19 May, 11:13
There are six uncapped players in the Ireland squad for the summer tour to North America that was named this morning. An Emerging Ireland squad has also been selected for the Tblisi Cup in Georgia.
Two years ago, a late flurry by the students lead to a 31 -29 victory over a Shannon side that would go on to win the AIL. Shannon's coach Geoff Moylan will certainly not want a repeat of that particular result.
It's only the third time that these two sides have meet, with Shannon putting in a demolition style performance beating UCD by 55 points to 22 when they travelled to Thomond park last season.
With three games gone in the League, Shannon can be very happy with their performances to date and head to Dublin for the first of four visits to the capital with the best points differential, +60, thus far in the league. Along with table toppers Ballymena, they have scored 10 tries, but what Moylan is most proud of, is the defensive record of his side. They were taken to the wire by Belfast Harlequins last weekend in Thomond Park, eventually winning by 15 points to 6, but a supreme defensive effort ensured that, although having the lions share of possession, the visitors failed to cross the line.
UCD lie in eight place in the table with a win a, a loss and a draw to their credit. Last weekend an upset looked very much on the cards when they lead Cork Constitution by 24 -5 at half time, but then proceeded to feel a second half backlash which resulted in a 27-27 draw. As always the students are expected to be full of running and pose a serious threat in fractured play.
It will be a rather awkward situation for Shannon's President Melvin McNamara, as his son Niall will most likely line out in the No. 10 Jersey for UCD. Niall transferred college at the beginning of the season and logic dictates that he plays rugby at his new location. Shannon will only be too aware of the threat that the talented outhalf poses as he was an intricate member of their squad for the previous three season's, winning an AIL medal in 2002.
Shannon were this week boosted with news that a number of their provincial players have been made available. The versatile Frank Roche, who has lined out in all three front row positions with Munster returns to his club for the first time this season. Added to Roche, James Blaney and Trevor Hogan become available for the first time while Colm McMahon returns to the squad after playing in Shannon's opening game against Lansdowne.
The availability of the provincially contracted players gives Moylan selection options, but with his side performing so well so far it's unlikely that he will alter his line up too radically. Roche may well take up the number one shirt in place of Gary McNamara, but it would be difficult to envisage, Blaney usurping Jerry Flannery from the middle of the front Row. Flannery was outstanding last weekend for Shannon and his man of the match accolade was well deserved. Tony Buckley has become a cornerstone in the side and it's unlikely that will change.
The second-row and back-row scenario opens a wealth of options for Shannon, with a couple of players comfortable in either position. Brian Buckley has been a consistent big game performer and his influence on others around him can never be underestimated. He would be the most likely candidate for one of the lock positions while to try and speculate his partner is akin to picking the winning lottery numbers with several different combinations available. John Hadnett has played a big part in his side's opening three victories and he would be unlucky to lose out. It would, however seem unlikely that Trevor Hogan will be put straight into action for his club, while captain Tom Hayes could move from number 8 into the second row. If that were the case than McMahon would start in the backrow along with John O'Connor and Garrett Noonan.
The back line is a more straightforward selection and it's highly unlikely that changes will be made. Fiach O'Loughlin will be the link between backs and forwards, while Andrew Thompson will lineout at outhalf. Thompson, with 893 points, remains the top all-time points scorer in Division one, a remarkable achievement considering he hasn't been Shannon's first choice goal kicker for the last three seasons. Brian Tuohy has embedded himself well into this Shannon side after a summer transfer from UL/Bohs, while his midfield partner Eoin Cahill deservedly scored his first AIL try last weekend. Tom Cregan's accuracy with the boot ensures that any indiscretions will be punished by the winger while full-back John Lacey is still one away from his 50th all time AIL try. If he succeeds in breaching the UCD line this weekend he will become the first player to achieve such a milestone. David O'Donovan will start on the left wing and he is a player who has barley put a foot wrong all season.
It is a difficult game for Shannon, but they enter into it on the back of three good wins. Confidence is high, and the return of some of the Munster contingent is a further boost.
UCD will be anxious to starve Shannon of possession and will counter attack at every opportunity, however Shannon's defence remains their bedrock and by frustrating the students they do have an attacking potency that has the ability to yield tries.
The scales may well be slightly tipped in Shannon's favour, but the certainly won't underestimate UCD. Another win will see them carve out their best opening sequence in the AIL since their four in a row days, but that will be the farthest thing form their minds when they take the field on Saturday.
(Match preview courtesy of Andrew McNamara, Shannon P.R.O.)
U.C.D. 8th in table; this their only home game to a Limerick and a Munster club this season; on their Div. One debut in September 2001, shocked Shannon 31-29 in the opening weekend of the League season; play their 35th League match against a Munster club this afternoon and their 15th against them in the Belfield Bowl; have lost only three of their last 18 homes to Munster clubs and as well as taking care of Shannon, have also beaten Cork Con and Young Munster in Belfield during the past two seasons; former Shannon out half and son of the current Shannon president, Niall McNamara plays for the Belfield students today.
Shannon. 2nd in table; this the first of three trips to Leinster this season; they have won their last five League games; this is the 35th occasion to travel and play League rugby in Leinster a region where they haven't nearly as good a record as Garryowen ( 67% success ) and Cork Con ( 65% success ); have, in fact, managed only five wins in their last 14 trips to the eastern province; currently one of four undefeated clubs in Div. One and have the best points differential (+ 60) in the first division; Andrew Thompson with 893 points remains the top all-time points scorer in Div. One.; with Ballymena have scored the most tries (10) after three rounds of this seasons Div. One campaign; full back John Lacey is on 49 tries - will he this weekend become the first player in the all-time League to score 50 tries?
AIB League Division One: Belfast Harlequins v Lansdowne Blackrock College v Clontarf Co Carlow v St. Mary's College Dolphin v Ballymena Galwegians v Cork Constitution Garryowen v Buccaneers U.C.D. v Shannon Dungannon - Free
AIB League Division Two Ballynahinch v Terenure College Malone v Dublin University Midleton v Barnhall Old Belvedere v U.C.C. Old Crescent v D.L.S.P. U.L. Bohemians v Sunday's Well Young Munster v Waterpark Bective Rangers v Thomond (Sun 16th November)
AIB League Division Three Ards v Ballina Clonakilty v Portadown Highfield v Connemara Old Wesley v Instonians Queens University v Corinthians Skerries v Naas Suttonians v Banbridge Wanderers v City of Derry. Greystones - Free.