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AIB League: Division One Previews

AIB League: Division One Previews

It’s another busy weekend of AIB League action – champions Shannon entertain Galwegians in their first home game and fifth plays second on Sunday when Lansdowne welcome UCD to headquarters.

Shannon veteran Andrew Thompson: kicked 17 points against St Mary’s last week

It’s another busy weekend of AIB League action – champions Shannon entertain Galwegians in their first home game and fifth plays second on Sunday when Lansdowne welcome UCD to headquarters.

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AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION ONE: Saturday, October 22 (2.30pm)

Blackrock College v Dublin University, Stradbrook, Ref: Eanna O’Dowd (Leinster)

Scrum half Matt D’Arcy and left winger Shane Hanratty are fitness doubts for Dublin University’s capital duel with Blackrock. Conor McShane, who was educated at Blackrock, and Francis Keane are standing by to deputise.

Last season’s meeting between the sides ended in a 19-19 draw – a familiar result for Trinity given the fact that they played in an incredible five stalemates in the last campaign.

‘Rock’s home form was not great at the tailend of the 2004/05 season – they drew twice and lost twice in their final four league games, but under new coaching trio Dave Dillon, Barry Gibney and Emmet Farrell, they should have enough to add to last week’s 15-6 win over Galwegians.

New halfbacks Paddy O’Toole and Mick Roche were central to that success and could play pivotal roles again against the Students.

Buccaneers v Ballymena, Dubarry Park, Ref: John Carvill (Leinster)

Buccs could be without new number 8 David Quinlan for the visit of Ballymena. The former Shannon forward sustained an injury early in the second half of last weekend’s 26-18 loss at Dungannon, and his presence would be welcomed by the Pirates.

Flanker David Kelly could switch to the base of the Buccs’ scrum in Quinlan’s absence.

Ballymena coach Steph Nell is likely to include new Waikato recruit Chris Tidene in the front row. With Dirkie Strydom, last season’s top scorer (65 points), and Jamie McGrugan recovered from injury, Ireland international Michael McComish will switch back from centre, where he played in last week’s 33-17 loss to Lansdowne, to his regular spot at number 8.

The defeat by Lansdowne ended a run of five consecutive wins the Braidmen had racked up in the Ulster Senior League. Last season’s meeting finished in a 55-5 trouncing for an under-strength Buccs side in April.

Clontarf v UL Bohemians, Castle Avenue, Ref: Marshall Kilgore (Ulster)

Clontarf manager Peter Walsh described last week’s 34-20 defeat of Trinity as “heartening” as “almost a brand new side” began the north Dubliners’ season with a fiery five-try display.

Hat-trick hero Derek Keane, as well as Niall O’Brien and Max Rantz-McDonald, impressed for ‘Tarf who have won three of their last four league outings at Castle Avenue.

It’s a must-win tie for ‘Tarf, but Division Two champions UL Bohs will be no pushovers. The Limerick men were agonisingly beaten 23-21 by Cork Constitution last week. Con’s substitute fly half Neil Whitworth hit a last-gasp penalty.

County Carlow v Belfast Harlequins, Oak Park, 3.00pm, Ref: Ger English (Munster)

Beaten 30-13 by Garryowen on their home patch seven days, Belfast Harlequins, last season’s runners-up, have got to step it up a gear at Oak Park, according to player coach Andy Ward.

“We had 70 per cent of possession against Garryowen, but we gave up ball too easy and they scored two breakaway tries,” said the 28-times capped former Ireland flanker.

“But if we get the fundamentals right against Carlow, I fancy we should pick up some points.”

With Reece Spee in the Ulster squad, regular winger Johnny Lowe deputises at scrum half for ‘Quins. Ward will also earn some game-time as blindside flanker.

Carlow, 36-19 losers at UCD last week, have Kiwi Chay Raui starting at full-back again.

The midlanders coach David Hodge, another New Zealander, said: “We were struggling to hold onto the ball for phases, and some of the things we did were hurried against UCD.

“We’re getting the possession certainly and perhaps at home we will be able to do a little more with it this time.”

Cork Constitution v Dungannon, Temple Hill, Ref: Alan Rogan (Leinster)

Con survived a stern test of their league credentials against UL Bohs last week and that two-point win will give them confidence. Coach Brian Walsh fielded eight newcomers to top flight rugby last Saturday.

Former Ireland Under-19 captain Frank Cogan led by example against Bohs, scoring a try and scooping the man-of-the-match gong. Equally impressive was Dungannon’s dusting down of Buccs at Stevenson Park.

The Ulster Senior League leaders are playing well at the minute and should be backed to come away with the spoils from down south, even though they will be without influential forwards Nigel Brady and Ryan Caldwell.

The last time the sides met was January when ‘Gannon claimed a 21-14 victory despite losing lock Tim Barker to a red card.

Garryowen v St Mary’s College, Dooradoyle, Ref: Ken Henley-Willis (Leinster)

Garryowen, one of last weekend’s most impressive sides, and St Mary’s College, 42-13 losers to Shannon in their opener, compete tomorrow for the much coveted Shay Deering Memorial trophy.

Shay was a legendary figure in both clubs and Mary’s have won the trophy for the past two seasons.

In keeping with the friendly traditions between the two clubs wearing the star – an additional treat is planned for the pre-match entertainment in Dooradoyle on Sat when the St Mary’s Falling Stars veterans team will take on the Garryowen veterans. Some of the former greats from both clubs will be taking to the pitch from 1.00pm onwards.

Shannon v Galwegians, Thomond Park, Ref: Colin Stanley (Leinster)

The news that Shannon’s newly-appointed captain Colm McMahon is out for 6-8 weeks with a broken bone in his foot is quite a blow for the champions. The 28-year-old has helped galvanised the Limerick giants’ back row unit over the last few seasons, but former Ireland international Eddie Halvey’s return from the sidelines after a period out with a back injury could be a timely one.

Easy 42-13 winners at St Mary’s last weekend, Mick Galwey’s side should have enough to account for a young ‘Wegians outfit.

Shannon won last season’s clash 28-16 at Crowley Park in December.

Sunday, October 23 (2.30pm)

Lansdowne v UCD, Lansdowne Road, Ref: Paul Haycock (Leinster)

Eoghan Hickey is absent for UCD’s Sunday clash with Lansdowne at headquarters. Both sides are riding high in the table after opening day wins and Hickey’s employment on Leinster’s bench for their Heineken Cup opener against Bath has undoubtedly cut the Students’ chances of earning a valuable away win.

New Lansdowne coach Liam Toland described last week’s 33-17 win in Ballymena as “a wonderful journey into the unknown” – Lansdowne’s new-look squad seems an exciting one with Kiwi fly half Corey Burt pulling the attacking strings.

UCD were victors when the sides last met in the league – 23-3 on the opening day of last season.