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AIB League: Munster Duo Seek To Maintain Starts

AIB League: Munster Duo Seek To Maintain Starts

Both Garryowen and Dolphin – the only two sides left in the AIB League with 100% records – face difficult home ties on what could prove a pivotal weekend.

Both Garryowen and Dolphin – the only two sides left in the AIB League with 100% records – face difficult home ties on what could prove a pivotal weekend.

Paul Cunningham’s Garryowen side – with three wins from three – welcome last season’s Division One semi-finalists Belfast Harlequins to Dooradoyle on Saturday, in a re-arranged fixture.

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‘Quins second row Johnny Poole died suddenly just ten days ago, and with that in mind, Andre Bester’s visitors are certain to give it their all, in their first trip to Munster this season.

Four weeks have passed since their last AIL game – a morale-boosting 28-10 victory over Dublin University – but ‘Quins could have the firepower to rattle the Limerick men.

Although without fly-half Ian Humphreys, who is on Sevens duty with Ireland, Bester can bank on the form of back row Chris McCarey – who has notched a stunning 14 tries already this season, thirteen of which came in the Ulster League.

Garryowen are defending an impressive Division One record of nine straight wins, and with top try scorer Ray Niland (3), possibly in tandem with Munster recruit Paul Devlin and fly-half Alan Purcell, home advantage should swing it for them.

Former Connacht and Ireland A coach Steph Nel will begin his reign as Ballymena’s new head, away to Blackrock. Two years ago, the Dubliners edged this fixture 22-19 – with Conor Buckley, Emmet Farrell and current Leinster wing Gary Brown touching down.

Number eight Michael McComish will be missing for Ballymena, due to his participation in the South Africa Sevens.

The Braidmen lived off the boot of Dirkie Strydom (14) back then, and but notched an encouraging four tries against Carlow (32-10) last time out. ‘Rock have only played three times this season, but were solid enough in their 22-14 defeat of ‘Quins at Stradbrook in October.

“I want to play a dynamic 15-man game, winning is important, but I want to win with style,” commented South African Nel.

“We have a huge number of players and a lot of very young talented players in the side.”

Buccaneers’ pack should be pretty much unchanged for their visit to winless County Carlow – depending on Connacht lock Pieter Myburgh’s availability.

Young Buccs fly-half David Connellan – who kicked could also make a return to senior action, following an injury lay-off.

Cork’s Dolphin have bounced back well since their relegation from the top flight last season – winning five from five, for the first time in the club’s history.

Last weekend, they managed without top try scorer Tomas O’Leary (6), who was needed by the Ireland Sevens, to beat Midleton 16-11, with both left winger Jared Murrell and skipper James Coughlan on target.

UCC are their opposition at the weekend, and although Dolphin have won their last two meetings – the second being 2002/03’s Division Two play-off semi-final (20-18) – the students will provide Dave O’Mahony’s side with a good test of their form so far.

Dolphin back row Donnchadha Murphy will make his 80th league appearance, against his former club on Saturday. In an incredible run, Murphy has missed just one game since making his debut for Dolphin in 1999.

FIXTURES: December 11-12:

Saturday: (kick-off 2.30pm)


Blackrock College v Ballymena, Stradbrook

County Carlow v Buccaneers, Oak Park

Garryowen v Belfast Harlequins, Dooradoyle


Old Belvedere v De La Salle Palmerston, Anglesea Road

Terenure College v Bective Rangers, Lakelands Park

Waterpark v Highfield, Ballinakill


City of Derry v Connemara, Judge’s Road

Clonakilty v Sunday’s Well, Shannonvale Cross

Corinthians v Banbridge, Corinthian Park, 7.00pm

Instonians v Ballina, Shaws Bridge

Old Wesley v Suttonians, Donnybrook

Portadown v Greystones, Chambers Park

Queen’s University v Skerries, Dub Lane

Wanderers v Ards, Lansdowne Road

Sunday: (kick-off 2.30pm)


Dolphin v UCC, Musgrave Park

Thomond v St Mary’s, Fitzgerald Park

UL Bohemian v Malone, Thomond Park

Young Munster v Barnhall, Tom Clifford Park