A long-awaited Limerick derby, second playing fifth and a possible relegation eight-pointer. There's more than pride to play for in this weekend's eight AIB League Division matches.
AIB LEAGUE DIVISION ONE: Saturday, November 5 (2.30pm)
- FIXTURES -
Belfast Harlequins v Lansdowne, Deramore Park
Ninth-placed Harlequins are boosted by the return of former Ireland Under-21 prop John Andress for the visit of seventh-ranked Lansdowne.
Andress is back after two months on the sidelines with a knee injury. He comes in at loosehead with Kiwi recruit Chris Tipene shifting to tighthead.
Lansdowne were off colour last week against UCD and with be up against it, if they are to pull off their second win in Ulster this season. 'Quins have won three of the last four league meetings between the sides.
Previous Meetings: 04/05: Lansdowne 9 Harlequins 13; 03/04: Harlequins 31 Lansdowne 17; 02/03: Lansdowne 22 Harlequins 20; 01/02: -; 00/01: Lansdowne 17 Harlequins 26
Top Scorers: Harlequins: Michael Glancy 36; Lansdowne: Corey Burt 38
AIL Odds: Harlequins 9/1, Lansdowne 40/1 (Paddy Power)
Belfast Harlequins: M Kettyle; J Lowe, D Cave, J McClaughlin, P McKenzie; M Glancy, M Finlay; J Andress, S Philpott, C Tipene, G Rourke, L Stevenson, A Gillespie, C Atkinson, A Ward.
Blackrock College v Dungannon, Stradbrook
Dungannon venture south in search of their third win in four league games. Blackrock however, are unbeaten after two wins and a draw (20-20 against UL Bohemians).
Something's got to give - the place-kicking of 'Gannon's Gareth Steenson or 'Rock fly-half Paddy O'Toole could win it. The Tyrone men won last year's meeting 17-10 at Stevenson Park.
Previous Meetings: 04/05: Dungannon 17 Blackrock 10; 03/04: Blackrock 27 Dungannon 16; 02/03: Blackrock 26 Dungannon 12; 01/02: Dungannon 10 Blackrock 10; 00/01: -
Top Scorers: Blackrock: Paddy O'Toole 26; Dungannon: Gareth Steenson 30
AIL Odds: Blackrock 66/1, Dungannon 16/1 (Paddy Power)
Blackrock: A Henry; A Pinto, C Gilligan, S Morrissey, F Carr; P O'Toole, R Molloy; C Murphy/S Byrne, C Gee, M Cuffe, M Legge, O Cullen, D Lavin, D Dillon, E Manawaiti/C Treston.
Clontarf v Ballymena, Castle Avenue
A repeat of the 2003 final which Ballymena won 28-18 at Lansdowne Road.
How times have changed though for the Braidmen. They are currently rooted to the bottom after three successive defeats. It's a tough ask - 'Tarf's young backline has been in fine form to date, despite last week's 6-3 loss in Dungannon.
'Tarf winger Derek Keane is the league's top try scorer with four in three games, but Steph Nel's visitors will be well primed and aiming to further Ballymena's enviable record of three wins in their last four league meetings with the north Dubliners.
Previous Meetings: 04/05: Ballymena 20 Clontarf 21; 03/04: Clontarf 6 Ballymena 12; 02/03: Ballymena 21 Clontarf 15 (Final: Clontarf 18 Ballymena 28); 00/01: Ballymena 41 Clontarf 31
Top Scorers: Clontarf: Peter O'Brien 25; Ballymena: Dirkie Strydom 20
AIL Odds: Clontarf 8/1, Ballymena 50/1 (Paddy Power)
Clontarf: D O'Shea; D Keane, N O'Brien, B O'Donnell, M Rantz-McDonald; P O'Brien, F O'Loughlin; J Wickham, N Carson, R Sweeney, A Wood, J Duffy, J Ellison, D Quinn, P Perdue.
Ballymena: D Strydom; A Spence, J McGruggan, S Stewart, S Young; A Larkin, D O'Hara; A Kirkpatrick, I Campbell, S Shawe, H Head, B Young, A Graham, J Taggart, M McComish.
County Carlow v Galwegians, Oak Park
This would seem to have relegation eight-pointer written all over it. Carlow are languishing in 15th place, 'Wegians, under new coach Paul Young, are not faring much better in 13th.
Neither side have tasted victory so far in the league campaign, so a maiden success will be toasted at Oak Park before the break for the internationals.
'Wegians, 52-10 winners of the corresponding fixture last February, would seem to have the greater firepower in their backline so they should account for the midlanders.
Previous Meetings: 04/05: Galwegians 52 Carlow 10; 03/04: Carlow 28 Galwegians 32; 02/03: Galwegians 9 Carlow 27; 01/02: Carlow 23 Galwegians 35; 00/01 -
Top Scorers: Carlow: Greg Jacob 21; Galwegians: John Cleary 12
AIL Odds: Carlow 500/1, Galwegians 100/1 (Paddy Power)
Cork Constitution v Buccaneers, Temple Hill
Two of the league's form sides meet at Temple Hill.
Con's young side have made a great start to the campaign, chalking up wins over UL Bohemians, Ballymena and Dungannon. Buccs were dominant in their 17-0 defeat of Lansdowne last week and in goal-kicking full-back/winger Tom Cregan, they have the league's top points scorer to date.
Buccs won this fixture last October - what was the 2004/05 season opener - 18-12 and also the previous year's clash, but with home advantage, Con should come out on top.
Previous Meetings: 04/05: Buccs 18 Con 12; 03/04: Con 10 Buccs 22; 02/03: Con 27 Buccs 23; 01/02: Buccs 10 Con 16; 00/01: -
Top Scorers: Con: Conor Quaid 39; Buccs: Tom Cregan 46
AIL Odds: Con 3/1, Buccs 25/1 (Paddy Power)
Garryowen v Dublin University, Dooradoyle
It's far from the ideal time for the students of Dublin University to be paying Dooradoyle a visit.
Trinity look ripe for a heavy defeat as they travel to Limerick on foot of a hat-trick of losses. Still, there was only a point between the sides last season.
Garryowen have been performing well under coach Paul Cunningham, as evidenced by their third place position. Being able to call on Munster squad players Rob Henderson, Paul Burke, of recent weeks, and Paul Devlin has been a help.
That's not to stay the rest of the side are not up to scratch - the O'Boyle twins are in excellent form as is fly-half Conan Doyle who has landed 15 points to date.
Previous Meetings: 04/05: Dublin Uni 5 Garryowen 6; 03/04 -; 02/03: -; 01/02: -; 00/01: -
Top Scorers: Garryowen: Conan Doyle 15; Dublin Uni: Johnny Watt 24
AIL Odds: Garryowen 11/2, Dublin Uni 150/1 (Paddy Power)
Dublin Uni: P Howard; S Hanratty, G Byron, B Hastings, C Donohoe; D Crotty, M Darcy; N Conlon, M Crockett, P Doran-Jones, R Morrow, M Warburton, P Rowe, R White, H Hogan.
Shannon v UL Bohemians, Thomond Park
An excellent game in prospect with the champions squaring up to their Limerick neighbours Bohemians.
Ironically the last time these great rivals met in the AIB League back in February 2003, current coach Mick Galwey scored two tries for Shannon in a 33-16 win. Brian Tuohy, now resident centre for Shannon, bagged a 70-metre try for Bohs that day.
Bohs have the players in Martin McPhail and Ben Martin to cause a stir in the backs but Shannon's pack, even without captain Colm McMahon (broken foot), looks too good. Locks Padraig O'Brien and Donnacha Ryan have been improving with every game and Sean Cronin, at only 19, has stepped into the breach with Jerry Flannery's services required by Munster.
Previous Meetings: 04/05: -; 03/04: -; 02/03: Shannon 33 UL Bohs 16; 01/02: -; 00/01: -
Top Scorers: Shannon: Andrew Thompson 39; UL Bohs: Fergal Lawlor 25
AIL Odds: Shannon 11/8 fav, UL Bohs 100/1 (Paddy Power)
UCD v St Mary's College, Belfield
Two great Dublin rivals, but two outsiders when it comes to the race for the play-offs at the moment.
The form of both UCD (11th) and Mary's (12th) is too patchy at present to warrant a challenge for a top four slot.
There were encouraging signs last week from Mary's as young fly-half Jonathan Sexton inspired them to a 21-8 home win against Carlow. UCD were poor against Harlequins last Saturday, losing 13-8.
A few frontliners from each team, most notably UCD fly-half Eoghan Hickey, are in the Leinster squad for Sunday's Celtic League clash against Edinburgh. But a derth of quality young players will still be on show at Belfield.
Previous Meetings: 04/05: -; 03/04: St Mary's 14 UCD 6; 02/03: UCD 17 St Mary's 20; 01/02: St Mary's 9 UCD 9; 00/01: -
Top Scorers: UCD: Killian Lett 12; St Mary's: Jonathan Sexton 22
AIL Odds: UCD 50/1, St Mary's 50/1 (Paddy Power)