Competitive American Football returned to Newbridge College this past Sunday for the first time since that memorable sweltering July afternoon in 2019 for the IAFL2 Bowl. However, conditions were far different on this occasion and offered another challenge to an already titanic battle against the UL Vikings with high strong gales blowing throughout the game. Historically, the Vikings have been one of the strongest teams in Ireland and were national champions as recently as 2009. Although their team today consisted of many rookies, the desire and belief remain very visible within their side.
The Vikings started brightest and raced into a 7-0 lead early before the Crusaders got off the mark, with QB Jordan Farrell continuing to build a strong connection with Robert Brown by finding the endzone. Brown has been one of the Crusaders strongest performers after the opening two games. He had 120 yards, 1 touchdown and was also on the receiving end of three 2-PT conversions, adding to his standout performance in Derry two weeks previous.
The Vikings regained their lead shortly after when QB Kieran Gilholl got the first of his three touchdowns in the game. The back and forth battle continued as the Crusaders quickly drove down the field into the RedZone. Farrell lofted a pass high under pressure with Sidney Pindi plucking the ball from the air over a scrummage of Vikings defenders and sent the Crusaders faithful into raptures. The Crusaders went for 2, with Farrell finding Brown in the corner to give the home side the lead for the first time in the game.
The Vikings managed to build momentum before half-time, converting on two drives to lead 28-15 at the break. Special mention must also be given to DE Thomas Brocklebank for his fumble recovery on the half’s final play. Number 55 pounced on a loose ball and was dragged down 10 yards from the endzone. The defensive front stood up strong during the game with the Dooley brothers once again causing havoc and getting 3 sacks and a forced fumble between them.
After a defensive stop on the opening drive of the 2nd half, the offence found the endzone through Farrell, finding Sidney to close the gap to 5. Belief appeared to be firm with the Crusaders, but they suffered a major setback after Farrell threw a pick 6 to Vikings DB Luiz Quadros despite calls for a foul on WR Kealan Farrell. The claims were squashed, and the Vikings regained a strong lead.
The Crusaders needed a defining play to regain some momentum once again. After an incomplete 4th down, the defence came up with a massive turnover after forcing a fumble, and DT Liam Butler put Tom Daley to shame with his diving skills and retrieved the ball to add to his very strong performance. It was a speedy turnaround for the offence, and RB Luke Carey found the endzone for the 2nd time this season before Farrell showed that he has more than just a big arm by trucking his way in for extra 2 points.
Entering the 4th quarter, it was anyone’s game. The Vikings offence continued their strong performance by finding the endzone with a 23-yard run. However, the XP was blocked, giving the Vikings a 10 point lead. The Crusaders responded quickly as Jordan found Kealan for a TD, and after another converted 2 PT attempt to Robert Brown, it was a 2 point game. The Vikings run dominance continued as RB Sean Grace sprinted home for his 3rd TD of the day. The following XP was sent wide, meaning the Crusaders would have one final opportunity to potentially tie the game. The Vikings showed their resilience on the final drive, forcing a turnover on downs and ultimately claiming the victory.
It was a very disappointing result for the Crusaders after an intense battle. The team now face a more formidable task in their quest to reach the playoffs, but the season is by no means over. Mistakes were made across the game on both sides of the ball, but the response will need to have the most impact.
Congratulations to the Vikings on their victory, and best of luck to them for the rest of the season. The Crusaders face the Eagles in their next game on 1st June with both sides without a victory this season.
1. QB Jordan Farrell
12. WR Sean Coogan
65. LB Kyle Dooley
99. DE Craig Dooley
Offensive MVP: Kealan Farrell
Defensive MVP: Craig Dooley
Overall MVP: Luke Carey
Special Mention: Sidney Pindi
(Photos courtesy of Charmaeducs Photography and David Perkins)