Monday, 11 February 2013

Shamrock Bowl Conference North Preview

The new Irish American Football League season is almost upon us and so it’s time to preview the newly reshuffled League.

First off we have the reigning champions, the Belfast Trojans. The Trojans are still a relatively new team, having formed in 2006, but their mix of strong defence, dynamic offence and great off-field organisation saw them quickly rise to the peak of Irish American Football.

Their large squad, and great offseason recruiting, will be vital since they’re taking part in the EFAF Atlantic Cup as well as the League this year. The stars of the team, the Colvin brothers, Shamrock Bowl MVP Neil Montgomery and the strong offensive and defensive lines, will need to be on top of their game if they’re to repeat though!

The Belfast Trojans lift the Shamrock Bowl in 2012 (photo courtesy of Nathan James Sharrocks)

Next up we have the Dublin Rebels. Ireland’s most successful team over the years, the Rebels have been relocated into the North conference and will be looking to pay revenge to the Trojans for the semi-final loss last year.

2012 was somewhat of a transition period for the Rebels, with retirements and rookies creating a somewhat inexperienced team. Despite that they went 6-2, only losing to the two Shamrock Bowl competitors, the UL Vikings and the Trojans.

With more experience and a successful rookie camp under their belts the Rebels will be looking to bounce back to winning ways. QBs Andy Dennehy and Brian Carter have a ton of experience between them and the wide receiver corps, headed by Gary Sommerville, is athletic enough to cause problems. Their offensive line and run game isn’t bad either.

The Dublin Rebels gave the Trojans problems last year (Photo courtesy of Ariane Boudias)
However for all the Dubliners offensive prowess, the Rebels allowed a few big scores last year. As well as the Trojan and Viking wins, the Carrickfergus Knights and West Dublin Rhinos ran them close. The future looks bright for the Rebels though and we should see them challenging Belfast this season.

The 4 & 4 West Dublin Rhinos are next up in the North. A strong defensive team, the Rhinos will open the season against the Rebels and will be looking to shut their cross-city rivals down. Rookie linebacker Shane Mckeogh had an impressive first year and will be looking to continue into 2013 alongside veteran Nick Newby.

But the Rhinos have some offence too, with running back Robert Pops excelling, despite the upheaval at quarterback last year.  They’ll just hope to expand this year and put more points on the board to try and compete with the Trojans and Rebels at the top, as well as hoping to exact revenge on the Carrickfergus Knights for last year’s playoff defeat. A third playoff berth in their history is within the Rhino’s potential.

The West Dublin Rhinos face off against the Craigavon Cowboys (photo courtesy of Ariane Boudias)
The Carrickfergus Knights have not won the Shamrock Bowl for over a decade now and are starting to be overshadowed by their Northern Irish rivals, the Belfast Trojans. The Knights limped into the playoffs last year, on a 2-6 record, but surprised once they got there, beating the Rhinos 7-2 in the wildcard game.

The Knights have the potential to rebuild and become a force in the IAFL once again but it will take recruiting and hard work. Building around their key players, such as 2012 team MVP linebacker Spencer McDowell and running back Darren Montgomery, will be important as well as the injection of new blood at their rookie camps.

Can the Carrickfergus Knights make some waves this year? (photo courtesy of Ariane Boudias)
Last up in the North is the Craigavon Cowboys. Having also gone 2 & 6 in 2012 they missed out on the playoffs to the Knights. The Cowboys are in a tough division this year and couldn’t get a more difficult start to the season, opening against the reigning champions.

However they’re more than capable of hurting their playoff hunting opponents and causing a shock for the League. Dynamic tight end Peter Loughran has moved to quarterback and will be looking to getting the offence moving along with father and son backfield partners Bobby and John Murray.

Craigavon’s defence includes some key players too such as lineman James Loughran, linebacker Rory Downey and cornerback Corey Mckenna. They’ll have to massively step up their game to reverse the 48-12 defeat to the Trojans last year but the Cowboys are an experienced team and are more than capable of mixing up the Shamrock Conference North this year.

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