Saturday, 9 March 2013

Shamrock Bowl Conference and IAFL-1 Preview

Shamrock Bowl Conference

The Irish leagues are moving quickly! Too quickly!

The weather has already taken its toll upon the Shamrock Bowl Conference with the season opener between Trinity and UCD being called off a few weeks ago. And so the same has happened again, with probably the most anticipated game of the season so far. The reigning champions, the Belfast Trojans, were scheduled to head to Dublin to take on the Rebels, the first team to notch up 100 IAFL wins last weekend.

With that in mind we turn our attentions to the other games. First up the clash of two Northern teams as the Craigavon Cowboys head to Carrickfergus to take on the Knights.

Photo by Ariane Boudias

The Cowboys opened their season with a 46-13 loss against the reigning Champions, the Trojans. But those numbers are encouraging. They led the game early on and managed to score twice on a Trojan defence that was nigh on impenetrable last year. They’ll rely on quarterback Peter Loughran’s ability to pass and run the ball himself to mix this game up and keep the Knights’ defence on its toes.

Meanwhile the Knights ground out a win in the most defensive-minded game you’re likely to see, with the only score between them and the West Dublin Rhinos being a safety resulting in a 2-0 win for Carrickfergus.

But that isn’t to be scoffed at. The West Dublin Rhinos are a strong team themselves, and made a name for themselves and grabbed a playoff berth last year by frustrating opponents on defence before grinding out a score or two.

This game itself could be a tight, cagey affair, and could be a lot closer than the 27-12 victory for the Knights in the reverse fixture last year.

The second game of the week sees the Cork Admirals host UCD. Cork is a team that likes to keep its head down. They’ve had a quiet offseason and many are on edge to see how they’ve improved. They finished last year with a respectable 3-5 record having played Belfast, UL, Trinity and the Dublin Rebels.

However this game should be an interesting one. The Admirals secondary is highly equipped and athletic whereas UCD likes to get the ball out to its receivers in a passing offence. Will we see a clear winner between these two today or will they match up evenly?

UCD will take heart from their 11-0 loss against the UL Vikings. The opponents went undefeated until the Shamrock Bowl last year and were favourites to trample all over UCD.

This is an intriguing match up that could be a great game to get down and watch. Will one of these two upset the applecart in the South a grab a playoff berth? Stranger things have happened.


Meanwhile in the IAFL-1 the Meath Bulldogs take their first steps into 11-a-side football after graduating from the DV-8s format to take on the Dublin Dragons, a team steeped in history in the old IAFL. Everything about this game screams determination and a desire to succeed.

Coach Drake of the Bulldogs has eagerly anticipated this day, having spent three years trying to establish his team to compete at this level. He, and other members of the team, have put everything in to help and they’re now rewarded with the chance to show the league what they can do and with the chance of promotion to the Shamrock Bowl Conference.

Photo by Ariane Boudias
But in their way is the Dublin Dragons. You’ll not hear many sadder stories about an American football team, with the Dragons success of yesteryear torn apart by the breakaway of some coaches and players to form the West Dublin Rhinos. The Rhinos continue to compete in the SBC whilst the Dragons struggle with personnel numbers sees them take up their place in IAFL-1.

However Coach Durrad persevered and now has the platform to potentially rebuild the Dragons’ belief in a League where their experience could count for everything.

It is both teams’ first game of the season and a it’s a tough one to call early on. How well drilled for 11-a-side football will the Bulldogs be? How will the Dragons cope with the larger numbers of Meath? Can Dublin put last season behind them and begin to put wins on the board again? We’ll find out this weekend!

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