The 2016 Irish American Football League season kicks off this weekend with two key contests. Trinity College Dublin takes on the University College Dublin in a traditional opening game clash while the defending champion Belfast Trojans battle the University of Limerick Vikings.
Trinity College Dublin – University College Dublin
Gone is Rob McDowell, Alex Gurney & Dan Finnamore. For now anyway. Could we be witnessing a power shift between the academics of Dublin? Tom Donovan’s heart attack inducing runs and deadly accurate passing in 2015 has earned him an international call-up and that was his first full year at the helm of the UCD offence. Evolving the offence to further suit the lightening quick quarterback could put UCD within swinging distance of the Bowl Game. A new coaching set up in place has 2016 looking like a year full of potential for UCD.
That being said, you don’t go to two bowls in a row on the back of three players, talented as they are. Trinity have some speedsters of their own and Ola Bademosi and the next generation of students need to seize upon the impetus generated by their alumni. Never the biggest team but playing with a relentless attitude and dogged spirit has been one of the keys to the success of Trinity and that appears to be still intact. Smaller teams usually collapse under the intense physical pressure placed on them by the likes of Belfast and UL. Trinity have won the SBC South the last two years and are the only team to beat the Trojans in four years. Containing the frequent ad-libbing of Donovan and establishing their run game will be key against what is now an experienced UCD linebacking corps.
Speed is the name of the game for both of these teams and this is a game that could go a long way to determining the SBC South Champion in 2016.
Belfast Trojans – University of Limerick Vikings
The Trojans have only really been tested by two teams in recent times; Trinity College Dublin and the University of Limerick Vikings. Scheduling has meant that these games usually come late in the year but the stars have aligned and we should be in for a treat this weekend. The College & University-based teams customarily begin their seasons early and this year, with the Trojans playing a huge amount of football, the Belfast outfit are getting underway early too.
So, in theory, with everyone healthy (and not suspended) these teams should be as close to full strength as they’ll be all year. Anyone who has seen UL and Belfast games in recent years knows nothing has changed. These teams don’t employ too much flair but the beauty in their execution of the simplest of football basics is undeniable. The hardest hitters, the best blockers and the most punishing of tacklers will be on show Sunday in Limerick.
Belfast are an intriguing prospect seeking a record-equalling, 5th successive Shamrock Bowl. James McKelvey threw 20 Touchdown passes in 2015 and David Richardson drew more and more blanket coverage as the year wore on. 11 TD grabs, leading all non QBs, would suggest it didn’t work. Richardson missed the Shamrock Bowl after being ejected in the semi final vs Limerick. The intrigue, David Colvin moving to receiver and excelling in the Shamrock Bowl. The rise of Jonathan Siri for the Trojans (who also played wide in the Bowl) and the ever dominant Neil Montgomery could offer a quadrumvirate of attacking options the likes of which we’ve never seen on the Island.
Limerick, by the time the semi-final rolled around last summer, were lacking some of their vital components and it was a very tight game still. They’ll go into this weekend, having bolstered their ranks and welcoming back some of those integral parts. Sean Goldrick missed a chunk of last season but made a big impact on the semi final. Ian Cahill, though vast in experience, has another year under his belt at the helm of the offence and that offence as a result should blossom. The x-factor here is the possible return of Adrian Garvey. Garvey has been among the finest backs in the country for a long time now and if he’s ready to go it could give the Vikings offence that last little push, to possibly overcome the exceptional Belfast defence. Shane Gleeson lead the league in rushing touchdowns in 2015 and Garvey was heading that direction before injury took him down; indicating that this offensive line is among the finest out there and the rumour is, a few additions, mean it’s better again this year. Defensively, Limerick have all the parts in all the right places. Up to his ejection, Richardson had been kept largely in check in the semi final and the Trojan run game didn’t have it all their own way. Glen Carr & Co will see no reason why they can’t keep this Trojan offence under wraps again.