We have a week’s break from Irish fixtures this week with no games in both the Shamrock Bowl Conference and IAFL-1. Time to reflect on the Leagues so far and bring you a spot of news then!
Firstly IAFA announced that they have given formative membership to a new team in the hope that they can field a team in 2014. The Dundalk Mavericks are still looking for players, coaches and off-field personnel but the skeleton of a squad is there, and with youth and potential in bags.
Shamrock Bowl Conference
What has surprised us most in the Shamrock Bowl Conference this year? Firstly the main talking point has to be the UL Vikings’ drop in form. They’ve headed to the last seven Shamrock Bowls and, although they’ve lost the last three, they were favourites to make it again this year.
The season opener was a nervy one, with the Vikings taking a narrow 11-0 win against UCD, but then came the 20-0 shocking defeat against Trinity. The Vikings have had to deal with a few retirements including captain Liam Ryan and Head Coach Ciaran O’Sullivan, as well as injuries to starting quarterback Marc Ashworth but they still have bucket-loads of talent on the team.
|The UL Vikings will want to bounce back against UCD - photo by Nathan James Sharrocks|
They get another crack at UCD next week, this time away from home, to convince the League that they are still contenders for this year’s Championship but they have their work cut out.
Meanwhile the reigning Champions, the Belfast Trojans, and Ireland’s most successful team, the Dublin Rebels, have had to postpone their bout, with the temperamental weather making the pitch unplayable for last week’s scheduled game. Many have the Rebels, who won their 100th Irish League game a couple of week’s ago to the West Dublin Rhinos, as the main contenders to stop Belfast sweeping the division and the Championship again.
|The Trojans-Rebels games are likely to be hard fought battles - photo by Ariane Boudias|
The Trojans started slowly, conceding early to the Craigavon Cowboys, but they soon picked up where they left off last year, with quarterback James Mckelvey throwing 4 touchdowns in a 46-13 win. But by the Trojans’ own high standards conceding 13 points on defence will be a disappointment.
The Rebels meanwhile shutout the Rhinos, the Trojans’ next opponents, 22-0. The Rebels will take heart from a win against their strong cross-city rivals but will be looking to score more points in the coming weeks. Next up, the impressive-looking Carrickfergus Knights.
With one game played and one won apiece, it’s looking like the two games between the Rebels and Trojans could be instant classics.
The Northern Ireland-based Knights sit atop the SBC North at present with two wins from two. A 2-0 victory over the Rhinos in a defensive battle was topped off by last week’s 20-0 win over Craigavon, on a mud bath of a pitch and in horrible conditions, which included a 3rd quarter snow storm.
|The Carrickfergus Knights sit atop SBC North, can they stay there? - photo by Ariane Boudias|
We’re still yet to see the Cork Admirals play a game. They had a quiet off-season with very few people hearing anything coming out of their camp so their match up next week at Trinity could be an intriguing one.
Trinity meanwhile will be riding high on the back of their shut out of UL. Quarterback Alex Gurnee had a game to remember, passing for one touchdown and rushing for two others. If he, and the rest of the Trinity team, can carry this form through the next few weeks then they’ll be looking pretty for playoff football again.
Only three IAFL-1 matches have been played, and there won’t be another until mid-April, but it’s looking intriguing already.
The most experienced 11-a-side team, the Dublin Dragons sit atop the division but they scraped a 2-0 victory against the impressive Meath Bulldogs. The Dubliners have to wait until May for another game where they’ll face off against old foes the Tullamore Phoenix.
Meath, graduates of the DV-8s, will take heart from their game against the Dragons. Holding an experienced team to a 2-0 score line says a lot for their first competitive 11-a-side game and the organisation and coaching ability of Coach Drake and his team will be seen by the end of this year.
|The Dublin Dragons have bags of experience, will that tell in IAFL-1 2013? - photo by Ariane Boudias|
Meanwhile the Phoenix were held to a 6-6 tie by another inexperienced 11-a-side team, the Drogheda Lightning. That’s not to say that’s an upset though. The Lightning are another well-drilled, well-organised team with Coach Russell Kerley boasting impressive past experience and knowledge of the game as part of the old London Olympians.
The Lightning will play their first home game next on the 14th April against the Mullingar Minotaurs, who we are yet to see take the field.
The Waterford Wolves overcame the North Kildare Reapers 14-12 in the other fixture. The Reapers will be disappointed with this one but will have to wait until the last game of the season in August to attempt revenge in the return fixture.
The Wolves have impressed though, going about their business quietly but efficiently, and it looks like their squad has talent throughout and the ability to make waves in the IAFL-1 this year.