REBELS DROP TO DEFEAT #2 OF THE SEASON
As with many an Irish folktale before them, two giants of the IAFA squared off in Belfast last Sunday, with the Belfast Trojans welcoming the reigning Shamrock Bowl champions Dublin Rebels in an exhibition of some of the best football Ireland has to offer.
The game kicked off with Rebels returner Cathal Keane setting the Offence up with excellent field position. Similarly to the previous games, the Rebels O came out with a goal to run the ball, through, around, or over whatever stood in their way.
The home team’s defence stood their ground, leading to a fortunate flag on a Sean Butler punt giving the Rebels the ball back. Spearheaded by star RB Pete McMahon refusing to let up ground, and a Dennehy to Ryan connection, the Dublin side were set firmly inside the home team’s 20.
However, a strong home field Defence, aided by an ill-timed holding penalty, and incomplete passes gave the Trojan offence their first touch of the ball. Solid running by Jonathan Siri gave Belfast a few first downs, but, following an almost toe-drag-swag level of interception by Keith Foster was judged out of bounds, Conrad Cook was able to get the ball back for the visitors with a pick of his own.
Tit for Tat
Given new life, a rejuvenated Rebels offence, found the breaking point in the Trojan armour, a deep fade to Jonas D’Agostin resulting in the first score of the contest. The ensuing two-point attempt fell incomplete. 6-0 Rebels.
With a bitter taste still lingering in their mouth, led by Siri, the Trojans took little time to respond, resulting in a near 70-yard sprint to opposite end of the field. The two-point attempt falling short of the goal-line. The scoreboard read 6-6, tied game. An eventful first quarter of football.
Off again. With little rest, the Offence gained positive field position through a combination of a good kick-off return and 15-yard pass interference call going the Rebels’ way.
While QB Dennehy kept spreading the targets throughout the offence, and positive chunk running plays coming against an athletic defence, the Offence stalled out, starting Slot Receiver Connor Ryan succumbing to an injured calf.
A proficient Belfast offense, lead in no small part through James McKelvey marched downfield through the air and on the ground, having to use two timeouts in order to reassess their approach to the Rebels defence. A long drive resulting in a one-yard rush TD by feature-back Siri. This time choosing to kick, the PAT was converted. 13-6 Trojans
With time running low and QB Jack Fagan in the game, the Rebels attempted to throw downfield, ending the half in a completion to clutch TE Ciarán Fitzpatrick, but time ran out as the pass was completed.
Restarting the game on Defence and looking for vengeance, the Rebels defence began the second half swarming to the football in groups, led by veterans Mackey, McCooey, and Defensive Co-Ordinator Steve Walsh forcing the Trojans to punt.
Dennehy back under centre the Trojan defence stood firm, lead by the ironically named ‘Average’ Neil Graham. The trend of defence winning out continued a staunch effort in the secondary finishing out the 3rd quarter and handing the ball back to Fagan and the Rebels. The score remained 13-6 Trojans.
A short pass to RB Pete McMahon fooling the defence gained the Rebels good yards, before missed plays handed the ball back following a blocked punt. The second half continued to prove to be a defensive battle.
With little recent success through the air, the Trojans relied on their workhorse and offensive weapon, Siri, in order to break both a tackle and the plane of the Endzone for a touchdown, for it to be called back due to a violation. Seeing their chance, the Rebel defence stood firm and succeeded in forcing a punt, instead of giving up 6 points.
Conscious of time and score the Rebels fed their star wide receiver of the day D’Agostin, completing two huge plays in order to advance up field. An unfortunate fumble soon allowed the Trojan offence full control of the game once more.
Through an almost picture-perfect sequel to the first, and with time against the visitors, after breaking through the first line of defence, Siri broke through to the Endzone for the home teams 3rd touchdown of the afternoon, getting home from 70+ yards out again. A trick play on the PAT gave the Trojans the two points afterwards. 21-6 Trojans.
Like an animal backed into a corner the Rebels Offence came out with teeth showing in a last-ditch effort to salvage the game. Using the sideline and the passing game as their tools the Rebels broke the plane through a back shoulder throw to Wideout Cathal Keane, following a huge diving grab from D’Agostin. A two-point conversion later and it was a one score game. 21-14 Trojans.
An unsuccessful onside kick attempt, recovered by the Trojans allowed the eventual victors to kneel the clock out, ending a tumultuous and action-packed game of football.
The Dublin Rebels fall to 3-2 on the season, with the next game a rematch of the 2017 Shamrock Bowl Final against the relocated and renamed Belfast Knights on June 24th @2pm in Sportslink, Santry.
By Calum Walsh