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Lansdowne host Young Munster at the Aviva Stadium and this weekend's AIL previews

Dave Mervyn looks ahead to the action from the men’s Division 1A and 1B.

Men’s AIL Division 1A

Kick-off Saturday 2.30pm unless stated 

BALLYNAHINCH v GARRYOWEN, Ballymacarn Park

mike-sherry Garryowen head coach Mike Sherry. Source: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

A record of three losses against three wins, Ballynahinch will find it difficult to break down unbeaten league leaders Garryowen unless the Light Blues’ exertions catch up with them.

While the rest of the top flight rested up last week, Mike Sherry’s men edged out Cashel in a dramatic Munster Senior Cup semi-final. “Ballynahinch have had a patchy enough start, but they’ll be licking their lips waiting to welcome us up there,” said Sherry.

Just two tries so far and an over-reliance on goal-kicker Greg Hutley (18 points) tells its own story for ‘Hinch. You get the feeling a big performance is coming, but it may happen in the following two rounds against the bottom two.

CORK CONSTITUTION v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY, Temple Hill

It has been a frustrating October for Cork Constitution, but you get the feeling the picture could be a lot rosier by this time next month. They are more than capable of reeling off wins over Dublin University, Garryowen, UCD and Ballynahinch.

Their road back towards the top four begins with the visit of Trinity, who themselves have recovered well from a poor start. “We’re playing some good stuff but not quite finishing (our chances),” said Trinity director of rugby Tony Smeeth.

The hosts are missing forward colossus Conor Kindregan following his recent red card against Clontarf. Smeeth gives starts to Leinster duo Rob Russell and Jack Dunne at full-back and lock respectively. Diminutive danger man Ronan Quinn returns on the right wing.

LANSDOWNE v YOUNG MUNSTER, Aviva Stadium main pitch

a-view-of-a-lansdowne-fc-ball-on-the-pitch Young Munster travel to Dublin to take on Lansdowne. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

The top flight’s big game of the Halloween weekend, and those in attendance at Irish Rugby HQ are definitely in for a treat. Jack Harrington and Jack Lyons are promoted from the bench to start for Young Munster.

The strong-carrying Dan Walsh also comes in at number 8, with Munsters boss Gearoid Prendergast saying: “Lansdowne are very difficult opposition. While the home form is very important, we’re really focusing on building those away wins as well.”

Both teams will have some provincial heavyweights on the bench, Lansdowne adding Leinster’s Peter Dooley and Munster prop Keynan Knox travels with the Cookies. Michael Silvester, the scorers of two tries at UCC, moves to full-back for the hosts.

TERENURE COLLEGE v CLONTARF, Lakelands Park

Clontarf feel they owe Terenure College one after losing twice to them at the Bull Ring in 2019. The sides have not met in the league since then, but Andy Wood’s men look the stronger outfit on current form.

That is not to write off Terenure, they have lost to two of the front runners so far and opposition coaches have spoken highly of their maul, in particular. New centre Peter Sylvester has quickly picked up two tries.

There is sure to be a ‘warm’ welcome for ‘Nure’s new number 8 Jordan Coghlan, who played for ‘Tarf during his early days. The back row battle will see the likes of Tony Ryan and Harrison Brewer waging war.

UCD  v UCC, Belfield Bowl

jack-ringrose-collects-a-loose-ball UCD captain Jack Ringrose. Source: Ben Brady/INPHO

UCD have strengthened their back-line for this intervarsity derby, bringing in Leinster Academy talent Chris Cosgrave at full-back and David Ryan in midfield. Captain Jack Ringrose reverts to the left wing.

Leinster U19 forward Diarmuid Mangan switches to a back row berth, with Mark Morrissey and Jonathan Fish combining at lock. Kevin Croke’s youngsters are chasing their first victory, as are visitors UCC.

The Cork students travel with a strong selection, bolstered by the inclusion of Munster’s John Hodnett and Jack O’Sullivan in the back row. They also have Scott Buckley at hooker and the fit-again Cian Whooley returning at out-half.

Division 1B

MALONE v HIGHFIELD, Gibson Park

paddy-otoole-kicks-a-conversion Highfield's Paddy O'Toole. Source: Ken Sutton/INPHO

Highfield signed off on the first block of games with an ultra-professional 38-3 dismissal of Naas. Conor Quaid’s charges even overcame some unsettling early injuries, with Paddy O’Toole and Dave O’Connell seamlessly making positional changes.

Malone are back at home after two losing trips to Leinster, needing a greater level of composure to put away the chances they are creating. Ulster’s Aaron Sexton is a great strike runner but has been under-utilised.

O’Connell reverts to the second row for Highfield, who have Ronan O’Sullivan slotting back in at openside flanker. Sam Burns and Shane O’Riordan come into the back-line, the latter at out-half for the injured James Taylor.

NAAS v OLD WESLEY, Forenaughts

This fourth round encounter brings back memories of an epic promotion/relegation play-off semi-final in April 2019 which Old Wesley won 20-17. A Josh Miller penalty split the sides after extra-time.

Tomorrow afternoon’s game in Forenaughts brings together two of the division’s best place-kickers in Naas captain Peter Osborne, the current second top scorer with 34 points, and Wesley out-half Miller (24).

Fionn Higgins, their first round drop goal hero, Matt Stapleton and Tim Murphy return to the Cobras’ back-line, with Naas native Connor Johnson promoted from the bench to start at hooker.

NAVAN v BANBRIDGE, Balreask Old

Navan and Banbridge are both pointless and rooted to the bottom of the table. Bann boss Mark McDowell admitted heads were down following recent results, but he has been encouraged by the younger players pushing through.

Props Josh Chambers and Christian Trimble, coupled with try-scoring replacement Robert Mathers, drew praise for their efforts against St Mary’s, particularly Trimble who made his AIL debut after taking up the game just seven years ago.

The corresponding fixture in 2019/20 was a real cracker, going right down to the wire as Banbridge prevailed 24-22. Navan blew a 15-point lead and had a last-gasp drop goal effort charged down.

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SHANNON v OLD BELVEDERE, Thomond Park back pitch

john-mckee John McKee of Old Belvedere. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Old Belvedere have reinforced their front row ranks for round four. James Bollard and Stewart Maguire both start, packing down either side of Leinster Academy hooker John McKee who grabbed two tries against Malone.

Openside flanker Calum Dowling is the third and final change, while Shane O’Hehir, the former Sligo captain, is added to the bench as Belvedere look for a repeat of their 2019 win on Thomond Park’s back pitch.

Shannon head coach Pat O’Connor commented: “Our squad depth is getting better week on week, the younger players are getting exposed to AIL rugby. We’ve back-to-back home games now, so a win this weekend would give us good momentum.”

ST MARY’S COLLEGE v CITY OF ARMAGH, Templeville Road

City of Armagh make their first trip of the season outside of Ulster, eager to extend their winning run which came under serious threat from Shannon before a dramatic late penalty try.

Their back row has excelled in recent rounds, with openside James Hanna hailed as ‘outstanding’ the last day by head coach Chris Parker. They did the double over St Mary’s College during the 2019/20 campaign.

Mary’s overcame some untimely injuries to open their win account at Bann a fortnight ago. Tighthead Mick McCormack starred in the scrum and as a ball carrier, while Myles Carey is a centre of real quality. He is a potential game-breaker that Armagh will have to stop.

DIVISION 2A

Nenagh Ormond v UL Bohemians, New Ormond Park, tonight, 8pm
Cashel v Rainey Old Boys, Spafield
Dolphin v Ballymena, Musgrave Park
MU Barnhall v Queen’s University, Parsonstown
Old Crescent v Buccaneers, Takumi Park

DIVISION 2B

Ballina v Greystones, Heffernan Park
Blackrock College v Belfast Harlequins, Stradbrook
Dungannon v Galwegians, Stevenson Park
Galway Corinthians v Sligo, Corinthian Park
Malahide v Wanderers, Estuary Road

Division 2C

City of Derry v Bangor, Judge’s Road
Clonmel v Skerries, Ardgaoithe
Midleton v Bruff, Towns Park
Omagh Academicals v Sunday’s Well, Thomas Mellon Playing Fields
Tullamore v Enniscorthy, Spollanstown

Bernard Jackman, Murray Kinsella, and Gavan Casey assess the provinces’ first URC blocks and look ahead to November for the Ireland men’s and women’s teams on The42 Rugby Weekly:


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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