Preview of Shamrock Bowl XXIX

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Belfast Trojans v Trinity College Dublin

The Belfast Trojans and Trinity College Dublin will meet in Dalymount Park next Sunday to decide who will be Ireland’s National Champions in American football. In spite of meeting in last years final, both teams have had to make big improvements to stay at the top of the increasingly competitive Shamrock Bowl Conference (SBC) – Ireland’s elite American football league. One exciting aspect of this years game is the fact that these teams did not meet during the 2015 regular season. So there is no head to head form book to go by. Indeed, the notional form book was upset when they last met – in the 2014 Shamrock Bowl, with the Belfast Trojans narrowly defeating a Trinity team which had been unbeaten all year.

Route to the Shamrock Bowl:
The Trojans finished the regular season as the best team in SBC North with an 8-0 record. They defeated the University of Limerick Vikings in their Semi-Final to reach Shamrock Bowl XXIX. They were the top scorers in the SBC, averaging 43 points per game and conceded only 30 points all season.

Trinity College Dublin finished the regular season as the best team in SBC South with a 7-1 record. Their only defeat was their season opener against UL Vikings. They defeated the Dublin Rebels in their Semi-Final to reach Shamrock Bowl XXIX. They scored an impressive 202 points including 28 touchdowns during the regular season, conceding only 92 points on defence.

The Teams:
Belfast Trojans are led by veteran quarterback James McKelvey, who topped the SBC passing charts in 2015. His receiving corps will be depleted this week due to the suspension of the team’s top wide receiver David Richardson (ejected in semi-final). Their backfield includes Neil Montgomery –a very physical running back who loves contact. The Trojans are equally capable of passing and running on most downs. Like most successful teams, they have an exceptional offensive line which has plenty of depth –Vance, Bradford, Ramadan, Davidson & McGrath will probably start, with former NCAA star Jeroen Egge (1st team all-ACC at Duke University) playing on key downs. The Trojans defence has strength in all departments including Chris Mikhael, Connor Whitla and Chris Weir.

Trinity College’s Rob McDowell is probably the best athlete in the SBC at the moment. Known in the league as ‘the highlights reel’ due to his uncanny ability to make impressive plays. This season has seen him change roles from being a pure running back to taking snaps under centre as a running quarterback. This has given the Trinity offense a new more versatile look this year – last season they used a pure pocket passer at QB. McDowell will be joined in the backfield by running back Ola Bademosi, who is a power runner. The Trinity passing game is still strong, with wide receiver Alex Gurney, who is versatile enough to also line-up in the backfield. Trinity has an impressive offensive line, which is very athletic. Five of the following six will start on Sunday – McKenna, O’Hara, Coughlan, McCarthy-Edwards, Tamas and Lysaght. On defence, they have a lot of speed and athleticism and includes cornerback Brian O’Driscoll and defensive end Thomas O’Hara.

Photo by Ariane Boudias
Photo by Ariane Boudias