Review: AFI Senior Football GW1

What a start to the season! The 2024 Senior Football season got under way last Sunday with 4 games across the island, and with one team starting their season hot with a home shutout, another making a second-half comeback that may well be talked about throughout the season, a Shamrock Bowl rematch and a total of a whopping 227 total points across 4 games… it’s safe to say a lot happened Sunday, so let’s get right into what went on!

UCD (1-0) 42-40 Dublin Rebels (0-1)
WHAT. A. MATCH. Both teams really left it all out there in their season-opener, with lead changes, takeaways and touchdowns galore. Standing out above the rest for their performances were the likes of Dan Johnston, who caught 3 of Rebels QB Ty Henry’s passing touchdowns, UCD’s Brandon Atwell who has 2 rushing TDs on offense on top of a sack and a fumble recovery on a 2-pt try returned for 2 points on defense, and UCD’s Tom Donovan hauling in 2 long touchdown passes from QB Arun Mooney — including that catch — as well as the game-sealing interception as time expired to make the upset result official. We don’t expect the Rebels path to the postseason to be too disrupted despite the bump in the road this causes, but UCD will be flying high with momentum in abundance after being responsible for the reigning national champions’ first regular season loss since before the pandemic.

UL Vikings (0-0-1) 24-24 Cork Admirals (0-0-1)
… And they almost finished the comeback too! Of course, it would be unfair to talk about a comeback without talking about how Cork took their lead in the first place: a strong Cork run game with RB Fionnan Cremin opened the scoring for the Admirals, which opened passing lanes for youth graduate QB Jake Kennedy to connect with Declan Maye twice on touchdown passes before halftime. UL completely turned it around in the second half, actually outscoring Cork as far as touchdowns go, but failed to convert the extra point attempts on all 4 touchdowns of their second half comeback — which included a 70 yard rushing score by QB Fin O’Donovan, resulting in the 24-24 tie. This will undoubtedly feel like a win for the Vikings after being so far down and gives them a boost going into this weekend’s matchup with the Belfast Trojans, while the Admirals will be watching back tape from this game wondering how they let this one get away from them.

Wexford Eagles (0-1) 19-34 Louth Mavericks (1-0)
The Mavs took control of this one early and jumped out ahead to a 34 point lead by the start of Q4. Nathan Hearty got off to a slower start than projected purely as far as passing touchdowns go, but commanded a consistent offense through the air and the ground, ultimately getting his unit in positions to have Alex Minto and Dan Finley (x2) add rushing touchdowns to the Mavericks total. Eamon Ward’s pick 6 completed Louth’s scoreline for a strong Game 1 performance that will set them up with confidence going forward. The one talking point from this one was Wexford’s Q4 performance, which aimed to send the local crowd home with some optimism looking ahead, tallying 3 touchdowns in the last period of the game through Paddy Brissett, Luke Fitzpatrick and Henry Foxton. 

NI Razorbacks (1-0) 44-0 Antrim Jets (0-1)
A convincing home win is exactly what was expected of the Razorbacks, and they delivered big. 3 big turnovers — with 2 touchdowns on the drives they resulted in — helped the ‘Hogs defense pitch a shutout while the offense did their part, with 6 individual players reaching the endzone in front of their home fans. It’s the start the Razorbacks needed to push them on their way to challenging for a playoff spot this year. Meanwhile, for the Jets, it’s a tough loss to take that too closely resembles their struggles from last year. From a Jets — and neutral — perspective, you’d hope Antrim can turn things around over the course of this season and begin to get more competitive, and perhaps with more than a month until their next game that they can get some fixes worked on.