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AIB League: ‘Quins Aiming To Go One Better

AIB League: ‘Quins Aiming To Go One Better

Belfast Harlequins – already victorious against Garryowen this season – will be bolstered by fit-again fly-half Ian Humphreys for tomorrow’s Division One semi-final visit to Dooradoyle.

Belfast Harlequins – already victorious against Garryowen this season – will be bolstered by fit-again fly-half Ian Humphreys for tomorrow’s Division One semi-final visit to Dooradoyle.

Indeed, the ‘Quins side, crafted by departed coach Andre Bester and maintained by DC Gillespie in recent months, has got the edge on the other semi-finalists Shannon and Clontarf too this season. That sort of form, coupled with a strong showing from Humphreys and South African centre WP Strauss, could see the Belfast men through to their first Lansdowne Road final since 2002.

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Division One Semi-Final: Saturday, April 30
Garryowen (2) v Belfast Harlequins (3), Dooradoyle, 1.15pm (live RTE One)

Gillespie has plumped for youth and experience at half-back with Humphreys linking up with 1999 Heineken Cup-winning scrum-half Andy Matchett, as his side hope for a repeat of last December’s 13-6 win at Dooradoyle.

That success, dedicated to second row Johnny Poole who tragically died in a gun accident late last year, was the springboard for the rest of ‘Quins season with a titanic 19-18 win over champions Shannon immediately following it.

Gillespie – who hands over the Deramore Park reins to retiring Ulster skipper Andy Ward in June – told the Belfast Telegraph this week: “We’ve been down in Garryowen already this season and we defended particularly well and won that day. Something similar is going to be required this weekend.

“You couldn’t have a more difficult place to go that Garryowen or Shannon in the semi-final, so we are going to have to be at our best.

“A good core of the side played in the semi-final in Shannon last year when we didn’t really front up. Maybe that’s a harsh but we sat off them a wee bit and let them play too much. If you go down there you have to be in their faces for 80 minutes if you want to win it.”

‘Quins were outgunned 27-13 by Shannon last year, while Garryowen were run out of the play-off race by a clear nine points.

This time around, coach Paul Cunningham has got things on the money with his youngsters fast-tracking their way to AIL glory.

Garryowen show no changes from the side which lost 17-8 to Shannon in last weekend’s Munster Senior Cup final. That means Conan Doyle – released from the Munster squad for the Dooradoyle clash – teams up again with the free-scoring Gerry Hurley at half-back.

Hurley, at just 21, has showed off his multi-faceted game to the hilt this season, chipping in with 130 points – 45% of the club’s overall tally – across the league campaign.

Saturday’s visitors include Ulster lock Matt Mustchin – the Kiwi who recently penned a two-year contract with Edinburgh – but ‘Quins are without talented Ireland Under-21 winger Mark Kettyle.

Garryowen: A Finn; A Purcell, R Niland, K Hartigan, D Heaton; C Doyle, G Hurley; R Callaghan, P Humphries, R Laffan, M Melbourne, D Sheehan, P Neville, K Gallagher, P Malone.

2004/05 Season Form: WWWLLWWWWWWW
Points scored: 286; Tries scored: 29
Top scorers: Points: Gerry Hurley 130 (2 tries, 18 cons, 28 pens); Tries: Ray Niland 4
Five-year AIL Record: 04: Seventh; 03: Eighth; 02: Semi-finalists; 01: Ninth; 00: Fifth

Belfast Harlequins: J Lowe; P McKenzie, G Mitchell, WP Strauss, S Wilson; I Humphreys, A Matchett; J Carey, N Hanna, D Fitzpatrick, L McGowan, M Mustchin, S Lamb, D Dougherty, C McCarey.

Points scored: 309; Tries scored: 41
Top scorers: Points: Ian Humphreys 74 (6 tries, 10 cons, 8 pens); Tries: Humphreys 6
Five-year AIL Record: 04: Semi-finalists; 03: Sixth; 02: Division 2 Champions; 01: Fourteenth; 00: Third Division 2

Referee: Alain Rolland (Leinster)