Review: 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.

Last weekend’s Premier Division playoff matchups in Dublin saw 2 teams put on outstanding performances on their way to Shamrock Bowl XXXIV at Kingspan Stadium (tickets still available). With 102 points scored between both games, who came out on top and secured their ticket to the final? Let’s dive into last weekend’s action.

#4 South Dublin Panthers 6 – 46 #1 Dublin Rebels
The Rebels outmatched the Panthers and were relentless in securing the win Sunday. Consistently gaining yardage seemingly every play, moving the chains and playing water-tight on defense, the Rebels sprinted out of the gate and held a 24-0 lead at halftime. Not easing off the throttle, they scored another 22 points in the second half and, while the Panthers did eventually break through the defense for a score of their own, the Rebels dominated this semi-final and punched their ticket to the National Championship. With one more game to go, the 2022 Dublin Rebels could join the short list of Irish championship-winning teams who have completed undefeated seasons.

The loss is a heavy pill to swallow for the Panthers, who came into this game with a nack for upsets looking for another. Instead, the Panthers bow out of the playoffs at the semi-final stage to the #1 team in the country. Coming into this season as an unknown, particularly with an up-in-the-air coaching situation, the Panthers earned some great results where needed and proved their worth where it mattered in the regular season. With a steadier preseason in 2023 that should stabilise the foundation of the team on the field, the Panthers should be seen as Premier Division playoff contenders next season.

#3 Cork Admirals 6 – 44 #2 UCD
A balanced first half in Belfield gave way to a one-sided second half as the Students overcame the Admirals and denied the Cork side the chance to replicate the 2018 Shamrock Bowl matchup. The game was locked up early with UCD scoring shortly before the break to make it 16-6 at half. From there, UCD were disciplined and capitalized on many penalties given away by the Admirals, which shortened the field for the Students and helped them score more frequently. Couple those penalties with a growing deficit, and QB Stephen Hayes was put under more pressure to make more risky throws, and while the QB was on target more often than not, UCD were able to come away with 4 sacks and 3 interceptions. Cork’s season ends in a disappointing fashion, but their season as a whole must be celebrated — especially considering they finished 5-2-1 with the #3 seed after a 0-2 start. Expect to see the Admirals recover and reestablish themselves as potential favourites in 2023’s playoff picture.

The Students, meanwhile, build some necessary momentum as they can now set their sights on a revenge game from earlier in the season. A 40+ point performance against a tough defense and allowing just 1 score to a team that had averaged nearly 35 points in their last 4 games will absolutely boost spirits for the UCD roster. With 2 teams who have been hot all year playing with the National Championship on the line, August 7th should be a monster of a game.