Green & Growing; Looking Back at 2014 in Irish American Football

Banner year for American Football in Ireland!

 

Another year of American Football in Ireland has drawn to a close. A record 19 teams took part in competitive contact football this term that will help set the standard and continued growth of the sport. Due to the increase of new teams, the IAFA set up a new league structure, consisting of three tiers of football, the inaugural Shamrock Bowl Conference, the continuation of the IAFL-1 and the newly formed IAFL-2.

For the first time in the leagues history, every team completed a full season of fixtures, with no matches being forfeited or cancelled. This is a huge step for football in the country and great credit must be given to every team involved in maintaining a 100% match completion record. This will no doubt bring great confidence and positivity that the league can once again expand for the upcoming season. Not too mention that this season was the commencement of the first ever ‘Friday Night Lights’ games in Ireland, hosted by the Belfast Trojans at Deramore Park and Meath Bulldogs at Navan RFC. Those games pulled in huge attendances and will no doubt be making a swift return next year!

So, as the IAFL season has concluded, including the nail-biting finish at the Croke Park Classic between Penn State and UCF, it gives us a chance to recap on how the 2014 season unfolded.

Shamrock Bowl Conference

The Belfast Trojans won their third National Championship by defeating Trinity College Dublin, 7-0 in the Shamrock Bowl XXVIII Final. Linebacker Connor Whitla, the eventual MVP, scored the only touchdown of the game as the reigning champions overcame the previously undefeated students in a close encounter.

The historic Dublin Rebels (7-1) and University of Limerick Vikings (6-2) continued to prove their strength and dominance in the league by once again making it to the semi-final stages, only to be defeated by Trinity College and the Belfast Trojans respectively.   The Carrickfergus Knights (3-5) again established themselves as a genuine playoff team by making into the wildcard round for another season. They were joined by the West Dublin Rhinos (3-5) that made their first ever appearance in the playoff’s this year. However, respective defeats to the Rebels and Vikings ultimately ended these teams hopes of reaching the semi-finals.

After the Cork Admirals and DCU Saints folded last season, coupled with UCD dropping down a tier. The Shamrock Bowl Conference welcomed 3 newly promoted teams from last years IAFL-1, The Dublin Dragons, North Kildare Reapers and Waterford Wolves.   The 3 promoted sides fought commendably in their first season in the top flight. The North Kildare Reapers (3-5) narrowly missed out on the playoff’s. The Craigavon Cowboys campaign ended with a (2-6) record despite some promising performances. The Dublin Dragons finished (1-7) on their return to the SBC, whilst the Waterford Wolves sadly finished (0-8) without a win. However they performed admirably and will be preparing themselves for their return to the IAFL-1.

SBC Scoring Charts: Regular Season:   

Passing: Dan Finnamore – 18 TD’s (Trinity College)
Rushing: Simon Mackey – 19 TD’s (Dublin Rebels)
Receiving: David Richardson – 6 TD’s (Belfast Trojans) Daniel Murphy – 6 TD’s (Trinity College)
Defensive Scores: Aaron McNaughton – 2 TD’s (Carrickfergus Knights) Craig Switzer – 2 TD’s (UL Vikings) Jon-Erik Talvio – 2 TD’s (Belfast Trojans) John Mullen – 2 TD’s (UL Vikings)
Kicker: Conor McGinn – 21XP’s & 3FG’s (Trinity College)

IAFL-1

University College Dublin and the Cork Admirals battled it out in this years IAFL-1 Bowl game, with UCD proving the victors with a 40-0 score-line. The students will now return to the Shamrock Bowl Conference as champions, and will be looking to add experience to an increasingly strong South Division.

After the misfortunes of folding last term, the Cork Admirals (6-2) have made a miraculous return. Extensive work in the off-season has helped them field a strong team with a very high-octane offence. As one of the longest running teams in Ireland, their return to the football scene was welcomed by all and after an appearance in the bowl game, they will be looking to go one step further and make a return to the SBC.

The Mullingar Minotaurs have greatly improved since their first season of competitive football. The young outfit finished the season on (4-4) narrowly missing out on the Bowl with defeat against the Admirals. They are improving year on year and after their exploits this term, they may fancy themselves to make the Bowl game next time round.

After delays to a series of their games, the Meath Bulldogs clawed their way back to a (4-4) record. With a victory in their opening game against the high-flying UCD, the Bulldogs failed to continue their early season momentum due to games being postponed. However, with 3 wins in their last 4 outings, the Bulldogs will be hoping to build on their end-of-season form in preparation for next year.

Drogheda Lightning (0-8) never really got their season going this term as they finished the year without a solidarity win. They have struggled to maintain consistent numbers over the years since their days in the DV8’s league, with Dan Finnamore their latest high profile exit. ‘The Bolts’ will be aiming to brush this season aside and start again where they will no doubt be making a big push to re-establish themselves in the IAFL-1.

IAFL-1 Scoring Charts: Regular Season

Passing: Dave Murphy – 13 TD’s (UCD)
Rushing: Pete McMahon – 8 TD’s (Meath Bulldogs)
Receiving: Paul Geraghty – 8 TD’s (UCD)
Defensive Scores: Michael Ring – 2 TD’s (UCD)
Kicking: Conor Hanrahan – 20PAT’s (UCD)

IAFL-2

Four newly established teams made their first steps into competitive football this year by competing in the first ever IAFL-2 division. The Tyrone Titans, South Kildare Soldiers, Dundalk Mavericks and Galway Warriors played out a full season of fixtures with each team playing 6 games, home and away. Despite their being some significant travelling involved, all the teams were able to field strong sides and have done themselves proud with their efforts this year! Well done!

The Tyrone Titans became the first team to win the IAFL-2 Bowl by defeating rivals, Dundalk Mavericks 20-7 in Navan RFC as part of the IAFL-1 Bowl double header. The Titans went the entire season undefeated with a (8-0) record and have played some great football throughout the campaign, only conceding 14 points all year. They can now look forward to the increased challenge of competing in the IAFL-1 next season.

The Mavericks finished their first season with a very respectable (4-2) record after losing narrowly to the Titans in the Bowl game. Dundalk, boasting one of the largest squads in the IAFL-2 will be hoping to add to their numbers ahead of next year, and after victories against Galway and South Kildare, they will feel their team will be in a strong position to compete once again.

South Kildare Soldier’s and Galway Warriors finished their seasons (1-5) as they both were able to pick up their first competitive wins. Both sides have been mentioned for their hard-hitting displays on defence, but their struggles to score on offence ultimately ended their chances of reaching the Bowl in the early weeks. However, with plans in place for the off-season, there is already plenty of promise that these sides will improve upon this years’ performances.

IAFL-2 Scoring Charts: Regular Season

Passing: Daniel Mullan – 13 TD’s (Tyrone Titans)
Rushing: Daniel Mullan – 6 TD’s (Tyrone Titans) Steven Harkness – 6 TD’s (Tyrone Titans)
Receiving: Ryan Brolly – 7 TD’s (Tyrone Titans)
Defensive Scores: Daniel Mullan – 2 TD’s (Tyrone Titans)
Kicking: Matthew Hagan – 6XP’s & 2FG’s (Dundalk Mavericks)

2014 has been a season to remember in the IAFL. We have had a record number of teams competing in the league with a100% game completion record, expanded over three tiers of football. Several teams have walked away with trophies this year, including the Belfast Trojans, UCD and Tyrone Titans. Their has been a number of standout performances from individual players including Simon Mackey, Dave Murphy and Daniel Mullan, who set the scoring charts alight in their respective divisions. Rob McDowell picked up the SBC MVP of the year award, and several others made their name in Double Coverage’s Team of the Year.

Over the course of the year, many people have helped spread the word of football in Ireland by volunteering their time to help improve the publicity of the sport.  A special thanks should be made to those who contributed to the season just passed. Nathan Sharrocks, the head writer of Irish Football at Double Coverage has created match reports, weekly previews and power rankings that have helped establish the Irish game across both the UK and Europe. The guys over at OTWolves with their live commentaries of games, especially the Shamrock Bowl final, that has helped add something extra to the league this year. Greg Barret, who entertained us all with his weekly podcasts detailing the weekends games and interviews with some of the players and staff from around the league, that listeners looked forward to every week. So many people have made an impact on the game this year, and so many people have helped make the Irish League what it is.

The standard of football in Ireland is on the rise, more and more teams are applying to join the league, there is more funding available to IAFA and the level of quality in teams is greatly increasing. The 2014 IAFA season has been incredible, and although the season may be over, thoughts will already be turning to what the year 2015 has in store for Irish Football!

At least the NFL Season is only round the corner…

Scott Morrow
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 supports the Green Bay Packers.
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