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An early-season colours clash and the rest of this weekend's AIL games

It’s a landmark weekend for Old Belvedere, who rename their home ground on Saturday.
Oct 11th 2019, 4:14 PM 5,377 3

Energia All-Ireland League, Saturday 12 October 
[KO 2.30pm unless stated]

Division 1A

Clontarf v Cork Constitution, Castle Avenue 

WINNERS BY JUST one and two points respectively in the first round, top-flight heavyweights Clontarf and Cork Constitution meet for the first time since Brian Hickey’s men were crowned champions five months ago following a Rob Jermyn-inspired 28-13 final win.

They both began the new season with quite a turnover in personnel and additional absentees due to Celtic Cup commitments. Debutant hooker Tadgh McElroy certainly grasped his opportunity for ‘Tarf last week, scoring a late match-winning try at Young Munster.

inpho_01175218 Former Ireland U20 hooker McElroy is back at Clontarf this season. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Some of the league’s best goal-kicking talent will be on show at the north Dublin venue with David Joyce, Sean Kearns, Aidan Moynihan and Tomas Quinlan all classy operators. Hold tight for the collisions between the number eights – ‘Tarf’s talismanic captain Michael Noone and Con powerhouse Evan Mintern.

Garryowen v Lansdowne, Dooradoyle

Lansdowne have found away wins against Garryowen hard to come by, winning only once on their last five visits to Dooradoyle. There was a 16-all draw, a 32-25 victory, and then Conan Doyle’s Light Blues were 24-16 and 17-14 winners in the league these past two seasons.

Last January they also ended Lansdowne’s Bateman Cup title defence with a 14-12 semi-final triumph, set up by a late try from hooker Liam Cronin who will pack down opposite former Garryowen favourite James Rael tomorrow. Jack Stafford and Jack Daly return from Munster ‘A’ duty to start for the hosts.

tim-foley Lansdowne's Tim Foley. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Ireland sevens international Adam Leavy, Tim Murphy and Adam Boland, who bagged a late brace against UCD last Saturday, are Lansdowne’s three personnel changes. Their young out-half Tim Foley is already top of the scoring charts, kicking seven-out-of-seven for an 18-point haul against the students.

Terenure College v Young Munster, Lakelands Park

Terenure College saved their Division 1A status in April with a 22-15 success against Young Munster, and a repeat result here would continue their strong start under new head coach Sean Skehan. He knows the Limerick rugby scene very well given his time with Glenstal Abbey, Garryowen and the Munster U19s.

The Cookies are smarting from their single-point loss to Clontarf, although there were plenty of positives to take from their opening performance. They have some new backs bedding in, while backs coach Derek Corcoran and forwards Ger Slattery remain key on-field generals.

sean-skehan Terenure coach Sean Skehan. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Generating and taking try-scoring opportunities will be crucial for Munsters’ hopes at Lakelands, as Terenure showed a clinical edge when it mattered most against Ballynahinch. Joe Schmidt’s 23-year-old son Tim has made the switch to fullback in a pacy ‘Nure back-line.

UCC v Ballynahinch, the Mardyke

Ballynahinch did the double over UCC two seasons ago, including a tight 22-18 victory at the Mardyke, but the Cork students looked in much better fettle last Saturday. Their 30-20 first round triumph at Trinity certainly caught the eye as they jumped straight to the top of the table.

‘Hinch’s selection is hampered by the Ulster ‘A’ team’s involvement in the Celtic Cup final, but they will still travel with a strong side — Ross Adair and Aaron Cairns the running threats out wide, and captain John Donnan, James Simpson and Aaron Hall providing the grunt up front.

john-hodnett John Hodnett is lining out for UCC this weekend. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Considering UCC only won five regular-season games in 2018/19, back-to-back opening wins would be a massive boost. Munster academy talent John Hodnett comes in at number 8, alongside skipper Daire Feeney who has bounced back to AIL rugby after a stint with Christchurch club Burnside.

UCD v Dublin Univesity, Belfield Bowl, 3pm

A slightly later kick-off for this early-season Belfield showdown between UCD and Trinity. The University pair currently occupy the bottom two rungs of the league ladder. College were held try-less by Lansdowne last week and Tony Smeeth’s youngsters were outplayed by UCC.

The home side are bolstered by the return of new captain Jonny Guy and Stephen McVeigh to the back row, while backs Andy Marks, Eoin Barr and David Moran complete their five changes. It is Kevin Croke’s first home league game in charge of UCD.

tony-smeeth Trinity coach Tony Smeeth. Source: Tommy Dickson/INPHO

Trinity welcome back Colm Hogan at fullback, and there is a start too for former Wicklow hooker Mark Nicholson. Six points was the aggregate margin across both encounters last season — a draw at College Park and Trinity won the Colours match 18-12. 

Division 1B:

Banbridge v Highfield, Rifle Park

Highfield were the most impressive performers in the opening round, winning 27-6 against Malone on their Division 1B debut. With a clean bill of health, player-coach Tim Ryan will field an unchanged team for the first of three trips to Ulster.

Experienced operator Dale Carson is Banbridge’s only change, slotting in at blindside flanker tomorrow afternoon. Their new head coach Mark McDowell said they ‘lacked a wee bit of killer instinct at key moments’ during last Saturday’s tight 13-3 defeat at Old Wesley.

He added: “Our boys are excited to have their first home All-Ireland League game of the season. I’m sure we’ll get a big crowd down who will provide a big boost for the boys as well.”

Malone v Shannon, Gibson Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Malone: L; Shannon: L
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Callum Smith 6; Tries: –; Shannon: Points: Billy Gray 10; Tries: Pa Ryan, Colin Slater 1 each

New Malone boss Chris Henry has made a few notable tweaks for his first home league match. Connor Spence switches half-back positions, allowing Lewis Finlay to come in at scrum-half. There are also starts for winger Michael Cartmill and lock Michael Shiels.

Shannon have not visited Gibson Park since April 2015 and their newly-appointed head coach Tadhg Bennett is expecting ‘a huge challenge’ from the Cregagh Red Sox, who will be ‘very well organised’ under former Ulster and Ireland flanker Henry.


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will-leonard Will Leonard is available for Shannon. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Bennett’s charges have Will Leonard back from New York in midfield, utilising his talents during Major League Rugby’s off-season. Shannon’s relegation from the top flight last season saw them lose their final eight games — they last won 24-20 at UCD in January.

Naas v Old Wesley, Forenaughts

Ireland Club international prop Cronan Gleeson will pack down as Old Wesley’s only change to the side that saw off Banbridge 13-3. He replaces Stephen McGivern at tighthead as Wesley meet Naas for the first time since last April’s 20-17 extra-time play-off semi-final win.

The Kildare men, who lost 13-7 away to City of Armagh last Saturday, started the new league campaign with only 11 players of that semi-final squad available. Their most notable absentee is injured number eught and captain Paulie Tolofua who could be out until after Christmas.

Naas’ new head coach Dan van Zyl said: “It’s a rebuilding phase for us, we’ve done well the last four years. Our first home game is Wesley and I was with them for seven years, and we’ve had great battles. That will be a battle in itself.”

St Mary’s College v City of Armagh, Templeville Road

Ireland U20 Grand Slam winner Cormac Foley, an influential half-time replacement last week at Navan, is brought in at scrum-half as St. Mary’s College aim to continue their winning start to their Division 1B run.

City of Armagh boss Willie Faloon felt his players ‘were slow getting into the tempo of the game’ against Naas, so they will be targeting a much faster start in Templeogue tomorrow. 13 unanswered second-half points got the job done for them in that first round tie.

cormac-foley Ireland U20 international Cormac Foley. Source: Pablo Gasparini/INPHO

Armagh’s Andrew Smyth is rewarded for his crucial try with a start at hooker, while pacy young winger Evin Crummie, Gerard Treanor and Barry Finn also come into the starting XV. James Hanna switches to the engine room with Finn filling the openside flanker berth.

Old Belvedere v Navan, Ollie Campbell Park, 3.30pm

It will be a momentous day in the history of Old Belvedere Rugby Club when they officially rename their home ground, ‘Ollie Campbell Park’. There is a men’s and women’s AIL double-header to mark the occasion, Andy Kenny’s side returning home after a 22-20 win at Shannon.

Captain Steve Crosbie starred with a 17-point kicking haul in Limerick, and he switches to inside centre tomorrow to accommodate former Trinity back Tommy Whittle’s league debut for Belvedere at out-half. Ireland U19 prop Ryan McMahon also gets the nod at tighthead.

The only change made to the Navan team that lost 23-18 to St. Mary’s is Eoghan Noonan’s inclusion at blindside flanker. Second row Conor Hand was their man-of-the-match last Saturday and more of the same will be required against a robust ‘Belvo pack.

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