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Table-topping Clontarf host Munsters and the rest of the weekend's AIL previews

Dave Mervyn looks ahead to all of the weekend’s action in the Energia Men’s All-Ireland League.

Energia Men’s All-Ireland League

Kick-off Saturday, 2.30pm unless stated

cormac-daly-and-alekseiy-soroka Cormac Daly and Alekseiy Soroka: 1A leaders Clontarf are bidding for an eighth straight win on Saturday. Source: Tom Maher/INPHO


Clontarf (1st) v Young Munster (5th), Castle Avenue

THE BIG GAMES keep coming for Young Munster who, following a chastening 33-point Energia Bateman Cup final defeat to Lansdowne, travel to the capital to face the Division 1A leaders.

Table-topping Clontarf, who have hooker Dylan Donnellan as the division’s leading try scorer (11 tries), are on a seven-match winning streak in the league. Lansdowne have been the only team turn them over at Castle Avenue.

Every point counts for Munsters now, especially as they have slipped outside of the top four. Their most recent visit to ‘Tarf in January 2019 could act as motivation – a try from versatile forward Dan Walsh helped them pick up a losing bonus point in a 24-20 reversal.

ben-popplewell-and-harry-fleming Ben Popplewell starts at tighthead for Lansdowne against Dublin University. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Dublin University (6th) v Lansdowne (2nd), College Park

These teams’ last two meetings have both resulted in two-point away wins for Dublin University, so Lansdowne, the freshly-crowned Energia Bateman Cup champions, will be all out for revenge at College Park. Nick Popplewell’s young son, Ben, comes in to start at tighthead.

Nippy Lansdowne winger Sean Galvin has impressed of late, weighing in with a hat-trick of tries in the Bateman Cup decider last week having taken his league tally to five.

Trinity are without Thomas Clarkson and Jack Dunne who are on the bench for Leinster. The recent break in AIL action saw Tony Smeeth’s charges play their Oxford counterparts, registering a 46-12 win with captain Mick O’Kennedy returning from injury.

terenure-college-celebrate-winning Terenure have won their last eight games. Source: Evan Treacy/INPHO

Garryowen (7th) v Terenure College (3rd), Dooradoyle

From derby success to a crushing defeat to Lansdowne, Garryowen are in danger of falling out of the play-off picture. They lie 11 points outside of the top four, with six rounds remaining.

Centre Bryan Fitzgerald continues to lead the Light Blues’ challenge, touching down twice in the last two rounds to take his season’s haul to five. Terenure College are looking to follow up on November’s 25-13 win over the Limerick men.

Adam La Grue comes in for Jake Swaine at full-back in Terenure’s only change. Experienced winger Sam Coghlan Murray is added to the bench as ‘Nure seek their ninth straight victory, hoping to keep the pressure on the top two.

inpho_01889769 Ballynahinch dearly need their first win of the season to come against UCC. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

UCC (10th) v Ballynahinch (9th), The Mardyke

Ballynahinch may be without a win so far, but their five losing bonus points, coupled with a superior points difference, have them positioned above UCC ahead of tomorrow’s basement battle in Cork.

With automatic relegation no longer applying in this Covid-19-affected season, it will be a two-legged play-off between the bottom two teams to decide who is relegated to the second tier.

UCD are 12 points clear of ‘Hinch and UCC, so this Mardyke match-up could be repeated in the April play-offs. An early Matthew Bowen try proved the difference for UCC when the sides met in Co. Down in November.

paddy-patterson-and-teammates-are-applauded-after-the-game Paddy Patterson starts at scrum-half for UCD. Source: Tom Maher/INPHO

UCD (8th) v Cork Constitution (4th), UCD Bowl

In a special tribute to the late great Tom Kiernan, his two former clubs, UCC and Cork Constitution, have jointly retired the number 15 jersey for the rest of the season. Their full-backs will wear the number ’54′, in recognition of his total number of Ireland caps.

For the visit of Con, UCD bring in Leinster Academy duo Chris Cosgrave and Niall Comerford, the latter included on the bench after his recent Ireland Sevens exploits. Munster’s Paddy Patterson starts at scrum half.

Constitution are back in the top four, but have Young Munster and Trinity snapping at their heels. Their centre pairing of Greg Higgins, who now has four tries to his name, and Niall Kenneally remains one of the best in the top flight.


Banbridge (9th) v Malone (8th), Rifle Park

With Malone sitting five points better off, this is a vital game for Banbridge if they are to pull themselves out of the bottom two. Malone had a point to spare (22-21) when they hosted Bann in November.

After picking up a losing bonus point from their recent games against the top two, Banbridge’s Mark McDowell said: “The overall trend is in the right direction. The guys know what they’re capable of. I’ve every confidence that there are more wins coming in the next few weeks.”

It has been a stop-start 2022 for Malone so far, with their latest AIL fixture a Covid-19 cancellation. They are always a threat with seven-try full-back Aaron Sexton on the prowl, but home advantage just tips the balance in Bann’s favour.

City of Armagh (6th) v Naas (4th), Palace Grounds

Seven points separate these sides in the Division 1B standings, with City of Armagh hoping to reel fourth-placed Naas back in after their most recent league match was cancelled due to Covid.

Chris Parker’s men want to recapture the form they showed in beating Highfield last month, but they must do so without the injured Barry Finn and Ryan Morton, as well as Romain Morrow who could miss eight weeks due to a shoulder injury.

Naas have won five of their last six games, including a 38-29 triumph over Shannon last time out. Donal Conroy returns out wide, Craig Ronaldson moves to out-half in a rejigged back-line, and David Benn slots back into the second row.

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Old Belvedere (7th) v St Mary’s College (3rd), Ollie Campbell Park

Unbeaten in four rounds, St. Mary’s College head to Anglesea Road for a local derby against Old Belvedere. Mary’s were 24-21 winners of their November clash, relying on some strong defence late on.

Following his brace away to Navan, Mary’s centre Myles Carey is now the division’s top try scorer with eight. Padraig Dundon had a solid first AIL start at tighthead, but they hope to have Mick McCormack back from a broken finger.

Every time Old Belvedere have registered a win this season, they have followed it up with a loss. Having lost at Old Wesley in the last round, captain Connor Owende and his team-mates are doubly determined to win on home soil.

Old Wesley (1st) v Highfield (2nd), Energia Park

Old Wesley are livestreaming this top of the table encounter on YouTube, with their full focus on avenging November’s 20-7 defeat to Highfield. It would be quite a statement heading towards the promotion play-offs.

Wesley have embarked on a six-match winning run since that day in Cork, whereas Highfield have stuttered slightly with two losses and a draw in the last four rounds.

A cracking contest looks in prospect, with Highfield winger Paul Stack chasing his seventh try of the season. He should have an interesting individual duel with Wesley’s top scorer Tommy O’Callaghan, who is on a run of three tries in as many games.

Shannon (5th) v Navan (10th), Thomond Park back pitch

Bottom side Navan visit mid-table Shannon, with both teams eager to bounce back from losing performances last time out. They both scored four tries but still ended up with disappointing defeats.

Shannon head coach Pat O’Connor commented: “It was too many errors (against Naas), backed up with errors. We didn’t mentally turn up on the day, which will cost you at this level. We just need to cut out those errors.”

With a Covid-19 cancellation in November, this is Navan’s first clash with Shannon since losing 16-3 in Limerick back in October 2019. Former Shannon out-half Ben Daly is now a key member of Navan’s back-line.


  • Ballymena v Cashel, Eaton Park
  • Buccaneers v Dolphin, Creggs RFC
  • Old Crescent v MU Barnhall, Takumi Park
  • Queen’s University v Nenagh Ormond, Dub Lane
  • Rainey Old Boys v UL Bohemians, Hatrick Park


  • Dungannon v Galway Corinthians, Stevenson Park
  • Galwegians v Malahide, Crowley Park
  • Greystones v Belfast Harlequins, Dr Hickey Park
  • Sligo v Blackrock College, Hamilton Park
  • Wanderers v Ballina, Merrion Road


  • Bangor v Tullamore, Upritchard Park
  • Bruff v Omagh Academicals, Kilballyowen Park
  • Clonmel v City of Derry, Ardgaoithe
  • Skerries v Midleton, Holmpatrick
  • Sunday’s Well v Enniscorthy, Musgrave Park

Gavan Casey is joined by Bernard Jackman and Murray Kinsella to discuss the prospect of South Africa replacing Italy in the Six Nations and reflect on Ireland’s performance in Paris, before looking ahead to the URC action this weekend.

Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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