Belfast Trojans & Trinity College Advance to Irish Finals For Second Straight Year

Deramore Park in Belfast was the venue for the Shamrock Bowl semi-finals this past Sunday, as last years finalists Trinity College faced the Dublin Rebels with the defending champions the Belfast Trojans facing challengers the UL Vikings in the later kickoff. These were the lineups at the same stage last season, so would it bring similar results?

Trinity College 22 – Dublin Rebels 0

Ireland - Trinity v Dublin Rebels2

Trinity and the Rebels contested the early kickoff in the semi-final double header in Belfast, in what was set up to be a closely contested game. The students defeated the Rebels at the same stage last year in a blowout victory, but only narrowly defeated them this season with a 29-28 score-line. So this game would certainly prove hard to predict.

The opening stages offered plenty of resistance from both sides, but it was Trinity who would break the deadlock first. After good work from the offence moving the ball, the drive was capped off by an early field goal that gave the students good momentum that carried on throughout the remainder of the tie.

The dual threat of star man Rob McDowell at quarterback paid dividends as on a QB keeper, the ‘Human Highlight reel’ scampered in from 35 yards after some excellent blocking by the offensive line. Despite missing the PAT, TCD held a slim 9-0 lead.

As the Rebels looked to get back into the game, they turned to key assets Andrew Dennehy, Paul Grogan and Sean Leamy to bring them some quality, but the Trinity defence were able to keep them quiet for much of the first half. Penalties and false starts were halting any offensive production, as both sides entered half time with plenty to think about and still a lot to play for.

Ireland - Rebels v Trinity semis 2015It wasn’t until the fourth quarter that the game really came to life, as Trinity started to pull away from their city rivals. Running back Alex Gurnee was able to score from short yardage to increase the lead and after stopping the Rebels on 4th down, Trinity were able to pound the ball into the end-zone once again as McDowell delivered an 80-yard blockbuster run to all but end a Rebels revival.

The game in ended in a 22-0 victory for the students who have now won their last three games against the 7 time champions. The win sets up another final appearance, only the second in the clubs history against the formidable Belfast Trojans for the second consecutive year.

Belfast Trojans 10 – UL Vikings 0

Ireland - Trojans v UL Vikings2

By the time Belfast and Limerick took the field, the typical Irish weather had begun to take its course. The rain and wind would make it difficult to utilize any aerial threats, so both sides were forced into turning to their resourceful ground-game. With the damp, slippery conditions in place, this had the makings of brutal and physical encounter!

Understandably, both sides started out nervous with several unsuccessful plays and 3-and-out drives. Moving the ball and gripping became an increasing struggle with each team failing to break down the opposing defences. The first threat of the game came the Vikings way, as the Trojans edged the ball towards their end-zone and although it looked almost certain the Trojans would score, a resolute goal line stand by the Vikings kept them at bay as safety, Craig Switzer intercepted the ball in the endzone to relieve the pressure.

Very little came of points during the opening half, as a solidarity field-goal by Trojans kicker, Gregory Gibson was all that could separate the two sides at the break. With the game finely balanced and only 3 points between them, it was all to play as we entered the second half.

Despite the Trojans momentum in the opening quarters, the Vikings were able to contain them and were now creating chances of their own. Sean Goldrick and Ian Cahill were able to scramble for big yards to put the Vikings in great field position, however several penalties on key plays would prove costly.

Ireland - Trojans v UL Vikings4

As the game was drawing to a conclusion, numbers began to fall as ejections and injuries started to pile up on each sideline. Two juggernauts of Irish football that have played each other in the last two semi-final stages, giving it their all in a bitter war of attrition. It’s always been a tough battle between these sides, and this game was no different and just like in past years, this game was going to down to the wire.

The defining moment of the game arrived in the closing stages as the Trojans made another trip to the Vikings 1 yard line courtesy of an excellent punt return by the dangerous Jonah Siri. Quarterback James McKelvey was on hand with a trademark QB sneak that gave the Trojans a narrow 10-0 lead after the successful PAT by Gibson. Time was now against the Vikings, as they would be forced into throwing risky passes down field.

However there was still time for the Vikings to pose a threat to proceedings as UL’s most promising chance came right at the death. Quarterback Ian Cahill found a wide-open receiver down field but despite a pin-point accurate pass, the target man couldn’t reel in the catch and that would ultimately spell the end of a potential Vikings comeback.

Scott is an aspiring Sports Journalist who enjoys writing about all things American Football. He is a regular contributor to AFI Review and also writes for both NFL Ireland and Double Coverage, and currently plays for the Belfast Trojans. He also