Shamrock Bowl Semi-Final Previews: Top 4 in Ireland do battle.

This Sunday sees the penultimate weekend of the Shamrock Bowl Conference in Ireland take place, with Shamrock Bowl 30 firmly in sight. The Belfast Trojans, the defending national champions will face the SBC South division winners, University College Dublin whilst the 7 time champions, the Dublin Rebels host the 3 time winners, UL Vikings in Dublin.

thumb_Trojans_Logo_40px  Belfast Trojans

Ireland - Belfast Trojans-Knights - 2016 action.2

Photography: Bob Given

The defending national champions in Ireland defeated the Carrickfergus Knights 31-16 in the wildcard round to reach the semi-finals. The Trojans will be the team to beat in Ireland having won the last four Shamrock Bowls. The Green Machine finished second in the SBC North Conference behind the Dublin Rebels, but they still proved to be the league’s most complete side. They topped the country in points scored, with a combined total of 298 over eight games while also holding the best defensive record, only conceding 52.

Defeats to the aforementioned Rebels and the UL Vikings meant the Trojans would finish (6-2) losing two league games in the same year for first time in four years. That being said, Belfast will use this as fuel to recharge themselves for another surge towards a potential fifth Shamrock Bowl triumph. Their opponents this weekend will be UCD, a team they have only ever faced once in their history. The Trojans came out 8-0 winners that day back in 2011, however the two sides that will meet in Dublin will look very different from five years ago.

Belfast have the ability to switch up their game-plan at will, choosing to grind defences down by running the football or airing it out to spread the field. They have the weapons to play with either speed or power, so keeping the UCD defence guessing could be key in unlocking them. James McKelvey has again taking the reigns at quarterback this year, only missing one game this season against the Vikings. Receiver, David Richardson has again placed himself atop of the receiving charts with another solid year, whilst Jonah Siri and Matt Armstrong have added to a strong run game that boasts a number of star contributors. The Trojans have the numbers and quality to take on any opponent that they face, making them a very strong outfit. However, as other teams have proven this year, the champions are there for the taking.

unnamed

thumb_UCD_Logo_40px  University College Dublin

Photography by Keith Elgin

Photography by Keith Elgin

After spending a season in the lower IAFL-1 division, UCD have used the last two seasons to rebuild their squad and make their way to their first semi-final appearance in the Shamrock Bowl. Since their inaugural season in the IAFL in 2010, the students have gone through several years of varied success, but in recent years they have hit an impressive stride. Having been demoted to the IAFL-1 off the back of 2013, UCD started their rise back into the Shamrock Bowl Conference by sweeping away the competition to win the IAFL-1 Championship in 2014. The following spring, they continued their streak by defeating Trinity College in the College Championship Final in 2015.

With a season back in the SBC, UCD have continued to grow and now find themselves within touching distance of their first Shamrock Bowl Final appearance. The South division champions finished strongly with a (6-1-1) record, nipping ahead of the Vikings to the division title. Similarly to their opponents on Sunday, their defence has been in superb form. In statistics, they ranked third on defence during the regular season with 67 points conceded, whilst scoring 209 points altogether.

Quarterback Tom Donovan has been UCD’s key playmaker having scored over 20 touchdowns this season. His dual threat ability makes him dangerous both inside the pocket and in open space. Eoin Feely and Lewis Barrett are a few of the standout names on defence that have been vital this season, contributing to a number of shutout performances. As good as UCD have been, the Trojans will offer their toughest test of the season. Belfast have a number of threats on both sides of the ball that UCD will need to account for, but they will confident that they can more than match the champions. The students will offer a different kind of style the Trojans are yet to have faced. They are fit, agile and play with a lot of speed. They tackle in numbers and are quick to the ball which makes matching up with the Trojans an interesting contest. The SBC South winners could be seen as the underdog left in the tournament, but no-one should take them lightly.

The outcome of this game will be hard to asses, given the lack of playing experience these teams have had against each other. That will be part of the make-up come game-day and should add to the excitement of this cross conference semi-final. It’s all to play for now.

thumb_UL_Logo_40px  University of Limerick Vikings

12961546_10206465918106778_4430448782265441919_n

Photography by Keith Elgin

The three-time Shamrock Bowl winners edged their way past the wildcard round by winning 7-6 against rivals, Trinity College. They arguably proved to be the most consistent team throughout the season, narrowly missing out on the South division title and an unbeaten season. Offensively, they finished fourth overall with 163 points and 3rd defensively, surrendering 86. They averaged 20 points a game, which is lower than both the Trojans and Rebels but they have found ways to win in close encounters, and its the winning that counts.

The Vikings will be glad to have avoided the Trojans in the semi-finals. Although they defeated them by a 16-13 scoreline earlier in the year, they have fallen to the Trojans in three straight years in the playoffs, including a 16-14 defeat in the 2012 Shamrock Bowl final. Instead, they will be met with an away fixture against the Dublin Rebels who are by no means easy. The Vikes fell 28-7 to the Rebels in their final game of the season and will need to find a quick remedy to have better fortunes this time round.

Ian Cahill has been under centre for a second season and he has matured at the position with every game that passes. He has struck up a keen partnership with receiver Ray Burke and with the powerful Shane Gleeson in the backfield and a solid offensive line, Cahill has all the ingredients he needs to have success on Sunday. Failing that, the defence will be more than capable of getting the job done. They’re mean and aggressive front four cause havoc all game and with safety, Craig Switzer lurking in the backfield, they will be extremely difficult to breakdown, as they have demonstrated all season. UL play very physical football and continue to wear teams down throughout the game, but they also have flair and skill on the outside to open up defences, so the Rebels will need to be alert. The men from Limerick could be considered favourites for the title this season, and they will thrive on the opportunity to prove it.

unnamed

thumb_Rebels_Logo_40px  Dublin Rebels

Photography by Keith Elgin.

Photography by Keith Elgin.

The Rebels are without doubt Ireland’s most successful team in the history of the IAFL. They have won a record seven Shamrock Bowl titles, a feat that has not yet been challenged over recent times. Despite that success, the Rebels’ last bowl win was 14-13 vs UL in 2011 and they also beat the Vikings in 2010 15-0. They reached the final stage again in 2013, that time falling 48-18 victims to the in-form Belfast Trojans. With that in mind, the Rebels have been excellent all season, going about their business in a professional manner. They won their first division title for a few seasons, including beating the Trojans 8-7 on their way to doing so. Considering the form that they are in, this could be their best chance to date to win their eighth national title.

The Rebels scored 284 total points this year, only 14 shy of the Trojans, Their highest victory was a 60-6 trouncing of the South Dublin Panthers that set them on their way to a five game unbeaten streak. Defensively, they improved upon previous years as a slim 65 points was all they let up, placing them second in the league.

New running back, Wello Omo has added a lot of quality in the backfield and his partnership with Sean Leamy has created a nice tandem for quarterback, Andrew Dennehy to work with. As they get deeper into the playoffs, those players will have added pressure on their shoulders, which is where the experience of Paul Grogan and co. — who have played in previous Shamrock Bowls — will come into affect. The Rebels will know full well what the Vikings will bring to the occasion, so they will need to prepare themselves for nothing less than a physical, hard-hitting battle.

Two of the countries most decorated sides will come together to contest this semi-final match-up in Dublin. There is plenty of history between them, including numerous championship title fights and a combined 10 Shamrock Bowl hauls. It’s been a while since either have won the Bowl, but only one of them will get the chance to change that.

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.
Skip to toolbar