Two points clear at the top of AIB League Division 1B, Phil Werahiko's Old Belvedere side are on the road this weekend as they visit Young Munster in an intriguing clash. The all-Ulster meeting of Dungannon and Ballynahinch is another match that could go either way, while Buccaneers will be hoping to end their losing run and turn the tables on in-form Ballymena.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, October 24
BALLYMENA (2nd) v BUCCANEERS (8th), Eaton Park, 2.30pm
AIB League Current Form -Ballymena: WW; Buccaneers: LL AIB League Top Scorers -Ballymena: Points: Rory Drysdale 31; Tries: Tommy Seymour, Ross Hackney, Sam McKinney 1 each; Buccaneers: Points: Adam Kennedy, Billy Henshaw, Brian Tuohy 5 each; Tries: Billy Henshaw, Brian Tuohy 1 each
Preview: Aided by Rory Drysdale's assured goalkicking, second-placed Ballymena will fancy their chances at home against bottom of the table Buccaneers.
To date, injury-hit Bucaneers have disappointed but but they did show distinct signs of improvement away to Shannon in the AIB Cup last weekend, leading at one stage in the second half.
Last Season's Meeting - Saturday, December 13, 2008: Buccaneers 17 Ballymena 21, Dubarry Park
Trivia - A unique celebration of Ballymena Academy's past pupils who have gone on to play for Ireland was held at the Braid Arts Centre this week. The event was well attended and featured a number of the school's most notable past pupils, including current Ballymena RFC President Dr Syd Millar, Lions legend Willie John McBride and Ulster's Operations Director David Humphreys.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win by 6-10 points
DUNGANNON (5th) v BALLYNAHINCH (6th), Stevenson Park, 2.30pm
AIB League Current Form -Dungannon: LW; Ballynahinch: LW AIB League Top Scorers -Dungannon: Points: James Shiells 12; Tries: Ethan Allen, Glen Telford, Paul Magee 1 each; Ballynahinch: Points: Ryan Bambry 19; Tries: Ryan Bambry, David Harris, Jonny Cullen, Nevin Spence 1 each
Preview: Ulster rivals locked on five points after winning one and losing one of their opening two games. Likely to be very little in it.
Ballynahinch put up a very creditable performance when only going down narrowly to Cork Constitution in the AIB Cup last weekend, and will be pumped for their second provincial derby in the top flight.
Last Season's Meeting - Ballynahinch were in Division 2
Trivia - Former Ulster, Ireland and Lions flanker Stewart McKinney will be a special guest at the Dungannon v Ballynahinch pre-match lunch, as he promotes his excellent new book, 'Voices from the Back of the Bus'. A Dungannon RFC life member, McKinney's son Sam is the current captain of the Tyrone club's first team
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win by 1-5 points
GALWEGIANS (3rd) v UCC (7th), Crowley Park, 2.30pm
AIB League Current Form -Galwegians: WL; UCC: LL AIB League Top Scorers -Galwegians: Points: Mark Butler 19; Tries: Mark Butler 3; UCC: Points: Andrew Burke 16; Tries: Brian Derham, Colin Crowley, Sean Scanlon 1 each
Preview: Just pipped by Ballymena last time out, Galwegians must feel they have a very good chance of returning to winning form at Crowley Park.
But beware UCC. While they are still looking for their first victory, they are undoubtedly better than their lowly position in the table indicates.
Last Season's Meeting - UCC were in Division 2
Trivia - Captained by centre Ivan Dineen, UCC scored a 27-10 win over Corinthians in the AIB Cup last weekend. Can they make it two victories on the bounce over Galway opposition? Galwegians coach Kevin Tierney said: "UCC are a very good side and they have some excellent players. Home game though, if we can get our lineout, scrum and backs division working well, it should be a good day for us."
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Galwegians to win by 1-5 points
YOUNG MUNSTER (4th) v OLD BELVEDERE (1st), Tom Clifford Park, 2.30pm
AIB League Current Form -Young Munster: WL; Old Belvedere: WW AIB League Top Scorers -Young Munster: Points: Alan Kingsley 21; Tries: Alan Kingsley 2; Old Belvedere: Points: David Mongan 25; Tries: David Mongan 5
Preview: High-flying leaders Old Belvedere face an interesting test at Tom Clifford Park. Young Munster will clearly have to play really well if they are to inflict a first defeat on the Dublin 4 outfit.
Everything is going well for Old Belvedere at the moment. They can call on some top class performers, notably Leinster centre Fergus McFadden, while winger David Mongan is scoring tries for fun just now.
Last Season's Meeting - Saturday, October 11, 2008: Young Munster 9 Old Belvedere 13, Tom Clifford Park
Trivia - Munster's Kiwi scrum half Toby Morland could make his AIB League debut on Saturday after impressing for Young Munster in their 30-17 AIB Cup victory over Terenure College last weekend. Another new player at Greenfields, out-half Alan Kingsley has also caught the eye by scoring all but 10 of their points in their opening two league games
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win by 6-10 points