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Table-toppers Terenure face last season's runners-up and all of the weekend's AIL previews

All of your Ulster Bank League previews are right here.

Ulster Bank League

Saturday, 2.30pm kick-offs unless stated

AIL Division 1A:

Oisin Heffernan offloads Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Clontarf (6th) v Terenure College (1st), Castle Avenue, Friday 7.30pm

CLONTARF’S BACK COACH James Downey will return to the touchline after an 80-minute run-out in their 26-6 bonus point win over Buccaneers. Sean O’Brien is set to slot in at centre alongside Matt D’Arcy who has crossed for four tries in the current campaign.

Table-toppers Terenure, meanwhile, have found the consistency they craved last season. Defeating last season’s runners-up at Castle Avenue would be another significant milestone for James Blaney’s in-form side, who have Mark O’Neill (47 points) starring from out-half.

As ever, the battle up front will go a long way to deciding tonight’s Dublin derby, with the scrummaging duel between ‘Nure’s Leinster-capped tighthead Oisin Heffernan and Clontarf’s Vakh Abdaladze, who was in British & Irish Cup action last week, certainly one to savour.

St Mary’s College (7th) v Lansdowne (2nd), Templeville Road, Friday 7.30pm

St. Mary’s signed off before the early season break with a much-needed 23-22 win at UCD. Sean Kearns, who took his season’s haul to 36 points during that game, will revert to full-back to accommodate the return of Conor Dean in the number 10 shirt.

Dean’s opposite number tonight, Lansdowne talisman Scott Deasy, has already contributed 53 points to the cause, with 19 of those coming in their 24-10 defeat of defending champions Cork Constitution last time out. Leinster’s Charlie Rock comes in at half-back, with starts also for Sevens international Adam Leavy and Harry Brennan.

There should be plenty of bite to this Friday Night Lights encounter, especially with former Lansdowne scrum half Paddy O’Driscoll in the Mary’s side and the hosts’ captain Ciaran Ruddock looking to get one over on his father, Mike, Lansdowne’s long-serving director of rugby.

Buccaneers (10th) v Dublin University (9th), Dubarry Park

Buccaneers’ current position is not a true reflection of their first few weeks back in the top flight. Having regrouped since their 20-point defeat at Clontarf, this basement battle in Athlone looks like an ideal launchpad for Darin Claasen’s side.

They will need big performances up front from Martin Staunton, Cian Romaine and Paul Boyle, who has performed superbly since his switch from Lansdowne, while Rory O’Connor (three tries) should be a potent runner in the absence of Ireland Sevens star Jordan Conroy.

Trinity are pretty battle-hardened after a terrific victory at Young Munster and two subsequent intervarsity clashes with Cambridge and Oxford. Their Under-20s retained the Conroy Cup last week, while Paddy Finlay’s impressive return off the bench against Munsters was another timely fillip for the students.

Evan Mintern Evan Mintern. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Cork Constitution (5th) v Young Munster (8th), Temple Hill

It is unusual to see both of last year’s finalists, Cork Constitution and Clontarf, outside of the top four presently. Constitution emerged pointless from their round 4 tussle with Lansdowne and will need no reminding that they lost twice to Young Munster last term – 37-15 at home and 3-0 away.

It looks like the Cookies are struggling to find form of late, although their surprise 21-17 loss at home to Trinity, coupled with their Munster Senior Cup exit at the hands of Garryowen, means Con can expect to face a wounded animal all out for the win at Temple Hill.

While Sevens commitments and Kevin O’Byrne’s inclusion on the Munster bench will force changes, Con will hope to have the services of Evan Mintern who had an excellent two-try performance against Nottingham in the British & Irish Cup. He will be needed as the Young Munster back row, led by captain Ben Kilkenny, are dangerous on both sides of the ball.

Garryowen (3rd) v UCD (4th), Dooradoyle

Garryowen’s losing bonus point picked up at Terenure is all that separates them from UCD, their round 5 visitors, in the table. Two wins from two, with a handful of bonus points, is a solid start from both sides given the new personnel and injuries.

Confidence is high within Light Blue ranks as Conan Doyle’s charges have also booked a Munster Senior Cup semi-final place and seen some of their provincial talents impress in the red jersey in the B&I Cup. That was the case too for UCD, whose top scorer Ciaran Frawley had a 12-point haul for Leinster ‘A’ last week.

The students lost the corresponding fixture 17-16 at Dooradoyle last February, with young centre Peadar Collins’ 62nd-minute try proving to be the match winner. Another one score game looks likely here, especially if the visitors can gain parity with an ever-improving Garryowen pack.

DIVISION 1B:

UL Bohemians (7th) v Shannon (1st), Thomond Park, Friday 7.30pm

Conor Fitzgerald Conor Fitzgerald. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

What a difference a year makes. Shannon lost their first five games last season, but are now on a four-match winning streak at the top of Division 1B. Tom Hayes and David O’Donovan have worked their coaching magic and the players have wholeheartedly responded.

With feet firmly planted on the ground, they know the first rounds will count for little if they do not pass a test such as tonight’s Limerick derby against UL Bohemians. The Red Robins were in a similar position in 2016/17, having flown out of the traps before being reeled back in and losing out in the play-offs.

You would have to favour Shannon on current form, especially with young half-backs Conor Fitzgerald and Jack Stafford growing in authority. 43-20 was the scoreline in their favour when they last met Bohs, but UL could rattle the leaders if returning winger Jamie McNamara sees enough possession.

Banbridge (3rd) v Ballynahinch (2nd), Rifle Park

Banbridge and Ballynahinch are level on 16 points and occupants of two of the play-off positions. Captain Ian Porter continues to point the way for Bann, his 18-point contribution during their recent derby win at Ballymena taking his league tally to 56 already.

The availability of Caleb Montgomery and Chris Allen, a try scorer last time out for Banbridge, will depend on fitness tests, while Greg Jones and Robert Lyttle return from Ulster ‘A’ duty and props Eric O’Sullivan and Tom O’Toole are also in the mix.

Ballynahinch will have Blane McIlroy back at scrum half in place of Aaron Cairns, who will start for Ulster tomorrow. He will partner top scorer Johnny McPhillips (39 points). Ulster Academy recruit Jack Regan reverts to blindside flanker from the second row, while backs coach Tom Rock may be pressed into action as a starting centre.

Dolphin (9th) v Old Belvedere (5th), Irish Independent Park

Winning at Irish Independent Park is a difficult task for any visiting club, and although Old Belvedere are unbeaten in the last two rounds, they will be expecting a backlash from second-from-bottom Dolphin who were hammered 52-0 by Shannon last time out.

Coaches Chris Rowe and Barry Keeshan will have stewed over that result from three weeks ago, pinpointing key areas for improvement. They have been very suspect in defence, leaking a combined 63 points to Naas and Ballynahinch as well as that annihilation in Limerick.

Belvedere have yet to really hit their stride under Eddie O’Sullivan, but this next block of matches contains some crucial fixtures. They desperately need to get their attack firing as they are the second lowest scorers in the division and are without a bonus point. Tim Foley’s boot had contributed 40 of their 55 points so far.

Launch of the Ulster Bank League  Try Of The Month Competition Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Naas (4th) v Ballymena (8th), Forenaughts

There were two home defeats for these sides in round 4, with Naas slipping from second to fourth after a disappointing home reversal to UCC (13-5). They are out at Forenaughts again tomorrow, with player-coach Johne Murphy bringing in centre Donal Droney and hooker Charlie Kings as the only two changes.

Powerful carrier Henry Bryce returns to the Naas matchday squad and will hope to have an impact off the bench. David O’Hara replaces the injured David Shanahan at scrum half for Ballymena who will give a late fitness test to centre Alan Smyth (shoulder).

Both Rea brothers could feature in the visitors’ back row, depending on the availability of Matthew who was a Champions Cup debutant last week. Murphy will have Ulster youngster Brett Herron to contend with in an individual battle at out-half, one which could go a long way to deciding the outcome of the match.

UCC (6th) v Old Wesley (10th), The Mardyke

UCC broke their duck with that eight-point victory at Naas, set up by flanker John Hodnett’s first half try. The Rosscarbery youngster followed up by making his British & Irish Cup debut for Munster ‘A’ last weekend, with his absence felt by UCC in their 44-10 Munster Senior Cup defeat to Cork Con.

Old Wesley showed plenty of grit to earn a 15-all draw with Old Belvedere – thanks to winger Tommy O’Callaghan’s late try – but they are still the only team without a win. 6ft 4in centre James O’Donovan (21) is unavailable this week as he has earned a call-up to the Ireland Sevens squad.

The Dubliners book-ended the 2016/17 regular season with wins over UCC – 23-20 at the Mardyke and 19-5 at Donnybrook. But, given the additions of Cian Bohane and John Poland to their squad this term, you would have to favour Brian Walsh’s students to exact some revenge.

DIVISION 2A:

Blackrock College (9th) v Malone (1st), Stradbrook

Cashel (5th) v Greystones (10th), Spafield

City of Armagh (3rd) v Nenagh Ormond (2nd), Palace Grounds

Galwegians (7th) v Queen’s University (6th), Crowley Park

Highfield (4th) v Corinthians (8th), Woodleigh Park

DIVISION 2B:

Belfast Harlequins (10th) v MU Barnhall (6th), Deramore Park

City of Derry (9th) v Old Crescent (1st), Judge’s Road

Dungannon (8th) v Rainey Old Boys (4th), Stevenson Park

Skerries (2nd) v Sunday’s Well (5th), Holmpatrick

Wanderers (3rd) v Navan (7th), Aviva Stadium back pitch

DIVISION 2C:

Bective Rangers (9th) v Sligo (1st), Donnybrook

Bruff (3rd) v Seapoint (7th), Kilballyowen Park

Malahide (6th) v Bangor (2nd), Estuary Road

Midleton (8th) v Thomond (5th), Towns Park

Omagh (4th) v Tullamore (10th), Thomas Mellon Playing Fields

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