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Dublin: 5 °C Saturday 23 March, 2019
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Top-of-the-table clash the highlight of Saturday's AIL action

First meets second at Castle Avenue, while fifth-place Shannon host third-place Lansdowne.

File photo: Clontarf players celebrate their win over Con in Castle Avenue last season.
File photo: Clontarf players celebrate their win over Con in Castle Avenue last season.
Image: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated

ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 1A 

CLONTARF (1st) v CORK CONSTITUTION (2nd), Castle Avenue

The battle to be ‘Christmas number 1′ in Division 1A intensifies tomorrow with second-placed Cork Constitution visiting unbeaten leaders Clontarf. Con’s four try-scoring bonus points so far have them just a single point behind ‘Tarf.

Munster Academy back Shane Daly is expected to feature for the Corkmen after his try-scoring return at the Belfield Bowl last week. Con’s defence has been most impressive of late, leaking just three points to both Garryowen and UCD in the last two rounds.

It is always a titanic tussle between the packs when these sides meet, and while recent meetings have resulted in big wins either way, this looks set to be a one-score game. The pick of the individual battles may be Clontarf captain Michael Noone against Con number 8 Luke Cahill.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Clontarf: WWWWWW; Cork Constitution: WWWLWW

All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Clontarf: Points: David Joyce 43; Tries: Mick McGrath, Cormac Daly, Sean O’Brien 2 each; Cork Constitution: Points: Aidan Moynihan 41; Tries: JJ O’Neill, Rob Jermyn 4 each

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 16, 2017: Cork Constitution 30 Clontarf 18, Temple Hill; Saturday, April 14, 2018: Clontarf 43 Cork Constitution 12, Castle Avenue

SHANNON (5th) v LANSDOWNE (3rd), Thomond Park back pitch

The league’s record champions against the current title holders, and it has been a long time coming with Landowne’s most recent visit to Shannon over five-and-a-half years ago. Last week the Limerick men fell out of the top four after losing 31-19 at Dublin University.

Lansdowne captain Eamonn Mills took his try tally to five as they chalked up their fourth straight victory over Terenure College. Daniel McEvoy returns on the right wing tomorrow, with out-half Harry Byrne, who swaps in for Scott Deasy, Ronan Kelleher and Ian Prendiville completing the four changes.

Jake Flannery is tackled by Michael Courtney Shannon's Jake Flannery is tackled by Clontarf's Michael Courtney last month. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

It is a crucial period of the season for Shannon who have the small matter of next week’s derby trip to Garryowen ahead of them. This would be a terrific scalp for Tom Hayes’ charges to take, but third-placed Lansdowne look to have too much in their armoury on current form.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Shannon: LWWLWL; Lansdowne: LLWWWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Jake Flannery 46; Tries: Jake Flannery 3; Lansdowne: Points: Harry Byrne, Scott Deasy 28 each; Tries: Eamonn Mills 5

Recent League Meetings – Sunday, October 7, 2012: Lansdowne 48 Shannon 7, Aviva Stadium back pitch; Saturday, April 20, 2013: Shannon 38 Lansdowne 19, Coonagh

TERENURE COLLEGE (10th) v GARRYOWEN (7th), Lakelands Park

Terenure College did the double over Garryowen en route to reaching the semi-finals last season. That successful run seems a long time ago now with James Blaney’s men currently lying bottom of the table after five losses out of six.

Ben Healy kicked 22 points and winger Cian O’Shea bagged a brace of tries in Garryowen’s timely derby success at home to Young Munster. Munster Academy centre Matt More and Bryan Fitzgerald are the two changes in the back-line for tomorrow, with Munster’s fit-again flanker Conor Oliver set to start at openside.

Peadar Collins kicks forward Garryowen's Peadar Collins kicks ahead against UL Bohs last January.. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Garryowen head coach Conan Doyle said: “Ben played his third game for us against Munsters, Matt More his first. A few more guys are now back available. Having lost three games already, we can’t really afford to lose any games – easily anyway. So we’re targeting all of these upcoming fixtures.”

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Terenure College: LLLWLL; Garryowen: WWLLLW

All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Terenure College: Points: Matthew Byrne 20; Tries: Matthew Byrne 4; Garryowen: Points: Peadar Collins 36; Tries: Liam Cronin, Cian O’Shea 2 each

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 7, 2017: Terenure College 27 Garryowen 20, Lakelands Park; Sunday, March 11, 2018: Garryowen 13 Terenure College 29, Dooradoyle

YOUNG MUNSTER (8th) v UCD (6th), Tom Clifford Park

UCD topped and tailed last season with two wins over Young Munster – 39-20 in Greenfields and 31-29 at Belfield – and need to recapture that sort of form after being held try-less by Clontarf and Cork Constitution in the last two rounds.

Ronan Foley with Aaron Conneely Ronan Foley makes a break early this season. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Talented Leinster ‘A’ back rower Ronan Foley, the students’ top try scorer with three so far, returns to the starting XV tomorrow in the only change made by head coach Andy Skehan, who cannot afford another low-scoring performance.

Munster flyer Calvin Nash will bolster the Cookies’ line-up, starting at outside centre for this seventh round clash. South African youngster Keynan Knox also comes in at tighthead prop in the second and final change to the side that went down 32-26 to Garryowen.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Young Munster: WLWLLL; UCD: WDLWLL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Young Munster: Points: Clayton Stewart 46; Tries: Darragh O’Neill 4; UCD: Points: Cillian Burke 19; Tries: Ronan Foley 3

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 16, 2017: Young Munster 20 UCD 39, Tom Clifford Park; Saturday, April 14, 2018: UCD 31 Young Munster 29, Belfield Bowl

UCC (9th) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (4th), the Mardyke, 3pm

Donal Liddy continues on the right wing after coming in as a late replacement for Dublin University captain Colm Hogan last week. The skipper was a notable absentee, along with Michael Silvester and Leinster new cap Jack Kelly, as Trinity swept their way to a 31-19 win over Shannon.

James Taylor celebrates scoring a try with Mark Bissesar and John Poland UCC’s James Taylor celebrates scoring a try against UCD with Mark Bissesar and John Poland. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

The bonus point success was a ‘tremendous’ result according to Trinity boss Tony Smeeth who makes two personnel changes for this intervarsity showdown with UCC. Conor Dunne steps up at full-back with Liam Turner and Thomas Clarkson, two of their try scorers against Shannon, switching to the left wing and donning the number 3 shirt respectively.

Their Colours match would be an ideal time for UCC to end their six-match losing run. There were positives signs against Clontarf, especially with returning back rower Ryan Murphy and Cian Bohane scoring tries. Indeed, they are the highest scorers in the lower half of the table.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCC: LLLLLL; Dublin University: LDLWWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: James Taylor 35; Tries: John Poland 4; Dublin University: Points: James Fennelly 64; Tries: Robert Russell, Michael Silvester 3 each

Recent League Meetings – N/A

DIVISION 1B:

OLD WESLEY (7th) v BALLYNAHINCH (5th), Energia Park, Donnybrook, 2pm

Old Wesley and Ballynahinch both returned to winning ways at home last Saturday, with the Dubliners’ out-half Tom Kiersey notching his third try of the campaign and ‘Hinch scrum half Rhys O’Donnell running in his fourth.

However, ‘Hinch make the trip to Donnybrook tomorrow without the injured James Simpson (knee), Stuart Morrow (foot), Rory Butler (finger) and Conor Kelly (knee), as well as Ulster’s Johnny McPhillips who kicked their match-winning penalty against Banbridge.

Old Wesley feel they owe Brian McLaughlin’s men one following last season’s 21-point defeat at Ballymacarn Park and a draw at home (14-all). This is their third successive home match and they have to make it count, especially with only three points separating the middle six clubs in the table.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WDLWLW; Ballynahinch: LDWWLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Rory Stynes 45; Tries: Paul Harte, Tom Kiersey 3 each; Ballynahinch: Points: Hilton Gibbons 28; Tries: Rhys O’Donnell 4

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 23, 2017: Ballynahinch 27 Old Wesley 6, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, April 7, 2018: Old Wesley 14 Ballynahinch 14, Donnybrook

BALLYMENA (10th) v OLD BELVEDERE (8th), Eaton Park

Results continue to evade bottom side Ballymena, who faltered in the second half against Old Wesley last Saturday having led 9-5 thanks to the boot of out-half Tim Small. He has been responsible for 50 of their 80 points so far.

The Braidmen, who have now lost three on the trot, are hoping to have Ulster hooker John Andrew available to start as well as Clive Ross and Marcus and Matthew Rea. Glenn Baillie is still sidelined with a hamstring injury and concussion rules out fellow back Dean Reynolds.

Old Belvedere were frustrated to be held try-less by Armagh last week, going down 15-9. An area of strength is their Limerick-influenced front row of James Bollard, Ed Rossiter and Declan Lavery, with the set piece battle between Andrew and Rossiter a mouth-watering prospect.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Ballyymena: LLWLLL; Old Belvedere: WDLLWL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers - Ballymena: Points: Tim Small 50; Tries: Connor Smyth 2; Old Belvedere: Points: Steve Crosbie 49; Tries: Jack Keating 5

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 2, 2017: Ballymena 25 Old Belvedere 16, Eaton Park; Saturday, December 9, 2017: Old Belvedere 26 Ballymena 7, Anglesea Road

BANBRIDGE (3rd) v MALONE (1st), Rifle Park

Banbridge have fallen off the boil a little bit, going down to Wesley and Ballynahinch, but they have a proud record to protect against new leaders Malone. They are unbeaten against the Cregagh Red Sox in seven games across the league and Ulster competitions, stretching back to September 2015.

Greg Jones and Jordi Murphy Greg Jones wins a line-out against Jordi Murphy in Ulster training. Source: Presseye/Matt Mackey/INPHO

It will be interesting to see what Ulster representatives both sides are able to field. Bann are hoping to have Greg Jones available with fellow back rower David McCann tied up with Ireland Under-19 training, while Malone could have Graham Curtis and Stewart Moore on board. Their in-form winger Ben McCaughey is set to play for the Ulster Under-19s against Australia next Tuesday.

Bann assistant coach Ian Porter said: “We’ve played Malone a lot over the last few years, we’ve nearly mirrored each other through the divisions. We were pleased with how we performed against ‘Hinch – the result just didn’t go our way. So we’re very much looking forward to the Malone game.”

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Banbridge: LWWWLL; Malone: WWLWWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 43; Tries: Peter Cromie 5; Malone: Points: Rory Campbell 34; Tries: Ben McCaughey 3

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 8, 2016: Malone 13 Banbridge 19, Gibson Park; Saturday, March 11, 2017: Banbridge 51 Malone 15, Rifle Park

BUCCANEERS (9th) v CITY OF ARMAGH (4th), Dubarry Park

 

History will be made at Dubarry Park where Buccaneers and City of Armagh play each other in an All-Ireland League fixture for the first time. Buccs are sitting second-from-bottom after leaving wins behind them against Malone and St. Mary’s.

There was a distinct Connacht flavour to the Pirates’ team line-up at Mary’s, with Ireland-capped hooker Dave Heffernan, Eoin Griffin and try-scoring debutant Joe Maksymiw among their starters. Second row Peter Claffey is their main injury concern.

Armagh head coach Willie Faloon has named an unchanged starting XV as they head for the midlands in pursuit of their third win in a row. With a high level of competition for places across the squad, Tim McNiece and Jonny Pollock have displaced Chris Cousens and Evin Crummie at full-back and centre respectively.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Buccaneers: LLWLLL; City of Armagh: LDWLWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers -
Buccaneers: Points: Luke Carty 52; Tries: Darragh Corbett 4; City of Armagh: Points: Cormac Fox 35; Tries: Andrew Smyth 3

Recent League Meetings – N/A

NAAS (2nd) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (6th), Forenaughts

 

Naas’ time at the top was brief as a 36-20 defeat to Malone saw the Belfast side leapfrog them. Player-coach Johne Murphy will be demanding a big reaction from his squad – he has opted to make two changes in the backs and two up front.

Former professional Fionn Carr returns on the right wing, replacing the injured Fionn Higgins, while Andy Ellis, the Cobras’ top try scorer with five so far, joins Murphy in midfield. Graham Reynolds and Leinster-capped tighthead Adam Coyle come back into the front row.

Conor Dean scores a try Conor Dean grabs a try for Ireland U20 last summer. Source: ©INPHO

Mid-table Mary’s have found some decent form with victories over Armagh and Buccs in the last three rounds. Steven Hennessy’s charges have averaged 28 points per game of late, aided by the impact of Connacht Academy recruit Conor Dean, flying full-back Dave Fanagan and number 8 Nick McCarthy, their man-of-the-match last week.

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Naas: WWLWWL; St. Mary’s College: WLLWLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 68; Tries: Andy Ellis 5; St. Mary’s College: Points: Conor Dean 36; Tries: Mark Fogarty, Cormac Foley 2 each

Recent League Meetings – N/A

Division 2A

Cashel v UL Bohemians, Spafield, Friday 8pm
Old Crescent v Nenagh Ormond, Rosbrien, Friday 8pm
Dolphin v Blackrock College, Musgrave Park
Highfield v Galwegians, Woodleigh Park
Navan v Queen’s University, Balreask Old

Division 2B

Galway Corinthians v MU Barnhall, Corinthian Park
Greystones v Sundays Well, Dr Hickey Park
Rainey OB v Belfast Harlequins, Hatrick Park
Skerries v Sligo, Holmpatrick
Wanderers v Dungannon, Merrion Road

Division 2C

Ballina v Midleton, Heffernan Park
Bruff v Omagh, Killballyowen Park
City of Derry v Thomond, Judge’s Road
Seapoint v Bangor, Kilbogget Park
Tullamore v Malahide, Spollanstown


Source: Heineken Rugby Weekly on The42/SoundCloud

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