Andrew Paton (Westmeath Minotaurs) takes on the UL defense. Photo: Ian Humes

Westmeath Minotaurs claim first championship victory

The Westmeath Minotaurs American football team proved victorious over University of Limerick Vikings in their close-fought Belfast final last Sunday.

After falling to a 6-13 deficit at half time, the Minotaurs gave an exemplary second half performance to leave it 16-13 after a nail-biting conclusion.

The Vikings started the game in possession until linebacker Steve Baker stripped the UL fullback and the ball was recovered by Jason Owens. The highlight of the Minotaurs drive that followed was a 25-yard pass from QB Joe Kinahan to Dermot Corroon. This left the Westmeath side in prime position for a field goal, but the ball sailed wide and the score remained 0-0.

The Vikings did score on their next drive however, their touchdown pass connecting from five yards out to put them up seven. Catastrophe followed on the next Minotaur possession as key player and captain Joe Kinahan injured his ankle and was out for the game.

The Minotaurs were boosted though, first by quarterback Dermot Corroon and then by veteran coach and quarterback Conor Brennan after his 40-yard touchdown pass to receiver Jack Lynch. Jay Bruton treaded the posts and it was back level at 7-7.

The Vikings’ running game provided a defensive challenge for the Minotaurs as they scored again on their next drive to leave them ahead 6-13. That score would prove to be their last though, and on the last UL possession of the half, the Minotaurs’ defense forced them to punt, leaving it a one score game.

After half-time, the Minotaurs were back in possession. The drive started with disaster with a sack on quarterback Conor Brennan leaving them at second and 30. That setback proved irrelevant for a cruising Minotaur offence.

After two passes in quick succession, the Minotaurs were back at first and 10 and in position for a field goal. The field goal was no good though and after all their work the Minotaurs would need to come back again.

And they did. On the next Minotaur drive they surged forward, with a key third and 10 conversion from quarterback Conor Brennan to Jack Lynch. From 30 yards out, Running back Andrew Paton followed up with two bruising runs as he flattened Limerick defenders on his way to another touchdown. Limerick blocked the PAT and it was 13-13 going into the final quarter.

On the next kickoff, Jay Bruton struck a low, skipping ball that threw the Vikings into confusion and allowed a speedy Jordan Lacey to swoop in and recover it. Thus, the Minotaurs stole possession again and made it count with a field goal scored to leave it 16-13. The Minotaurs had the lead for the first time.

In the dying minutes of the fourth quarter, it was left to the Minotaurs defense to decide the game. UL took to the field knowing any score would do to give them a win or extra time. The Westmeath defense were their typical relentless selves and after several kamikaze tackles and an excellent pass broken up by defensive back Jordan Lacey, it was all over.

Following the game, the Minotaurs were presented with the new AFI Division 1 Trophy, while RB Andrew Paton was awarded with match MVP after a fantastic performance. A sincere thank you to all our fans who travelled or watched online. We wish Niall Folan and Joe Kinahan a speedy recovery from their injuries and look forward to seeing the full team at our awards night very soon.