Ireland: Weekly Round-up – UCD end the season unbeaten and Trojans win the battle of Belfast

Last weekend in Ireland in the Shamrock Bowl Conference saw the Trojans beat the Knights in a Belfast Derby, the reigning champions Rebels thrash the Vikings, the students of UCD finish the regular season unbeaten on 8-0, and the Panthers close in on a late Playoff place.

In IAFL 1, both the Vipers and the Minotaurs closed out their regular season play with victories as they get set for the playoffs.

In the biggest game in Belfast, both sides went into the game with identical 5-2 records, the Trojans ran out comfortable 25 points to nil winners. Quarterback Mark McVeigh threw three Touchdown passes, two to wide receiver Michael Ferris and another to fellow wide receiver Adam Cole. The Trojans defence was superb on the day, not giving the Knights many opportunities in the game.

The Trojans Head Coach Mark McGrath was understandably delighted:

“I’m very happy with the result. We executed our game plan well against a big physical knights team and it paid off on the day. Stand out player on Offence was rookie wide receiver Tom ‘turkey’ Morris.We didn’t ask him what ‘turkey’ meant! While our defensive stand-out player was also a rookie, Jonny Bryans.”

McGrath continued:

“That win secured us home field advantage for the Wild Card game and I feel confident we have all the tools we need to get it done in the playoffs as long as we keep our discipline.”

The reigning champion Rebels were convincing 54-0 winners over the UL Vikings in Sportslink in Santry. It was a big day for running-back Wello Omo, who scored three touchdowns, while fellow running-back Pete McMahon and quarterback Jack Fagan also made it into the end zone for the Rebels.

UCD have gone through the regular season as the only undefeated team, with an 8-0 record, after their 21-3 win in Cork. Quarterback Tom Donovan linked up with wide receiver Paul Geraghty for two touchdowns, whilst also grabbing a rushing TD for himself.

The South Dublin Panthers are making a late run for the playoffs as they won their second straight game, in the space of seven days, with a 32-0 win against the Louth Mavericks. After a big week last week, running-back Ben Arulogun continued his great form with four touchdowns, bringing his tally to six on the season. Oisin Russell-Conway also got a touchdown.

Panthers Head Coach Stephen McDonnell said that it was an important win for his side as the look to grab that precious play-off spot.

Again very happy to get the win and put us in a spot where playoff football is a bit closer. Before I talk about the game I want to say thanks to the Mavericks for being so accommodating. Playing at night on a Saturday is one thing but given we had to change venue and kick off time right at the last second, those guys were really great.

I was proud of our guys playing the way they did. We knew as we started this run of games we had a goal in mind of what we had to achieve and the way they’ve applied themselves to getting there has been great. Goals and strategies and all that stuff is great to have as a coach but it’s the athletes have to go do the hard work and make them happen and our guys have really fought hard last two games.

There was lots of positives for McDonnell to take from the game:

The defence were really solid again. Being able to keep the zero on the scoreboard was great for them. We were able to work our depth a little bit too and to have those guys come in and play well was great.

On offence, our run game was very good again. Ben got a handful of TD’s, in another great performance, and he was the tip of the spear in what was a really nice day for our backs and offensive line. Ryu Robles, who captained the Ireland U20’s team, played really well put together some long drives and was really solid in pass protection. Ben and Oisin Russell-Conway got the scores but on more than one occasion it was Ryu who made the hard yards getting us into the Red Zone.

Ben Arulogun

We’ve some stuff I’d like to see cleaned up on special teams but all in all it was a good performance. We established ourselves early and were able to control the game from there on.

The coach also had some nice things to say on their opponents the Mavericks:

 I know that’s the end of the Mavericks season and I know what it is to be on a team with their record but I just have to credit those guys and how hard they played all year. The SBC is a different standard and it can be very tough to acclimatise to it but if you go around the league and talk to the teams they played everyone will tell you how hard they fought and how tough they were. They’ve some very talented players and I hope they’re back soon.

Now looking ahead McDonnell said:

For us the marathon continues. Third game in three weeks next week and if some results break our way or we win that last game it’s playoff football and that will be 4 games in 4 weeks. Our guys are really toughing it out and we’re eager for the next one now.

It was the final weekend of the regular season in IAFL 1 with both the Donegal/Derry Vipers and fellow playoff-bound Westmeath Minotaurs taking wins.

The Vipers claimed bragging rights up North with a 14-3 win over the Antrim Jets while the Minotaurs recent run of great form continued as they won 28-0 over the Cill Dara Crusaders.

Vipers Head Coach Pauric Rose said it was a bruising battle:

Tough win, a really physical game. We are blessed with squad depth and the guys put in a great shift and there’s a lot of sore body’s today.  We struggled to get our run game going in the first half but after conceding a field goal, we hit back when our quarterback Danny Mullan connected with Ruairi Bradley for a 30 yard Touchdown.

Our defense were solid all day and we had standout performances from Jason Nurse, Niall Lyons and Paddy McGlynn in particular, who stepped up to take a pass home for a pick 6 to make the score 14-3 and that was probably the winning of the game.

Great to get the win and a lot of the guys mentioned the Jets are much better than their record suggests. They showed bags full of promise and really fought to try and get that Play-off spot. They’re a great bunch of fellas.

Rose also had a special word for the fans,:

We want to thanks the fans too. We had a great turnout and the half time events which included a competition draw, music, free Pizza and family fun added a great atmosphere to the event. It was a great promo for the event and the sport and Chairperson Frieda Gallagher worked tirelessly with Colaiste Ailigh, Kernans Group, Community Recycling Initiative, United HealthCare, Pats Pizzas and Callaghan Electrical to ensure the day went well. We have to give her alot of the credit for such a successful day as well.

It’s onto the playoffs now for the Vipers and Rose and his players are looking forward to see who they’ll face,:

Looking forward to our Semi-Final in Limavady on 29th July, it’ll be interesting to see who we get from The Minotaurs or The Rhinos. But we have a couple of weeks of training now and plenty to work to get through before that.

Jets Offensive Coach Donal McCloskey was looking ahead after the game, with loads of positives to take into next season:

It was very hard fought game by both teams. The Vipers were perfect hosts and we take great memories with us back to Antrim. I think a lot people would’ve looked at our divisional record and saw this fixture as a foregone conclusion but it far from it as everyone involved could testify to.”

Moving forward as a club we always look to improve. This season, only our second at that, has been a massive learning curve were at times we were beating ourselves with mistakes and penalties but we learn from that and move on.”

There is a very strong foundation at the club with a large and very committed core of players and coaches and next season will see a different Jets team take to the field all season long just like the team that played in this last game of this season.

We wish the Vipers the very best of luck for the post season games.

The Westmeath Minotaurs have now won five in a row, and their Coach Conor Brennan was thrilled. He said:

Everyone here is understandably delighted with the win today. There are no easy games in the league and the Crusaders certainly made life very difficult for us especially in the early stages. They have some top, top players and they’ll continue to grow as a team I’m sure.

It’s off to the Playoffs now for the Minotaurs, as the face the Dublin Rhinos in two weeks time. Brennan said:

As for ourselves I felt we showed some sloppiness that will need to be addressed. To be fair it’s been a long season for a small squad and two games in 6 days was never going to be easy. The good thing is every game for us is now a cup final. We will treat the Rhino’s game as such and I know we’ll put in a atrong performance with a couple of weeks rest.

As for today we scored through the air and on the ground. Dermot Corroon continued his fine scoring form finding the endzone on the ground and also Niall King through the air. Rafa Monteiro ran one in along with Jay Bruton. Jay kicked two extra points and the defense also notched a safety. We probably should have had a couple more scores but as I said before sloppiness in the form of silly penalties brought those scores back.

It was an unselfish performance from all. The offensive line were good and we managed to create plenty of turnovers defensively.

Overall this regular season we’ve given a good account of ourselves as a group but nobody will be satisfied if we don’t perform against a good Rhino’s team in a fortnights time.

I’d also like to thank the lads at the South Dublin Panthers for hosting us on short notice. I also really appreciate the Crusaders understanding and adjusting their plans as well. It’s great to see the camaraderie between clubs off the field as well as on it.

For the defeated Crusaders, Offensive line Coach Eoin Vin O’Brien said:

The Minotaur’s defense came out of the gate hard and kept the intensity up for the full 4 quarters. Our offense had trouble sustaining drives against them which kept our defense on the field, wearing them down in the heat.

Our defense had 5 interceptions, one each from Finbar Downes, Evan Allen, Adam Faughnan, Nathan Purcell, and Brian O’Donnell along with a fumble recovery by Paul Furlong. However, each time our defense stepped up so did the Minotaurs and we couldn’t take advantage of the turn overs. It was a great game and we wish them the best of luck in the play offs.”

Asked about their season overall O’Brien said:

We knew coming into the season that this was a build year. There’s lots of obstacles to over come when you merge 2 teams and to be honest I’m not sure It could have gone much better. Any thoughts of us against them was pretty much gone after the first month which we were delighted with. We have really come together as a team and have a great bunch of lads who I’m proud to coach.

Photo Credits: Ian Humes, UCD, Terry McCann