Ireland: Panthers Claw Back To Go 5-0 – Week 9 Round Up

By Jimmy English

Are the South Dublin Panthers the best team in the league? It certainly looks like it right now! Sitting at 5-0 with a guaranteed post season berth, they are currently the side to beat! The Minotaurs gave them a hell of a game over the weekend, but they hung on and are now in the running for top seed in the playoffs. Division One also has a clear cut title contender, as the Craigavon Cowboys moved to 5-1 overall for the season with a tight victory over the Cill Dara Crusaders. For full details on all the games that took place in Week 9, keep reading!

Westmeath Minotaurs 34 – South Dublin Panthers 39

Saturday games just hit differently, and in the weekend’s first fixture the Panthers took a relatively short spin across to Mullingar to face the Minotaurs in a crucial game for both teams. Sitting at 4-0 prior to kickoff, the Panthers were hoping to seal a playoff spot, with the hosts  seeking to claim a valuable scalp. The South Dublin side jumped out to an early lead with rushing scores from Conor Hoskins and Finn Kearns. Westmeath eventually evened things out with scores coming from Alan Campbell and Cathal Dunne, before a Joe Kinahan keeper nudged them ahead by a single point. The ever reliable Sean “Goldie ” Goldrick then put the Panthers back on top, hauling in a pass from Finn Kearns. On the ensuing kickoff, Aidan McGuire pulled off the play of a game for the home team, popping a 90 yard return for a touchdown. It was now 27-26 in the fourth quarter, with the Minotaurs holding the slimmest of leads. Undeterred though, the Panthers scored in quick succession through Jamie Leonard and Finn Kearns to put some distance between the sides. A Joe Kinahan TD pass then made it 39-34 with 90 seconds left, setting up a very tense finale. Unfortunately, the Minotaurs botched the onside kick recovery, snuffing out any chance of an upset. The Panthers are heading for the playoffs and will be a strong contender for the league title. As for the Minotaurs, they are now battling to stay alive in the top flight.

Photo: Conor Brennan

Craigavon Cowboys 20 – Cill Dara Crusaders 12 

The Cowboys are 5-0-1, and have officially nabbed the number one overall seed in the playoffs. Even without star Quarterback Peter Loughran, the men in orange managed to find a way to win, with backup Eoin Hughes going 9 for 13 passing on the day including a passing score and an interception. Hughes also rushed for one on his own, making it a very successful outing altogether. It was Odhran “Sunshine” O’Kane however that solidified himself as one of the Cowboys most vital pieces. He was responsible for two scores on Sunday, reeling in a pass from Hughes while adding a pick six to his tally when on defensive duties. The Crusaders defense kept them in the game, until a couple of unfortunate mistakes led to their downfall. A brace of scores from Sydney Pidni made it a close one, but ultimately was not enough to get the win. “The team played their hearts out” Head Coach Richard Maloney commented in the aftermath. “The Cowboys are so strong and played an amazing strong game. I hope to see them again come playoff time.”

Photo: Jamie Martin

Wexford Eagles 42 – Antrim Jets 0 

Speaking of playoff spots, the Eagles made a strong case for the post season on Sunday, with a 40 point drubbing of the Jets. Paddy Bissett, Terry Carey, Trevor Smith, Cillian Hayward, and John Leslie all scored for the home team in the first half, as this one quickly got out of hand. Kyle McLaughlin accounted for two touchdown passes and Terry Carey added an interception. The Jets showed a lot of heart; reduced to  just 14 men and a couple with injuries. We’ve seen them struggle already this season, being forced to forfeit and giving up big scores. Ultimately, this sport is played for fun and player safety is a priority. After the break, a decision was made on the field to wrap things up and avoid any further negative outcomes. Following the 3rd quarter kick off, the game was called immediately and the Eagles were awarded the win. You never like to see anyone getting hurt, but that comes with the territory. The Division One playoff picture is becoming clearer, and with this home victory, the Eagles are firmly in contention.

Louth Mavericks – Donegal/Derry Vipers – Canceled

The Mavericks are having a frustrating season – two games canceled within the space of 6 weeks, resulting in just half a dozen regular season fixtures for 2024. Whether this one will be rescheduled or if they will be awarded a walk over remains to be seen, but you can only imagine the Louth side would have wanted to play this one out instead of being handed a win. A number of Division One teams have struggled with numbers this season, and we hope it’s not a sign of greater underlying issues. The Mavericks will still make the playoffs, but certainly could have used the game to stay sharp in advance.

NI Razorbacks – Causeway Giants – Postponed 

There must have been something in the water up north this weekend. An injury for the Razorbacks Ryan Beckett forced this one to be postponed in the second quarter. At the time, the Giants were up 18-0, with all scores coming on passing touchdowns from Nate Wilson to KP Yimz, Tony McCloskey & Joel McCalmont. The league now has a number of fixtures to reschedule before the final playoff permutations can be settled in Division One. We have seen several injuries so far this season, and would like to take the opportunity to wish all those who have suffered a speedy recovery.

American Football International is your source for news and updates about American Football outside the United States!