SHAMROCK BOWL XXXI
Shamrock Bowl XXXI had more than a little touch of history about it. The meeting between the reigning champions the Dublin Rebels and the Carrickfergus Knights in the big game has previous, you see. The game would be contested by the two teams with the most final appearances ever in the National Championship game.
The Knights came into the game off their first division title since 2011, and an overtime victory over early season front runners the U.L. Vikings to make it to their 10th final appearance.
The Rebels also came in to the game as divisional winners for the second year in a row, after victory over the Belfast Trojans, in a repeat of the 2016 final, to book the 12th trip to the big dance for the Dublin club.
The last time the two teams met in the final was 2004, when the Rebels came away with a 24-22 win that included a final play, goal line stop from the men in black. That was the 3rd meeting in 4 years in the final for the teams, each time the Rebels coming out on top. The Knights would be looking to put a stop to final losses to their opponents, and hoped to secure their first title in 15 years.
While the Knights ran out on to the field in Tallaght Stadium to The Prodigy’s “The Day is My Enemy”, the Rebels would march out in military fashion to “The Imperial March”, before turning it up to 11, as AC/DCs “Back in Black” rang through the stadium. The stage was set, the performers ready, it was Showtime.
The Knights would receive the opening kick-off, and begin to drive the ball across the ground with backfield tandem Gareth Millar and Darren Montgomery picking up a couple of first downs. This came to an end after tackles from Middle Linebacker Bobby Smith, and a stonewalling tackle from Shadowman Sports Defensive MVP Ross McCooey, one of 6.5 tackles on the day for number 51.
The ensuing punt hung up for an age, before returner Sean Douglas was able to secure the catch. Literally as Douglas caught the ball he was hit by the coverage team, but bizarrely no flag came. The Rebels took over from the 5 yard line. A fumbled snap on the first play from scrimmage, would put the Dublin Offense in an early hole, eventually forcing a difficult punt from inside their own Endzone.
The Rebels defence would continue where they left off, lead by that man McCooey, forcing a quick 3 and Out. Douglas this time in the backfield, would get the Offense out of their own Redzone, getting 15 tacked on to the end of a 9 yard run.
At the turn of the quarter, and after a quick completion from Quarterback Andrew Dennehy to Jonas Kubis D’Agostin, and an 8 yard rush from Running Back Dave McMahon, the Rebels would go to the air again. Looking for the deep ball to Tight End Ciarán Fitzpatrick, the tipped ball found its way to Carrickfergus Safety, Stephen Davison, who intercepted the ball and returned it to the Rebels 45 yard line.
The Dublin defence didn’t take long to get their team the ball back. Defensive End Gary Twamley first punched the ball out tackling the Knights Running Back, but the Knights recovered the fumble. On the very next play, looking for a big chunk of yardage, Rebels Safety, Keith Foster, would jump the deep route and pluck the ball from the air.
Unfortunately, the Rebels Offense were having trouble clicking, gaining yards through the running game from Wellington Omorodion and Pete McMahon, but subsequently losing those yards with mental errors and penalties.
The majority of the remaining half turning into a field position battle between Rebels Punter Paul Grogan, and Marty Caskey for the Knights.
However late on in the first half, with the Rebels Offense driving, Carrickfergus Defensive Back Josh Davis jumped a route out wide, and took the ball, with green grass in front of him, speedster Kubis D’Agostin, was able to chase down the turnover at the 30 yard line.
After some successful plays in the ground game thanks to Quarterback Spencer McDowell, and tailback Millar, the Knights found themselves deep in the Rebels redzone, the team in yellow would hit pay dirt. On the QB Bootleg, McDowell looked for number 1 receiver, Caskey, in the back corner. Caskey secured the catch with a toe tap, to give the Knights the lead. A fumbled snap on the point after attempt, meant the Rebels defence kept the score at 6-0 at the Half.
The Rebels Half-Time team talk wrote its self, focus and execute.
A spark was needed, and it sparked like a lightning bolt. Roaring out of the blocks, the Rebels Offensive line took control of the game, and running like thunder, tailback Wellington Omorodion would take the ball 59 yards over the turf on 5 consecutive carries. On the next play Dennehy would hit Wide Receiver, Cathal Keane in the Endzone to bring the Rebels level. The PAT was unsuccessful, but the drive summed up the Rebels offense for the second half, and the Shadowman Sports Offensive MVP was shared between Omorodion and Keane.
The Rebels Defence, not to be outdone by their offensive counterparts, came out firing on all cylinders, and stuffed the Knights on the next drive, tackles from Matthias Durot, McCooey again and capped with a big tackle for loss from Twamley.
The Punters would duel it out again over the next 3 series, flipping the field each time. Until Douglas produced a moment of magic, this time forgoing the Fair Catch, making the first two men on the scene, miss, and taking off, weaving through the Knights coverage team. A Knights penalty on the return would set up the Rebels Offense on the Knights 30 yard line.
Wello Omorodion, stepped back into the back field, and as the big men up front handled business, thunder struck again, and sprinted to the Endzone to put the Rebels in front from 30 yards out. Putting the icing on a rushing day that saw him rack up 145 yards on the ground, and put his name forward as an overall game MVP award contender. The PAT snap was miscued and the attempt failed.
If the previous two Defensive series for the Dublin side hadn’t made their point, the next drive did, they will not be broken again in this game. After quick tackles from Bobby Smith and Andrei-Vlad Vasilescu, on consecutive plays, Safety Senan O’Mahony would get in on the Pick Party. McDowell under pressure from Twamley, and linebacker Conrad Cook, juggled the snap before launching an errant ball directly into O’Mahonys hands for the Interception, you might say an InterSenan!
The Rebels Offense back out on the field for the next drive, seemed to exchange plays with the referees, first gaining big yards on the ground and through the air, followed by giving up yardage to penalties, this resulted in a stalled drive, and the ball was punted again.
With Knights now down by a score, and failing to pick up a first down in the second half, they had no choice but to take some risks in the passing game, but the Dublin Rebels defensive backs were quick to make it a no fly zone, and in a busy day for the punters, Caskey was back to kick again.
With time running at about 6 minutes left in the game, the Rebels offence had the game in their hands, and put together the longest drive of the day. Behind more runs from Omorodion but facing a 3rd and long, Dennehy looked for Keane again, hitting the young Receiver streaking down the sideline. Number 82 Keane going up and clutching the ball from above the covering Cornerback, he would tack on some extra yards on the run for a 38 yard completion and a key first down, moving the chains and keeping the clock rolling.
Again the Offense would exchange plays with the Referees, having a trip to the Endzone for Omorodion called back. A false start penalty would leave the Rebels at 3rd and 29, Goal to go. The toss play to Omorodion, looking for the edge to churn clock and gain some yards, he hits the breaks, and launches the ball to flight, the ball takes off like a glorious frozen chicken.
But Wide Receiver Sean Leamy in miles of space managed to haul in the wobbled pass, and made his way towards the Endzone, being stopped shy at the 2 yard line. The 27 yard completion cementing, Wellington Omorodion, as the Shamrock Bowl XXXI MVP.
With 2 yards to go to break the plain, it seemed fitting the Back would get the ball himself, but the Knights held firm, and made the stop at the 1 yard line. Turnover on downs, and a very outside chance the Knights could save the game.
But like we said earlier, the Rebels Defence had already decided how this game would end, and with 99 yards to go, no first downs in the half, and time running out, no-one would deny the Bad Guys in Black.
In the next 4 passing attempts, the Knights would complete 1 for 2 yards, giving the ball back to the Rebels with 29 seconds remaining.
With not enough Time-outs remaining to halt the inevitable, the Rebels Offence took to the field.
Led by Quarterback Andrew Dennehy who would kneel out the clock to secure his and the Dublin Rebels record 9th National Championship and Shamrock Bowl Victory.
By Paul Grogan