In our final interview before Sundays IAFL 1 Bowl, we spoke to rising star Anton Nulty. Anton has reached a Bowl game in his first year of senior football, and will be looking to build on his success from junior football.
Turning 18 during the senior season, you joined the senior roster when most of the guys had already had a few games under their belt. Was it difficult to settle into the team mid-way through the season?
“Not at all actually. I have trained with this squad for a few years meaning I knew all the players who were extremely welcoming, as well as this it meant I knew what plays and schemes we would be running so I fit into the squad perfectly. All this got me extremely excited to start playing senior ball.”
What has been the biggest challenge going from junior football to seniors?
“The main difference is the speed and intensity at which the game is played, this is part in parcel with the size difference between juniors and seniors. Transitioning from going head to head with a small, skinny 16/17 year old to 6'4" 240lb athletes really makes you grow out of a junior mind-set rather quickly.”
A good regular season was followed by a shootout win against the Wexford Eagles in the playoffs. What have you been doing in the time between the playoffs and Sunday coming to prepare yourself?
“Post Eagles match I spent time recovering from the long hard fought match we had just played. Since then I have been going to the gym to make sure I am as physically prepared as I can be. In addition to the tape and training to mentally prepare myself for such a big game I feel I'm in the best shape for the match I could be at this point in time.”
Having been on the side line to watch the last game between the Cowboys and Mavericks, what are the Mavericks biggest threats?
“The Mavericks have some impressive receivers and having witnessed first-hand some of the great catches at the last game we certainly have our work cut out for us. This combined with their QB who is willing to linger in the pocket for an extended period and even take a big hit in order to deliver the perfect pass will certainly make the match an interesting one.”
And finally, what are your predictions for Sunday’s game?
“Both teams have all to play for in this big game, so I'm predicting a tough, hard fought match and a great contest. However having watched and played with our talented Cowboys side I must predict a Cowboys win this Sunday.”
4 days left until the big game on Sunday, we caught up with senior team Head Coach Greg Loughran to get his views on the season so far:
An almost perfect season with the Bowl game to come, what has been the main reason for the success this season?
“We have been able to hold our core of players together and recruited well in the off season. Keeping our core of experienced players together allows us to pick up where we left off last season without having to look at new schemes and bringing in some really talented rookies gives us fresh impetus and shares the load on game day. Our Offensive line has been pretty stable which is a huge advantage and accounts for our ability to keep scoring against strong defences.”
The Cowboys have previously taken on Louth during the regular season, recording a 20-7 win. What are you expecting from the Mavericks on Sunday?
“I don't think that the score fairly reflects our meeting with the Mavericks in May. We dodged a lot of bullets in that they had a number of crucial dropped catches and a score called back. They must be pretty confident following their win against the Vipers but we have been studying and feel confident that we have done our homework and will come out on top.”
Having been beaten at home by a point to the Vipers, the ‘Boys bounced back to force a shutout in a 12-0 win away to the Vipers the week after. Was the loss a wake-up call for the team?
“The Vipers fully deserved their win on the day, we can't take that away from them but I do feel that we were not at our best that day. In the return game we were fully focused on the game and worked hard on ignoring the distractions that hurt us so badly in the first game. I was pretty dismayed that in a Vipers report on the second fixture, they claimed that the highlight of the game was an incident that resulted in one of our players being taken out of the game due to an injury. Not my idea of sportsmanship. Players can get injured in our sport but it is never a highlight nor something to gloat about.”
(Article Referenced: http://www.donegaldaily.com/2017/07/19/picture-special-all-not-lost-for-donegal-derry-vipers-despite-home-game-loss/)
There has been a 4 week gap between the playoff game and the Bowl game, has this been advantageous for the team?
“Such a long gap between games has its benefits and problems. The break gives players time to recover and heal up, especially as we had two tough games so close together before the break. However we had developed strong focus on winning the previous two games and this will have to be rediscovered for the bowl game if we are to win.”
Finally, what advice do you have for the players taking to the field on Sunday?
“I will tell everyone not to be complacent. This is a bowl game and anything can happen.
We are capable of winning this game but we have to prove it.”
With the IAFL 1 Bowl game this Sunday, it’s clear to see the impact of our junior setup on the senior team as there will be 8 graduates from the junior team playing. We spoke to Junior Representative Scott Buchanan to get his thoughts on this years senior season as well as the junior team:
2016 juniors’ season was a disappointment results wise, however most of the roster has returned to play this year. How much will that experience help this year?
“Last year we had a relatively inexperienced squad, most playing for the first time. Most of them are returning, which is fantastic, and the majority of them have been training with the seniors as well, so they've gained some valuable tips and experience from them. With some players being able to play for the seniors this year, like Anton Nulty and James Rolston, this will bring even more experience into the junior setup.”
Training for the 2017 season is well under way and interest has been at an all-time high. Have you been impressed so far with the guys, new and experienced, at training?
“I have been impressed, it's been great to see so many new guys coming down and giving football a go. Even after a few training sessions, I've seen some improvements in stances, route running etc. The guys returning, their mind set and attitude to football has been massively changed, we don't want another season like last year.”
With that in mind, what are the goals for the junior team this year? Have you any personal goals?
“Main aim for the juniors is to get back to where we were 2 years ago, top of the league with the trophy and medals at the end of the season. Personally, I don't want to give up any sacks this season on offense, and if I'm playing defense, get a few sacks...or a fumble...or an interception. Because that stuff is fun.”
The senior team have had a successful season reaching the Bowl game as well as the flag team making the playoffs. Will the juniors be using that as motivation for this season?
“100%. The other parts of the clubs have pulled their weight, and have (deservingly) gained success from it, so we don't want to let the club down. Plus we want some silverware too!”
What are your predictions for Sunday’s game?
“All I'm going to say is a Cowboys win, I don't want to jinx anything! Good luck to the seniors, the juniors will be supporting!”
Keep the kids busy this summer with our colouring competition for the chance to win a great prize! Download the PDF below or see a member of the squad for a printed version. We will also be at Portadown Football Club's Community Fun Day this Saturday, where you can come along and have a chat to us and pick up an entry form! Good luck!!!
As the regular season for both the Emerald Bowl IV (flag) and IAFL 1 (senior kitted) come to a close this weekend, both our teams are in action with the flag team in Dublin on Saturday and the senior kitted team in Letterkenny on Sunday. Both teams have had great success this season as both have already secured their playoff spots before playing this weekend’s games, however wins are needed for both teams to secure top spot in their respective leagues.
The flag team have enjoyed a good season so far, winning five and losing none as well as recently competing at the Champions Bowl in Vienna, Austria. They currently sit top of the Emerald Bowl IV table on 15 points. The top four qualify for playoffs, with the team in 5th place on 7 points however they only have one game remaining, and therefore the Cowboys are through to the finals day at Gormanston on Saturday 5th August. The ‘Boys will play three games, needing to win two of those to secure top spot in the league. First up will be the 7th placed South Dublin Panthers at 11am before playing hosts Dublin Rebels at 1pm, who are 6th in the table. The Cowboys will close out the regular season by playing old foes Westmeath Minotaurs, who are currently 2nd in the table, at 2pm. A squad with a mix of youth and experience will make the trip to the Three Rock Rovers Hockey Club, Dublin.
The senior kitted team has also enjoyed success this season currently sitting 2nd in IAFL 1 with a 6&1 record. Results last Sunday mean that the Cowboys have secured a home semi-final game against either the Louth Mavericks or Wexford Eagles (dependant on the result of this Sunday’s game) on Sunday 23rd July. This Sunday however will see the team go up against the Derry/Donegal Vipers once again, this time in Letterkenny. The Vipers edged out the Cowboys just under two weeks ago, and took top spot in the league by one point. The Cowboys will have revenge in their sights, and look to reclaim and finish top of the league with a win. A number of players are returning from injury, which is a welcome boost to the team as they enter the business end of the season. Kick-off is scheduled for 2pm.
Results will be posted on our Facebook and Twitter so be sure to keep up to date the club and follow both! If you would like to get involved with the Cowboys in a playing or non-playing role, feel free to message us here or on Facebook to discuss further. Best of luck to both teams this weekend!
A small squad of Cowboys took to road to Castleknock and locked horns with the West Dublin Rhinos for a battle of two teams with winning records. The Cowboys got off to a good start, forcing the Rhinos to punt on their first drive and looked healthy through the running of Shayne Mone but lost the ball through a fumble in the back field and turned possession over to their hosts. Although it wasn't long until the Cowboys had the ball back in their hands as cornerback Thomas Pollock tipped a long pass for linebacker Gareth McShane to gratefully catch and return 10 yards. Again some hardnosed running shared by Peter Loughran and Mone seen the former rush in for the game’s opening score after finding some room outside for a 30 yard rushing score. The Cowboys missed on their 2 point conversion to leave the scored at 6-0.
The next drive seen the defence step up big again as some run stuffing pressure seen a ball pop loose and Jason Duddy pounced on the ball to recover the fumble. The rookie defensive end is having a great season so far, showing his worth as he grows into the season more and more. A steady run game and some screen passes seen the 'Boys a few yards out where Josh Marchbanks was able to take advantage as he found P Loughran in the end zone for a short passing TD. Another missed 2PAT left the scored at 12-0.
The Rhinos then bounced back with an impressive drive that was set up by a long pass and missed tackles that seen the home side within reach of the end zone. They found it on the next play, rushing out wide and creeping in the corner for the TD, PAT was successful to drag the score back to 12-7 and that was how the scores stayed at half time.
The Cowboys went 3 and out with the first drive of the half before Carmine Fictola was able to pounce on the loose ball during the punt return, Cowboys ball again somewhat fortunately. A 55 yard run by Mone set up a short field for the Cowboys offence and they converted with P Loughran rushing the ball in from 6 yards out. Another failed 2PAT seen the scored sitting at 18-7. It was time for the Cowboys defence to see out the game and they stepped up with some big plays: two sacks from P Loughran, tackles for losses by Jonny Martin & McShane and interceptions by Pollock & Jo Buchanan sealed the game for the Cowboys.
Another win for the Cowboys extends their unbeaten streak and moves them to 6&0 for the season. The last two games of the regular season sees a back to back with the 2nd placed Derry / Donegal Vipers, looks set to be a monumental two games that will shape the post season for both sides. But for now the 'Boys can rest up those bumps and bruises and enjoy moving to 6 games unbeaten so far
The Cowboys travelled down to Gorey, Wexford to face the Eagles in an eagerly anticipated rematch that seen a high scoring game in Craigavon. The 'Boys where a little bit lighter on numbers compared to the home side who had a big side line and plenty of support behind them. The game had all the makings of a high scoring matchup and it looked set to be the case as the Cowboys recovered their own kick off through Andy Herron and marched down the short field through passes to Gavin McConnell and Peter Loughran before Josh Marchbanks rushed from 9 yards for the score. The resulting 2PAT seen Marchbanks find P Loughran in the end zone to put the visitors 8-0 up.
The Eagles were not going to roll over easy and came back, running the ball in for the score from a QB scramble after the pocket collapsed. The resulting PAT causing confusion as the whole ground agreed it sailed wide but an official called it good, still the scores became close with the 'Boys still leading 8-7.
The see saw battle continued as the Cowboys scored again on the next drive, an exciting passing game which saw Marchbanks connect with Ryan Whiteside for a 40 yard jump ball of which the wide receiver claimed with authority. It was another pass that seen the Cowboys stretch their lead once again as Marchbanks found P Loughran in the back corner of the end zone. The same connection was successful on the 2PAT.
Some good run stopping D forced a hesitation in the Eagles back field before they were forced to punt the ball away, Jo Buchanan weaved his way through tacklers on the punt return, gaining 35 yards to set up the offence with a short field. The offence continued their good pace through Herron before that popular connection seen the Cowboys score a TD, Marchbanks finding the ever elusive P Loughran. Another successful 2PAT seen Marchbanks find Gavin McConnell in the corner as he caught the ball masterfully over his shoulder leaving the score at 24-7 to the Cowboys.
The next series seen the Cowboys defence really coming to the fore, some great run stopping seen a tackle for loss by Jakub Kowalczyk then two plays later, under huge pressure from Shayne Mone, the Eagles QB, trying the throw the ball away, only found the on rushing Herron who was able to gratefully cradle the ball as he walked into the end zone from 27 yards. The offence trundled back on and was able to convert the 2PAT as Marchbanks found more joy through the air, finding Whiteside for a simple connection. 32-7 to the 'Boys.
The Eagles clawed their way back into the game with a kick-off return taken to the house, the PAT was unsuccessful leaving the score at 32-13.
The first half ended with both offences stuttering, Cowboys throwing an interception in the Eagles end zone then one play later getting the ball back as Marchbanks picked off a trick play pass. The half time whistle blew with Cowboys 32-13 to the good.
The Cowboys were able to turn the ball over in their own red zone on the first drive of the half as Rolston capitalized on a fumble and jumped on the loose ball. The 'Boys then marched the field with some hardnosed running, a 25 yard run by McConnell, 30 yard run by P Loughran and 35 yard run by Herron set the Cowboys up in the red zone before the combination of the day rose its head again, Marchbanks finding P Loughran free once again for the score. The 2PAT was successful as Mone rushed through after spinning out of a tackle.
With the scored at 40-13 there would be no adding to that but the Cowboys defence still had some work to do, 2 sacks by Herron and one by Mone sealed the game for the visitors. A quick turnaround now for the 'Boys as they notch up their record to 5&0, next up is a trip to Castleknock to face the West Dublin Rhinos this coming Sunday.
Craigavon Cowboys welcomed an old nemesis in the West Dublin Rhinos this past Sunday as the two sides met for the first time outside the SBC. These games have been very even down the years with the home team usually coming out on top and this match proved to be no different. The Cowboys approached the game looking to protect an unbeaten record while the Rhinos where on the back of an impressive 51-14 win over the South Kildare Soldiers so both teams where optimistic of taking the W in Portadown.
Both teams started off in stuttering form in their opening drives, being forced to punt with the Rhinos looking dangerous and the Cowboys defense bending but not breaking. Then the Cowboys took a hold of the game as the offensive line started opening up holes for Andy Herron & Peter Loughran to notch up consistent yards before QB Josh Marchbanks was able to sneak up the middle and stretch the ball into the end zone. A missed 2PAT left the game at 06-00 to the 'Boys. After some tough tackling defence from Jason Duddy and Jo Buchanan, the half time whistle blew with the home side in the lead but not comfortable.
The second half started with the Cowboys receiving the ball and they got to work straight away, Herron scorching through some terrific O Line blocking for a 50 yard run which set up Marchbanks to find Ben Fallon through the air for another 30 yard gain. The Cowboys meant business and slammed the ball home through Shayne Mone as he waltzed through his open lane. Another failed 2PAT left the scored at 12-00 to the Cowboys.
Any Rhino reply was soon halted through a terrific tackle for loss by Gavin McConnell and the resulting punt was fumbled by the kicker and recovered by the onrushing Jonny Martin. The Cowboys took full advantage of the field position and ran the ball home through Loughran from 26 yards out. The 2PAT was converted this time as Marchbanks found Fallon open in the end zone bringing the score to 20-00.
After a Rhinos 3 and out, the Cowboys had one of the highlight plays of the day, Herron found himself in space but looking at three Rhino defenders waiting to swallow him up, a swing of the hips and in a flash he was outside them as all three lay on the ground still looking to the running back as he made a 28 yard gain. The drive stalled which gave the opportunity for the Rhinos to march down the field as they turned to a pass heavy offence, two long pass plays seen them within 2 yards of the Cowboys end zone but the 'Boys where not ready to give up a score that easy. Some huge plays from the defensive line and linebackers seen the Boys shutout the visiting offence and force a turnover on downs from 2 yards out.
The defense where not finished there as Gareth McShane managed to intercept a trick play pass and returned the ball to the three yard line. The Cowboys once again took the advantage of generous field position and pounded the ball in through Marchbanks as the offensive line blew up huge lanes and the QB walked into the end zone. A failed 2PAT brought the scored up to 26-00 and that is how the game would finish. A successful day for the Cowboys seen their record extend to 4&0 for the season and a big day for the defense, the second game in a row that they have not let their opponents score a point. Next up is a long road game as we travel to Gorey to take on the Wexford Eagle in what promises to be another entertaining game.