Saturday, 23 February 2013

Shamrock Bowl Conference South Preview

by Nathan James Sharrocks

It’s been an undesirable start to the new IAFL season, and that’s before a game has even been played. The curtain opener last weekend had to be postponed as adverse weather conditions took its toll on and left the pitch unplayable for the Trinity-UCD game.

Further to that the DCU Saints have pulled out of the Shamrock Bowl Conference South this year, advising the IAFL that they will unable to fulfil the schedule of competitive football in the season. Fixtures were adjusted though, and the calendar for football in Ireland looks like it’s going to be a great one.

First up in the SBC we have the University of Limerick Vikings. The Vikes have been to the last six Shamrock Bowls, and despite being beaten closely in the last three finals, they’re a team that knows how to win. Ciaran O’Sullivan has stepped down from the Head Coach position, but the rest of the line up is pretty much the same as last year, and they’ll be hungry for success.

Photo by Nathan James Sharrocks

With quarterback Marc Ashworth, fullback Adrian Garvey, wide receiver Sean Goldrick and their fearsome offensive line, the UL Vikings were free-scoring last year.

And with the defence, led by veteran Liam Ryan who now steps awa from playing to take the HC position, shutting teams down at will they were able to go undefeated until the Shamrock Bowl. Will this year be a similar story? They begin the season this Sunday at University College Dublin, in the oldest college rivalry in the IAFL, a game that UL have had the upper hand on in the last few years, beating them 38-16 in Dublin last time around.

UCD also have a new Head Coach. John Collins steps down to be replaced by Eoin Cunningham. But the Sentinels are a tough enough team to deal with this change. However of their four wins last year they will only play one of these opponents, the Cork Admirals, again this year. Will Trinity and UL prove too much for UCD?

Photo by Ariane Boudias

Well the Sentinels have always kept their losses to close-run games and rarely get shut out. If they can take the next step up this year, stop conceding points early in games and put points on the board then playoffs are definitely in sight.

Trinity College Dublin are a team that have quietly gone about their business the last few years, having despatched teams around them in the League but falling to the more dominant teams such as UL and the Dublin Rebels.

Having beat Cork 42-19 and their cross-city rivals UCD 22-8 last year, their challenge this year will be to stand up to the dominant UL Vikings in the SBC South. However the Admirals and Sentinels will not roll over for TCD and their off-season preparations will have had to have been a success for them to reach the playoffs again this year.

Trinity’s offence is led by running back Rob McDowell, whose insane speed and ability to break tackles has made him a formidable force in the League for the past few years, not only in the run game but the return game on special teams.

Photo by Ariane Boudias

His play will be boosted this year with the return of Craig Marron, who missed last year due to injury. The receiver has the ability to stretch the field and will cause havoc with some defensive backs this year.

On defence Trinity will be looking to cause major disruption with their giant defensive tackle, Cormac Coughlan. Linebacker Stephen Carton will be key for them too. Having been a starter since his rookie year, Carton is great against both the pass and rush and will be a great asset this season

The Cork Admirals struggled to three wins last year with a tough schedule but they’ll more than take heart from their 20-16 win over the Carrickfergus Knights and their 26-0 upset win over the strong defensive unit of the West Dublin Rhinos.

The Admirals have strengthened this off-season, using local media outlets to spread word of their team and run a successful rookie camp. Strong coaching will be required but a year to adjust to the new SBC layout before promotion and relegation may be just what Cork needs.

Photo by Ariane Boudias

Their offence was only shut out twice last year, against the two Shamrock Bowl competitors, and they managed to score on the Dublin Rebels. The Admirals are no slouches and are capable of throwing their muscle around in the SBC South but after last year they’re coming in to the season as somewhat of an unknown quantity. They’ll make interesting viewing for sure, as will the entire South conference.

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