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A week removed from the Irish Wolfhounds Kitted team’s return to training, Gameweek 8 sees one game take place across AFI’s 3 divisions. Each of these matchups feature teams battling for playoff positions, and with many teams closing in on (or after already reaching) the halfway point in their season, these games slowly but surely start to become more vital to each team’s chances of winning silverware or escaping promotion. What’s in store this Sunday? Let’s have a look.
#6 Cork Admirals (0-2) @ #3 South Dublin Panthers (3-0) — King’s Hospital School, Palmerstown, 2pm
This writer is finding it hard to know what to think of this one. On one hand, yes, the Panthers are undefeated thus far, but after the hot start that was their 42-13 win over the Trojans, they were held to a close game at the Knights and a closer-than-expected outing with the Rhinos. Ian Cahill & Co will be happy they are currently undefeated, but they will be looking for more convincing results going forward to put them up to the challenges the #1 and #2 seeds will provide later in the season and in the playoffs. Can they replicate their vs Trojans performance this Sunday?
The Admirals, meanwhile, are a hard team to analyse right now, having been shutout on offense by the Rebels and UCD, but also having held the 2 highest scoring offenses in the division to just 20 points apiece. The fact Irish Wolfhounds QB Stephen Hayes and his offense haven’t scored is worrying, but after having time to regroup for this one they should be ready to make up for the lack of output to this point. WR Jahn Dasini will be looking to make plays whenever possible for his QB, while the Admirals defense will be out to hold up their end of the bargain, as they have done for many years in this division.
Expect this one to be a lower scoring affair. While it would be nice to see the Admirals pick themselves up after a tough start, it’s hard not to back the Panthers after their more balanced start through all 3 units of the game.
#5 Donegal / Derry Vipers (2-2) @ #3 UL Vikings (3-1) — Maguire’s Field, 2pm
Another close one to predict at UL this Sunday. The Vipers face the near-five hour journey for this one, and after away trips to Trinity and Westmeath resulted in 0 points scored, they will be looking to have a bit more bite while on offense this weekend. Young QB Mike Naulty will be looking to lead his men to a performance more in line with their 30-12 home win over the Crusaders than their away trips thus far. Naulty has not yet thrown for a touchdown while throwing 6 INTs, but has ran in 2 TDs himself. The Vipers run game has proven to be the focal point of the offense, though WR Chad Higgins will be eager to shine as he has done when given chances so far this year.
The Vikings come into this in the #3 seed after an incredible shootout with Cill Dara before the Easter break. QB Kieron Gilhool took charge in that outing, throwing for 3 TDs in that game, but equal praise must be given to RB Sean Grace for matching that total on the ground. Both men will be looking to take advantage of any chances they get from a defense that has not provided many opportunities to teams they travel to. The Vikings defense has created turnovers in each game thus far, which also seems to lean in their favour.
All signs point to a lower scoring game here, so expect a tight one where the team forcing the most mistakes and setting themselves up for short fields walks away with the W.
#4 Antrim Jets (1-2) @ #3 Causeway Giants (2-2) — Limepark Playing Grounds, 2pm
We finish with the game in Division 2, as the Jets look to bounce back from a 20-16 upset by the Razorbacks from the start of the month. As has been discussed on these previews and other platforms already, the success of the Jets seems to rely on the performance of QB Scot McLean moreso than any other team with their signal-callers. That narrative, while certainly valid, neglects the likes of LB duo Kenny Pollin and Ryan Beckett, who have been wrecking havoc in their own right thus far this season. What may go against them is how aggressive they may be early on in this one, as they may be out to rectify the result from 2 weeks ago and try get their record (and playoff chances) back on track.
The Giants host a game in which they can certainly take advantage of a team perhaps looking to start off hot. A win here would fast track the Giants to the #2 seed, putting them in line for the Division 2 bowl game later in the year. The Boorman brothers and their offense will be out to prove a point after a disappointing 6-point showing in Santry, despite picking up the W over the North Dublin Pirates. That win came in large thanks to the DL Ross McKenzie-led defense, with McKenzie having totaled 3 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery in just 2 games this season. The Giants will look to put McLean under that pressure all day long Sunday, and if they can throw the Jets QB off his game, they give themselves a great chance to put themselves in the driver’s seat for the #2 seed.
Admirals 10 – 17 Panthers
Vipers 14 – 10 Vikings
Jets 14 – 16 Giants