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Munster sides impacted by Champions Cup call-ups for weekend's AIL action

There’s another packed programme of Energia Men’s All-Ireland League fixtures on the agenda.

Energia Men’s All-Ireland League: Saturday 11 December

Kick-off 2.30pm (unless stated)

Division 1A

BALLYNAHINCH (10th) v LANSDOWNE (2nd), Ballymacarn Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: LLLLLLLL; Lansdowne: WWWLWLWW

Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Greg Hutley 28; Tries: Shane Ball 2; Lansdowne: Points: Charlie Tector 45; Tries: Cormac Foley 5

Defeating high-flying Lansdowne would be like Christmas coming early for Adam Craig’s Ballynahinch, who were held scoreless by Terenure College last week and remain without a win, eight rounds in.

They can draw inspiration from their two 2019/20 meetings with Lansdowne, including a stunning 43-5 home victory. Winger Aaron Cairns scored a hat-trick of tries that day.

Lansdowne welcome back captain Jack O’Sullivan from injury, and while they are without Connacht’s Peter Sullivan this week, he has a high-quality replacement in Michael Silvester. Leinster’s Cormac Foley continues at scrum-half, chasing his sixth try.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 9, 2019: Ballynahinch 43 Lansdowne 5, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, February 29, 2020: Lansdowne 12 Ballynahinch 6, Aviva Stadium back pitch

jack-osullivan Jack O'Sullivan returns to the Lansdowne team to face Ballynahinch. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

CORK CONSTITUTION (3rd) v TERENURE COLLEGE (5th), Temple Hill

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Cork Constitution: LLLWWWWW; Terenure College: WLLLWWWW

Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Aidan Moynihan 52; Tries: Cathal O’Flaherty 4; Terenure College: Points: Caolan Dooley 27; Tries: Craig Adams 5

Cork Constitution take great pride in athletic young forward John Forde, who can play in the second row or back row, making the Munster bench for their Heineken Champions Cup opener against Wasps.

His club-mates are looking to sign off before Christmas with a sixth straight league win. Players like Duncan Williams and second row Cathal O’Flaherty, with four tries in as many games, have really come to the fore.

Nonetheless, Terenure College will be quietly confident of upsetting the reigning champions, making the trip down with an unchanged team. Their in-form number 8, Jordan Coghlan, has scored four tries in two matches.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 19, 2019: Cork Constitution 28 Terenure College 5, Temple Hill; Saturday, November 2, 2019: Terenure College 10 Cork Constitution 13, Lakelands Park

DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (7th) v UCC (9th), College Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Dublin University: LWWLLWWL; UCC: LLLLLWLL

Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: Mick O’Kennedy 33; Tries: Harry Sheridan 3; UCC: Points: Matthew Bowen 27; Tries: Matthew Bowen 5

An intervarsity derby that is sure to warm up supporters on a cold winter’s day. Driven on by stand-in captain Louis O’Reilly, Dublin University were not as far behind Clontarf as their 20-point defeat suggests.

As well as important league points, with UCC in the bottom two and currently trailing Trinity by 13 points, the Dudley Cup is up for grabs as the Cork side aim for a repeat of their October 2019 win (30-20) at College Park.

UCC’s selection is unfortunately hampered by Munster call-ups, three in the team and key flanker Jack Kelleher as a travelling reserve. Their lock pairing of Mark Bissessar and Sam O’Sullivan looks a promising one.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 16, 2019: Dublin University 31 UCC 29, College Park; Saturday, October 5, 2019: Dublin University 20 UCC 30, College Park

GARRYOWEN (6th) v CLONTARF (1st), Dooradoyle

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Garryowen: WWWWLLLL; Clontarf: WWWWLWWW

Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Tony Butler 43; Tries: Colm Quilligan 4; Clontarf: Points: Dylan Donnellan, Conor Kearns 40 each; Tries: Dylan Donnellan 8

With their top points scorer, Tony Butler, required by Munster, Jamie Heuston continues at out-half for Garryowen. He will have added responsibility tomorrow, captaining the team in the absence of Kevin Seymour.

Prop Jack Mullany and flankers Johnny Keane and Nicky Greene are the three personnel changes for the Light Blues. It has been a disappointing November-December period for them with four successive losses.

In contrast, Clontarf have won three on the bounce to hit the summit. 23-year-old lock Cormac Daly has starred in ‘Tarf’s last two outings, standing in as captain, scoring four tries, and winning the player-of-the-match award.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 16, 2019: Garryowen 13 Clontarf 10, Dooradoyle; Saturday, February 22, 2020: Clontarf 13 Garryowen 32, Castle Avenue

jamie-heuston-misses-a-penalty Jamie Heuston will be on duty again for Garryowen. Source: Laszlo Geczo/INPHO

UCD (8th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (4th), Belfield Bowl

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCD: LLLWWLLL; Young Munster: WWWWWLLW

Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: James Tarrant 46; Tries: Paddy Patterson 3; Young Munster: Points: Evan Cusack 73; Tries: Conor Hayes 8

UCD move Leinster Academy talent Chris Cosgrave into midfield for the visit of Young Munster. Luke Maloney switches to full-back and captain Jack Ringrose reverts to the right wing.

Richie Fahy is rewarded for his try last week with a start at scrum half, while James Culhane and Jack Coolican have big shoes to fill, deputising for the injured Ronan Foley and Sean O’Brien in the students’ back row.

Hooker Aaron Hennessy is the only change to the Young Munster selection. The Cookies travel with two of the division’s most prolific scorers in out-half Evan Cusack, the leading points scorer with 73 points, and Conor Hayes, the joint-top try scorer with eight.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 16, 2019: UCD 33 Young Munster 31, Belfield Bowl; Saturday, November 2, 2019: UCD 9 Young Munster 9, Belfield Bowl

Division 1B

NAVAN (9th) v NAAS (5th), Balreask Old, tonight, 8pm

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Navan: LLLWWDLL; Naas: LWLLWLWW

Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Navan: Points: Ben Daly 21; Tries: Evan Dixon, Paddy Fox 4 each; Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 102; Tries: Bryan Croke, Peter Osborne, Donal Conroy 4 each

Despite being winless in the last three rounds, Navan are at least playing much better rugby. Dangerous backs Evan Dixon and Paddy Fox have four tries each, and new out-half Ben Daly has quickly made an impact.

The Meath men make three changes, adding Liam Carroll and Shane Faulkner to the pack and bringing Ben McEntagart back in. McEntagart’s direct opponent on the wing tonight is Donal Conroy, who has run in three tries in Naas’ last four games.

A third win on the trot is the Cobras’ goal, heading into the Christmas break. Player-backs coach Craig Ronaldson resumes at inside centre. There are starts also for Tim Murphy, Connor Johnson, Paul Monahan and Ryan Casey.

Recent League Meetings – Friday, December 13, 2019: Naas 12 Navan 15, Forenaughts; Saturday, January 11, 2020: Navan 10 Naas 19, Balreask Old

BANBRIDGE (10th) v OLD BELVEDERE (7th), Rifle Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Banbridge: LLLLLLLL; Old Belvedere: WLWLLLLW

Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 53; Tries: Conor Field 3; Old Belvedere: Points: Justin Leonard 60; Tries: James McKeown 5

Banbridge, who had nothing to show for a solid effort against Old Wesley, are planning to use the coming weeks to turn their season around. The spectre of relegation is hanging over them unless things change.

Bann head coach Mark McDowell commented: “There’s not enough time to make drastic changes before Belvedere. I truly believe we can beat Belvedere. But once we get this game out of the way, we’ll use the Christmas period and the AIL break as effectively as we can to develop our game further.”

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‘Belvo ended their four-match losing run with an enjoyable 32-12 triumph at home to Navan. Dean Moore and Colin Mallon return to the pack tomorrow, with Fionn McWey switching to the openside flanker position.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 30, 2019: Banbridge 28 Old Belvedere 27, Rifle Park; Saturday, February 15, 2020: Old Belvedere 17 Banbridge 14, Ollie Campbell Park

CITY OF ARMAGH (4th) v OLD WESLEY (2nd), Palace Grounds

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: City of Armagh: WWWLLWWL; Old Wesley: WWWWWLWW

Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – City of Armagh: Points: Kyle Faloon 85; Tries: Andrew Willis, Kyle Faloon 4 each; Old Wesley: Points: Ian Cassidy 33; Tries: David Poff 3

Captain Tim McNiece pairs up with Evin Crummie in a new-look centre pairing for City of Armagh. Speedster Shea O’Brien switches to the left wing for this top-four duel.

James Hanna and Ryan Finlay are Armagh’s changes up front, with full-back Kyle Faloon (85 points) already closing in on a century of points for the season. He has scored three tries in his last four appearances.

Second-placed Old Wesley have tallied up 10 tries in the last fortnight, with two each from Ben Murphy and David Poff. They won 40-13 on their last visit to the Palace Grounds, but this should be a much closer contest.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 16, 2019: City of Armagh 13 Old Wesley 40, Palace Grounds; Saturday, February 22, 2020: Old Wesley 14 City of Armagh 12, Energia Park

SHANNON (6th) v HIGHFIELD (1st), Thomond Park back pitch

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Shannon: LWLWLDLW; Highfield: WWWWWWWW

Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Jake Flannery, John O’Sullivan 29 each; Tries: Killian Dineen 3; Highfield: Points: James Taylor 45; Tries: Miah Cronin 5

A controversially-awarded late penalty try saw Shannon get back to winning ways at Malone. It was a battling performance in Belfast, but much more will be needed against unbeaten leaders Highfield.

Pat O’Connor’s men are notably without talented teenage back rower Daniel Okeke, who starts at number 8 for Munster against Wasps. Cathal Gallagher returns to Highfield’s back row tomorrow.

Paddy O’Toole and David O’Sullivan combine in the centre for the Corkmen, who move Ben Murphy out to the right wing. Highfield’s finishing has been clinical in tight games, particularly off their ever-reliable lineout.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 14, 2019: Highfield 19 Shannon 10, Woodleigh Park; Saturday, January 11, 2020: Shannon 31 Highfield 13, Thomond Park back pitch

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (3rd) v MALONE (8th), Templeville Road

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

Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Conor Dean 47; Tries: Myles Carey, Ronan Watters 4 each; Malone: Points: Rory Campbell 46; Tries: Aaron Sexton 4

St. Mary’s College were left cursing a poor start against Naas, as their five-match winning streak came to an end. Number 8 Ronan Watters scored his fourth try of the season and led by example as stand-in captain.

A costly penalty try from a scrum ruined Malone’s hopes at home to Shannon, but they did manage two well-crafted tries themselves, Stewart McKendrick with his third of the campaign and Aaron Sexton his fourth.

The two fixtures between these clubs in 2019/20 both produced away wins. Mary’s prevailed 13-8 at Gibson Park, tighthead Mick McCormack scoring their only try and Ruairi Shields kicking the other points in the biting wind and rain.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 9, 2019: Malone 8 St. Mary’s College 13, Gibson Park; Saturday, February 29, 2020: St. Mary’s College 7 Malone 19, Templeville Road

Division 2A

  • Old Crescent v UL Bohemians, Takumi Park, tonight, 7.30pm
  • MU Barnhall v Cashel, Parsonstown
  • Ballymena v Rainey Old Boys, Eaton Park
  • Dolphin v Nenagh Ormond, Musgrave Park
  • Queen’s University v Buccaneers, Dub Lane

Division 2B

  • Malahide v Blackrock College, Estuary Road, tonight, 8pm
  • Dungannon v Belfast Harlequins, Stevenson Park
  • Galway Corinthians v Ballina, Corinthian Park
  • Sligo v Galwegians, Hamilton Park
  • Wanderers v Greystones, Merrion Road

Division 2C

  • Bangor v Skerries, Upritchard Park
  • Bruff v Sunday’s Well, Kilballyowen Park
  • City of Derry v Omagh Academicals, Judge’s Road
  • Clonmel v Enniscorthy, Ardgaoithe
  • Midleton v Tullamore, Towns Park

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