For the second year running The University of Limerick was the host for the CUSAI College American Football Intervarsities Championship. The students of Trinity Football played the student contingent from the UL Vikings on a marshy field,which tore up very quickly.The conditions quickly took finesse out of both coaches gameplans, but what ensued will go down as one of the greatest games ever played in Ireland.
On the Vikings opening drive,DE Ziad Foty managed to steal the ball and return it 30 yards,before fumbling the ball while showboating.To his credit he recovered his fumble on the Vikings 2 yard line.Sophomore Texan QB Alex Canepa got into the endzone, but a flag brought it back. Two plays later,Trinity RB Rob Mc Dowell picked up where he left off last season and found his way into the endzone.On the 2Pt attempt,Canepa threw to Senior WR David Corcoran,who valiantly tried to pull in an overthrown ball.
Limerick came out guns blazing, under the guidance of QB Paul Keane and the strong running of FB Ian Cahill,but a staunch stand saw a revamped Trinity defense hold firm.Former IAFL legends Danny O’Callaghan.Steve Collins and Dave McGrath,along with new coach Mark Monaghan sent a defense on to the field that fought violently with Limericks powerful O Line.
The remainder of the first half saw a powerful game of chess played with neither team budging or giving ground.Due to the conditions,current coach of the year Ciaran O’Sullivan and Trinity head coach Darrin O’Toole played very conservative football,waiting for a break.Defensive standouts such as Trinity’s CB Brendan O’Sullivan Texas A&M transfer student OLB Hunter Inman held the Vikings well,while Brendan “B-Mac” MacCarthy,Mike O’Connor and Mark Ashworth made sure that the pressure was returned by Limericks defense. The break both teams were hoping for never came for either team,and both teams walked off at the half bruised and battered,with Trinity Football holding on to a 6-0 lead by a thread.
For the second half,the Vikings reloaded and came out razor sharp.Their experience in the big game showed,and a short pass was caught early.The Trinity LB missed the WR by fingertips as he skillfully evaded the tackle,and then sped to the endzone.Trinity held firm on the 2Pt attempt and the game was all tied 6-6 in a slobberknocker.
For the rest of the third quarter,the teams traded blows but held firm on crucial plays.Limerick powered the ball well with their FB Ian Cahill and complimented with Paul Keane who managed their misdirection game well.Trinity on the other hand,rotated QB’s Alex Canepa and James Marron and got the ball into the hands of Rob McDowell and rookies Andrew Stanley and Garrett Dargan in rotation.Neither side could break the other,and as the 4th quarter ran out,two bruised and sore teams prepared themselves for an overtime which would never be forgotten.
Overtime started like the rest of the game,hard,fierce,but no ground given.Then on a 3rd down Trinity WR Lorcan Smullen recovered a Trinity fumble and evaded two fingertip ankle tackles.Smullen somehow managed to keep his feet and returned the ball 70 yards for a Trinity win….however an inadvertant whistle during the play gave the Vikings a huge break and the ball came right back.Trinity couldnt raise their game again and the first period of overtime ended with the Vikings looking the more likely to win with momentum on their side and both sides tiring.
The second period of overtime saw both teams exhange punts,but Trinity saw theirs blocked.QB Keane,RB Garvey and WR Ashworth had the Vikings were at the door,but the Trinity defense led by Stephen “Big Red” Carton held firm on 3 downs.Carton had 4 sacks on the day and emerged as one to watch this season.
On 4th down UL brought out clutch kicker and Shamrock Bowl MVP Adrian Garvey,to kick the winning field goal.Garvey kicked it good but the officials mistakenly called it wide right.A distraught UL saw momentum swing back to Trinity,and a 3rd period of overtime approached.
A fired up Trinity took to the field and Rob McDowell broke some big plays to move them up the field.At 3rd and 3 from the 25 yard line,Trinity sent on their kicking team.The ball went dead center,but failed to make the frame by less than 6 inches,and Limerick had their chance again.The game by now was the longest championship game ever held in Ireland at any level of the sport,but two tired teams raised their game one more time.
Limerick had possession in their own red zone midway through the 3rd period,but Defensive Coordinator sent on a fired up defense to stop them one last time. On fourth down,the Vikings chose to run a trick play and passed from punt formation.MLB Carton made a fingertip interception in stride and powered to the endzone,but a last gasp tackle took him down.
Trinity sent on the offense to try finish the game off,and on second and goal from the 4 yard line Rob McDowell kicked a dive to the outside and despite the pursuit of the UL defenders,managed to evade them as he powered to the endzone.
The game ended 12-6 Trinity after almost 4 hours and saw TCD and Coach Darrin O’Toole lift their first trophy at a ceremony later that night.
After the game Coach O’Toole thanked UL for a game for the ages,and Coach O’Sullivan beamed with pride at the performance of the students of UL.Both stated that they look forward to the growth of The College Championships,and several colleges sent representatives to observe the event.
photos by Martin Connolly