Teams across the Emerald Isle are preparing themselves for ‘do or die’ football this weekend as the Irish American Football League reaches it’s pivotal stage of the season with the impending playoff’s taking place this Sunday.
Division winners the Carrickfergus Knights and defending champions the Dublin Rebels were granted a pass into the semi-finals courtesy of their strong records throughout the regular season. They will be keeping a close eye on the proceedings of the wildcard round as their future opponents will be decided by the outcome of Sunday’s fixtures.
Trinity College Dublin @ Belfast Trojans
Familiar foes meet in familiar territory. Two of the last three Shamrock Bowl finals have been contested between these sides; however that won’t be the case as of 2014 or 2015 this year. Only one of these teams will potentially reach the Bowl game as both of the former finalists struggled in a testing year.
After their two final losses, TCD wen’t into a rebuilding phase that has saw them lose a number of key players, and often recurring theme with university sides. The Trojans meanwhile have gone through a transformation of their own this season as years of thumping every team in sight is now a distant memory. The 4 time champions have found themselves caught by the chasing pack.
Trinity’s recent defeat to the Knights allowed the northern club to leapfrog the Trojans for top seeding in the Shamrock Bowl North Conference. Alternatively had the Trojans defeated the Rebels in their final game then this game may well have been avoided. Instead, we have a mouthwatering tie between two sides looking to prove they still belong in the top echelon in Irish football.
Previous encounters between Belfast and Trinity appear to have a recurring theme. TCD would often get the upper-hand during the regular season, as was the case with their 14-12 home victory in March. However the playoff’s present a clean slate and as of recent years the Trojans have avenged those losses when they mattered most. Will it be a case of the same old story this weekend, or will Trinity finally put to bed an old omen.
Cork Admirals @ University of Limerick Vikings
For the second year running, the Vikings were pipped to the post in securing the division title. A final day defeat to the reigning champions the Dublin Rebels saw UL finish 7-1 on the year and condemning them to a tricky home tie with the upcoming Cork Admirals.
Cork’s return to the top flight of the IAFL has been nothing short of impressive. A very strong 4-3-1 record against tough opposition confirmed to everyone that they were made for the Shamrock Bowl Conference. Two years in the IAFL-1 division, that included championship success has seen the Admirals use that momentum to carry them into the playoff’s this season. With only a few games separating them from headlining the final, there’s a good possibility that there could be a happy ending to this Cinderella story.
The Vikings will pose arguably their toughest threat however, as now the Vikes will have the biggest chip on their shoulder. With what looked like an unbeaten season going up in smoke, Head Coach Eoin O’Sullivan will be tasked with preparing his squad for a challenging road through the playoff’s. They have been in dominant form all season long, tallying 308 points of offensive scores (1st in league) whilst keeping a hold of their trademark defensive production (107 against, 3rd best)
An exciting 23-22 conclusion in April saw these sides play out a tremendous game that came right down to the wire. The Admirals pushed the Vikings to the limit that day, making Limerick and the league take notice. Cork could be seen as the dark horses of the competition, whereas UL were overwhelming favourites to win it all a few short weeks ago. Both teams have something to prove in what will be a great game in Limerick this Sunday.