Preview: AFI Senior Football GW2

The dust has settled from Gameweek 1, any overreactions have calmed, and now we’re all waiting for our next fix of American football action… just as well we don’t have to wait 33 weeks like we did for GW1! Gameweek 2 is right around the corner, and with 5 teams making their first strides into the 2024 Senior Football season, there’s plenty of buzz around this weekend. Let’s see all the noise is about…

First of all, we can’t talk about the big AFI events happening around the island this weekend without talking about We Run the World! Celebrating Friday’s International Women’s Day, WRTW is running their very first female-only flag football tournament at the Sport Ireland Campus, Dublin on Sunday March 10th. Domestic teams and teams flying from all around the world will be competing for the chance to experience the WRTW National tournament in Philadelphia this tournament, and will feature many prominent flag footballers, including the likes of Phoebe Schecter, and even some of our own Irish Wolfhounds! This event is unfortunately closed to the public but we are very excited about this partnership with WRTW, Flag Football Life and UK Dukes going forward!

As if that wasn’t exciting enough, we have 3 kitted games taking place around the island Sunday:

Westmeath Minotaurs @ South Dublin Panthers — Trinity Sports Campus, Santry, 1pm
The first in these teams’ 2-game series, this matchup happened just once last year, ending in a 23-9 victory for the South Dublin side that broke a lot of momentum the visitors had going after a strong season opener. The Panthers had a few skeptics with the choice to put a very talented (and European-travelled) wide receiver in Finn Kearns under center last season, but they proved that having an athlete as — well — athletic as Kearns poses problems for defenses that are difficult to solve. With a talented receiving corps and strong run game with U19 Wolfhound graduate Conor Hoskins leading the charge, the Panthers will look to show how competitive they can be this season with a win Sunday. Westmeath have some explosive offensive weapons themselves, with the likes of Shaun Dalton and Cathal Dunne both impressing last year catching touchdowns from QB Joe Kinahan in the Minotaurs’ debut season in Premier Division. Both teams have gritty defenses — something that came to the forefront in this fixture last season — so look for this one to be tightly contested.

Belfast Trojans @ UL Vikings (0-0-1) — Maguire’s Field, UL Sports Campus, 2pm
Not just because they have a 9hr round-trip in their immediate future, but the Trojans will be eager to come away with a result here. Dom Lynn and co. started off on uneven footing last year due to an injury the former suffered in preseason, and with the margins they sneaked into the playoffs by, they know every game counts. With talented pieces across the offense to get the ball to and a very experienced coaching staff (including Coach Jimmie Johnson from ELF’s Paris Muskateers) to help bolster the defense and special teams, the Trojans are certainly gearing themselves up for a run at the Bowl this year. Of course, blocking that path are the UL Vikings, who may well just come out of Sunday with one of the most unlikely 8-day stretches we’ve ever seen from a Premier Division promotee. Just a week after doing the unthinkable and coming back to tie with the Admirals after being down 24-0 at halftime, the Vikings have the opportunity to upset one of the most established and storied franchises in American Football Ireland. They’ll certainly be out with a point to prove, and they showed last week they have an edge to them, and it really is difficult to see how this shapes out.

Craigavon Cowboys @ Donegal / Derry Vipers — The Vale Center, Greysteel, 1pm
The Craigavon Cowboys, fresh off of debuting a new look, have returned to Division 1, with this fixture being their first in the division since 2019. QB Peter Loughran leads the charge for the ‘Boys on offense, which is sure to upset every DC in the division not coaching in Craigavon. The Cowboys defense will need to hold up a little better than last year’s efforts against Premier Division competition, and it’s a unit that will need to be put under a lot of pressure if the Vipers are to keep up in this one. With some pieces coming into the fold now after coming through the youth academy ranks, the Vipers are in a transition phase as they start to see the next generation take the reigns. With experienced players around them they can certainly be put into positions to succeed, and as we saw last week, anything can happen in a team’s season opening game. We’ll have an idea Sunday evening what exactly both sides are working with in 2024. For now though, it’s difficult to call for an upset in this one against a Cowboys team that many have pencilled in for a Bowl appearance.

Writer’s Predictions
Minotaurs 21-23 Panthers
Trojans 24-16 Vikings
Cowboys 27-13 Vipers