When these sides met in the league last season, in Oak Park, they shared 8 tries, four apiece, with the real difference being Eric Elwood who scored 20 of his side's points in their 35-23 victory. Elwood will not be around for this one, he will be assisting Connacht in the Parker Pen Cup, and in his absence, this is a game that could go right down to the wire.
Co Carlow's away record in the AIB League does not read well, they've won only two of their ten away games, but last time out they put title holders Shannon to the pin of their collar, place kicking letting them down in the end.Clontarf will have a fit-again Conor Mahony in their ranks for the visit to Thomond Park where Shannon await.
Apart from contracted players, the title holders have no serious injury worries, other than those that are on the long term list, such as Tom Cregan (Knee), John O'Neill (ankle), Colm Tucker (neck) and John O'Connor (knee). There is however, good news in the case of Cregan. The ace goal Kicker is due to start light jogging in the next few weeks, but is still unlikely to play rugby until mid -January at the earliest. Brian Buckley made a return to action last Sunday with the seconds, after his lengthy absence due to pneumonia. The second row played a full 80 minutes and came through with no serious problems. Although named on the squad, he is unlikely to figure in Geoff Moylan's plans this week.
The Shannon team is expected to remain along the same lines as that which started in the 18-10 win over Co.Carlow, with perhaps one or two different personnel.
For Clontarf it's expected that they will name the same side that started their last game, a 16-3 win over Terenure. Their pack is rated as one of the strongest in the league and it will take an almighty Shannon effort to stifle any momentum that the visitors generate. Ben Gissing has the ability to cause difficulties from the base of the scrum, and their two props, Warren O'Kelly and Adrian Clarke are formidable in the tight. Out wide, Daire Higgins and Ollie Winchester are the type of speed merchants that Shannon would gladly see without much to do.
Last season there was little to choose betwen the sides. On a wet, miserable February day in Castle Avenue, it took a late Fiach O'Loughlin try to seal victory and then two months later, in slightly better conditions, only a penalty kick separated the sides.
Lansdowne, who have lost in all their five visits to Temple Hill, welcome back veteran Angus McKeenin place of the injured John Lyne.
The loser of the Terenure College versus UL Bohemians clash at Lakelands will become favourite for relegation, both sides having failed to win so far. Terenure coach Kim Thurbon has had to return home to Australia and Des Lamont and Peter Bruce will be incharge for this vital match.
Division One. Ballymena v Belfast Harlequins, Eaton Park.Buccaneers v Blackrock College, Ericcson Park.Cork Constitution v Lansdowne, Temple Hill.