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Limerick derby kicks-off another busy weekend of AIL action on Friday night

Meanwhile, table-toppers Cork Con visit struggling Dublin University.

ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: 29 February 

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated 

jamie-heuston-tackled-by-ryan-murphy-and-cian-barry Garryowen's Jamie Heuston tries to break through a tackle. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

DIVISION 1A

GARRYOWEN (2nd) v YOUNG MUNSTER (5th), Dooradoyle, tonight (Friday), 8pm

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Garryowen: LWLWWWWWLWWWW; Young Munster: LLLDLWWWLLWWW

Garryowen and Young Munster kick off another action-packed weekend in the top flight of the Energia All-Ireland League. The second-placed Light Blues, who won a Greenfields cliffhanger 19-13 back in November, are chasing their fifth straight victory.

There is a genuine feel-good factor at both clubs currently, as the leading Limerick sides are both right in contention for the play-offs. Fifth-placed Munsters have hit form in timely fashion, stringing together wins over Ballynahinch, Dublin University and Lansdowne.

Cookies captain Alan Kennedy has led by example with two important tries in the last two rounds. The hosts are without Munster call-up Diarmuid Barron, but the availability of Ben Healy would be a big boost, and provide a cracking out-half duel with Young Munster’s Evan Cusack, the division’s second top scorer (101 points).

Recent League Meetings – Friday 22 February, 2019: Young Munster 12 Garryowen 10, Tom Clifford Park; Friday 8 November, 2019: Young Munster 13 Garryowen 19, Tom Clifford Park

DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (8th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (1st), College Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Dublin University: LLWWLLLLLWLLW; Cork Constitution: WWWWWWWWWWWWW

A Dublin University side battling to pull clear of relegation troubles offers another difficult task for unbeaten leaders Cork Constitution. Captain Niall Kenneally praised Con’s ‘grit and heart’ after they defended doggedly to pull off a narrow derby win over UCC at a weather-beaten Temple Hill.

Also delighted to have out-half Aidan Moynihan back following four months out with a broken leg, Moynihan said: “We’d always have confidence in our defence. It’s about who can man up and who really wants it more. Names go out the window on nights like that.”

The Leesiders are a prized scalp and Trinity did come close in November, losing 25-22 in Cork. The competition for places in their back-three keeps increasing, with Rob Russell (2) and Paddy Opperman both contributing tries in last week’s bonus point win at Ballynahinch.

Recent League Meetings – Sunday 28 April, 2019: Semi-Final: Cork Constitution 23 Dublin University 3, Temple Hill; Saturday 9 November, 2019: Cork Constitution 25 Dublin University 22, Temple Hill

bradley-luney-with-luis-faria Ballynahinch’s Bradley Luney with Luis Faria of Dublin University. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

LANSDOWNE (4th) v BALLYNAHINCH (10th), Aviva Stadium back pitch

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Lansdowne: WLLLLLWWWWWWL; Ballynahinch: LLLLWWLLLWLLL

Lansdowne are set to field an unchanged team against bottom side Ballynahinch, no doubt fired up to right the wrongs of last Saturday’s agonising one-point defeat to Young Munster. It was their first loss in seven rounds, stretching back to mid-November.

Returning out-half Craig Ronaldson is clearly enjoying being back in Lansdowne colours, forming a promising half-back partnership with James Kenny and contributing a terrific 34 points in the last fortnight, including a quick-tap try against the Cookies.

Ballynahinch have fond memories of dishing out a 43-5 hammering to the Dubliners in November. The availability of their Ulster players remains crucial in their relegation fight, with next week’s shot at lifting the Ulster Senior Cup against City of Armagh also carrying plenty of importance.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday 2 January, 2016: Lansdowne 29 Ballynahinch 24, Aviva Stadium back pitch; Saturday 9 November, 2019: Ballynahinch 43 Lansdowne 5, Ballymacarn Park

a-view-of-a-maul A maul during the Lansdowne v Clontarf game earlier this month. Source: Brian Reilly-Troy/INPHO

UCC (9th) v TERENURE COLLEGE (7th), the Mardyke

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCC: WWWLLLLLLLLLL; Terenure College: WWWLWLLLWLLLL

Second-from-bottom UCC have lost Jack O’Sullivan and John Hodnett to Munster duty this week, but still possess plenty of quality in their back row ranks. Indeed, captain Ryan Murphy and Australian ace Rory Suttor have scored three tries between them in the last three rounds.

Terenure won 22-14 when they hosted the Cork students earlier in the season, aided by a try from winger Sam Coghlan Murray who also crossed against UCD last week. This is a must-win fixture if ‘Nure are to hold onto their play-off hopes – they lie eight points outside of the top four.

While UCC have scored the least amount of points (212) in the division so far, their defence has been a big positive with only three teams conceding a fewer amount of points. Brian Walsh’s young guns are due a change in fortunes and it could come at the end of a luckless ten-match losing streak.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday 9 March, 2019: Terenure College 39 UCC 29, Lakelands Park; Saturday 9 November, 2019: Terenure College 22 UCC 14, Lakelands Park

rowan-osborne Dublin University’s Rowan Osborne. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

UCD (3rd) v CLONTARF (6th), Belfield Bowl

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCD: LWWDWWWLWLLWW; Clontarf: WLLWLLLWWLWLL

Silverware is on offer at the Belfield Bowl as this round 14 clash doubles up as this season’s Leinster Senior Cup final. A couple of tight three-try triumphs over UCC and Terenure still have UCD well positioned behind Division 1A’s leading two sides.

February has been a month to forget so far for Clontarf, who have fallen down to sixth after defeats to fellow play-off hunters Lansdowne and Garryowen. Elusive centre Matt D’Arcy continues to spark their attack with three tries in as many games.

UCD head coach Kevin Croke, whose charges won 17-13 at ‘Tarf in November, commented: “We’ve never got too carried away with the fact that we’re in the top four. That doesn’t matter. What matters is performing and setting ourselves up to perform as well as we can. The biggest challenge is maintaining that in these next few games.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday 2 March, 2019: UCD 17 Clontarf 26, Belfield Bowl; Saturday 9 November, 2019: Clontarf 13 UCD 17, Castle Avenue

DIVISION 1B:

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CITY OF ARMAGH (7th) v SHANNON (2nd), Palace Grounds

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: City of Armagh: WWLWLLLWLWWLL; Shannon: LWWLWLLWLWWWW

An intriguing clash here as resurgent Shannon look to complete a season’s double over City of Armagh. With the division’s top try scorer Pa Ryan now with 11 to his name and Ben Daly earning rave reviews at out-half, the Limerick men make the trip in confident mood.

Their head coach Tadhg Bennett told SRTV: “Going north is never easy but we’ll prepare well and look at their last couple of games, see what they have. But we’ll focus a lot on ourselves and try and echo what we did against Naas. We’re travelling on the back of four wins and we’re hoping to pick up one more.”

Back-to-back losses have Armagh down in seventh place, yet they are only four points outside of the top four. Winger Shea O’Brien has taken his handsome season’s haul to seven tries, and Willie Faloon will want a return to winning ways ahead of next week’s Ulster Senior Cup final against Ballynahinch.

Recent League Meeting – Saturday 9 November, 2019: Shannon 26 City of Armagh 14, Thomond Park back pitch

tom-byrne-makes-a-break Clontarf's Tom Byrne makes a break. Source: Oisin Keniry/INPHO

NAAS (9th) v BANBRIDGE (5th), Forenaughts

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Naas: LLLLLWLWLWWWL; Banbridge: LLLWWLWWWLWLL

It was back down to earth with a bump for Naas last Saturday, the Cobras enduring a 40-point reversal at the hands of Shannon. Indiscipline and individual errors played their part in a deflating performance, although it should not take the shine off their previous three victories on the trot.

With his side making the trip on the back of two successive defeats, Banbridge head coach Mark McDowell said: “We paid the price for a poor start against St. Mary’s. Collectively we didn’t produce as good a performance as we’re capable of. The Naas game now is a huge fixture for us.”

Ulster’s Greg Jones, who had ‘some great tackles and carries’ last Saturday, continues at number 8 in a Bann team that shows three personnel changes. Winger John Porter and Ulster pair Jonny Stewart and John Andrew all come in, with prolific hooker Peter Cromie switching to the back row.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday 23 March, 2019: Banbridge 21 Naas 42, Rifle Park; Saturday 9 November, 2019: Banbridge 13 Naas 3, Rifle Park

NAVAN (10th) v OLD WESLEY (3rd), Balreask Old

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Navan: LLLLLLLWLLLLL; Old Wesley: WWWWWWWLWLLLW

Navan certainly put it up to Highfield in the first half last week, keeping the deficit to just five points. The closing 40 minutes saw the table toppers pull away but Ray Moloney’s charges can take a good handful of positives forward into Saturday’s home game.

Third-placed Old Wesley arrive at their Leinster rivals having edged out Armagh 14-12 thanks to two scrum-inspired penalty tries. Head coach Morgan Lennon has kept the changes to a minimum, bringing in current Ireland Under-20 prop Harry Noonan for some valuable game-time.

With Malone and Banbridge nipping at their heels, it is vital that Wesley put together consecutive victories for the first time since early December. They were 38-15 winners over Navan before Christmas, and still have full-back Rory Stynes (106 points) out in front as the division’s top scorer.

Recent League Meeting – Thursday 19 December, 2019: Old Wesley 38 Navan 15, Energia Park

OLD BELVEDERE (6th) v HIGHFIELD (1st), Ollie Campbell Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: WWWLLWLLLWLWL; Highfield: WWWWWWWLWLWWW

Old Belvedere have struggled for consistency since the turn of the year, twice following up a win with a defeat. They showed in early November that they are more than a match for Highfield, eventually falling to a 14-10 loss in a hard-fought tie at Woodleigh Park.

For Saturday’s match, which will be streamed live on the Old Belvedere TV YouTube channel, Leinster Academy flanker Martin Moloney makes a welcome return from injury, Sean McCrohan is also added to the back row, and a third change sees David Butler selected at inside centre.

With his side now ten points clear at the summit, Highfield player-coach Tim Ryan told Irish Rugby TV: “Things are going quite well for us and hopefully we can get a couple more wins. Belvedere away is a very, very tough game. But that group of lads, they’ve got a winning mentality. Good teams know how to win, and that’s what we’ve been building these last few years.”

michael-oneill-2512020 Cork Constitution's Michael O'Neill makes a break. Source: Bryan Keane/INPHO

Recent League Meeting – Saturday 9 November, 2019: Highfield 14 Old Belvedere 10, Woodleigh Park

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (8th) v MALONE (4th), Templeville Road

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: WLLLWWWLWLLLW; Malone: LLWWLLWLWWLWW

St. Mary’s College are missing Ryan O’Loughlin and Jack Dilger, a try scorer last week, for the visit of fourth-placed Malone. There are positional switches for Matthew Timmons and Peter Starrett to cover the pair’s absence.

Top scorer Ruairi Shields returns at full-back for the Dubliners who also bump up second row Liam Curran from the bench. Mary’s ran out 13-8 winners over the Cregagh Red Sox in November, Shields kicking two penalties and converting prop Michael McCormack’s try.

Malone look in much better shape now, though, and head coach Chris Henry, on the back on last Saturday’s 21-16 success against ‘Belvo, is able to slot Ulster representatives Stewart Moore, Angus Kernohan, Andrew Warwick and Ross Kane back into his starting XV.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday 6 April, 2019: St. Mary’s College 38 Malone 36, Templeville Road; Saturday 9 November, 2019: Malone 8 St. Mary’s College 13, Gibson Park

DIVISION 2A:

Nenagh Ormond v UL Bohemians, New Ormond Park, Friday, 8pm
Ballymena v Dolphin, Eaton Park
Buccaneers v MU Barnhall, Dubarry Park
Queen’s University v Old Crescent, Dub Lane
Rainey Old Boys v Cashel, Hatrick Park

DIVISION 2B:

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

DIVISION 2C:

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

Bernard Jackman joins Murray Kinsella and Gavan Casey to figure out where we go from here — not only post-Twickenham, but potentially into September as the coronavirus wreaks havoc on the rugby calendar. The lads also discuss the media’s treatment of the Irish team which some fans and players believe is too harsh, but some non-rugby journalists believe to be too soft.


Source: The42 Rugby Weekly/SoundCloud

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