Review: AFI Kitted Gameweek 5

The Easter bunny arrived a little early for some teams this past Sunday, bringing some sweet results (no, I’m not sorry) to teams climbing up the rankings. Other teams will be feeling a little rotten, either caught looking ahead to the Bye Week, carrying injuries or just simply not being up to the task. It was eventful weekend which saw the blowout bug carry over from Gameweek 4, some high-scoring matchups and a huge result sure to have Premier Division playoff implications…  It wouldn’t be a very Good Friday without talking some football — let’s break last Gameweek 5 down.

*Note: rescheduling of Trinity @ Wexford Eagles — as well as Wexford Eagles @ North Dublin Pirates — is still in conversation. AFI will provide updates when they become available.

Division 1
UL Vikings (3-0) 37-8 Donegal / Derry Vipers (1-2)
Business as usual this season for the UL Vikings who took the long trek up to Derry and came up 4-score victors. QB Finn O’Donovan had another great day — like we’ve come to expect from the Vikings QB — having a clean day through the air (2 TDs to Reece Moloney and Danny Quilter while throwing 0 INTs) while also putting himself on the scoresheet with a QB run. He did this too through some Vipers pressure, who did come away with a 4-sack team performance in what was otherwise not a day to be remembered for the red and yellow. UL’s defense, on the other hand, showed up after a long trip up to the game, allowing just one Gary Melly touchdown pass while forcing an interception through Connor Kelly and recovering 2 forced fumbles. The Vipers, now sitting at 1-2, need to find ways to get on the board: not scoring more than twice in any game this season, Donegal/Derry need to self-scout over the break in action to improve on their production on offense. A team that had been penned as a potential playoff pusher, failing to score points will keep them away from the dance come July. The Vikings, meanwhile, seem ready to punch their ticket in, as 1 win from any of their remaining 5 games will all but guarantee the current #1 seed a playoff appearance. Of course, UL aren’t just pushing for “appearing” this season…

Dublin Rhinos (1-1) 24-0 NI Razorbacks (1-2)
The Razorbacks season is very quickly falling away from them. What started out as a promising introduction to Division 1 has since seen the Razorbacks shutout in 2 games and conceding 59 points. Being without HC/RB Gareth Millar for the first half certainly didn’t help things, and while the second half was more competitive, the Rhinos were still too much to handle. Rhinos QB Ethan Foster connected with his Tight End Luke Ivers early before the run game got going, with scores being added on the ground by Dylan Gladney and Adam Jenkins. The Razorbacks almost got a big break through a Diarmid Russell interception of Foster, returning it to the 10 yard line, but the Rhinos forced a turnover on downs in a crucial defensive stand. Speaking of that defense, 2 interceptions on Mark Thompson (1 by Matt Mays and 1 by Toby Luken) along with 4 team sacks kept the Razorbacks pushed back for most of Sunday. Another team that will benefit from the Bye Week, the Razorbacks will surely come out the other side of it better prepared for their matchup with the Vikings in Gameweek 6. The Rhinos, meanwhile, will be celebrating an important win before the break that leaves them 1-1 in the division, still well within the playoff chase. 

Louth Mavericks (2-0) 56-0 Antrim Jets (0-3)
That Nathan Hearty lad is quite good huh?? A stupidly good day from the Louth QB saw him responsible for seven touchdowns — 4 passing and 3 rushing — as the Mavericks put forward the biggest shutout in Irish American football seen this side of the pandemic. A true breakout performance, the Louth QB had himself a career day, but as much of a season-highlight performance Hearty had, we need to talk about some performers on defense too. Whether it was Donal Drew showing up with 2 sacks, or Dan Marshall and Jack Compton coming away with an interception each, the Mavericks swarmed the Jets offense all day and put up their second straight shutout on the season. The Jets are in serious trouble already, putting up only 6 points all season and conceding 30ppg. Perhaps the Easter break will allow for epiphanies to occur among the Jets base, and they can find a way to rescue the season. As it stands, though, things are looking like they might get out of hand.

Premier Division
Belfast Trojans (1-1) 7-0 Craigavon Cowboys (0-2)
Not exactly a barnburner this one. After an early Mo Ramadan touchdown catch put the Trojans up, it was a tough, hard-hitting affair which saw both teams flirt with momentum before ultimately stalemating for the rest of the game. Standout performances on both sides’ defenses from Jamie Baird and Paddy Somers (the latter racking up 3 sacks) gave way to a gritty Trojans win that sees them claw back a bit of the momentum lost from their big loss at UCD 2 weeks ago. Going forward both teams’ offenses need to reach the endzone a lot more often — the Trojans getting Dom Lynn back from injury at QB may cure their woes, while the Cowboys need to take this break in play to come up with some answers. The Trojans play just once more in April @ the Knights on April 16th, while the Cowboys have an incredibly tough upcoming run with games @ Rebels, vs UCD and @ Admirals all in the next 4 weeks. 

UCD (1-2) 14-18 Cork Admirals (2-0)
The biggest story from last weekend was Cork’s tight win over the reigning National Champions who fall to 1-2 in their 2023 campaign. The first thing that should be said before we go any further here: there should be no alarm bells going off in Belfield. 2 losses against last year’s #3 seed and the Shamrock Bowl finalists do not mean things are turning upside down in the UCD camp, despite how much they may have hoped or even expected to win those games. A close affair in Cork saw both teams come out the gates early before the game became more of a slugfest, a clash of heavyweights that managed to block most of their opponent’s haymakers. Both QBs played well enough to win — Mooney throwing 1 TD to Conor Hanaran while staying off the INT sheet and Hayes tossing 3 TDs (1 to Jahn Dasini and 2 to Ryan Price) but also throwing a pick each to Rory O’Dwyer and Eoghan McMahon — and both defenses came into it in the second half to lock the other offense out. The takeaway here is the Admirals grinding out a hard-fought, emotional win that saw them limit the Students to the lowest point total in a game since the 2019 playoffs. Cork sit in a good spot after beating a team they were seen as underdogs against, comfortable right now in the #2 seed with plenty of season and (presumably after this performance) good football ahead of them.