The Big Dance. The Show. The Championship. The Final Showdown. The pinnacle of domestic Irish American Football.
Every team in the preseason believes they can make it, every coach and every player across the country aspires to lift that trophy in August. When it’s all said and done, after all the heartbreak and close games, two teams square off in Tallaght Stadium for the right be called the best Football team on the island of Ireland.
Shamrock Bowl 32 was held August 19th between SBC South champions Dublin Rebels and the Cork Admirals. This season’s third meeting between the two sides with both previous games being won by less than 7, nothing less than a close game could be expected.
QUICK TRICK KICK TO START
A failed Admiral onside attempt provided the Rebel’s possession for the game’s opening drive. Lead by Quarterback Andrew Dennehy, in search of a historic 10th Shamrock Bowl victory, a feat not reached by any player, the Rebel offence had difficulty breaking through a hard-hitting aggressive Cork Defence, punting on their opening possession.
An energized and hungry Rebel Defence started the game with suffocating pocket pressure, forcing two incomplete passes to force a second put of the day. A good punt pinned the Rebels back to inside their own five yard line, a quick 3 and out meant punting this time from their own Endzone, a trend of Defence beginning to show through in the years biggest game.
Looking to get the days first first down, the Admirals looked to the air. Completing a pass over the middle to place the ball 10 yard from the Endzone and providing the afternoon’s first Redzone visit. Instant pressure from LB Robert Smith shut down an initial rush attempt. Following a broken pocket and rolling to his left, Admirals QB Stephen Hayes lofted a ball to the back corner of the Endzone, hitting Simon O’Keefe, breaking the tie with 6, a missed extra point put the Admirals up by 6.
Looking to respond, the Rebels offense, featuring the first drive of the game from young QB Jack Fagan came out swinging for the fences. Fagan left his mark on the game immediately, reading the Defence and rattling off a trademark QB keeper, along with powerful running from one of a two-headed monster backfield, Pete McMahon, exemplified how dangerous they can be.
An unfortunate holding call denied a Rebel first down on third down, an incomplete pass brought the punt team onto the field, but the offence had a heartbeat now, and was not going to be kept down.
Incomplete passes and penalties forced by the Rebel Defence lead to a quick 3 & out and gave the ball back to the Rebels.
Marching down the field, with a healthy diet of running up the gut of the Defence, both Wellington Omorodion and McMahon gashing through Corks Defence, brought an end to the 1st quarter. However, a fumbled exchange and an incomplete pass forced the Rebels to attempt a field goal, which sailed left.
Untimely penalties forcing the ball backwards, coupled with a stalling aerial attack resulted in an interception from safety Keith Foster. The ball back with the Rebels, along with the game’s momentum.
A holding penalty on the drive’s first play set the offence back, and unable to recover lost yardage, punted to the visitors yet again.
In a matchup of the league’s best Defenses, punting was common, shown yet again after the Rebels shutting down the Admirals run game. The Admirals would, in turn, return the favour. Stopping all attempts to gain positive yardage. A bobbled snap on the punt to cap off the drive put Cork in prime position to extend their lead.
Time running low in the first half, and reminiscent of their first score, a lofted pass from Hayes to the corner of the Endzone found its target, Jahn Dasini. A trick 2-point attempt failure to follow, the Admirals took advantage of the field position and extended their lead to 12 heading into the half.
A promising Admirals drive to open the third quarter was quickly snuffed out and possession was handed back to the Rebels offence. Penalties reversing any positive play on the ensuing drive lead to the familiar site of the punt team. The return put the Admirals offense into the Rebel half.
THE COMEBACK AFTER THE SETBACK
After getting the ball back through a once more unbending defensive effort, a long bomb to WR Cathal Keane to open the final quarter put the ball deep in the heart of Admiral territory, and the best opportunity of the day for the offence. A run from Omorodion and a footrace to the pylon later, and the Rebels have their first points of the day. A successful two-point conversion from Simon Mackey brought the score to 8-12 Admirals.
Momentum now fully with the “home” team, and another defensive stop to add to the tally, and the Rebels have the ball. Adhering to the classic, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’, QB Andy Dennehy tossed the ball to Omorodion again, weaving past defenders and putting everyone else in his rear view mirror the Rebels put points up again, and took the lead along with it, the 2-point attempt fell short, bringing the score to 14-12 Rebels.
A balanced approach to the offence from the Admirals, who now found themselves playing from behind for the first time, failed to score, turning the ball over on downs.
More penalties set the Rebel offence back, and with their heals getting closer to their own goal line, a trick punt on 3rd down was blocked, recovered by the Admiral Defence for a score, re-taking the lead, a failed 2-point attempt kept the gap at 4 points.
Needing a score late in the game, and marching down the field, the aggressive Cork Defence would show through once more, intercepting a pass.
Seeing the clock tick down, a defensive stop with under a minute left forced the Admirals to take a safety, cutting the gap to 2, and giving the ball back to the home team.
With over 50 yards to go to the Endzone, Cork prevented anything over the top, forcing a turnover on downs.
One kneel from the Cork QB ran the clock down and gave the Admirals their first ever Shamrock Bowl, winning by 2 points in a hard-fought battle.
by Calum Walsh