Shamrock Bowl XXIX Final Review
Belfast Trojans 28 Trinity College 14
The Belfast Trojans clinched their fourth Shamrock Bowl title in the club’s history on Sunday as they overcame a spirited Trinity College in a 28-14 thriller at Dalymount Park.
The defending champions were entering the game on the back of their third unbeaten season in four years, after finishing the regular season with a perfect (8-0) record. Trinity where coming into the game on equally impressive form, having gone (7-1) throughout the year including a strong showing in the semi-finals.
Unlike the torrential rain that somewhat overshadowed last years final, the weather was much kinder to spectators as the dry conditions allowed for both teams to play to their full potential. After the Trojans 7-0 victory in last seasons finale against Trinity, this had the makings of an excellent rematch!
In what was expected to be another close contest, it was the students who struck first blood. Good work from the offence allowed Trinity to make good yardage on the Trojan defence before quarterback, Rob McDowell broke the pocket and scampered down the sideline for a 48 yard rushing touchdown to give the 2014 runners-up an early lead.
It didn’t take long for the Trojans to strike back however, as quarterback James McKelvey found David Colvin in the corner of the end-zone for a 13 yard reception that leveled the score. Colvin had been called upon to stand in at receiver for the game in place of the suspended, David Richardson.
As the halftime whistle blew, the game entered the break with the score settled at 7-7. In contrast to last years showpiece, the offences were able to get the ball moving with the defences struggling to get a foothold in the game. The second half promised a great game of football; and it didn’t disappoint.
The game livened up midway through the third quarter as Belfast took their first lead of the match; a lead they wouldn’t relinquish as McKelvey found Colvin with another pass and the experienced running back did they rest, evading his marker to score his second of the game. The Trojans would subsequently have to defend their lead shortly after as the students marched their way to the Belfast endzone, only for linebacker Neil Graham to capitalize on a Trinity fumble.
As the game entered the closing stages, it began to get frantic as the pressure started to tell on the opposing sidelines. Despite good work from both offences, penalties and flags were damaging forward momentum that resulted in several 3 and out drives. However it wasn’t long before the Trojans were able to extend their lead as running back, Matt Armstrong who had a fantastic game all-round rushed in for a 10-yard score to bring daylight between the sides.
Trinity refused to back down however and not long after, they made yet another trip to the Trojan goal-line as this time Alex Gurnee was able to punch it in to keep the game close at 21-14 with only a quarter remaining. The pressure of the occasion would have been on every player, coach and spectators mind, could the Trojans hold on or would Trinity come back from the brink?
With the game on a knife-edge, it came down to an excellent trademark punt return from the Trojans’ Johnathan Siri as he eluded endless would-be tacklers to find the end-zone as the stadium erupted into cheers. However, there was still time for the students to mount a comeback, and it almost became one step easier.
Solid build up play saw Trinity make another trip into the Trojans half with the ball parked at Belfast’s 1 yard line. On third down, Rob McDowell rolled out of the pocket and found full-back Mick O’Shea as the physical back pounded his way to the end zone. On what looked like a certain touchdown, officials ruled he was just short as Trinity were forced into a fourth down attempt.
Inside the 2 min warning and with the game on the line, the students elected to go for it as the ball was handed off to Gurnee who headed straight threw the middle of the pack, only to be met by a wall of green jerseys as the Trojans snuffed out the run and ended all attempts of a Trinity fairytale ending.
All that was left to do was for McKelvey to kneel out the game as the Trojans faithful cheered from the stands as their team cherished yet another Shamrock Bowl triumph. It was a fantastic game of football from the two best sides in Ireland and it was no better fitting to see them clash heads in the National Championship Finals once again.
Commiserations to Trinity College, who on the day were more than capable enough to topple the giants of the Belfast Trojans, but in the end it wasn’t to be. The defending and now reigning champions enter into elite status of the IAFL, becoming the second most successful team in the league’s history.
With an astonishing record of 48 wins from 49 attempts and four Shamrock Bowls in four years, the Belfast Trojans continue to set the standards in Irish American Football as they reclaim their crown as the best team in the country.