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Derbies in Dublin, Cork and Limerick plus the rest of this weekend's AIL previews

Dave Mervyn looks ahead to the latest round of fixtures.

Men’s AIL Division 1A

Kick-off 2.30pm Saturday unless stated

CLONTARF v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY, Castle Avenue

conor-kearns Clontarf's Conor Kearns. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

This Dublin derby is shaping up to be a cracking contest, with both sides in very good form and their last two league meetings produced a whopping 138 points and 17 tries between them.

Athletic Academy second rows Harry Sheridan and Joe McCarthy are really beginning to shine for Trinity, both players impressing up front during last week’s big win over Young Munster.

As this is their last home game of 2021, Clontarf will be doubly determined to keep up their winning momentum. Conor Kearns has done well at out-half in David Hawkshaw’s absence, racking up 40 points.

LANSDOWNE v UCD, Aviva Stadium back pitch

james-reynolds-with-jack-ringrose Jack Ringrose of UCD (left) and Lansdowne’s James Reynolds. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Jack Ringrose and his UCD team-mates make the short trip to headquarters looking for a timely boost, with back-to-back defeats leaving them just five points above the bottom two.

In contrast, Lansdowne were ruthless in putting 29 points on Garryowen last week, but consistency has been an issue for them. Roll back to their last home game and they were stung at the death by Trinity.

The opposing number 8s are two quality operators. UCD’s Ronan Foley chipped in with a try against Terenure in the last round, while Mark Boyle, always sharp at the breakdown for Lansdowne, has three tries to his name.

TERENURE COLLEGE v BALLYNAHINCH, Lakelands Park

colm-de-buitlear Former Connacht back Colm de Buitléar. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Ballynahinch make their third trip of the season to the capital, a week on from almost beating defending champions Cork Constitution. They were a missed drop goal away from an elusive maiden win.

They undoubtedly were encouraged by their performance – a fourth losing bonus point and South African recruit Shane Ball’s second try – and Terenure College have potentially shown them the way.

‘Nure have bounced back from three defeats with three straight victories. Colm de Buitléar, the 24-year-old former Connacht back, and captain Harrison Brewer have led by example for Sean Skehan’s side.

UCC v CORK CONSTITUTION, the Mardyke

brian-hickey Cork Con head coach Brian Hickey. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

UCC host Cork Constitution in a league game for the first time in just over two years. A lot has changed since then, with Neil Lucey now in charge at the Mardyke and seeking his first home victory.

Previously the club’s U20 coach, Lucey knows his young players well and they have been resilient against some of the division’s bigger packs. Mark Bissessar and Jack Kelleher, in particular.

However, Cork Con look to have too much firepower here. Brian Hickey will have them primed for a big performance after stuttering against ‘Hinch. Munster Development XV flanker John Forde, a try scorer last week, is one to watch.

YOUNG MUNSTER v GARRYOWEN, Tom Clifford Park, 5pm

conor-hayes-celebrates-with-eoin-oconnor Young Munster players Conor Hayes and Eoin O’Connor. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Former Limerick minor hurler Cian Casey steps up at full-back for Young Munster tomorrow evening. He is part of a much-changed Cookies line-up for this tasty local derby.

Conor Hayes reverts to the right wing, Conor O’Shaughnessy and Jack Lyons are also added to the back-line, while Dan Walsh shows his versatility by filling in at hooker. Fintan Coleman packs down at number 8.

Garryowen, who are looking to end a three-match losing run, move Jamie Heuston to out-half. Tommy O’Hora returns on the left wing, with prop Niall Horan and flanker Alan Fitzgerald also handed starts.

DIVISION 1B

NAAS v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE, Forenaughts, tonight, 8pm

conor-dean-warms-up-before-the-match Conor Dean of St Mary's. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Targeting a sixth straight win, St. Mary’s College are without injured captain Richie Halpin – Steven O’Brien deputises at hooker – but welcome back out-half Conor Dean who was a late withdrawal last week.

Sixth-placed Naas will want to keep Ronan Watters quiet, as the nifty Mary’s number 8, who takes over the captaincy tonight, has bagged three tries in two games.

A terrific 29-point first half display helped the Cobras win at Shannon last week. 19-year-old scrum half Connor Halpenny, who notched his first AIL try in Limerick, is growing with each appearance.

HIGHFIELD v CITY OF ARMAGH, Woodleigh Park

shea-obrien-is-tackled-by-bryan-fitzgerald City of Armagh's Shea O'Brien facing Garryowen. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

The midpoint of the league campaign is in sight and Highfield are still unbeaten. They showed their ruthless streak against Banbridge, but were breathing hard by the finish with only seven points in it.

Ben Murphy replaces Paddy O’Toole at outside centre for the visit of City of Armagh. Ian McCarthy, Ronan O’Sullivan and leading try scorer Miah Cronin are the changes to the Highfield pack.

With Shea O’Brien and Evin Crummie paired together at centre and Nigel Simpson returning on the blindside, Armagh boss Chris Parker said: “These next two matches are against first and second in the table. We’re looking forward to the challenge and the opportunity to test ourselves.”

MALONE v SHANNON, Gibson Park

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stephen-keogh Shannon forwards coach Stephen Keogh. Source: Ben Whitley/INPHO

Malone’s half-time changes saw them come from 20 points down to earn a losing bonus point in Armagh. Half-backs Conor Spence and Shane Kelly, in particular, are pushing hard to start.

Malone’s lengthy injury list at this stage of the season is a concern, but they will not be lacking in motivation as Shannon beat them 32-13 when the sides last met in Belfast back in October 2019.

Shannon had a slow start against Naas, although they did fight back for two bonus points. “The lads put in a good fight in the second half, and those points could be important come the end of the season,” said forwards coach Stephen Keogh.

OLD BELVEDERE  v NAVAN, Ollie Campbell Park

Losing the Dublin 4 derby to Old Wesley was a bitter pill for Old Belvedere to swallow. Tightening up their defence is top of the agenda this week after leaking six tries to their near neighbours.

A second successive home fixture gives the Ray Monaghan-coached ‘Belvo an immediate chance to respond. However, Navan are a much better team that their ninth-place positioning suggests.

Former Shannon out-half Ben Daly is bedding in well into the Navan side, with centre Evan Dixon leading their try scoring with four so far. South African back rower Hardus van Eeden is just one behind him.

OLD WESLEY v BANBRIDGE, Energia Park

reuben-pim-celebrates-at-the-final-whistle Old Wesley's Reuben Pim during his time with Trinity. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Second-placed Old Wesley cannot afford to be complacent with a four-point gap to make up on leaders Highfield. Banbridge may be bottom but they are more than capable of an upset.

Bann head coach Mark McDowell, whose side have claimed three losing bonus points to date, said: “Mental errors at key moments are costing us. That’s on myself, the coaching group and the players to sort out once and for all so they stop hurting us in games.”

22-year-old number 8 Reuben Pim, a former Trinity regular, is one of Wesley’s most impressive forwards. He was a try scorer against Old Belvedere last week, along with his cousin and fellow back rower, Josh Pim.

DIVISION 2A

Buccaneers v MU Barnhall, Dubarry Park
Cashel v Dolphin, Spafield
Nenagh Ormond v Old Crescent, New Ormond Park
Rainey Old Boys v Queen’s University, Hatrick Park
UL Bohemians v Ballymena, UL Arena

DIVISION 2B

Galwegians v Galway Corinthians, Crowley Park, tonight, 8pm
Ballina v Malahide, Heffernan Park
Belfast Harlequins v Wanderers, Deramore Park
Blackrock College v Dungannon, Stradbrook
Greystones v Sligo, Dr Hickey Park

DIVISION 2C

Enniscorthy v Bruff, Alcast Park
Omagh Academicals v Midleton, Thomas Mellon Playing Fields
Skerries v City of Derry, Holmpatrick
Sunday’s Well v Bangor, Musgrave Park
Tullamore v Clonmel, Spollanstown


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey discuss an insane week for Munster, Ulster’s impressive win over Leinster and ask can Connacht repeat their feat from earlier this year and win at the same ground?

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