PREVIEW: Irish American Football – Trinity College v. UL Vikings

It has been a long two weeks since the original seasoner opener was unfortunately postponed. I am sure like many of us, those involved with UCD and Trinity were rather disappointed that the game was called off due to bad weather.

But never fear!

The wait has been longer than expected but FINALLY, we should have IAFL action this weekend, providing the weather is kind to us of course.

Now that the IAFL season will ‘officially’ commence this Sunday, we have got a game that will make-up for the wait and get everyone excited once again for the return of contact football in Ireland. In what has become a storied rivalry in recent years, last season’s Shamrock Bowl Finalists Trinity College will get the opportunity to kick off the IAFL campaign once again as they head South to do battle with fierce rivals, the 3 time champions, University of Limerick Vikings.

Kickoff is Sunday March 8th, UL Sports Grounds, Limerick at 1 pm BST.

There have been some epic battles between these sides in the past, but as two of the most dominant teams over recent years clash heads at the UL Sports Grounds, this game will definitely live up to expectations .

UL Vikings

University of Limerick Vikings

When these two opened last seasons campaign, Trinity defeated the Vikings 34-9 in a tough fixture that had opposite effects for both sides. It helped kick start Trinity’s unbeaten run throughout the regular season, meanwhile the Vikings slipped to an early (0-2) deficit, before clawing their way back into playoff contention and reaching the semi final stages. Fixtures don’t come much more competitive than this one, and it was only right that we got in touch with two players who will look to spearhead their team to glory in 2015.

Vikings Defensive-End Ian Cahill and Trinity Cornerback, Brian O’Driscoll have been friends for a long time, but when Sunday comes around; that all changes.

Both players suffered disappointing ends to the 2014 season, but both are very optimistic that the 2015 campaign will consist of better things.

After speaking with Ian Cahill of the Vikings, he was very positive about the teams development heading into Sunday.

Ian Cahill: The team is in flying form. Our pre season preparations started a long time ago so we are ready for action. We have made a lot of additions and retained our players more than has been usual in recent years. Its shaping to be a very interesting season. There is an air of positivity and a shared goal that is bonding the team better than recent years. In 2015 as our coaches will tell you “We are one team, with one goal’

The same optimism can be shared with Trinity’s very own, Brian O’Driscoll, who will be looking to see his team overcome the loss in the Shamrock Bowl Final, by going one step better this year.

Brian O’Driscoll: We didn’t lose many players from last years team apart from Stephen Carton and bringing on Garland Drake has brought a lot more structure to the team as Head Coach. We lost in the College Championship but it was a good opportunity to give rookies game time and it was pretty cool watching a game on a faster surface. Some new players have come in and won starting spots so we’re pretty excited to see what we can accomplish this year.

The SBC South Division is going to be a tough affair, with a number of teams being potential challengers for the divisional crown. Trinity College and the Vikings have been trading blows back and forth at the top of the SBC South for years, and 2015 will be no different. The battle between these university sides has always been a competitive one, but with two teams, young and hungry with a point to prove, what can we expect from this Sunday’s game? What is going to make the difference?

Trinity

Trinity College Dublin v. Belfast Trojans

Ian Cahill: I think the big potential difference makers this Sunday will be the weather which as we have seen a lot can just wreak havoc on a game and change the outcome and then I think it will be about who starts fast. There have been a few classics between ourselves and Trinity but for the most part the matchup has lead to a lot of one sided victories. I don’t see Sunday being one sided as a contest but I think whichever team makes its mark first will be hard to stop. We will be making sure that is us.

Brian O’Driscoll: The play of Rob McDowell is going to be the difference between us winning and losing this game on Sunday! No, but honestly I think an important aspect of the game will involve how well we can match up to Limerick’s physicality. We’ve had problems in the past matching up to some of the bigger teams so it will be important to bring the fight to UL from the get go. Typically UL have done well building talent on both their offensive and defensive lines. There have been a few whispers of former players returning to the team and they’ve recruited a good bit of size as well so making sure that they cant have a foothold in the trenches will be one of the keys between winning and losing because if they win the physical battle on the line it will be a long day of Cahill, Gleeson and possibly Garvey pounding the rock.

Everyone is very familiar of the strengths that both teams possess, whether you consider it to be Trinity’s high-powered offense, or the Vikings formidable defense. When Sunday arrives, each team will need to be at their best if they want to win. Both players are well aware of what is at stake, as the competitive juices begin to flow ahead of kickoff.

Trinity 2

Photography by Martin Connolly

 Ian Cahill: Trinity are a good fast team with an underrated Defence that gang tackle with great success. However I am not interested in what Trinity do, I am interested in what we are going to do. We are a different animal to this time last year. We will be letting everyone have a look for themselves Sunday afternoon.

Brian O’Driscoll: Its the first game of the season and we don’t really know how good we can be at this stage. Travelling down to Limerick for the first game has never really been that great. We play each other a lot so both teams know each other pretty well and we’ll both be going into it expecting to win. However, we’ll approach this game the same way we do every other game and leave everything on the field.

Ironically, these players both made their debuts at the same time for their respective teams, when they clashed heads in what proved to be the longest IAFL game in history. Consisting of 7 quarters, 3 hours and 45 mins of football, Trinity College would eventually win the 2010 College Championship with a 12-6 scoreline over the Vikings. After a 70 yard touchdown and a successful field goal that were both chalked off the scoreboard in overtime, this match had ups and down and was ultimately considered; a game for the ages!

I’m sure it wouldn’t surprise many if that match alone created this long standing rivalry. However, despite being on opposite sides both Ian and Brian were still able to share their fond memories of that game, displaying both humorous intent, and a distinct competitiveness that can often be found between two close friends.

Brian O’Driscoll: That first game five years ago was pretty funny. Down in the swamp in Limerick. I forgot my pants so had to borrow someone’s xl pants. Ian has slimmed down since then. Back in his Vince Wilfork days.

Ian Cahill: It was a different time alright. I don’t remember Brian but then again he is very forgettable.

Trinity College vs the UL Vikings will be everything that we expect; a hard-hitting, high intensity, closely contested game and whoever wins will earn the initial bragging rights until they meet again in the reverse fixture in May. When Sunday morning arrives, business will resume as normal. Friends off the field, but rivals on it. We know both teams have very strong squads and are top contenders for the Shamrock Bowl crown this summer, but come Sunday when these two University heavyweights strap on their helmets, there will be only one goal in mind; to win!

Brian O’Driscoll: Like I said before, both teams are going in to the game expecting to win so anything apart from that will be a disappointment for either side. The winner will set a benchmark in a division that plays each other a lot. We play both UCD and UL twice and even though the loser will get a chance to even things up later in the season, we understand how important it is to start the season strong with a win against a division rival.

Ian Cahill: I am a competitive man to be fair. Personal goals and I am not messing here, but my only goal is to win a Shamrock Bowl for my team. I have suffered some close defeats in finals and tough losses in semis and I am finished with that now. I am winning a Shamrock Bowl this year and bringing it back to Limerick, Whatever it takes.

Scott Morrow
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 supports the Green Bay Packers.
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