On Sunday 17th of July the Irish American Football post-season hits Belfast with a bang and the Trojans are right at the heart of it all.
Deramore Park plays host to not one but two playoff matches across two of the three national divisions. The first match of the day is the IAFL1 Semi-Final which kicks off at 11:00am with the visiting Louth Mavericks, the number two seed in the IAFL1 North, taking on the Belfast Trojans 2nd’s who defeated the Mavericks in Dundalk last weekend to claim top spot in the division. It’s all to play for as the winner will earn the right to face either the Cork Admirals or the Westmeath Minotaurs in the IAFL1 Bowl in Cork on Sunday August 14th.
Once the dust has settled on the IAFL1 Semi-Final, the road to the Shamrock Bowl begins with the SBC North Wildcard Playoff. Kick-off is scheduled for 2:00pm. The Trojans are in their first wildcard playoff game in five years and face stiff opposition in the shape of local rivals, the much improved, Carrickfergus Knights. The Trojans have never won a Wildcard game in their history and despite a 40-7 victory over the Knights earlier in the year they know that they must be at their very best to fight for the right to take on SBC South winners University College Dublin in the SBC Semi-Final in Dublin on July 24th.
Can the Trojans claim victory not once but twice this Sunday and take a step closer to the chance of post season glory? Be sure to get down to Deramore Park this Sunday July 17th from 11:00am to find out. There’ll be all the usual gameday entertainment with live commentary, music, barbecue, outside bar, merchandise and of course free pizza from our gameday partners Pizza Co.
Make sure you don’t miss out!
However the reigning champions will have to do it the hard way with a tough wildcard matchup with Carrickfergus coming up in less than a fortnight.
The Trojans finished the regular season with a 6-2 record, meaning they finished only second in the SBC North behind the Dublin Rebels; the first time in five years that the Trojans failed to top the division. It was a bright start to the season for the Trojans powering their way to a 4-0 start, highlighted by a dominant 62-7 win at home to the South Dublin Panthers and a fantastic 25-8 road victory over the division-topping Rebels.
However Belfast fell to their first defeat of the season in Limerick against the Vikings, a tough 16-13 loss at the end of May where quarterback James McKelvey was forced to miss out due to unavailability. Mark McVeigh stepped in admirably under centre and just failed to lead a fourth-quarter comeback.
A 40-6 win over Carrickfergus ensured the Trojans bounced back to winning ways quickly but it was to be a second defeat of the season two weeks later as the Rebels claimed their best victory of recent times, a narrow 8-7 win at Deramore Park in desperate conditions. In a sloppy game played in torrential rain, the Trojans turned the ball over twice on the Rebels two-yard line and couldn’t find a way back into the game, despite the defence stifling the Dublin offence the majority of the game.
A few home truths were told following the second loss of the season and with the Rebels beating the Vikings, they wrapped up top spot meaning the Trojans now must strive to win the Bowl coming from a wildcard spot. The final game of the regular season against Trinity however showed Belfast back to their very best.
Despite missing David Colvin and Neil Montgomery on offence and Connor Whitla on defence, the defending champions fired a warning shot across the league, beating the students 40-7 in a replay of the last two Shamrock Bowl finals. On offence the Trojans were back to their very best, with McKelvey finding Dave Richardson for two touchdowns through the air and rookie runner Sam Kelly getting on the scoresheet.
The defence did their part as well with Michael Kane and Alex Kusimerek each having interceptions to lead Belfast past TCD.
The Trojans now take on the Carrickfergus Knights at Deramore Park on 17 July in the Wildcard game before a potential semi-final clash with SBC South winners UCD.
“The Bot” is a bona fide Belfast landmark , one of the city’s most vibrant night spots and the premier venue to watch live sports. This partnership will see the Botanic Inn become the social home of the Trojans and their growing army of supporters.
The partnership, which also involves The Botanic Inn’s sister property the Wellington Park Hotel, offers the opportunity for the Trojans to grow their following within the Belfast area whilst also offering accommodation opportunities for the increasing number of international teams that are keen to come to Northern Ireland to take on the four-time national champions.
The Trojans are also delighted to announce that in 2017 we will be bringing the incredible Belfast Trojans Super Bowl party to the Botanic Inn and Wellington Park Hotel. Ireland’s biggest event of it’s kind and the first true standout party of the year will be bigger, better and accessible to an even greater number of the burgeoning community of American Football fans across Northern Ireland.
We are immensely excited by this opportunity to grow hand in hand with a Belfast institution like the Botanic Inn, we are sure that the partnership will see the Trojans continue to go from strength to strength.
Despite resting a number of starters on defence after a tough game with Sewanee college last week the unit performed superbly, shutting out a useful Reapers offensive attack. It was David Colvin who opened the scoring for the Trojans, hauling in a short pass on third down before eluding a would-be tackler and scampering another 60 yards for the first touchdown of the day.
Soon after and it was David Richardson getting on the board after a perfectly thrown pass by James McKelvey, the receiver hauling in a textbook over the shoulder grab and crossing for six. Colvin added his second of the game midway through the second quarter with McKelvey locating the single coverage and dropping it over the top with precision to make it 20-0. More stout work from the Belfast defence allowed the Trojans another offensive drive and a trademark short yardage plunge from Neil Montgomery made it 27-0 at halftime.
Although there were some early mistakes in the second half the Trojans soon the specials teams took over, with Jona Siri scoring yet another punt return touchdown after some fantastic running and downfield blocking. The Trojans spread the scoring around with Matt Armstong finally notching halfway through the final quarter and there was time for rookie back Jake Warry to get on the scoresheet to round off the Belfast domination.
There were signs of a flat performance from the reigning champions, coming so soon after the epic clash with Sewanee and upcoming game the UL Vikings , however the result was never in doubt and the Trojans will be ready to fire on all cylinders when they travel to Limerick for the game of the season so far on Saturday 28th May.
It was a valiant effort from the four-time reigning champions, a performance and scoreline that will go down in the history of the game on these shores. The NCAA Div III Tigers were impressive with both sides of the ball performing at a level rarely seen in this country. Their defence gave the Belfast offence difficulties all day, while their offence was relentless in pounding the ball as well as finding tall receivers on the outside.
It was Sewanee who opened the scoring a superbly thrown deep ball caught by a wide receiver in the corner of the endzone. In the 2nd quarter and it was 14-0 on a similar play, with again their receiver who eclipsed the 6 foot mark going up and snagging the ball despite the blanket coverage by Trojans cornerback James Gallagher. However the Trojans showed they weren’t here to be in awe of the American squad and responded before the break. James McKelvey found rookie Jack Millar in the corner of the endzone and the rookie did the rest to cut the deficit. Into the 2nd half and it was the Tigers who added to the scoreboard first, with a tough run from their running back punching it in from close.
The moment of the game, however, was soon to follow and if you see a better touchdown in any form of football this year you will be doing well. On the ensuing kick off, Matt Armstrong fielded the ball and took a few steps forward. He then hit the brakes and laterally passed the ball to Jona Siri on the other side of the field. Siri then put the foot on the gas and weaved through the Tigers kickoff unit with some fantastic blocking. The home crowd went wild and Siri’s highlight went viral. David Colvin scored with less than two minutes remaining to make the score 27-20 to Sewanee, a smart grab on a post route with McKelvey putting the ball on a dime.
That was all she wrote, though, as Sewanee ran out the clock, handing the Trojans their first loss of the season, albeit a heroic performance from Belfast against a team with such resources and knowhow. A fantastic day was had by all the visiting Tigers squad, staff and parents and indeed the hundreds of spectators that enjoyed their day out at Deramore Park watching American Football in Ireland.
The Trojans return to SBC action this Sunday at home to the North Kildare Reapers with kick off at 2pm.
The Rebels pushed the four-time reigning champions all the way, but it was a game the Trojans always seemed in control of after grabbing the early lead. This allowed their stout defence to hold Dublin to just one score on the afternoon.
It was very much a case of bend-don’t-break on defence for Belfast, with the defensive line severely depleted due to injury and unavailability. Despite giving up a few chunk plays to impressive Rebel running back Wello Omo, the Trojans defence made huge stops at the right times and constantly terrorised quarterback Andy Dennehy in passing situations. The Trojans opened the scoring on their first drive. After some strong running by Jona Siri, Belfast found themselves in a long third and goal situation.
With plenty of coverage being rolled over the top of Dave Colvin and Dave Richardson on one side, James McKelvey looked the other way to rookie Jack Millar and the 18-year-old climbed the ladder to haul in the pass and keep the feet in bounds, a stunning catch from a player in just his third game of American football.
A superb interception from Rick Duffield on an errant throw from Dennehy soon gave the Trojans fantastic field position and it was Neil Montgomery doubling the score, rumbling in from 10 yards out for a trademark rushing score. After a pair of early picks, Dennehy settled in and orchestrated a superb Dublin drive, Omo and Sean Leamy running some perfectly executed draws and screens, with the former South Dublin Panther Omo crossing from 15 yards out around the right side to make it 12-8.
Just before the break though the Trojans hit back and it was Siri with the touchdown, a fantastic 50 yard run enhancing his MVP claims already in this young season. Into the third quarter and both offences stalled somewhat. The Trojans went three-and-out on their first drive, while the Rebels were able to move the ball between the 20’s but inside the redzone the Belfast defence stiffened and turned the ball over on downs.
The game was still in the balance with around six minutes left in the final quarter before the ever-reliable partnership of McKelvey and Richardson put the final nail into the Rebel coffin. A fantastic play action pass from the quarterback found last year’s leading SBC scorer wide open, before scampering 50 yards untouched for the touchdown.
The game ended 25-8 to the Trojans, a perfect warm up for their historic clash with American outfit the Sewanee Tigers on May 14 at Deramore Park.