You could say we’ve had mixed fortunes in terms of IAFL games thus far. The original season opener didn’t reach kickoff as UCD and Trinity’s game was postponed due to bad weather. Two weeks later however we did have football on offer, as the UL Vikings opened the season with a deserved 14-0 win over TCD. Now the matches will become more frequent as we expect on average of 3+ fixtures every week from all three tiers, from now until the playoffs. Exciting stuff! So lets delve into the matches that are on offer as the IAFL season starts to hot up!
Each week we will bring you our NFL-Ireland ‘Game of the Week’ candidate that highlights what could possibly be, the match to watch out for. That’s not to say the others game are less important, because we all know every fixture is vital; but this game in particular might throw up something unexpected! So lets begin.
‘NFL-Ireland’s Game of the Week’
The reigning champions begin the defence of their title away to the newly rebranded, South Dublin Panthers. Both teams have high expectations for the year ahead, so starting well early will be crucial, considering both sides have difficult schedules to contend with. The Trojans came out victors in last years meeting with a 35-0 scoreline, but don’t expect a similar result this time.
The Trojans have a squad consisting of strength and depth, essential when given the amount of games they face this year. They are a well balanced team with a very productive offence and a tenacious defence that both score plenty of points. The Belfast side have lost key players and coaches this year, but losing cornerback Jon Erik Talvio will be a huge miss especially. However, the Trojans are excellent at nurturing talent and the next batch of rookies should be more than ready to fill those voids. The Trojans have a habit of starting slow in opening games so they can’t afford to let the Panthers get the early jump on them.
The South Dublin Panthers decided upon the end of the 2014 campaign, that it was time for change. After restructuring their back room, former Drogheda Lightning HC Russell Kerley will be tasked of reworking a defence that conceded the most points in the SBC last year. Furthermore, with a new offensive scheme in place, the Panthers will be looking to create problems for opposing defences and improve upon their scoring record from previous seasons. However, the new scheme will take time to develop so they will need to try and limit turnovers to give their offence time to find momentum.
At this stage, we won’t know very much about how the Panthers are likely to perform until Sunday, but we know what to expect from the Trojans. The boys from Westmanstown have expectations of challenging the top sides in Ireland, but their first opportunity doesn’t come much tougher than the defending champions.
This could well turn into a grudge match. For those that remember last seasons fixture when the Rhinos took to the field against the Reapers, there was a wildcard berth on the line. By this stage, only 2 of 4 teams were in position to take that spot and inevitably, the head to head record would fall in the Rhino’s favour. You could say that game resurrected the Rhinos surge to the playoff’s at the expense of the Reapers, so when these two meet on Sunday; payback might be in order.
After that 12-9 scoreline, the Rhinos won 2 of their remaining 4 games that proved enough to earn a playoff spot. They were eventually undone by the Vikings, but they proved capable of grinding out victories under tough circumstances. This year, that may prove hard to replicate as the SBC South Conference has become significantly harder with the inclusion of UCD, so the Rhinos will need to step up their game if they are to compete. Hopefully they have made improvements to the stagnated offence, as they simply don’t score enough points, but as impressive as their defence can be at times, they will falter late into games if they can’t get off the field. A lot of offseason work has gone on behind the scenes at the Rhino’s, so they may finally be in a position to put points on the board and be able to build on a good 2014.
The Reapers have done tremendously well over the past two seasons. From having clinched the IAFL-1 Bowl in 2013, they had a solid (3-5) year in their SBC debutant campaign, despite just missing out on the playoff’s. Similar to the Rhino’s, this could be a tough year ahead with what will prove to be, their toughest schedule to date. The Reapers have lost numerous players across all front’s and maintaining the nucleus of their team has been difficult. star running back, Sean Leamy moved across to the Dublin Rebels so establishing their run game will prove trickier than before. Avoiding heavy defeats will be of upmost importance as it could come down to another close finish this year
For both these sides, despite it being their first match on the calendar; this is a must win game. Tougher matches await so getting wins were they can will be crucial. In terms of squads, it could be two very different sides that meet on Sunday from their last meeting, but with this expected to be a defensive battle, it will come down to whichever offence shows up on the day.
The Vikings opened their campaign with an impressive 14-0 win over last years unbeaten outfit, Trinity College. The Vikes had plenty of pre-season games to prepare themselves for a season that they hope will return them to former glory. UCD however could be considered the form team heading into the IAFL season. Following their IAFL-1 triumph, the students defeated TCD in the College Championship Final that came down to the wire. Although the standard of football then will be different to now, this game will be a test of how far each side has come.
Not many will have predicted a Vikings victory last Sunday, but they proved doubters wrong. Ian Cahill told us last week, how determined the team was to win a Shamrock Bowl this year, and he was confident they would win last week; and they did. The Vikings get huge credit for how their defence operates, but it was two rushing scores that proved to be the difference. With a ground and pound offensive style, complemented with their toughness on defence, the Vikes proved quite simply too powerful for Trinity.
The University College Dublin has returned to the SBC after a year of dominating the IAFL-1, and I’m sure they will be looking to make up for lost time. The high flying offence scored a ridiculous 210 points in the regular season whilst only conceding 18. Competition will be much greater this season, but they do have the talent on both sides of the ball to wrestle with the best. They are a very quick and skillful side, so some teams may struggle to contend with their speed and superior stamina that can make them very dangerous in both the running and passing game.
The Vikings will be looking to get another win under their belts and create some separation between them and their rivals early on, and if that happens, they could prove hard to catch. UCD’s defence only allowed 8 points at home all season and they will be hoping to turn Belfield into a fortress once again when they host UL. UCD have a similar style of football to Trinity, but they will looking to do a better job of containing UL’s strong run game, otherwise this game could have similar results to last week.
All games kickoff at 1pm, Sunday March 15th. It’s almost game time!