Preview: AFI Gameweek 9

After having multiple weeks with games taking place across every division in Ireland, Gameweek 9 focuses solely on the Premier Division. With just 2 games on the slate for Sunday, with plenty of consequences for the division’s playoff and relegation scenarios, there will be eyes from all over the island on these games. Let’s take a sneak peak at what to expect from this weekend’s action.

Premier Division

Craigavon Cowboys (0-4) @ Cork Admirals (3-0) — Old Christians RFC, Glanmire, Cork, 2pm
Two teams on two very different paths this season, as an undefeated Admirals team that looks set to make another playoff run takes on a Cowboys side that has lost 10 straight games in the Premier Division stretching back to last season. The Cowboys have really struggled this year and have lost some scores by some big scores, but the fight from them is still there. Scoring just once this season with half the season behind them, Craigavon need to find ways to get on the scoreboard soon. Their playoff scenarios officially draw dead for this season with a loss in Cork, and with how much of a roll the Admirals are on right now it’s hard to predict anything but this happening. QB Stephen Hayes has started this year exponentially stronger than 2022, with the Wolfhounds capped QB throwing for 10 touchdowns in these first 3 games. The defense has been as impressive, limiting opposing offenses to just 13.3 ppg so far. All this coupled with the long trip from Craigavon makes it very hard to call an upset here, and this game for the Cowboys may just be a case of trying to show signs of promise for their remaining games moving forward. 

Playoff Scenarios: Cowboys eliminated from contention with Loss @ Admirals

Westmeath Minotaurs (1-2) @ Belfast Knights (0-3) — Malone RFC, Belfast, 2pm
A lot closer of a game on paper sees the Minotaurs travel up to Belfast to battle the Knights. Both teams sit in the bottom half of the table right now, but there are plenty of scenarios which see one of these teams make the playoffs come July. The road to then starts this Sunday in what will be the first ever meeting between these 2 sides. In many ways these teams are antitheses of each other. The Knights have scored the majority of their points on the ground this season and have been highlighted on offense by the QB-RB pairing of Spencer McDowell and Robbie Alexander, while Westmeath have entered the season with one of the more prolific QB-WR duos in the division, with Joe Kinahan connecting with Shaun Dalton 4 times in the endzone so far this year. On defense the Knights have always been known for a tough, hard-hitting defensive front and have put pressure on opposing offensive lines in both the run and pass games consistently for years. The Minotaurs defense has been less productive as far as sacks go but has come away with 5 interceptions in just 3 games so far in 2023, which has them placed 3rd in the league in that statistic. A game of contrasting styles and a game of major importance: the first of 2 games between these teams this year, both teams have chances of getting themselves into playoff races come the end of the season, while the loser this Sunday may start to get themselves in a battle to survive a relegation battle. Can the Knights get their first win of the season or do the Minotaurs continue to establish themselves in Premier Division with a result away from home?

Writer’s Predictions
Cowboys 6-24 Admirals
Minotaurs 23-17 Knights