With the playoff’s fast approaching, it will soon be now or never for sides of the Irish American Football League to make their case for post-season contention. Plenty of games across Ireland this weekend provided plenty of tension, with each game having huge implications on the impending playoff picture that included a battle between two unbeaten sides.
It wasn’t just IAFL games that took the spotlight this weekend as the Belfast Trojans hosted arguably one of the biggest games of the year. Centre College Colonels from Kentucky, who competed in Division III of the NCAA travelled to Ireland to face the Trojans on Saturday. The Colonels came out comfortable 47-0 winners in an exciting exhibition game.
Cork Admirals 28 – 27 Trinity College Dublin
In took two late touchdowns in the final 6 minutes for Cork to edge past Trinity College in Sunday’s Shamrock Bowl South Conference clash. The Admirals have been a part of 4 matches this year that have all been decided late; this time in fell in their favour.
Following their previous 6-6 draw earlier in the year, both sides were prepared for a tough contest ahead. It would be the students that would strike first when receiver Pavel Rozman raced clear from a tackler to give his side a 7-0 lead. The Admirals started slowly but a Cillian McGillycuddy interception helped generate some momentum that the Ad’s benefitted from. Quarterback, Stephen Hayes made a number of completions to his receivers that led to running back Flo diving in to draw the score level at 7-7.
A further interception from Dave Healy, his first of two on the day, gave the ball back to Cork and Hayes connected with the impressive McGillycuddy for a deep pass for 6 points, with Kieran Murphy adding the XP. Cork’s momentum took a sudden blow late in the second half when Jimmy Diedrich was ejected for targeting and several costly penalties allowed Trinity to capitalise as QB Ben Dowling rolled out and into the end-zone from 5 yards out. Trinity quickly added a third touchdown when Dowling found receiver Len Van Dalsen with a pinpoint pass to help regain the lead. The missed extra point would prove crucial however for the outcome of the game.
In the second half, Trinity running back Ola Bademosi broke several tackles on his way to the endzone as Trinity took what seemed a comfortable 27-14 lead. With the game winding down, the Admirals left it late to reply but did so in style. Firstly, McGillycuddy would snag his second touchdown of the day from Hayes’ pass before on 4th and goal, Hayes rolled out and evaded a defender to squeeze in to tie the game at 27-27 apiece. Murphy converted the vital kick that saw the Admirals squeeze past TCD with a 28-27 win. The victory see’s Cork leapfrog Trinity into the wildcard spot in the division with 3 games remaining.
UL Vikings 28 – 21 Dublin Rebels
In the battle for division supremacy, the heavyweights of the Southern Conference collided in Santry, Dublin this past weekend. The two remaining undefeated teams in Ireland hit hard and often in a match that would dictate who would take top spot in the division.
Results have gone and back and forth over the years between the two teams, but this time round the Vikings would edge past the defending Irish champions in a typical slobber-knocker of a game. It would be a close, hard fought match throughout and it was all tied at 6-6 at the end of the 1st quarter. Touchdowns from Vikings tailback Adam O’Mahoney and the Rebels Pete McMahon got their respective teams on the board early.
In the second period, UL quarterback Ray Burke found receiver Richie Cronin in the end zone for 6 points but the Rebels replied when Dave McMahon scored to give the champions a 14-12 lead, with McMahon himself adding the 2point attempt. Before the break however the Vikings would strike again when Burke broke the plain with a rushing touchdown before adding the 2 point try himself as Limerick when into the break 20-12 ahead.
That lead would increase further into the third quarter as Burke again would break free from Rebel defenders to stride in for his second rushing score. Receiver Sean Goldrick would tally the 2point attempt as the score stretched to 28-14. With the game on the line, the Rebels dug deep into the playbook and found an answer and Cathal Keane’s reception from quarterback, Andrew Dennehy and Wello Omo‘s 2 point try brought the tie back to within a single score. As the seconds ticked by, the Rebels set up to stop the run late in the game, but the Vikings quick thinking sealed the game as they converted a well-timed fade route to clinch victory.
The Vikings unbeaten streak continues to 5-0 with the longest trip of the year round the corner as the head north to face the Belfast Trojans in 2 weeks. The Rebels will look to bounce back and regain control of the division with a home visit from a familiar foe in the Trinity College.
University College Dublin 16 – 0 South Dublin Panthers
The Shamrock Bowl North Conference continues to create topsy turvy outcome when it comes to playoff contention. UCD’s early struggles have seen them slip down the table, but with the inconsistency surrounding the other teams, they have regained a footing in the race for post-season football with victory over the Panthers.
The Panthers couldn’t find the remedy that brought them huge success against the Reapers two weeks ago as they fell 16-0 to their division rivals on Sunday. The win keeps UCD in the hunt for playoff football whilst the Panthers own hopes now remain in the balance.
In a defensive battle that lasted throughout, in took until the second half for UCD to finally find a way past a resolute Panthers defence. Touchdowns on the day came from Darragh Mooney and Kevin Duffy with Steven Culligan adding a 2 point conversion. UCD’s defence has come under fire all season as they’ve conceded 187 points, the second worst in the league. So it will be a huge boost for the team to have finally put in a solid defensive display to earn a well deserved shutout. Their efforts were rewarded as a safety courtesy of combined tackles by Danny-Lucas Johnston, Shane Kenny and Larry Doyle rounded out the score for the hosts.
The Panthers now fall to 2-4 having played an extra game over their division opponents. They may need results elsewhere to go their favour to add a little help, but still have a realistic chance of reaching the post-season. UCD’s win snaps a critical losing streak and now makes their final games even more significant. With the Knights and Trojans next on the card, the students of UCD will aim to take control of their own destiny of their playoff ambitions.