Dublin Rebels 2015 Season in Review
The 2015 season saw the Dublin Rebels return to Seapoint RFC for a second season at the ground. The Rebels, well aware of the growing level of play across the IAFL approached the season in transition as new members joined the team with the hopes of adding to the already rich history of Ireland’s most successful American football organisation.
This rejuvenation of the club began with back-to-back challenges against Trinity College and University College Dublin; two university teams widely viewed to be pushing the IAFL forward with their approach to fostering the raw athletic talent of their players. The inexperienced Rebels fell to 0-2 to start the season as new players, players in new positions and injuries weighed heavily on the young squad.
After falling in the first two games of the season by a combined margin of two points, it wasn’t until the third game of the season that the Rebels finally cracked the goose-egg in the win column as they overcame the visiting Craigavon Cowboys 18-8 in an old-school slugfest in the rain at Seapoint. With the pressure of getting their first win off their back, the Rebels carried the momentum to get back to .500 with an away win against the South Dublin Panthers. What might have seemed like an unremarkable mid-season contest had extra meaning for the Dublin Rebels as the team revealed their re-designed home kit. Removing white from their old jerseys the team took a minimalist approach with their re-design; the red outline of the numbers offset against matte-black uniforms.
Sitting at 2-2, the Rebels were brought back to earth at the hands of the champion Belfast Trojans. The Rebels visited the champions in Belfast with spirit keeping the score line close into the third quarter. However, the champs showed their experience and killer instinct as the visitors succumbed 43-8 to the onslaught of green jerseys.
The Rebels followed their physical encounter with the Trojans with another road game, this time against their old rivals the UL Vikings. With memories of the last-second Rebels win in 2014 still lingering in the minds of both teams, this matchup was as physical as any of the Rebels-Vikings matchups that have taken place over the last decade. The Rebels pulled together to produce a character revealing 21-14 win on the road to get back to .500 on the season and to keep their playoff fate in their own hands.
Following their big win against the rival Vikings, the Rebels hosted the Carrickfergus Knights to claim a come-from-behind 28-13 victory to leave them at 4-3 heading into the final week of regular season action.
The return fixture against the South Dublin Panthers saw the Rebels host their cross-county rivals on the 4th of July at Donnybrook stadium in front of over 2,000 fans. While those fans might have hoped for an edge-of-the-seat encounter, the Rebels stormed away in the second half to end the regular season with a record of 5-3; good enough for a home playoff game.
In the wildcard round, the Rebels hosted the Craigavon Cowboys for the second time in the season. Still reeling from their defeat earlier in the season the Cowboys started fast, jumping out to an early lead. The Rebels however grew into the game before it ended 62-19 in favour of the men in black. The win set up a semi-final with Trinity College in Belfast.
In difficult conditions, Trinity crept into a slim first half lead but much like their fixture in the same venue earlier in the year, the Rebels fell in the second half as Trinity advanced to the Shamrock Bowl and ended the 2015 season for the Rebels.
From pre-season optimism and determination in the rain and slop of Seapoint RFC to the disappointment of the semi-final, the young Rebels roster gained invaluable experience on both the winning and losing sides of close contests. Not only that, the team experienced first-hand where the future of the IAFL is headed and will learn from all these experiences, grow from them, and regroup at a new home ground to prepare for their assault on the 2016 IAFL season. Starved of a Shamrock Bowl title since 2011, the new Rebels will look at 2016 as a chance to bring the bowl home and to write their own chapter in Rebels history.