THE SHAMROCK BOWL returns to its spiritual home in Tallaght Stadium on Saturday July 14 after being forced to relocate to Santry’s Morton Stadium because of Shamrock Rovers’ European adventure in 2011.
The Bowl, the Championship game of the Irish American Football League (IAFL), will see the up-and-coming Belfast Trojans take on the experienced University of Limerick Vikings.
For the first time in Shamrock Bowl history, the game will be contested between two undefeated teams after both went 8-0 in their respective divisions.
The Trojans came out on top of the IAFL North as the only team to post a winning record in that division. On offence, they amassed an impressive 310 points during the regular season, adding a further 67 in their playoff semi-final win over Dublin Rebels – the two-time defending champions – to bring their points per game average to almost 42.
Limerick have been even more impressive on offence, putting 377 points on the board as they swept the much more competitive IAFL South where four teams finished with a record of .500 or better. They put another 63 points on an injury hit Carrickfergus Knights squad in their semi-final meaning the Vikings are averaging just shy of 49 points per game.
However, those expecting a scoring free for all on Saturday should note the Trojans and Vikings are also the two stingiest teams in the IAFL.
Conceding an average of just eight points per game during the regular season, many eyebrows were raised when the Trojans conceded 38 to the Rebels two weeks ago. However, as Chris Mikhael, safety with the Belfast outfit, pointed out during the Shamrock Bowl media day on Tuesday, 18 of those points came when the Trojans pulled a lot of their starters off the field.
He added: “We know the Rebels scored quite a few points in the first half and we’ve been working hard with four training sessions a week, including lots of video work, since then to correct that.
“I think our defence could spring a few surprises on the Vikings,” said Mikhael.
It will be tough for Belfast’s previously free-flowing offence to score on the Vikings though as the Limerick outfit have conceded just 4.4 points per game this season. What’s more, their defence have allowed just one score, a field goal by Carrickfergus, in their last five games. That’s impressive by any standards.
The Vikings also boast much more experience than their northern counterparts. This will, afterall, be their seventh visit to the Shamrock Bowl in the last ten years while the Trojans make their Championship debut after just five years in the IAFL.
This, according to Greg Loughran, Chairman of the Irish American Football Association (IAFA), could be the key to Saturday’s game.
“The Vikings have played in front of big crowds before but you have to wonder what effect running out in front of 2,500- or 3,000 people will have on the Trojans.
“If they don’t let that get to them, we could have a great game.”
Despite their record, Limerick have stuttered at this stage before – winning just three times in seven attempts – and have lost two Shamrock Bowls in a row. However, the blue and gold will hope to use those defeats – especially last year’s where they lost because of one bad snap – as motivation.
Many are predicting a close game, Limerick are just 7.5 point favourites, but it’s difficult to see the Trojans causing an upset, especially in a shootout as the Vikings have statistics and experience on their side.
However, if this comes down to a low-scoring kicking contest, Belfast’s green giants will more fancy their chances. Shamrock Bowl XXVI takes kicks off at 4pm on Saturday, July 14 in Tallaght Stadium.
- Tickets (€8 for adults, €6 for kids) will be available on the gate.