Review: AFI Gameweek 3

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.

Another week gone, another fantastic round of games across the island. A strong start for a team debuting in AFI Division 2, a chance for a bounce-back result and varsity bragging rights in both AFI Division 1 games, and a nail-bitter in Belfast’s AFI Premier Division fixture ALL took place last Sunday afternoon. Let’s take a look at what happened and what it may mean for teams moving forward…

AFI Premier Division

Belfast Knights 14 – 15 Craigavon Cowboys
Well this Premier Division is certainly living up to the billing of being the highest level of American Football in Ireland!! Twice in 2 weeks there has been a very late, crucial touchdown and ensuing 2pt conversion attempt, only this time the team on the comeback completed the mission and successfully converted the try! Down late after the Knights themselves came from being behind earlier in the game, the Cowboys marched down the field, with QB Peter Loughran throwing to WR Luis Alberto with just 15 seconds on the clock and down 1 point at 14-13. Electing to go for 2 points rather than kick the XP and likely take the draw, Loughran made the play himself by running it in and giving Craigavon a 14-15 lead. He added to his clutch display inside the 2-minute warning by sacking the Knights QB once they regained the ball, winding the game clock down to 0:00.

The win gives Craigavon a 2-0 record and some much-needed juice before hosting UCD on April 10th, while also likely already securing their place in the Premier Division in 2023. The Knights, meanwhile, fall to 0-2 and remain bottom of the division, their future in a lot more jeopardy than some may have expected at this point.


AFI Division 1

Donegal / Derry Vipers 30 – 12 Cill Dara Crusaders
The Vipers balance out their 20-0 loss to Trinity in Week 1 with a 30-point offensive performance last Sunday at their new home in City of Derry Rugby Club. Their running game got going a lot better than it did against the students, with the Donegal/Derry outfit scoring 4 times on the ground this past weekend (RBs Pete Farrell, Leroy Harris, QB Mike Naulty x2). Cill Dara scored through the ground once by young RB Luke Carey, and through the air by a 25-yard connection between QB Jordan Farrell and WR Robert Brown, who had 7 more catches on the day. For as high-scoring a game as it was, it could have been even higher, as both offenses combined for 9 turnovers, which included, among others, 2 INTs for Vipers DB Charlie Carlin.

The Vipers go 1-1 on the season and next face the Westmeath Minotaurs on April 10th, while the Crusaders start the year 0-1 and host the UL Vikings in Newbridge in 2 weeks.

Trinity 6 – 0 UL Vikings

We go from a high-scoring affair to a defensive one. Just the one score in this one, a second passing TD for the year being added to Trinity QB’s Ben Dowling’s yearly count. UL came close late on, with WR Danny Quilter shining in the second half especially, but a untimely INT in the endzone from an Eoin Rudkins pass sealed UL’s fate for the day. 

Another low-scoring, hard-fought matchup that somewhat replicated their intervarsity encounter back in November, that leaves the two teams in two very different positions moving forward. Trinity go up to 2-0, have not yet conceded a single point and face the Wexford Eagles on April 10th. UL, meanwhile, leave Santry 1-1 with two weeks to prepare for the trip to Newbridge for their game with the Crusaders, with both teams looking to avenge a loss from this week.


AFI Division 2

Antrim Jets 12 – 27 Louth Mavericks
Finally, the Louth Mavericks took home their first W in Division 2 after beating the Jets in Antrim by 2 scores. While the Jets did have some impressive performances in there (QB Scott McClean threw 2 TDs, LB Kenny Pollin had a sack, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery), the Mavericks were the story here. Adding all 4 touchdowns on the ground (2 through Nathan Hearty), they were close to adding a fifth via a Dan Marshall interception, and actually reached the endzone on a Brendan Simms kick return which was called back for a penalty. Ultimately, this went as it perhaps should have, with the Mavericks volunteering themselves for relegation from Division 1 to rebuild the club coming out of the pandemic. Still, the Jets should be feeling positive about the sparks that shown throughout this game and should very well stay competitive in the year to come.

Louth come home 1-0 and host the 0-1 North Dublin Pirates this coming Sunday, while Antrim (0-1) will hope for a quick turnaround as they host the 1-0 NI Razorbacks.

Look out for a preview of Gameweek 4 later in the week!