The Cork Admirals won their maiden Shamrock Bowl Championship last Sunday in Tallaght Stadium coming from behind late on to beat the former title holders Dublin Rebels 18-16. The Admirals had the better of the opening half and led 12-0 at the break but during a dramatic fourth quarter the Rebels took a 14-12 lead before conceding a late touchdown to hand the game to the Cork side.
The early exchanges saw both defenses on top and following a pair of possessions resulting in punts for each side it was the Admirals who took advantage pinning the Rebels inside their own ten on a fantastic near fifty-yard punt by Simon ‘Kit’ O’Keeffe. The Admirals defense stayed on task and following a dropped interception on third down a short punt gave the Admirals Offense a short field to work with.
Stephen Hayes wasted no time with the next possession and hit O’Keefe over the middle giving Admirals a first and goal from just inside the ten yard line. Shortly later the same duo connected with O’Keeffe pulling in the touchdown pass in the back corner of the end zone. The attempted point after drifted wide of the mark leaving the score 6-0 to the Admirals mid way through the first quarter.
The majority of the remainder of the first half was tit for tat with both defences holding firm. Penalties undid a lot of good work from both sides during a flag ridden spell. The Rebels did have one purple patch and flipped the field with some hard running but the Admirals defence stiffened up in the red zone when a fumbled handoff helped to stall the drive and a missed field goal was all that the Dublin outfit had to shown for their best drive of the half.
With just over two minutes left to the break the Admirals capitalised on a Rebels error. Lined up to punt the football away from just inside their own half the snap was fumbled by the punter and the play resulted in the Admirals taking over possession of the football on the Rebels twenty five with not a lot of time to go in the half and no time outs left on the clock. It was enough for Hayes to complete four short passes including a throw to Cillian McGillycuddy to convert on fourth and short for a first down and finishing in a strike to Jahn Dasini in the corner of the end zone with five seconds left on the clock to give the Admirals a 12-0 lead. The attempted two-point play came up short and the Admirals took their twelve point lead to the locker room.
The third quarter continued in the same vein as much of the first half, penalties again stalled drives for both sides. The best chance for the Admirals during this spell came on a deep ball over the middle to O’Keeffe who had beaten the defensive cover but agonisingly just couldn’t quite catch up with the ball when a score looked likely had the pass been reeled in. A long return on a Rebels punt by Cillian McGillycuddy gave the Admirals a spark though and set up good field position but a contentious turnover just outside the red zone snuffled out the attack.
The following possession was a key turning point in the game. With just a few seconds left in the third quarter the Admirals looked to have stuffed a Rebels attempt on a short yardage play near the halfway forcing a fumble and recovering the ball. However, the turnover wasn’t given and a costly unsportsmanlike penalty against Cork added insult to injury. The teams traded ends with the Rebels now threatening. The best passing play of the day from the Dublin side got them into a first and goal from just inside the ten. A roughing the passer flag on third down got them even closer and eventually they broke the Admirals down for their first score of the game. The two point play was converted on the ground and at 12-8 the game was very much up for grabs.
The Ads got the ball back but were quickly forced to punt away. Having taken over three quarters to get on the board the Rebels wasted no time getting back into the end zone. Two broken tackles from the Rebels running back got him into open space and he hurtled clear for a sixty yard score. The two point try was unsuccessful but the advantage was now with the Dubliners holding a 14-12 lead with eight minutes left in the final quarter.
The Admirals manged to reignite the offense to get the ball moving on the following possession and reverse the field position but the drive came to a halt in Rebels territory, turning the ball over on downs around the thirty five. The Admirals defense got back to their task and forced a negative play on first down when Harris Monagan sliced into the backfield and crushed the lead back of the full back bring down the running back in the process. The Admirals elected to accept a personal foul flag after another negative play on third down and put the Dublin team into a repeat third and nearly thirty on their own fifteen line.
What happened next will go down in Admirals folklore. The Rebels lined up in a shotgun two back formation and in a called play they attempted to catch the Admirals by surprise snapping the ball directly to one of the backs who attempted to punt. Big Pressure up the middle pushed a guard into the punters face and the ball rebounded towards the goal line. Rookie defensive back Daniel Sheedy was onto the play like a flash closing in on the punter as he gathered the football and attempted to get the punt away for a second time. The attempted kick was blocked by Sheedy and he pounced on the loose ball in the end zone for an incredible score. The Admirals went for two but O’Keeffe was ruled out of bounds by the narrowest of margins having reeled in a pass from Hayes in the back corner of the end zone
With just over four minutes on the clock the Admirals were back in the lead at 18-14. The Rebels would get the ball back and all three time outs remaining. A good return got the ball out across the forty and again some strong running got the ball across midfield. The Rebels running game had them in a threatening position with a first down on the Admirals twenty five yard line and over two minutes still to play. A shot into the end zone was well defended by Admirals cornerback Liam O’Leary on first down. Aidan Waters then had a huge tackle for loss on second down easing the pressure on the Admirals and setting up a third and thirteen. The third down play was huge for the Admirals, cornerback Paul Farrell read the slant route and stepped in front of the receiver snaring the ball for a huge turnover and a defining moment in the game.
The Admirals still had just over two minutes to play out to secure the win. Successive runs erased the Rebels time outs but despite some tenacious carries the Admirals couldn’t get the first down needed to run out the clock. After a big tackle for loss and facing a fourth and ten from their own fifteen the Admirals elect to give up the safety and clear their lines from the twenty yard line with the score line now even closer at 18-16.
The clearing kickoff was bobbled by the Rebels returner and any threat from the return went with it. The Admrial’s defense would take to the field one final time to defend the narrow lead. Sixty yards stood between the Rebels and the Cork end zone with one minute forty three on the clock and no time outs left between the teams. A draw play on first couldn’t find open space and as the Rebels scrambled on second down Cork linebacker Ayo Mumuni had the Rebels’ quarterback under all kinds of pressure and force an intentional grounding call to back them into a third and long. With nothing open down the field a short completion in bounds kept the clock rolling and facing a fourth and very long with seconds spilling away the Rebels tried to get the ball deep down the field amid an inferno of noise from the Cork support. The attempt was broken up by a combination of O’Keeffe and Sheedy. All that was left was for the Admirals offense to take to the field in the victory formation to run out the final seconds of the game.
Having delivered an epic performance at middle linebacker along with some dogged carries at fullback Harris Monagan collected the Shamrock Bowl MVP just pipping Kit O’Keeffe who also put in a phenomenal performance in all three phases of the game.
Now that the dust has settled on last weekends Shamrock Bowl victory the Admirals would like to take the opportunity to thank some very important people. Firstly we would like to thank everyone who reached out to us in the last few days to offer us congratulations. Apologies if we haven’t gotten back to you directly but we massively appreciate your sentiments.
Thank you to the Irish American Football Associationwho organised Shamrock Bowl XXXII and all the volunteers who gave up their time freely to make the event happen.
Our utmost appreciation goes to our sponsors The East Village Bar, Restaurant & Hotel, without their support we would not be able to run the club.
We are very grateful to RedFM's Big Red Benchand in particular, Ruairi O’Hagan who are always more than happy to publicise the club and its events.
Thank you to our partners Presentation Brothers College who host our training and games throughout the season as well as Cork Institute of Technology who hosted our event the East Village Bowl.
We pay tribute to our opponents the Dublin Rebels who showed why they are 9-time National Champions by mounting a comeback in the fourth quarter and never showing they were beaten as well as being very gracious in defeat.
Finally, and most importantly we would like to thank our loved ones who take up the slack and support us in playing/coaching the sport we love.
It has been a truly special season for the club full of highs and lows but with everything revolving around a dedicated and committed group of players and coaches who love the game of American Football. Thanks to all who have supported us. See you all again next season.