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AIB League: Clontarf Can Take Top Spot

AIB League: Clontarf Can Take Top Spot

Postponements see just two Division One games today, with Clontarf travelling to Cork Con, and Dungannon – boosted by the return of Gareth Steenson – entertaining Lansdowne.

With Division One leaders UCD idle, Clontarf – third in the table – can take top spot with a defeat of last season’s runners-up Cork Con at Temple Hill.

‘Tarf’s visit south is perhaps the toughest test of their title credentials so far. Phil Werahiko’s men were stagnant after Christmas last season – waiting until mid-April to post their first win of 2004.

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Three wins-on-the-trot this autumn, including a one-point opening day success at Ballymena, has seen the Dubliners recoup some of their 2003 form. A so far tentative Con will be looking for a morale boosting day out, thus a tight game should ensue. Kickers Dave McAllister and Pat McCarthy will shoulder much of the burden.

Due to the tragic death of Belfast Harlequins second row Johnny Poole, their trip to Garryowen has been postponed.

The 26-year-old former Banbridge skipper – who broke his hand in ‘Quins’ 22-14 loss to Blackrock last month – died suddenly last Saturday.

Coach Andre Bester believes the talented lock will be missed sorely by all at the club, and said: “Johnny was a leader of men, a fantastic character and at the heart of the team. Everything revolved around him. He was an immense influence both on and off the pitch.”

“Even though Johnny was only at the club a short time, he was already a rock for us,” added the South African.

Poole was due for a comeback, having trained last Thursday after a period on the sidelines due to a foot injury. His funeral took place last Tuesday at the Acton Parish Church.

Elsewhere, champions Shannon – who regained their Munster Senior League crown (26-13) at UL Bohs last weekend – should have too much armoury for third-from-bottom Galwegians.

Having only scored 7 tries so far and lost last time out to bitter rivals Garryowen (23-10), Mick Galwey’s side will probably attempt to better their four-try 34-9 win of just over a year ago, at Crowley Park.

Dungannon and Lansdowne have a much-needed chance to cut loose at Stevenson Park, having conceded a culmulative total of 151 points in their three outings. Andy Doyle’s visitors are definitely without Leinster flanker Niall Ronan, who is on Ireland Sevens duty in Dubai. ‘Gannon centre Seamus Mallon is also on the same trip, but fly-half Gareth Steenson returns to league action, having lined in Ireland Under 21s’ trial matches (both losses – 37-0, 15-10) against France last weekend.

Buccaneers’ clash with County Carlow will now take place on Saturday, December 11.

In Division Two, leaders Ballynahinch – who made it five wins out of five on Saturday, beating Midleton 25-0 – should have captain Lewis Johnston and number eight Derek Suffern back in tow, after their first league starts last weekend.

Chris Armstrong (thumb) and Marty Lyttle (shoulder) are the only ‘Hinch doubts for the trip to seventh-ranked DLSP. Dolphin – second with four wins from four – face a tough task against fourth-placed Midleton. Inspirational scrum-half Tomas O’Leary – the scorer of three try-doubles already this season – will be missing for Dolphin due to his Sevens’ participation.

Division Three’s fare sees the top three – Sunday’s Well, Greystones and Connemara all at home. Free-scoring ‘Well took the the summit with last weekend’s 27-0 triumph over Portadown, and they welcome Wanderers to Musgrave Park on Saturday.

‘Well’s outside centre John Lynch has been in excellent form of late, with his five-game tally of 64 points making him the league’s leading scorer across the three Divisions.

The basement battle of Ards and Old Wesley at Hamilton Park should also prove intriguing – so too Clonakilty’s visit to Greystones’ Dr Hickey Park. Noel O’Sullivan and Shay O’Donovan both scored two tries each in the Cork outfit’s 27-3 win at Ballina ten days’ ago, but the wing duo will be shackled well as ‘Stones have ended three of their four games so far without leaking a try.

Ards, last season’s Division 3 finalists, Skerries and Portadown are three of the eight sides still left in the AIB League, without a win.


Cork Constitution v Clontarf, Temple Hill

Dungannon v Lansdowne, Stevenson Park

Galwegians v Shannon, Crowley Park


Barnhall v Waterpark, Parsonstown
Bective Rangers v Young Munster, Donnybrook
DLSP v Ballynahinch, Kilternan
Highfield v UL Bohemian, Woodleigh
Malone v Old Belvedere, Gibson Park
Midleton v Dolphin, Towns Park
Old Crescent v Dolphin, Rosbrien
UCC v Terenure College, The Mardyke


Ards v Old Wesley, Hamilton Park
Ballina v City of Derry, Heffernan Park
Banbridge v Instonians, Rifle Park
Bruff v Corinthians, Kilballyowen Park
Connemara v Portadown, Monastery Field
Greystones v Clonakilty, Dr Hickey Park
Sunday’s Well v Wanderers, Musgrave Park
Suttonians v Queen’s University, JJ MacDowell Park