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In-form Dublin clubs kick off busy weekend of AIL action on Friday night

Meanwhile, table-toppers Con visit bottom club Ballynahinch
Feb 14th 2020, 5:56 PM 6,668 1

ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: 14-15 February

Kick-off on Saturday at 2:30pm unless stated

matt-darcy-scores-a-try-which-was-disallowed Landsowne and Clontarf (file pic). Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

DIVISION 1A:

LANSDOWNE (5th) v CLONTARF (4th), Aviva Stadium back pitch, tonight (Friday), 8pm

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Lansdowne: WLLLLLWWWWW; Clontarf: WLLWLLLWWLW

LANSDOWNE’S CURRENT FIVE-MATCH winning run began with a 23-19 win at Clontarf in late November. A repeat of that result tonight would lift them back into the top four, but ‘Tarf are also motoring along nicely with three victories in four rounds.

Matt D’Arcy and Jack Power chipped in with their fourth tries of the campaign as the north Dubliners prevailed 41-23 over Dublin University last time out. They also have the division’s second top points scorer in goal-kicking winger Sean Kearns (82 points).

aaron-connelly Landsowne v Clontarf (file pic). Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Leinster Academy hooker Dan Sheehan has really shone in recent rounds for Lansdowne, racking up six tries – including a Bateman Cup semi-final hat-trick. It will be interesting to note the make-up of the front rows, with ex-Lansdowne hookers Dylan Donnellan and Tadgh McElroy both vying to start for ‘Tarf.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, 27 April 2019: Semi-Final: Clontarf 23 Lansdowne 15, Castle Avenue; Friday 29 November 2019: Clontarf 19 Lansdowne 23, Castle Avenue

BALLYNAHINCH (10th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (1st), Ballymacarn Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: LLLLWWLLLWL; Cork Constitution: WWWWWWWWWWW

gerry-hurley-and-bruce-matthews-2512020 Cork Constitution's Gerry Hurley (R), Bruce Matthews (L) and Darragh McNamara (centre) warm up. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Members of Ballynahinch’s all-conquering 2009 team will be in attendance for the visit of the runaway league leaders. It is bottom against top, Cork Constitution chasing a season’s double after November’s 35-19 bonus point success on home soil.

Winger Rob Jermyn’s 25-minute hat-trick was the highlight of that game, but ‘Hinch did hit back with three tries of their own. They have the division’s leading try-scorer in Aaron Cairns, who has touched down in the last two rounds to take his tally to seven.

ulsters-aaron-cairns Aaron Cairns in action for Ulster in 2017. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

With back-to-back home fixtures – second-from-bottom Dublin University make the trip north next week – Brian McLaughlin’s men need to deliver crucial points in their battle against relegation. Only their best defensive performance of the season will suffice against a Niall Kenneally-led Con.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 6, 2016: Ballynahinch 3 Cork Constitution 36, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, November 30, 2019: Cork Constitution 35 Ballynahinch 19, Temple Hill

DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (9th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (6th), College Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Dublin University: LLWWLLLLLWL; Young Munster: LLLDLWWWLLW

alan-kennedy Young Munster's Alan Kennedy goes up after a restart. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

The Ireland Club XV’s victorious head coach and captain, Gearoid Prendergast and Alan Kennedy, return to the capital a week on from clinching a 2-0 series win over Scotland Clubs. The Young Munster pair are chasing vital league points against struggling Trinity.

Four points was the margin (28-24) when these sides met in Limerick in November, the Cookies triumphing with full-back Alan Tynan scoring two of their four converted tries on the day.

rowan-osborne Dublin University’s Rowan Osborne clears. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

A home win would give the students a big boost, particularly at a time of disruption due to Ireland U20 and Club XV commitments. They will look to electric winger Ronan Quinn, whose quick-fire brace against Clontarf showed how clinical he can be from limited opportunities.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, 9 March 2019: Young Munster 24 Dublin University 18, Tom Clifford Park; Saturday, 30 November 2019: Young Munster 28 Dublin University 24, Tom Clifford Park

GARRYOWEN (2nd) v TERENURE COLLEGE (7th), Dooradoyle

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Garryowen: LWLWWWWWLWW; Terenure College: WWWLWLLLWLL

liam-coombes-and-james-thornton Garryowen's Liam Coombes and James Thornton of Terenure College contest a high ball. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Eight players from Garryowen and Terenure College were involved in last Friday’s 22-17 home win for the Ireland Club XV against their Scottish counterparts. Terenure duo Michael Melia and Sam Coghlan Murray contributed two of Ireland’s three tries.

It was a disappointing start to 2020 for ‘Nure last month with narrow defeats to Trinity and Lansdowne. Their play-off ambitions would get a timely lift with victory in Limerick. Revenge is on their minds after losing 32-31 at Dooradoyle twelve months ago.

liam-coombes-scores-a-try-despite-jack-swaine Liam Coombes scores a try. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

However, Garryowen appear to have gone up a couple of gears in terms of their consistency. Seven wins in eight rounds have them looking solid in second place. Jamie Heuston, their leading scorer, has had a busy few days, representing the Ireland Club and Police Rugby teams on the international stage.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, 16 February 2019: Garryowen 32 Terenure College 31, Dooradoyle; Saturday, 30 November 2019: Terenure College 14 Garryowen 27, Lakelands Park

UCD (3rd) v UCC (8th), Belfield Bowl

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCD: LWWDWWWLWLL; UCC: WWWLLLLLLLL

cian-bohane-with-andy-marks Cian Bohane (L) returns for the Cork college this weekend. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

It has been tough going of late for these University rivals, although UCD remain right in the hunt for a play-off spot. They were so close to claiming the scalp of Cork Constitution last time out, running in five tries but with no conversions in a 29-25 reversal.

In a massive boost for UCC, former Munster centre Cian Bohane is set to make his return from injury, coming in as one of four personnel changes to the side that lost 15-7 to Garryowen. Matt Bowen, Bryan O’Connor and Cian Barry are also handed starts.

both-teams-shake-hands-after-the-match Players shake hands after a fixture in 2018. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

UCD were 24-10 winners over their Cork opponents earlier in the season, their three tries converted by James Tarrant who also added a penalty. It should be quite a contest between Tarrant and UCC’s James Taylor, two of the league’s most talented young out-halves.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, 13 April 2019: UCC 20 UCD 20, the Mardyke; Saturday, 30 November 2019: UCC 10 UCD 24, the Mardyke

DIVISION 1B:

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (8th) v NAAS (9th), Templeville Road, tonight (Friday), 8pm

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: WLLLWWWLWLL; Naas: LLLLLWLWLWW

Another tight encounter is in prospect here, St. Mary’s College winning their last two tussles with Naas by seven and six points respectively. Yet, the Kildare men have started 2020 in brilliant fashion, including a thumping 39-12 defeat of Old Belvedere.

Naas are poised to climb out of the bottom two – and above St. Mary’s – if they can make it three wins on the trot. Dan van Zyl’s men turned in a superb first half against ‘Belvo, scoring 29 unanswered points, and that has to be the blueprint as they look to move out of relegation trouble.

St. Mary’s really need to convert more of their chances. As the second-lowest scorers in the division, they are yet to register a try-scoring bonus point but did notch a season-high three tries in the previous round against Shannon.

Recent League Meetings – Friday, 15 February 2019: St. Mary’s College 18 Naas 11, Templeville Road; Friday, 29 November 2019: Naas 10 St. Mary’s College 16, Forenaughts

CITY OF ARMAGH (5th) v HIGHFIELD (1st), Palace Grounds

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: City of Armagh: WWLWLLLWLWW; Highfield: WWWWWWWLWLW

A big test of City of Armagh’s recent improved form as they entertain table-toppers Highfield. Their 22-7 victory at Ulster rivals Malone saw Willie Faloon’s charges back close to their best, with wingers Shea O’Brien and Andrew Willis now on six tries each.

Speaking of form players, Highfield out-half Shane O’Riordan, who has crossed twice in the last two rounds, is on the cusp of breaking the 100-point barrier. Ben Murphy is another back to watch out for, chasing his fifth try in four matches.

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There are two changes to the Highfield team that won 26-13 at home to second-placed Old Wesley a few weeks ago. Sam Burns gets the nod at full-back, while Michael Shinkwin swaps in for player-coach Tim Ryan at tighthead prop.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, 21 April 2018: Highfield 13 City of Armagh 27, Woodleigh Park; Saturday, 30 November 2019: Highfield 21 City of Armagh 13, Woodleigh Park

NAVAN (10th) v MALONE (7th), Balreask Old

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Navan: LLLLLLLWLLL; Malone: LLWWLLWLWWL

Ulster pair Angus Kernohan and Stewart Moore will team up in Malone’s midfield, their much-changed back-line including Jonny Milliken at full-back and Callum Smith at out-half. Claytan Milligan switches back to hooker alongside Peter Cooper and Ross Kane.

Bottom-placed Navan, who are 16 points adrift, were desperately close to picking up losing bonus points in their opening two games of 2020. They finished nine points behind Naas and ten in arrears to Banbridge.

It is all about building positive blocks in matches for Ray Moloney’s side, improving their decision-making and cutting down on the errors that have exposed them against teams with greater levels of experience. Malone should prove too strong for the second time this season.

Recent League Meeting – Saturday, 30 November 2019: Malone 43 Navan 3, Gibson Park

OLD BELVEDERE (6th) v BANBRIDGE (3rd), Ollie Campbell Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: WWWLLWLLLWL; Banbridge: LLLWWLWWWLW

It was a first half to forget for Old Belvedere at Naas last time out, their slide down to sixth place denting confidence levels. They are entering a make-or-break few weeks with back-to-back meetings with Banbridge, Malone and leaders Highfield.

Bann hooker Peter Cromie has played a leading role in their climb back up to third in the table. Six tries in as many games is a brilliant haul for the Newry-born 25-year-old, who has been capped by Ulster at underage and ‘A’ levels.

Praising his forwards’ efforts against Navan a few weeks ago, Bann boss Mark McDowell said: “I was pleased for our pack, which apart from Ulster Academy prop Callum Reid, was entirely a club team. The lineout was very good and a step in the right direction.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, 13 April 2019: Banbridge 34 Old Belvedere 14, Rifle Park; Saturday, 30 November 2019: Banbridge 28 Old Belvedere 27, Rifle Park

OLD WESLEY (2nd) v SHANNON (4th), Energia Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WWWWWWWLWLL; Shannon: LWWLWLLWLWW

Two of Shannon’s leading lights return to the scene of the Ireland Club XV’s Dalriada Cup success last Friday night. Scrum-half Aran Hehir and centre Pa Ryan claimed the man-of-the-match awards across the two matches against Scotland.

Ryan will certainly be a marked man, his nine-try haul making him the division’s leading try-scorer so far. The Limerick men are hoping to avenge November’s 24-20 loss to Old Wesley and erase the current four-point gap between the sides.

Second-placed Wesley are aiming to put back-to-back defeats to Malone and Highfield behind them. Ian Condell’s inclusion in the back row sees Paul Derham revert to number 8, while there are also starts for Craig Miller at scrum-half and Ben Burns and James Burton in the front row.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, 24 March 2018: Shannon 24 Old Wesley 21, Thomond Park back pitch; Saturday, 30 November 2019: Shannon 20 Old Wesley 24, Thomond Park back pitch

DIVISION 2A:

Nenagh Ormond v Cashel, New Ormond Park, tonight, 8pm
Ballymena v Old Crescent, Eaton Park
Buccaneers v Dolphin, Dubarry Park
Rainey Old Boys v Queen’s University, Hatrick Park
UL Bohemians v MU Barnhall, University of Limerick 4G pitch

DIVISION 2B:

Blackrock College v Sligo, Stradbrook
Galwegians v Dungannon, Crowley Park
Greystones v Galway Corinthians, Dr. Hickey Park
Malahide v Wanderers, Estuary Road
Ballina v Belfast Harlequins, Heffernan Park, 3pm

DIVISION 2C:

City of Derry v Bangor, Craig Thompson Stadium
Clonmel v Midleton, Ardgaoithe (match postponed due to death of Midleton player Cormac Ryan – RIP)
Omagh v Skerries, Thomas Mellon Playing Fields
Sunday’s Well v Bruff, Irish Independent Park
Tullamore v Enniscorthy, Spollanstown

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