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Con could take big step towards locking in a home semi as Lansdowne aim to bounce back

Meanwhile, first-placed Malone host second-placed Banbridge in Division 1B.

Leaders Cork Con host third-placed Clontarf at Temple Hill this weekend.
Leaders Cork Con host third-placed Clontarf at Temple Hill this weekend.
Image: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, February 16

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

CORK CONSTITUTION (1st) v CLONTARF (3rd), Temple Hill

Leaders Cork Constitution are edging ever closer to locking in a home semi-final with plenty to spare. Another win at Temple Hill tomorrow, taking four points and denying Clontarf anything, would move Brian Hickey’s men a full 17 points clear of third-placed ‘Tarf with six rounds remaining.

The north Dubliners slipped up against Dublin University last time out, but it could be a good time to face Cork Con given they had six frontliners involved in the Ireland Club team’s Dalriada Cup success against Scotland last weekend. It is certainly a balancing act for coaches to cope with players’ club and country commitments.

Andy Wood’s charges will have been waiting for this game ever since losing a 10-point lead in an eventual 16-13 December defeat to Con. Aidan Moynihan’s injury-time penalty guided the Leesiders to the top of the table and the 23-year-old out-half also shone most recently for the Ireland Club XV, landing all nine of his place-kicks across the two legs.

Aidan Moynihan Con's Aidan Moynihan. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Cork Constitution: WWWLWWWWWWW; Clontarf: WWWWWWLLWWL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Aidan Moynihan 82; Tries: JJ O’Neill 6; Clontarf: Points: David Joyce 66; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 5

Recent League Meetings: Saturday, 14 April, 2018: Clontarf 43 Cork Constitution 12, Castle Avenue; Saturday, 1 December, 2018: Clontarf 13 Cork Constitution 16, Castle Avenue

DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (5th) v UCC (8th), College Park

Just six days on from combining for the Ireland Students side in a thumping 31-3 win over Scotland, the club and University rivalries resume for the likes of Colm Hogan, Cian Bohane and others. Indeed, Dublin University’s Rowan Osborne and UCC sharpshooter James Taylor were Ireland’s starting half-backs last Sunday.

Ireland Under-20 squad member Ryan Baird comes into the Trinity side as one of four changes. Ronan Quinn, the former Ireland Under-18 Sevens captain, is another notable addition on the left wing. Tony Smeeth’s youngsters are gunning for revenge after a disappointing 28-14 reversal at the Mardyke in December.

Brian Walsh UCC head coach Brian Walsh. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Hooker Paidi McCarthy and flankers Brian O’Mahony and Cian Fitzgerald have been promoted from the bench to start for UCC. Blindside O’Mahony was a try scorer in their superb 25-22 win at home to Lansdowne last time out, a result which has them hunting for a hat-trick of wins since the turn of the year.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Dublin University: LDLWWWLWLLW; UCC: LLLLLLWLLWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: James Fennelly 89; Tries: Robert Russell, Michael Silvester, Colm Hogan, Giuseppe Coyne 3 each; UCC: Points: James Taylor 88; Tries: Ryan Murphy 6

Recent League Meeting: Saturday, 1 December, 2018: UCC 28 Dublin University 14, the Mardyke

GARRYOWEN (4th) v TERENURE COLLEGE (10th), Dooradoyle

Are there signs of a resurgence at Terenure? The division’s bottom side pulled off a vital 49-21 triumph over UCD in the last round and desperately need to repeat that performance and result on the road tomorrow. They must stay in touch with Young Munster who are five points ahead of them.

Munsters’ Limerick rivals Garryowen resume their pursuit of a semi-final place after their excellent five-try derby success at Shannon. The combined threats of their powerful maul and the likes of Liam Coombes and Peadar Collins, in the back-line, steered the Light Blues to only their second try-scoring bonus point of the campaign.

Ben Healy Ben Healy in action for Garryowen during the Munster Senior Challenge Cup final at Thomond Park last month. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

While news of James Blaney’s decision to step down at the end of the season is disappointing, Terenure can use the impending departure of their much-liked head coach to spur them on. If they can gain parity up front with Garryowen, ‘Nure are capable of an upset as their backs showed the required clinical edge in the UCD game.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Garryowen: WWLLLWWWWLW; Terenure College: LLLWLLLLLLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Peadar Collins 49; Tries: Diarmuid Barron 5; Terenure College: Points: James Thornton 42; Tries: Matthew Byrne 6

Recent League Meetings: Sunday, 11 March, 2018: Garryowen 13 Terenure College 29, Dooradoyle; Saturday, 1 December, 2018: Terenure College 16 Garryowen 17, Lakelands Park

LANSDOWNE (2nd) v SHANNON (6th), Aviva Stadium back pitch

These storied clubs have won twelve All-Ireland League crowns between them, and this season’s first meeting was a tight contest before Lansdowne pulled away in the second half for a 32-15 bonus point win. Neither side won in the last round, with the headquarters club’s eight-match winning streak ended by UCC in a gripping game on Leeside.

Tim Murphy Tim Murphy will start at scrum-half for Lansdowne. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Scrum-half Tim Murphy and forwards James Rael and David O’Connor are promoted from the Lansdowne bench to feature in tomorrow’s starting XV, which also sees Jack O’Sullivan revert to the blindside flanker role. Winger Daniel McEvoy, the division’s top try scorer with seven tries, returns from Ireland Club XV duty.

With his side determined to bounce back, Shannon boss Tom Hayes said: “(Losing 28-7 to Garryowen) was a tough pill to swallow. It was a lesson to us that if you don’t turn up and absolutely follow your game-plan and execute it as much as you can, then you end up on the end of results like that unfortunately.”

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Lansdowne: LLWWWWWWWWL; Shannon: LWWLWLLLWWL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 53; Tries: Daniel McEvoy 7; Shannon: Points: Jake Flannery 69; Tries: Jake Flannery 4

Recent League Meetings: Saturday, 20 April, 2013: Shannon 38 Lansdowne 19, Coonagh; Saturday, 1 December, 2018: Shannon 15 Lansdowne 32, Thomond Park back pitch

UCD (7th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (9th), Belfield Bowl

Andy Skehan UCD head coach Andy Skehan. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

UCD and Young Munster slumped to heavy defeats in round 11, with 28 and 26-point losing margins respectively. A close battle looks likely, especially if this return match follows the pattern of December’s 34-all draw at Greenfields where 11 tries were scored and the students were left to rue a last-minute missed conversion.

The Cookies are without a league win since mid-October, but did run Garryowen and Clontarf close in two of their most recent away trips. They will fancy their chances of outmuscling the UCD pack tomorrow, with big performances required from the likes of Tom Goggin, captain Alan Kennedy and tighthead Conor Bartley.

The way the fixtures have fallen, this is UCD’s only encounter with a team near them in the table for a number of weeks. They play the leading four sides in the next four rounds, so Andy Skehan’s charges really need to halt their slide and restore some confidence ahead of some even tougher challenges.

Recent League Meetings: Saturday, April 14, 2018: UCD 31 Young Munster 29, Belfield Bowl; Saturday, December 1, 2018: Young Munster 34 UCD 34, Tom Clifford Park

ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, 16 February

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (7th) v NAAS (3rd), Templeville Road, tonight, 8pm

The margins are as tight as ever in Division 1B with St. Mary’s as close to promotion as they are to relegation – it is six points to the top and six points to the drop. They were the pacesetters in mid-December but have slipped to three defeats on the bounce, including an 18-16 reversal at Banbridge.

Preparing to host Johne Murphy’s Naas tonight, Mary’s are aiming to recapture the form which saw them overcome the Cobras 23-8 at Forenaughts over two months ago. They are also hoping for their injury list to lessen, with an ankle injury for key flanker David Aspil – picked up early on against Bann – causing most concern.

Naas player-coach Murphy returns from his assistant coach role with Ireland’s Dalriada Cup-winning Club side. He has kept the visitors’ starting line-up under wraps, but versatile back Peter Osborne, whether at scrum half or full-back, continues to impress with his season’s haul now standing at 102 points.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: WLLWLWWWLLL; Naas: WWLWWLLLLWD
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Conor Dean 59; Tries: Myles Carey, Hugo Conway 3 each; Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 102; Tries: Andy Ellis 7

Recent League Meeting: Saturday, 1 December, 2018: Naas 8 St. Mary’s College 23, Forenaughts

BALLYNAHINCH (5th) v OLD WESLEY (4th), Ballymacarn Park

A scoring difference of five points is all that separates Ballynahinch from Old Wesley in the current table. ‘Hinch won 27-16 when the sides met in Donnybrook in December, but injuries are beginning to hurt them with Stuart Morrow set for a foot operation and young prop Campbell Classon out for four weeks after surgery on a thumb injury.

They are also without the Ulster-tied Peter Nelson for this rematch, and he was effectively the difference that day with a 17-point kicking haul. Wesley were justly proud of second row JJ O’Dea’s efforts in helping the Ireland Students team overwhelm Scotland in Belfast last Sunday, a game which saw ‘Hinch’s Conall Boomer produce a man-of-the-match display from number eight.

Wesley head coach Morgan Lennon also resumes his club duties fresh from overseeing the Ireland Club XV’s Dalriada Cup success. The Dublin 4 outfit have a canny knack of picking up victories in Ulster – they have triumphed at Armagh, Banbridge and Malone already – and will be quietly confident of adding another northern scalp to that list.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: LDWWLWWLWLW; Old Wesley: WDLWLWLWWWL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Rhys O’Donnell 30; Tries: Rhys O’Donnell 6; Old Wesley: Points: Rory Stynes 100; Tries: Tom Kiersey 4


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Recent League Meetings: Saturday, 7 April, 2018: Old Wesley 14 Ballynahinch 14, Donnybrook; Saturday, 1 December, 2018: Old Wesley 16 Ballynahinch 27, Energia Park, Donnybrook

MALONE (1st) v BANBRIDGE (2nd), Gibson Park

There seems to be a top of the table clash almost every week in Division 1B given the chopping and changing of positions. The latest one brings together Ulster rivals Malone and Banbridge, with the visitors gunning for a league double after full-back Adam Doherty kicked them to a 21-11 home win in December.

Bann head coach Simon McKinstry has made five changes to the side that edged out St. Mary’s 18-16 last time out, with Ulster’s Greg Jones and current Ireland Under-20 international David McCann added to the back row and starts also for winger Hugo Harbinson along with Jonny Stewart and Caleb Montgomery, two more of the club’s Ulster contingent.

Malone also have a solid back-bone of provincial players, including Jack Owens at full-back, Adam McBurney and Ross Kane in the front row and Graham Curtis at scrum half. Paddy Armstrong has made two changes in personnel with Peter Cooper back from injury at loosehead and Ryan Clarke starting in the second row.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Malone: WWLWWWLLLWW; Banbridge: LWWWLLWLLWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Rory Campbell 63; Tries: Rory Campbell 4; Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 73; Tries: Peter Cromie 6

Recent League Meetings: Saturday, 11 March, 2017: Banbridge 51 Malone 15, Rifle Park; Saturday, 1 December, 2018: Banbridge 21 Malone 11, Rifle Park

OLD BELVEDERE (9th) v BALLYMENA (10th), Anglesea Road

Joe White will deputise for Daniel Riordan at full-back as Old Belvedere chase their first win in three league outings. That is the only personnel change ‘Belvo supremo Andy Kenny has made to the side that was held scoreless in the second half of their 20-12 reversal at Buccaneers.

Ballymena were double-scores winners (28-14) when they entertained Belvedere back in December, but they were disappointed not to wrestle the Ulster Senior Cup away from City of Armagh last week. Like ‘Belvo, the Braidmen had lapses in the second half which they were left to rue in a 9-7 final defeat.

With injuries and unavailability having an impact, Ballymena bring Josh Bill, James Taggart, JJ McKee and Dominic Gallagher into their pack, with Tim Small recovering from an eye injury to replace the sidelined Rodger McBurney at full-back. Darrell Montgomery, Jonny McMullan and Glenn Baillie also start in a Bruce Houston and Michael Stronge-led back-line.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: WDLLWLLWWLL; Ballymena: LLWLLLWWWLL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Steve Crosbie 74; Tries: Jack Keating 7; Ballymena: Points: Tim Small 89; Tries: Connor Smyth 4

Recent League Meetings: Saturday, 9 December, 2017: Old Belvedere 26 Ballymena 7, Anglesea Road; Saturday, 1 December, 2018: Ballymena 28 Old Belvedere 14, Eaton Park

CITY OF ARMAGH (6th) v BUCCANEERS (8th), Palace Grounds, 3pm

Despite being held try-less by Ballymena, City of Armagh celebrated back-to-back Ulster Senior Cup titles thanks to out-half Cormac Fox’s trio of penalties. The victory came at a cost with full-back Ryan Purvis’ AC joint injury ruling him out, but Nigel Simpson, Daryl Morton and Harry Boyd are back available.

It is one win apiece from Buccaneers’ two recent meetings with Armagh. The Pirates took the spoils in Athlone with a 24-17 league victory in December before Armagh triumphed 29-13 last month to book their Bateman Cup final place. However, Buccs are looking stronger now following back-to-back wins over Old Belvedere and Ballymena.

The midlanders are now out of the bottom two and only four points behind sixth-placed Armagh. Their talismanic centre and captain Shane Layden has scored four tries in the last three games, and John Sutton, who was part of the trophy-winning Ireland Club XV squad, is set for a battle royale at hooker with Andrew Smyth, Armagh’s leading try scorer (four tries).

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: City of Armagh: LDWLWWLWWLD; Buccaneers: LLWLLLWLLWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – City of Armagh: Points: Cormac Fox 55; Tries: Andrew Smyth 4; Buccaneers: Points: Luke Carty 89; Tries: Darragh Corbett, Shane Layden 4 each

Recent League Meeting: Saturday, December 1, 2018: Buccaneers 24 City of Armagh 17, Dubarry Park

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