In the penultimate game of the Irish American Football season, the Carrickfergus Knights and Dublin Rebels will set up a mouthwatering showdown in Shamrock Bowl XXXI. The Knights and Rebels, two of Ireland’s most prestigious sides, will headline the Bowl game at Tallaght Stadium, Dublin on August 13th by way of victories in their most recent semi-final games this past Sunday.
The Carrickfergus Knights (5-3) welcomed the early season favourites UL Vikings (7-1) to Carrickfergus in a northern clash that involved thunderous and torrential weather conditions. South of the Irish border saw last years finalists the Dublin Rebels and Belfast Trojans collide in a heavyweight clash that produced a magnificent display of football.
Carrickfergus Knights 21 – 20 University of Limerick Vikings
The Knights came from 14 points down to win 21-20 in overtime against the formidable UL Vikings to clinch their spot in Shamrock Bowl Final for the first time in 15 years. The ‘Black and Gold’ were made to fight hard for their victory as the 7-1 Vikings stormed out to an early lead before the Knights mounted a monumental comeback.
UL who made the long trip up north to Carrickfergus weren’t showing any signs of fatigue as they hit their stride quickly as the flew out to a 14-0 lead. Quarterback Ray Burke connected with Reece Moloney for a receiving touchdown and with Glenn Carr adding a rushing touchdown and the resulting 2 point conversion, the Vikings had a healthy lead.
The Knights, who remained undefeated at home all season, refused to give in an found themselves on the scoresheet courtesy of Spencer McDowells rushing score. Darren Montgomery’s hard nose running paid off as helped bring the score to 14-12 with both XP’s failing. Both offensive scorers proved pivotal on defence too as the pairing combined for a safety that brought the score level at 14-14.
With the score level at full-time, both sides were granted the opportunity to possess the football with the Irish American Football Association adopting the NCAA overtime rules. The Vikings would strike first as Darragh O’Callaghan broke through the Knights stronghold to bring the score to 20-14. UL wanted to force the Knights into a difficult situation by going for 2 points, however it backfired and the Vikings were left to settle for just 6 points.
The Knights still needed to produce a touchdown however and yet again, against the odd’s they prevailed. Star man on the day, Darren Montgomery added his second rushing score of the game and with the pressure kick, Marty Caskey sent the Knights fans into ecstasy with the winning conversion.
Belfast Trojans 26 – 32 Dublin Rebels
Familiar foes lined up opposite each other in Dublin this past Sunday as the defending champions, the Dublin Rebels battled with former champions, the Belfast Trojans in a rematch of last years Shamrock Bowl Final. The Rebels narrowly overcame the Trojans 14-13 a few weeks prior, but this time however victory would guarantee one of these sides a place in the 2017 final.
The Trojans got the ball rolling first with a big reception from receiver David Richardson and with Ben Sloans XP, Belfast made a strong start at 7-0. In an instance, the Rebels replied with a 60 yard scamper by Wello Omo and with the 2 point try scored by Dave McMahon, the champions took a 8-7 lead.
In what would inevitably become an offensive shoot-out, the Rebels made the Trojans pay on a fumbled kick-off and with a short field to work with, the Dubliners extended their lead with McMahon rushing in from short range. Simon Mackey added the resulting 2 point try as the Rebels went up 16-7. With halftime approaching, the Rebels continued to pile pressure on the Trojans as this time QB Andrew Dennehy connected with receiver Sean Douglas for 6 points. The Trojans couldn’t prevent yet another 2 point try, with McMahon adding to his tally.
The second half produced a very different half for the Trojans, as they set about making a comeback that almost became a reality. It started with Richardson collecting a pass from McVeigh that he took a staggering 60 yards to the end-zone, Sloan’s PAT made it 24-14 Rebels in the 3rd quarter.
A further 45 yard reception from Oran McMenamin brought the Trojans with touching distance of tieing despite the blocked extra point try. The sudden resurgence of the Trojans didn’t phase the Rebels as they collected themselves well with a timely interception by Andrei Vlad Vasilescu. The excellent field position compounded by Trojan penalties allowed the Rebels to re-establish their lead thanks to another McMahon score and a further 2 point conversion. Belfast did manage a late score by Neil Montgomery and despite a late opportunity to win the game, the Rebels held on to win 32-26 and grant themselves the chance to head to Tallaght, Dublin to defend their title on August 13th.