Playoffs in Ireland commence as Trojans and Vikings advance to Shamrock Bowl semifinals

The Irish American Football League playoff race kicked off this past Sunday as the Belfast Trojans and University of Limerick Vikings hosted Trinity College Dublin and the Cork Admirals respectively in the wildcard round. The home sides were victorious this weekend but were made to work hard for their efforts. The Dublin Rebels and Carrickfergus Knights will now host the semi-finals this coming Sunday. The hunt for the Shamrock Bowl has well and truly started.

Photo by Bob Given Photography.

  Belfast Trojans 20 – Trinity College 18  

The Belfast Trojans and Trinity College Dublin played out a physical and thrilling game in Carrickfergus as the 4 time champions overcame the students 20-18 in a nail-biter. It was the second encounter between the sides this year, with TCD edging out the Trojans 14-12 in an equally close game earlier in the year.

The Trojans struck first in what proved to be a defensive battle before the offences finally found their feet in the second quarter. Belfast signal-caller, Mark McVeigh placed a perfectly floated ball into the hands of receiver, Oran McMenamin who got behind the Trinity defence to reel in 6 points, the failed PAT however was one of a number of missed opportunities throughout the game.

Trinity replied with haste as a kicker, Jordan Mulvaney added a field goal via a deflection off the crossbar to get the students off the mark. Successive penalties on the Trojans defence later allowed Trinity back within scoring distance. They started the second half 5 yards out from the Trojan end zone and quickly added to their score with a nice slant pass from quarterback Ben Dowling into star receiver, Conor O’Dwyer. The resulting PAT however was blocked by the Trojans and returned to the house for 2 points. Linebacker Connor O’Neill was the one who original recovered the ball before ‘lateralling’ it across to defensive back, Michael Kane who raced clear to bring the Trojans within a point of tyng at 9-8.

Photo by Bob Given photography.

With the game as close as it was and a potential semi-final birth at stake, tensions started to boil over with a number of penalties and referring decisions coming into effect. With half time approaching, a contentious decision was made to eject Trojan linebacker, Neil Graham who was deemed to have hit a defenceless player on a punt return, resulting in an immediate ejection via a targeting call. The Trojans are expected to appeal the decision but it could result in Graham missing the rest of the playoff’s.

Despite the setback, the Trojans responded after the break as they retook the lead thanks to fullback Neil Montgomery’s short yardage run before a second quickly followed as a deflected pass fell into the hands of running, Jonah Siri who scampered in from 5 yards to increase Belfast’s lead to 20-9. The match was far from safe for the home side, as Trinity rallied back in the final stages with a flurry of scores to close the deficit.

Firstly, Mulvaney added his second field goal of the game with a long range effort before right at the death, a number of missed tackles allowed O’Dwyer to break free to bring Trinity within a 2 point try of tying the fixture. With the game on the line quarterback Ben Dowling was forced out of the pocket following perfect coverage from the Trojan defence. He was forced into going for the line himself, only to come up a yard short of the end-zone. After Trinity’s onside kick attempt failed, the Trojans achieved a first down which inevitably set them up to kneel out the game.

The Trojans will now travel south to tackle the defending champions in the Dublin Rebels this Sunday, July 30th.

Photo by Terence McCann photography.

University of Limerick Vikings 36 – 12 Cork Admirals 

In a match that had similar proceedings to their 23-22 encounter back in April, the Admirals would be forced into rallying back from a deep deficit before falling short at the final hurdle, as the Vikings learnt from the past experience by keeping the Admirals at arms length, winning 36-12 in Limerick.

The Vikings started brightly as a mix of a dangerous offence and an equally impressive defence performance in the opening exchanges allowed the UL to storm out to a 24-0 lead. Leading the Vikings potent attack was quarterback Ray Burke who’s had an excellent year leading the Vikings offence was on hand to rush for two scores and add another through the air to his reliable target in Sean Goldrick. The Admirals, as they have shown numerous occasions this year, fought their way back into contention with quarterback Stephen Hayes leading the charge. Touchdowns from Jahn Dasini and Cillian McGillycuddy helped bring the Ad’s back from the brink but they knew they had a mountain to climb to overcome an always tough Vikings side.

They would be eventually undone as time ran out on a miraculous comeback, as the stubborn Vikings defence lockdown when they needed to most. Ray Burke and co. would go to pile on the points towards the end to put the game out of Cork’s reach. Rushing scores from backfield pairing Adam O’Mahoney and Darren Enright compounded the loss on the Admirals with both defensive pair Glen Carr adding two 2 point attempts and the multi-talented Adrian Garvey adding a safety for the defence.

The Admirals have had a magnificent season on their return to the Shamrock Bowl Conference, earning a playoff spot in a competitive top tier in Irish football. Unfortunately, they ran into a Vikings side looking to prove a point after defeat to the Rebels cost them their division title. Limerick will now look to continue riding that momentum into the semi-finals as they face the long trip north to face the Carrickfergus Knights on Sunday, July 30th.

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