Ireland’s Four Top Teams In Semifinals This Weekend

Shamrock Bowl XXIX semi-final previews

The road to Shamrock Bowl XXIX stops off in Belfast on July 26th, as the defending champions the Belfast Trojans host the semi-final double header at Deramore Park.

The Trojans won the right to host the semi-finals at their venue due to their superior record during the regular season. The fixtures will see the Belfast Trojans, UL Vikings, Trinity College and Dublin Rebels lock horns for the right to headline the final at Dalymount Park on August 9th.

Trinity College vs. Dublin Rebels

Ireland - Trinity College v Rebels - 2pic

The first game in the double header is a replay of last years showdown between Trinity College and the Dublin Rebels, that saw the students reach their first every final with a 47-8 victory over their Dublin foes.

Trinity College started the 2015 campaign in unusually sluggish fashion, as they fell victim to a 14-0 defeat against the Vikings in the opening game. It appeared the after-effect of last season’s Shamrock Bowl loss threatened to derail the student’s season; however it only sparked the finalists into life, as they won their last 7 games to finish (7-1) and defend their South Division title. Their defining victory of the season came in their league encounter with the Rebels, when the students came back from 21 points down to win 29-28!

Ireland - Trinity college v Dublin rebels

Once they found their feet, Trinity’s performances proved irresistible. Converting 202 points, 15 touchdowns and surrendering only 92, they quickly began to show signs of their unbeaten 2014 form. Dynamic duo, Dan Finnamore and Rob McDowell couldn’t quite reach the dizzying standards they set last term; however their offence is still brimming with quality, with running back Ola Bademosi having a particularly good year as he finished the team’s top scorer with 7 touchdowns.

Ireland - Trinity College v Dublin Rebels poster

The Dublin Rebels will occupy the other sideline this weekend as they clinched second spot in the SBC North, before defeating the Craigavon Cowboys in the resulting wildcard bout. The 7 time champions put in their best performance of the year in the playoff game, as they showed why they are the most successful team in Irish American Football, winning 62-19 against a spirited Cowboys outfit. The Rebels endured a mixed season, finishing (5-3) however solid victories against the South Dublin Panthers and fellow divisional rivals put them in commanding position to secure their playoff spot.

On paper, the Rebels rank lowest out of the four playoff sides but never underestimate the quality that they posses. Veteran quarterback, Andrew Dennehy was effective as ever, connecting for 10 touchdowns this year whilst the backfield tandem of Sean Leamy and Kevin Finnegan combined for a total of 12 rushing scores. Offensive production was fluent as always, as the Dubliners scored 168 points over 8 games; however defensive struggles saw them leak 132 during that period. The Rebels have one of the most experienced sides in the league and have been contesting for the Shamrock Bowl since they formed in 1995. They set themselves high standards every year, so expect them to do whatever it takes to reach the final this August.

Last season’s result was a blowout victory for Trinity but  the match-up earlier in the campaign would suggest that this semi-final will be more closely contested. Both sides won their recent games in convincing fashion and will enter the fixture in promising form. The Rebels and Trinity have never been short on quality and their squads will give them plenty to be confident about. Starting quickly could be the difference in this match as neither can afford to go too far behind early on. This will be an interesting fixture to spectate, but who will come out on top? Will it be the experienced Dublin Rebels, or the speed and quickness of Trinity College?

Belfast Trojans vs. UL Vikings

Ireland - Trojans v vikings 2pic

The second encounter of the day will see the reigning champions, the Belfast Trojans face familiar foes in the UL Vikings, who have now met at the semi-final stages in the last three consecutive years.

The Trojans proved throughout the regular season that they are the team to beat as they went unbeaten for a third time in four years, finishing with a (8-0) record. The men in green dominated from start to finish, outgunning and outplaying every opponent they came up against. The Belfast side averaged 43.6 points per game, racking up 349 in total whilst only conceding 30 all season. Quarterback James McKelvey topped the division with 25 all-purpose touchdowns, throwing 11 to David Richardson who topped the receiving charts.

Ireland - Trojans - Richardson

The current holders have won the Shamrock Bowl the last three seasons, proving throughout the 2015 campaign so far that they have no intention of relinquishing their crown. Dominant performances against rivals the Carrickfergus Knights and Dublin Rebels have displayed their superiority as they clinched the North Division title with considerable ease.

Their opponents on Sunday will be none other than the UL Vikings. The Vikings booked their place in the semi-final courtesy of a 20-14 victory over University College Dublin in the wildcard round. Limerick finished the regular season with a solid (6-2) effort, falling just behind rivals Trinity College into second. UL had a very strong start to the year, defeating the aforementioned UCD and Trinity College on their way to a 5 game win streak. However back-to-back defeats against Trinity in the return leg and the Dublin Rebels cost the Vikings in the race for the SBC South division.

Ireland - Vikings - Cahill

The Vikes have been solid performers all season, finishing second to the Trojans in much of the scoring statistics. They amassed 24 touchdowns during the regular season, whilst allowing only 67 points in 8 games. The transition of defensive pairing, Ian Cahill and Shane Gleeson to offence proved hugely successful for the Limerick side. The strong duo contributed to a powerful run-game that had opposing defences struggling to cope, as Gleeson finished the Shamrock Bowl Conferences’ leading rusher with 8 touchdowns.

The battle between these two juggernauts has always provided a tough, physical affair. The Trojans may have won the last three outings, but each game has been decided late in the 4th quarter, going right down to the wire. These two are both incredibly strong sides that pride themselves on shutdown defences and are both highly capable of putting up big scores as well. The Vikings arguably have a much better squad than in recent years, so this could be their best opportunity to dethrone the champions. Belfast on the other hand will know they are in for a war on Sunday, but their preparation, quality and home-field advantage could be key in the outcome. The Trojans took the spoils in a 28-6 score-line last season, so the Vikings will be focused on enacting some revenge this weekend.

Both games will be broadcasted live from Deramore Park on Radio, courtesy of Opentempo.FM and the Irish Gridiron team.

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