In a repeat of last year’s SBC Semi-Final, and a rematch of a hotly contested regular season matchup, the two most historically successful clubs in Irish American Football history, still playing, squared off in Santry this past Sunday, in a game that promised to be hard-hitting, and electric entertainment. The Belfast Trojans made the trip south to take on the Dublin Rebels.
Beginning the game on Offence, the Rebels started strong, moving the ball both through the air and on the ground. A strong Trojan Defence forced a punt, giving the ball to the Trojan Offence, lead by star RB Jonah Siri, who, on the drives 4th play, took an outside run 70 yards down the sideline. The ensuing extra point was missed on the second attempt. 6-0 Trojans.
On their second possession of the day, the Rebels Offence was met with white jerseys no matter what they tried, a swarming Defence forcing the second punt of the day, a less than ideal start from the division champions. An equally suffocating Rebels Defence held the visitors to a field goal, DBs Andrei Vlad Vasilescu and Senan O’Mahony breaking up passes to the Endzone to prevent 6 points. 9-0 Trojans.
Incomplete passes and little running room forced another punt for an already unusually busy Rebels special team unit to close out the first quarter with the home team down on the scoreboard.
After a change in direction, and again backed up to their own 15-yard line, the Rebels Defence became fortified once more, sacrificing nothing and forcing the Trojan Offence into a turnover on downs. Unfortunately, the change in direction did little to help the Offence, punting back to Siri for the 4th time in the opening half, and yet to score.
BATTLE HEATING UP
Looking to gain ground through the air, the Trojans found little success, batted down passes and solid tackling brought the punt unit out for the visitors, giving the home Offence the best starting field position they had seen all afternoon. Powerful running from RB tandem Wello Omorodion and Pete McMahon, set up the Offence in the opposing 10-yard line, incomplete attempts to put points on the board gave the ball back to the Trojans with their heels on their own goal line. Pressure from both defensive lineman and interior rushers caused Trojans QB Mark McVeigh to throw an errant pass, read perfectly by safety Keith Foster handed not only the ball, but the momentum of the game to an Offence hungry to return to the form they displayed to close out the regular season.
Finally breaking the seal on the opposing Endzone, QB Andrew Dennehy connected with WR Jonas D’Agostin Kubis down the sideline. A successful 2-point conversion put the Rebels 1 point behind to close out the first half, hoping to carry the momentum forward. 9-8, Trojans at the half.
Tough nosed tackling from LB Robert Smith the Defence forced another field goal on the next drive. 12-8 Trojans. The Offence was yet again stifled, putting the ball back into Siri’s hands on a punt, which he would break to the sideline and score. A successful field goal put the game at 19-8 to the visitors.
Returning to the well, Dennehy would once again put the ball in the air to Game Offensive MVP Jonas Kubis D’Agostin, who, after single handedly pinning the ball against the head of a defender to complete the catch, outran three more to cross the goal line for the second time in the game. The 2-point conversion attempt also crossed into the Endzone to cap off the perfect answer and bring the game close yet again. 19-16 Trojans.
SACKING OF TROY
Marching down the field, powered by the running back duo of McMahon and Omorodion and an offensive line creating holes to hit, Dennehy and the Offence found themselves on the doorstep of scoring yet again to close the 3rd quarter. 19-16 Trojans.
On the 1-yard line following a completion to TE Ciaran Fitzpatrick, Mackey was brought in as a short yardage RB. Needing 2 yards, Mackey delivered, scoring the TD but being stopped on the conversion attempt giving the Rebels the lead for the first time this game. 22-19 Rebels.
Big completions both over the middle and to the sideline set the Trojans up to score, a rollout pass to WR Richardson, providing them with the six point they needed to regain the lead. Adding a successful kick the Trojans went up 26-22.
Clock winding down in the game, solid running and a defensive pass interference call moved the Rebels up field. To keep the drive alive, seemingly inhuman man Simon Mackey ran to the 10 yard line to give the Rebels their best chance to score.
A fade toward the Endzone resulted in an interception on the Belfast one-yard line, and with the clock not on their side, the Rebels were at their best, backs against the wall and nothing to lose. Hoping to run out the clock and seal the victory, a stout and hungry Rebels Defence forced a 4th down with less than 20 seconds to spare.
TROJAN ACHILLES HEEL
What was to follow will go down in Rebels folklore;
A botched snap.
A rushing Defence.
A finger-tip tackle.
A failed lateral.
Rebels ball, 10 seconds, 10 yards from the Shamrock Bowl.
The ball is snapped, white jerseys clawing to knock it down, the ball flies, 2 defenders out of reach, ball caught, toes tap the ground, referee runs to the pylon to signal, the sideline erupts…
D’Agostin catches his 3rd touchdown of the game and sends the Rebels to the Shamrock Bowl in the dying moments. Mackey crossed the goal line yet again, providing game changing plays on both sides of the ball all afternoon.
By Calum Walsh