Rob Murphy from grassroots rugby website, www.Knockon.ie, previews the second round games in the IRFU Junior Interprovincial Championship. Can title holders Munster get back to winning ways against current table toppers Ulster?
2013/14 IRFU JUNIOR INTERPROVINCIAL CHAMPIONSHIP: Saturday, May 3
ROUND 2 FIXTURES -
CONNACHT (4th) v LEINSTER (2nd), Ballinasloe RFC, 2.30pm
The odds are stacked against the westerners on Saturday. Their second half collapse in Ulster has stung the pride in the camp and there will be a real determination, first and foremost, to put in a strong performance against title contenders Leinster.
After a 13-8 win over Munster, the Dave Mahon-coached visitors are hoping that they can secure a second win here and set up the final day showdown with Ulster in Dromore, but there is a job to do against a Connacht side that has beaten them twice in the last three years.
All those stats matter not a jot now, Connacht met an Ulster side that had been together for over a month and were very well drilled when it came to the second half surge.
For Ambrose Conboy, this will have been a challenging week of training and motivating. He coached the province to a title two years ago and can get a performance out of them here.
Connacht make three changes to the side that lost in Larne last weekend. Ballinasloe's Kevin Gavin comes in for the injured Jamie Dever at loosehead prop. The Westport man went off injured during the opening round game in Ulster.
OLBC prop Ger Fahy switches from tighthead to hooker with Daniel Barrett moving to the bench and Paul McCreanor of OLBC coming in at number 3. In the second row Sean Connolly comes into the side with Aidan McNulty switching to the back row in place of Kevin Keogh.
A pretty tough run of injuries has forced Leinster into five changes from the Munster match. Dundalk's Steven McGee slots in at full-back for Niall O'Donoghue, who was a try scorer against Munster. Daniel Pim from All-Ireland Cup winners Enniscorthy replaces the injured Richie Forbes.
In the front row Cathal Bannon from Portarlington starts at loosehead prop in place of James Clifford, while injuries to Longford's Paul Gallogly and Kilkenny's Dave O'Connor lead to changes in the back row - Barry Stewart of Longford is in on the blindside and Adrian Hanley of Monkstown FC is available again and starts at number 8.
Match Prediction: Leinster to win by nine points
CONNACHT: Darren Griffin (OLBC); Kevin Corcoran (Westport), Dwayne Corcoran (Westport), Conor Mulligan (OLBC), Jack Vaughan (Connemara); Shane Sweeney (Connemara), Michael O'Toole (Connemara); Kevin Gavin (Ballinasloe), Ger Fahy (OLBC), Paul McCreanor (OLBC), Willie Cullinane (OLBC), Sean Connolly (OLBC), Michael Ryder (Westport), John Hayes (Ballinasloe) (capt), Aidan McNulty (Ballina).
LEINSTER: Stephen McGee (Dundalk); Killian Everard (Kilkenny), Daniel Pim (Enniscorthy), Ben Swindlehurst (Newbridge), Joni Butterworth (Arklow); Bill Duggan (Monkstown), TC Campbell (Dundalk) (capt); Cathal Bannon (Portarlington), Johnny Lee (Coolmine), Dylan Quinn (Longford), Niall Smullen (Wicklow), Geoff Mullan (Coolmine), Barry Stewart (Longford), David Gilchrist (Coolmine), Dave O'Connor (Kilkenny).
Replacements: Kevin McCarthy (Newbridge), Cian Carroll (Monkstown), Conor McCormack (Cill Dara), Damien Broughall (Cill Dara), Paul Nolan (Clondalkin), Graham Barry (Newbridge); Chris Jebb (Clondalkin), Jonny Williams (Dundalk).
MUNSTER (3rd) v ULSTER (1st), Youghal RFC, 2.30pm
The title holders are still very much in the hunt to retain their crown despite an opening day defeat but they will need the win here and a favour from Ulster next week. The losing bonus point garnered in the second half against Leinster might yet prove key.
It has been a disrupted build-up for Munster due to the late run-off of cup competitions in the province.
Ulster focused on building a squad of players who had a less congested spring schedule and it might be working although Alasdair McKee will be determined not let his players get too carried away with their second half blitz of Connacht.
For McKee's Munster counterpart John O'Neill, the enforced changes this weekend will be a frustration but the players coming into his side are more than capable of making an impact - Kanturk duo Mark Healy and Johnny O'Sullivan are in great form and sharp in terms of fitness.
It is all change for Munster with seven alterations in personnel from the side that lost 13-8 to Leinster in round 1.
Injuries and player availability are key here with Junior Cup semi-finals taking place in the province on the Sunday. In the back-line, Cian Keegan of Skibbereen replaces Eoin O'Carroll on the left wing. Healy starts at inside centre in place of Darren O'Keeffe.
In the pack, Clonakilty's Aidan Foley is a available to start at tighthead prop. There are two changes in the second row with JJ Frahill from Cobh and Aaron Skerritt from St. Senan's coming in for Darragh Joyce and James Corbett.
In the back row Kevin Allen from Cobh starts at in the number 6 jersey instead of Dave McCormack, while Kanturk captain O'Sullivan takes the openside berth.
Unsurprisingly, Ulster have made the least number of changes this weekend after the 62-6 win over Connacht. McKee has made just wo alterations for the trip to east Cork.
On the wing Bangor's Mike Aspley comes in for Norman Carson, and Ballyclare club captain Rob Boyd replaces Kenny Morton in the second row.
It is very hard to back against this well-prepared Ulster side, even in a game against the reigning champions, and they are slight favourites to make it two wins out of two.
Match Prediction: Ulster to win by one point
MUNSTER: Eoin Duffy (Waterpark); Warren Kelly (St. Senan's), Mark Chandler (Cobh Pirates), Mark Healy (Kanturk), Cian Keegan (Skibbereen); Stuart Lee (Old Christians), Aaron Daly (Youghal); Pa Ryan (St. Senan's), Mike Cronin (Castleisland) (capt), Aidan Foley (Clonakilty), JJ Frahill (Cobh Pirates), Aaron Skerritt (St. Senan's), Kevin Allen (Cobh Pirates), Johnny O'Sullivan (Kanturk), Ian Fitzgerald (St. Senan's).
Replacements (from): Hugh Carolan (Waterpark), Mike Calnan (Skibbereen), Darragh Joyce (Waterpark), James Corbett (Newcastle West), David Fitzgerald (Waterpark), David McCormack (Clanwilliam). Dave O'Donoghue (Waerpark), James O'Neill (Tralee), Eoin Geary (Cobh), Eoin O'Carroll (Tralee), Eoghan O'Dwyer (Thurles), Darren O'Keeffe (Crosshaven).
ULSTER: Ashley Finlay (Cooke); Andrew Hodgen (CIYMS), Gary Clotworthy (Ballyclare), Jason Morgan (Bangor), Mike Aspley (Bangor); Niall Lawther (Ballyclare), Scott Nelson (Ballymoney) (capt); Chris Nash (Academy), Phil Whyte (Bangor), James Blair (Academy), Rob Boyd (Ballyclare), Gareth Fitzpatrick (Dromore), Gareth McCoy (Portadown) Jamie Clegg (Bangor), Jamie Johnston (Enniskillen).
Replacements: Scott Finlay (Cooke), Mark Neilly (Portadown), Chris Hamilton (Donaghadee), James Carleton (Portadown), Gary Weatherup (Ballyclare), Ally Lockhart (Donaghadee), Phil Cartmill (Cooke), Alan Wilkinson (Enniskillen).
The IRFU have announced the fixtures for the forthcoming Ulster Bank League season and following on from the success of last year's 'Friday Night Lights' games, the evening kick-offs continue and Division 1A sees the return of semi-finals and a final for the 2014/15 campaign.
More than 400 boys and girls from 20 teams took part in the Aviva Mini Rugby Festival and enjoyed a chance to 'play where their heroes play'. We hear from the IRFU's Hendrik Kruger and former Ireland international David Wallace, as well as Aviva's Eoin O'Neill and some of the club coaches involved.
Old Belvedere moved to the top of Ulster Bank League Division 1A as full-back Josh Glynn booted them to a 21-15 victory over Dolphin. Their home win came a day after title rivals Clontarf lost to Lansdowne, setting up a fascinating final round next Saturday.
The top two teams in Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League - Clontarf and Old Belvedere - played out a high quality 'Friday Night Lights' encounter in front of a large Castle Avenue crowd. Irish Rugby TV brings you the best of the action.
Tries from man-of-the-match Daniel Riordan, captain Gerry Hurley and replacement Declan Lavery inspired the Ireland Club team to a 28-3 victory over their Scottish counterparts in the Ulster Bank Club International match. Check out this recap of the annual Dalriada Cup clash.
Number 8 Sean Wall captained Enniscorthy to Ulster Bank All-Ireland Junior Cup glory on Saturday as they got the better of Clogher Valley on a 10-9 scoreline. He was interviewed by Knockon.ie's Rob Murphy afterwards.
Scrum half Evan Lett scored the only try of the game as Enniscorthy won the Ulster Bank All-Ireland Junior Cup title for the first time, beating Clogher Valley 10-9 in a tight decider. He spoke to Knockon.ie's Rob Murphy afterwards.
Clogher Valley's joint head coach David Black reflected on his side's 10-9 Ulster Bank All-Ireland Junior Cup final loss to Enniscorthy. Despite the disappointment, he said it was 'a big achievement for such a small club' to reach the decider.
Out-half David Joyce wrapped up Clontarf's latest win in the Ulster Bank League, scoring the closing try and 16 points in total as they beat Young Munster 26-9 at Tom Clifford Park. Check out highlights of Saturday's game on Irish Rugby TV.
UCD qualified for the Ulster Bank Bateman All-Ireland Cup final with a hard-earned 21-20 semi-final win over Galwegians. The Irish Rugby TV cameras were at Belfield on Saturday to catch the best of the action.
Defending champions Lansdowne entered the Christmas break as the third-placed team in Ulster Bank League Division 1A following a nine-try 61-11 thrashing of Dolphin on the Aviva Stadium's back pitch. Check out the highlights on Irish Rugby TV.
The IRFU have launched a new concussion guide which outlines four simple, important messages: Stop - Inform - Rest - Return. Irish Rugby TV spoke to IRFU Head of Medical Services, Dr. Rod McLoughlin, IRUPA Operations Manager Simon Keogh and IRFU international referee John Lacey about the guide - further information is available at http://www.irishrugby.ie/news/30281.php.
Out-half Craig Ronaldson, who has made a successful transition from Ulster Bank League rugby with Lansdowne to a professional contract with Connacht, talks about the step up to this level of rugby, the importance of the league in providing game-time and a shop window for players and he also previews the province's back-to-back clashes with Toulouse.
The Irish Rugby TV cameras recorded today's much-anticipated 'Your Club, Your Country' Grand Prize Draw, with the 2013 winners drawn by IRFU President Pat Fitzgerald. Lionel Mahon from Ulster Bank and independent auditor Aidan Connaughton from Grant Thornton were also present for the draw which was hosted by the IRFU's Barry Cunningham.
Watch highlights of Ballynahinch's clash with Garryowen in Ulster Bank League Division 1A, as tries from Ross Adair and Aaron Ferris guided Hinch to their first win of the campaign at Ballymacarn Park.