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Garryowen looking to keep good form up for visit of UCC and this weekend's AIL previews

There are 10 matches between Division 1A and 1B as league action returns on Saturday.

Garryowen head coach Conan Doyle.
Garryowen head coach Conan Doyle.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Updated Jan 18th 2019, 7:36 PM

All-Ireland League Division 1A
(Kick-off Saturday, 2.30pm unless stated)

Garryowen v UCC, Dooradoyle, 2pm

THERE ARE PLENTY of positive vibes emanating from Dooradoyle with Garryowen on a four-match winning streak in the league and pencilling in a Bateman Cup final date for the Easter weekend. Last week’s semi-final defeat of Lansdowne shows what they are capable of.

In contrast, putting together consistent results has been the issue for UCC over the first half of the league campaign. They will be all out for revenge after a late Ben Healy penalty denied them and gave the Light Blues a 14-12 victory at the Mardyke before Christmas.

For tomorrow’s rematch, UCC head coach Brian Walsh makes three changes as Crosshaven man Bryan O’Connor comes in at tighthead prop, Andrew Davies slots back into the second row and Lee McSherry replaces Ireland U20 call-up John Hodnett in the back row.

Clontarf v Young Munster, Castle Avenue

Like Garryowen, Clontarf are also chasing a season’s double over their opponents to keep on course for the play-offs. They will want a strong showing in round 10 after losing their last home league match to Dublin University.

Brian Deeny scored one of their tries away to Young Munster last time out, and the Wexford youngster is now part of the Ireland U20s’ Six Nations squad along with ‘Tarf team-mate David Hawkshaw, the newly-announced Ireland U20 captain.

The Cookies also have a promising crop of young players, including four Ireland U20 call-ups. They will benefit from the presence of Munster’s Gavin Coombes at number eight tomorrow afternoon, along with Calvin Nash on the right wing. Backs coach Derek Corcoran, who starts at outside centre, Jack Harrington and Mark O’Mara complete the changes.

Cork Constitution v Terenure College, Temple Hill

Since closing out 2018 with a 20-point dismissal of Terenure, Cork Constitution have started the New Year in business-like fashion by recapturing the Munster Senior Cup and seeing seven of their players picked for the Ireland Club International squad.

Table-topping Con resume their league run five points clear of defending champions Lansdowne. They are odds-on to hand ‘Nure their sixth defeat in a row. However, the Dubliners are boosted by the availability of former top scorer Jake Swaine and Harrison Brewer.

Jake Swaine kicks a penalty Terenure's Jake Swaine. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Full-back Matthew Byrne’s six-try haul almost accounts for a third of Terenure’s points tally so far in the top flight, while there has been a wider contribution to Con’s clutch of tries with forwards Patrick Casey and Joe McSwiney both touching down twice in the last three rounds.

Lansdowne v Dublin University, Aviva Stadium back pitch

Recent Connacht debutant Tom Daly is one of five changes to the Lansdowne team that recorded a 17-6 victory at Dublin University in the final round before Christmas. He pairs up with Harry Brennan in midfield, with Daniel McEvoy and Alan Bennie also added to the back-line.

Martin Mulhall and Tom Murphy are the two incoming players up front for Mike Ruddock’s men, who are looking to immediately banish memories of last Saturday’s frustrating Bateman Cup semi-final loss to Garryowen. They are unbeaten in the league since mid-October.

International recognition is coming thick and fast at College Park where twelve Trinity players have made either the Ireland U20 squad or the Ireland Students squad. The result against Lansdowne knocked them out of the top four but the recently-relaid all-weather pitch at headquarters will definitely suit their game.

UCD v Shannon, Belfield Bowl

Only a point separated these sides when they met on Thomond Park’s main pitch last month. A trio of penalties from out-half Jake Flannery, who is one of three Shannon players in the Ireland U20 squad, saw Tom Hayes’ youngsters triumph 9-8.

UCD’s revenge mission will see them field a team showing six personnel changes. Former Munster U-20 captain Paul Kiernan, Cillian Burke and Nick Peters are brought into the back-line, with Sam Griffin, Brian Cawley and blindside Cian Prendergast, who scored a try for the Leinster Development side recently, added to the pack.

Incredibly, this is Shannon’s first trip to Belfield since March 2008 when they claimed a resounding 45-14 win. Former Limerick Gaelic footballer Stephen Kelly helped himself to a hat-trick of tries that day, with Shannon’s current backs coach David O’Donovan kicking three conversions.

All-Ireland League Division 1B
(Kick-off Saturday, 2.30pm unless stated)

Ballymena v Buccaneers, Eaton Park

Marcus Rea Ballymena's Marcus Rea. Source: Jonathan Porter/INPHO

Ballymena have hit an encouraging run of form with three successive league wins, including a 27-22 success at Buccaneers, qualification for the Ulster Senior Cup final and retention of top spot in the Ulster Premiership table.

Moving out of the bottom two is next on their list and Ulster’s Marcus Rea, Clive Ross and Ireland U20 call-up JJ McKee are set to start up front for the Braidmen tomorrow afternoon. Jordan Foster and Dean Reynolds fill the wing berths, with Darrell Montgomery moving to inside centre.

Despite slipping to the bottom rung, Buccaneers will not be panicking, especially after a solid performance from a depleted side in last week’s Bateman Cup semi-final in Armagh. They return north still without the injured Martin Staunton, Peter Claffey and Rory Moloney, but are hoping to have top scorer Luke Carty (71 points) back at number 10.

City of Armagh v Banbridge, Palace Grounds

A series of defensive errors from Banbridge were ruthlessly punished in last month’s game which Armagh won 15-14. An Andrew Willis effort in the corner, coupled with a set piece-inspired penalty try, saw Willie Faloon’s men prevail.

Faloon’s opposite number Simon McKinstry insisted: “Having Armagh again, it’s an early opportunity to show that we’re a better side than that. There’s some serious lessons to learn. The league’s only halfway through so we’ve still everything to play for.”

Captain Chris Colvin is due to return to action with Armagh team. Fellow centre Jonny Pollock faces a late fitness test. Bann’s Josh Cromie and Ben Thompson are doubtful, but Caleb Montgomery, Greg Jones, James Hume, and possibly Robert Lyttle, could bolster the visitors’ ranks.

Malone v Ballynahinch, Gibson Park

Another cracking Ulster derby to whet appetites for the second half of the league campaign. These clubs met twice last month with Ballynahinch winning 11-7 in Division 1B and 21-13 in the Ulster Premiership, the latter result securing the Stevenson Shield.

After a poor run of results in December, Malone will be glad to welcome back fit-again back-three specialist Jack Owens, with Adam McBurney, Graham Curtis and Joe Dunleavy also set to be involved. The rested trio of Conall Boomer, Ollie Loughead and John Donnan should feature up front for Ballynahinch.

The returning Ross Adair has caught the eye for ‘Hinch, scoring two tries in the last three rounds and forming an industrious centre partnership with Robin Harte. Tom O’Toole’s release from Ulster would be a big boost, especially with Tommy O’Hagan and Kyle McCall nursing injuries.

Old Belvedere v Naas, Anglesea Road

An early 10-point surge, including centre Tom Molony’s second try in as many games, guided Old Belvedere to a hard-fought 10-8 triumph at Naas last time out. Their captain Steve Crosbie reverts to inside centre tomorrow with Ireland Sevens international Sean Cribbin coming in at out-half.

Steve Crosbie Old Belvedere captain Steve Crosbie, pictured playing for Connacht . Source: Matteo Ciambelli/INPHO

Connor Owende and Karl Miller are ‘Belvo’s two changes up front as they chase their third straight win, a result which could catapult them back into the top half of the table. A lengthy injury list has hampered Naas of late, so the Christmas break came at a good time.

The Naas attack should be sharper at the Lodge as Peter Osborne and Andy Ellis, their leading points and try scorers with 74 points and six tries respectively, and flying right winger Fionn Higgins all return to the starting XV. Adam Coyle is the fourth change at tighthead prop.

St Mary’s College v Old Wesley, Templeville Road

St Mary’s held onto pole position despite losing 20-9 at Old Wesley last time out, showing just how congested the second tier standings are. Only two points separate sixth-placed Wesley from Mary’s ahead of their rematch.

Strong-carrying centre James O’Donovan has stood out in recent rounds for Wesley, scoring important tries in their back-to-back victories over Malone and Mary’s. He also touched down in their Leinster Senior League Division 2 final success against Greystones.

Mary’s missed the presence of skipper Marcus O’Driscoll, David Aspil and Liam Curran in the Donnybrook clash, and it will be interesting to see who is back available for the return tie. Their athletic young flanker Ronan Watters continues to show his quality, earning an Ireland U20 squad place along with scrum half Cormac Foley.

Ahead of the final weekend of European pool games, Murray Kinsella, Andy Dunne and Gavan Casey look at what each of the provinces can expect, and who impressed last weekend:


Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

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