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AIB League: Thomond Tester for Smeeth’s Students

AIB League: Thomond Tester for Smeeth’s Students

Dublin University have faired admirably well so far in AIB League Division One, but a tricky trip to standard bearers Shannon today will prove the ultimate test for Tony Smeeth’s young side.

Dublin University have faired admirably well so far in AIB League Division One, but a tricky trip to standard bearers Shannon today will prove the ultimate test for Tony Smeeth’s young side.

The rails have come off the Trinity juggernaut a little over the last month, with the postponement of last Saturday’s trip to Cork Con not helping them.

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Their luck has seemed to run out in the crucial latter stages of games this season – Dan Van Zyl’s last minute penalty saw Clontarf pinch a 14-11 win over them two weeks ago.

Despite scoring four second half tries, Smeeth’s charges – currently fourth-from-bottom – ran out 23-22 losers in Ballymena before Christmas, and a late smash-and-grab try from Ross McCarron saw bitter rivals UCD steal a 20-20 draw in the Colours decider in November.

Without a win since October’s 20-12 home defeat of Buccaneers, time may be running out for last season’s Division Two qualifiers.

Elsewhere, arguably the top flight’s form side, Belfast Harlequins are back at Deramore Park to welcome gallant Galwegians19-13 losers to UCD last Sunday.

Andre Bester’s ‘Quins’ outfit picked up their fifth win on-the-trot against Lansdowne last time out (13-9), and have yet to concede a try in over 320 minutes of rugby. They welcome back scrum-half Reece Spee from Ulster duty.

Following a deserved slice of good fortune in their 26-14 defeat of Dungannon, second-from-bottom County Carlow travel to Cork Con, without inspirational back row Andy Melville.

They can bank, however, on the form of number 10 Richie Murphy – who has claimed 51 points in their last four games.

Colm Finnerty is an injury doubt for Buccaneers’ trip east to Clontarf, but the fast recovering David Connellan and Gareth Halligan should line out at Castle Avenue.

Three tries will see ‘Tarf hit an all-time 350 touchdowns – joining the eight clubs who have previously managed the feat.

Blackrock College redeemed themselves in edging former leaders ‘Tarf 13-8 last Saturday, and should have enough in reserve – with fullback Conor Kilroy kicking 20 of their most recent 30 points – to see off Dungannon at Stevenson Park.

Richard Stafford is due to replace head injury victim Stephen Ferris at number eight for the home side – who could move seventh with a win.

Ulster back Paddy Wallace will also be visiting his old college – UCD – when attempting to help Ballymena to their first win in three games.

Last season, the Braidmen began their 2003/04 campaign in fine style, defeating the students 34-9 at Eaton Park, with Andy Maxwell, Dirkie Strydom, Andy Munson and Matt Waterhouse all touching down.

A resurgent Garryowen return to Dooradoyle, following last weekend’s 27-18 win at Buccs. Paul Cunningham’s men take on Lansdowne with centre Ray Niland surely keen to add to his four tries.

Lansdowne – largely reliant so far on Andy Tallon’s boot – with the out-half mustering 58 points so far – have only won once on their last ten road trips.

AIB League Fixtures: Saturday, January 29 (kick-off 2.30pm, unless stated)


Belfast Harlequins v Galwegians, Deramore Park
Clontarf v Buccaneers, Castle Avenue
Cork Constitution v County Carlow, Temple Hill
Dungannon v Blackrock College, Stevenson Park
Garryowen v Lansdowne, Dooradoyle
Shannon v Dublin University, Thomond Park
UCD v Ballymena, Belfield


Barnhall v Midleton, Parsonstown
Malone v De La Salle Palmerston, Gibson Park
St Mary’s College v Old Belvedere, Templeville Road
Terenure College v Dolphin, Lakelands
Thomond v Bective Rangers, Fitzgerald Park
UCC v Old Crescent, The Mardyke, 3.15pm
UL Bohemian v Young Munster, Thomond Park (2.30pm, Sunday, January 30)
Waterpark v Ballynahinch, Ballinakill


Ards v Corinthians, Hamilton Park
Connemara v Ballina, Monastery Field
Greystones v Banbridge, Dr Hickey Park
Old Wesley v Clonakilty, Donnybrook
Queen’s University v Portadown, Dub Lane
Skerries v City of Derry, Holmpatrick
Sunday’s Well v Bruff, Musgrave Park
Suttonians v Instonians, John J MacDowell Park