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Dublin: 7 °C Thursday 12 December, 2019
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McCarthy, fit-again O'Mahony and Byrne set for AIL action this weekend

What’s happening on the club scene this weekend? We’ve got your bumper preview right here.

All-Ireland League, Division 1A: 
(Kick off 2.30pm Saturday unless stated)

Clontarf v UCD, Castle Avenue, Friday 8pm

FORMER TRINITY HOOKER Paddy Finlay comes in to make his league debut for Clontarf tonight. Interestingly, it is the only personnel change head coach Andy Wood has made to a very settled pack over the entire first five rounds.

There is a familiar look to the UCD forwards too, with Stephen McVeigh’s inclusion at number eight the only alteration up front from their impressive 31-19 triumph at Garryowen.

Nick McCarthy Future Munster nine McCarthy will line out for UCD on Friday night. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Behind the scrum, Leinster’s Nick McCarthy will don the number nine jersey and Oisin O’Meara slots on in the left wing.

Clontarf did the double over UCD last season, but they were tight enough margins, and a close encounter could be in the offing again, especially if the students’ pack can provide quality ball for McCarthy.

However, ‘Tarf’s composure in closing out the result against Shannon six days ago suggests their winning run will continue.

Terenure College v Dublin University, Lakelands Park, Friday 8pm

Terenure College boss James Blaney has handed three forwards their first league starts, with prop Karl O’Brien and flankers Matthew Caffrey and Rory Murray all drafted in.

Have ‘Nure turned a corner after last week’s hard-fought 18-17 win at UCC?

Hooker Robbie Smyth and Sam Coghlan Murray take the personnel changes up to five, and the latter’s wing battle with Dublin University captain Colm Hogan is certainly a mouth-watering prospect.

Hogan and hat-trick hero Michael Silvester ensured that Trinity opened their win account against Young Munster (37-26).

Jack Kelly, who captained Leinster ‘A’ to an inaugural Celtic Cup title, returns for the students at outside centre.

Scrum-half Conor Lowndes and forwards Joe Horan and Jack Dunne are the other three changes. Tony Smeeth wants his players to cut down on a ‘disappointing’ penalty count while maintaining their clinical edge in attack.

Cork Constitution v Garryowen, Temple Hill 

Ronan O’Mahony’s long-awaited return from an ankle injury gave Garryowen a timely boost last week, albeit that the result against UCD did not go their way. Sidelined for Munster since last February, O’Mahony will start tomorrow’s provincial derby at full-back.

Ronan O'Mahony Munster's O'Mahony is on the comeback trail from a long layoff. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

Academy players Mikey Wilson (Connacht) and Jack Daly (Munster) feature in the Light Blues’ back row. A tough assignment awaits them with Cork Constitution looking to bounce back from a 35-27 defeat away to defending champions Lansdowne.

Captain Niall Kenneally’s third try of the campaign secured a late bonus point for Con, and head coach Brian Hickey wants a big performance from his battle-hardened troops. “Lansdowne was a step up in terms of intensity, defence, physicality,” he said. “Con and Garryowen has a life of its own, this will be a huge one and then there’s a little bit of a breather (a two-week break in fixtures).”

Shannon v UCC, Thomond Park back pitch

Frustrating finishes last week for both Shannon and UCC saw them lose leads late on. They know each other well from their Division 1B clashes last season, with Tom Hayes’ side having fond memories of lifting the title after their 40-17 final round victory over the students.

Shannon’s teenage out-half Jake Flannery really announced himself with a 17-point haul against current leaders Clontarf last Saturday. Ireland Under-20 centre Peter Sylvester’s sidestepping try was the highlight of UCC’s display against Terenure, but they have lineout and defensive issues to tidy up.

Shannon head coach Hayes told SRTV: “UCC have stepped their game up a little bit, like we have. You’ve got two teams that are operating fairly well in the division – UCC have been very close to getting their first win. They certainly have a bit of calibre coming at us.”

Young Munster v Lansdowne, Tom Clifford Park 

Two home wins and two away defeats so far for Young Munster, who have had summer signings Clayton Stewart (46 points) and Darragh O’Neill (3 tries) in fine scoring form.

However, their defence needs to be much sharper with an average of 26 points conceded in the last three rounds.

Harry Byrne Harry Byrne is in line for more game time with Lansdowne. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

Stewart’s opposite number Harry Byrne had a stunning debut for Lansdowne, scoring 20 points against Cork Con despite not training with his new team-mates last week. Tom Roche and Peter Sullivan are added to the back-line for the Greenfields encounter, while Joe O’Brien and Jack O’Sullivan come into the back row.

The Cookies pride themselves on their home record and last April’s 27-24 loss to Lansdowne led to them missing out on the play-offs. They had won the sides’ six previous top flight meetings at Tom Clifford Park since 2011, showing how tough it has been for Mike Ruddock to get a win there.

All-Ireland League, Division 1B:
(Kick off 2.30pm Saturday unless stated)

Ballymena v City of Armagh, Eaton Park

Ballymena and City of Armagh come into this Ulster derby as two wounded animals, the Braidmen going down by 30 points to Banbridge last Saturday at the same time as Armagh leaked 27 unanswered points to St Mary’s College.

Ballymena’s defence coughed up four tries, two while back rowers Connor Smyth and Clive Ross were in the sin-bin.

Captain Marcus Rea needs to lead by example, along with Stephen Mulholland, who returns at number eight. Dean Reynolds and Jordan Foster come in on the wings.

Ireland U19 call-up Ryan O’Neill may not be involved in the Armagh selection tomorrow, but the rest of the side is expected to be retained.

Willie Faloon will give them an immediate chance to right the wrongs of their 27-11 loss to Mary’s. Their hooker Andrew Smyth is chasing his fourth try of the campaign.

Banbridge v Old Wesley, Rifle Park

With Old Wesley’s round four clash with Naas rescheduled to next Friday, they lost ground last week and fell to eighth place overall.

Despite captain Paul Harte’s three-try contribution, a win eluded Morgan Lennon’s men in their last two matches.

So, all the momentum is with Banbridge who took advantage of Naas’ refixed game to move to the top of the table.

Their best performance of the season so far saw them finish 38-8 clear of Ballymena, and their excellent discipline saw them concede just two penalties over the first hour.

Injured flanker Caleb Montgomery and winger Adam Ervine are ruled out along with the Ulster-tied James Hume.

Bann head coach Simon McKinstry said: “Wesley beat us (21-10) in Dublin last year and we had a narrow win at home. We know we’ll have to work hard again if we’re to pick up another win. It’s about focusing on ourselves and bringing the same performance levels as last week.”

Buccaneers v Malone, Dubarry Park

A try-scoring debut from 22-year-old Connacht Academy centre Kieran Joyce helped Buccaneers pick up a battling bonus point at Ballynahinch. 

Kieran Joyce on his way to scoring a try Connacht's Kieran Joyce. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Changes are expected in the Pirates’ pack with Evan Galvin, Simon Meagher and Conor Kenny all picking up knocks last Saturday.

Malone make the trip to the midlands on the back of a superb 39-8 bonus point triumph over Old Belvedere.

Winger Ben McCaughey marked his debut with the opening try, while Ryan Campbell and Ryan Clarke also impressed on their returns at full-back and number eight respectively.

These teams last met four years ago when they traded home wins. For tomorrow’s rematch Malone head coach Paddy Armstrong makes three personnel changes, bringing in Ulster Academy teenager Stewart Moore at centre, Dan Kerr at hooker and Josh Davidson in the second row.

Naas v Ballynahinch, Forenaughts

Former Lansdowne out-half Peter Hastie is one of three personnel changes to the Naas team that lost 20-16 to Banbridge in their last outing. Hastie and Max Whittingham pair up at half-back with Cillian Dempsey replacing David Benn in the second row.

Ballynahinch achieved a season’s double over the Cobras in 2017/18, winning this equivalent fixture 27-24 thanks to a sweetly-struck 84th-minute drop goal from winger Richard Reaney. The same player scored a hat-trick of tries in their 42-31 success against Buccs last week.

The competition for places is increasing at ‘Hinch with Ulster releasing Academy recruit Iwan Hughes to get game-time and Zac Ward, son of former Ulster captain Andy Ward, also back training. Brian McLaughlin’s men need to keep their discipline, otherwise Peter Osborne, who is averaging 12 points per game, will punish them.

Old Belvedere v St Mary’s College, Anglesea Road

St Mary’s head coach Steven Hennessy has unsurprisingly kept faith with the team that earned a 27-11 comeback win over City of Armagh.

It was very much a squad effort with important cameos from Colm McMahon and fit-again back rower Nick McCarthy off the bench.

Steve Crosbie Steve Crosbie of Old Belvo. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

It was one home win apiece when these Dublin rivals met in the top flight during the 2016/17 season. Current Old Belvedere player-backs coach and captain Steve Crosbie kicked five points in their 15-0 victory over Mary’s at Anglesea Road in December 2016.

Both sides will want to end this opening five-week block of matches on a high note, particularly Belvedere whose eye-catching first round triumph over Banbridge seems a long time ago now.

The head-to-head at full-back brings together two players at opposite ends of their career — ‘Belvo’s 34-year-old veteran Daniel Riordan and Mary’s tyro Tim MacMahon, who was playing schools rugby just a few months ago. 

All-Ireland League, Division 2A:
(Kick off 2.30pm Saturday unless stated) 

  • Cashel RFC v Nenagh Ormond, Spafield, Friday 8pm
  • Dolphin v Galwegians, Musgrave Park
  • Navan RFC v UL Bohemian, Balreask Old
  • Old Crescent v Highfield, Rosbrien
  • Queens University v Blackrock College RFC, Dub Lane

All-Ireland League, Division 2B:
(Kick off 2.30pm Saturday unless stated) 

  • Galway Corinthians RFC v Dungannon, Corinthian Park
  • Greystones v Sligo, Dr Hickey Park
  • MU Barnhall v Sundays Well, Parsonstown
  • Rainey OB v Skerries, Hatrick Park
  • Wanderers v Belfast Harlequins, Aviva Stadium

All-Ireland League, Division 2C:
(Kick off 2.30pm Saturday unless stated) 

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

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