Pictures courtesy and copyright of Charisse Mae Ducao
The 2023 American Football Ireland Premier Division season opener saw the Rebels and UCD squaring off in a hotly anticipated rematch of last years Shamrock Bowl final. And despite the defending champions being the favorites going into this game, it was the Rebels who eventually emerged victorious. As you would expect to see after a long offseason, there was rust on both sides resulting in several key errors in the first half. Each team had multiple turnovers, with UCD capitalizing on one occasion to score as the result of a fumble recovery. The home side’s defense kept them in the game early on, but poor execution by the offense saw them trailing on the scoreboard. Ty Henry didn’t let his fumbles affect him and led a balanced Rebel attack through the air and on the ground. His special connection with Wide Receiver David King was on display in the first half and he connected with the young playmaker for a touchdown while adding two more scores with his legs.
UCD on the other hand couldn’t find any rhythm in their passing game. The U QB Arun Mooney did however find success in handing the ball off to the outstanding Running Back Sean McVeigh, who finished the day with two rushing touchdowns. Mooney added a passing score at the start of the second half, but it was the shiftiness of his receiver Masterson and poor tackling that combined for the touchdown to happen.
UCD trailed at the half, but their Offense seemed to rally in the 3rd quarter, scoring two touchdowns in a row to cut the deficit. Undeterred, the Rebels answered back with Ty Henry tossing another touchdown that initially ricocheted off his intended receivers’ hands before landing into the arms of nearby rookie receiver Jack Basquille who scooted into the endzone for a touchdown. Henry went back to Basquille for the last score of the game, making it 40 – 26 and putting away any hope of a home side comeback. It just wasn’t to be for UCD. A slow start and mental errors conspired to keep them out of contention. It’s cliched, but today they bet themselves. That being said, if they can clean up the false starts, offsides and muffed punt returns (Dougie 😉) this team has the potential to be in a position to defend their title at the end of the season.
The most curious thing about this game was not the flag happy officiating, but the glaring lack of field goal attempts. All the ex-GAA and rugby lads playing American football in Ireland and not a placekicker to be found. There wasn’t a single field goal attempted and a lot of extra points were left behind as a result. The lack of field goals served as a tactical limitation as well – the Rebels had a 4th down punt blocked in the 4th quarter from a position where a decent kicker could have given them three points.
You can’t help but feel that if this game had taken place in the middle of the season it would have been an absolute cracker. But there were flashes and highlights nonetheless and a lot to look forward to in the coming weeks and months. Final score from Belfield: Dublin Rebels 40 UCD 26.