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Gameweek 8 is in the rear-view mirror, and what a week it ended up being. Despite there being only 3 games on offer, Gameweek 8 provided the first tie game of the year, an interesting wrinkle in the Division 2 playoff race, and a massive upset in Premier Division. Let’s take a look at what happened and how it leaves the teams involved for the rest of the season.
#3 South Dublin Panthers (3-1) 2 – 24 #5 Cork Admirals (1-2)
While it was only a matter of time before the Admirals got on the scoreboard after a cold start, a performance this strong did not seem as possible. Making the trip to Palmerston to get their season back on track, Cork made a statement to the rest of the league on Sunday, making easy work of the Panthers in all three phases of the game. The defense swarmed all over Cahill, picking up 3 sacks and a nationwide-high 5 INT. Particular stars on the Admirals defense for the day were the likes of DBs Kit O’Keefe and Liam O’Leary picking up 2 INTs each (with O’Leary taking one home for a touchdown) and LB Marty Mulrey who tallied an INT and a sack on Sunday. RB Phylip Walters made sure it wasn’t just the defense shining bright, totaling 3 TDs on the day (2 on the ground, 1 off a pass from QB Stephen Hayes). It’s obvious the Admirals were waiting for the opportunity to break out after game nearly a month ago @ #2 UCD, and it throws a few spanners into the works for playoff projections now that they hold a tiebreaker over the South Dublin side. Cork next take the sudden wave of momentum they’re riding up north to face the #4 Cowboys on May 22nd.
As for the Panthers, a lot of work needs to be done very quickly to get themselves back on track as they next face #2 UCD at home. South Dublin, who started hot with a big 42-13 win over the #7 Trojans, have been a lot less efficient in games against teams like the #8 Knights and the #6 Rhinos, and have picked up injuries along the way. Couple a less than 100% squad with a 6 turnover performance on offense, and things aren’t shaping up too well for a team going up against a UCD team being tipped for a Shamrock Bowl appearance and a potential revenge game for the #7 Trojans within the next 4 weeks. Based on their own 2019 Shamrock Bowl finalist campaign though, the Panthers love playing as the underdog, so they are a compelling narrative to follow over the next few months.
#1 UL Vikings (3-1-1) 10 – 10 #4 Donegal / Derry Vipers (2-2-1)
We all love tie games, right? Right?? Well, regardless, both the Vipers and the Vikings will be looking at last Sunday as a missed opportunity. Both teams had the chance to gain a tiebreaker over the other as we start to look closer and closer to playoff seeding, and UL had the chance to take a true 1-win lead over the division. Instead, the tie leaves the Vipers a win behind the top 3 with as many as 2 extra games played, while the Vikings (who take the top spot for now) sit only a point above #2 Minotaurs and #3 Trinity, who each have 2 games in hand over UL. The run game ruled the day here, with both teams’ touchdowns on the day being ran in by RBs Eoin Rudkins (UL) and Pete Farrell (DDV). Otherwise, it was a very physical, defense-dominated game that resulted in 6 turnovers combined between the 2 teams. Standouts from Sunday’s game include Vipers LB Darren Quinn popping up with another fumble recovery on the year, while UL LB Robert Browne particularly made an impression with 2 sacks, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
Vipers next host #2 Minotaurs (May 29th) and will be looking for a win to distance themselves from the #5 Crusaders (2-2) and keep themselves in playoff contention. UL also next host the Minotaurs, having a bit more time to prepare for their June 5th matchup.
#4 Causeway Giants (2-2) 0 – 16 #3 Antrim Jets (2-2)
With only bowl game spots up for grabs in Division 2, things are heating up in the race to the #2 seed, as — after Antrim’s win Sunday — the Razorbacks (#2), Jets (#3) and Giants (#4) sit at 2-2. The Giants will be disappointed not to walk away with the win here, now being disadvantaged by currently losing the 2-game series with the Jets and (obviously) a 1-point deduction for their Gameweek 1 forfeit to the Razorbacks. It will be an uphill battle for the Giants and QB Ruairi Boorman, who threw 2 INTs Sunday (both to Jets DB Connor Ross). The Giants next 3 games all come in the space of 4 weeks in June (@ #1 Mavericks, @ #3 Jets, vs #1 Mavericks), and realistically need to come away with at least 2 wins from those 3 to keep up with the pack.
The Jets, meanwhile, will look back at Sunday and be incredibly proud of the effort put in by their defense, who put pressure on Boorman all day and did not allow a point scored. They came away with the aforementioned 2 INTs, as well as a nationwide-high 8 sacks on Sunday (with 3 coming from DL Curtis McLeish). QB Scot McLean added 2 TDs on the ground (still being responsible for every offensive score the Jets have this season), while Conor Davison kicked 1 XP and 1 FG to seal a 16-0 win. The Jets, whose next 3 games are vs #5 Pirates, vs #4 Giants and @ #5 Pirates, now find themselves in great position as we push into the latter half of the season and start looking at playoff spots.
AFI Gameweek 9 will feature 5 games — 3 from Premier Division, 2 from Division 2 — all with high stakes coming into the latter half of the season. Keep an eye out on our website, Facebook and Instagram for our preview of this upcoming Sunday’s action!