and a team that beat them 42-13 just 2 weeks ago.

#3 Cork Admirals (5-2-1) @ #2 UCD (6-1-1) — UCD Sports Campus, Belfield, 2pm
Where to start with this one?? While the first outing between these 2 teams this season wasn’t exactly a barnburner (20-0 UCD at home), Cork’s delayed explosion on to the scene and the more recent 28-28 tie have made this game the more intriguing of the two on paper. 2 QBs — UCD’s Arun Mooney and Cork’s Stephen Hayes — who have been playing on fire and made some spectacular throws all season long. 2 receiving corps who have that sought after mix of separation and run after catch ability. 2 stone-wall offensive lines that keep that passing game alive.

There’s going to be no rolling over by either defense though. UCD’s #2 defense and Cork’s #3 defense will be keeping things competitive with how hard they play. Both teams have great pass rushes too which will push each other’s offensive line as hard as they’ve been pushed all year. UCD’s Larry Doyle leads the team with 5 sacks, Aaron Hogan leads Cork with 4, with both featuring in the top 8 in that stat across the league. It’s a true coin flip trying to call this one, and it should be a fantastic game to watch.

Quickfire Predictions
Panthers 17 – 34 Rebels
Admirals 26 – 27 UCD