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Big Match Focus: Dungannon v St. Mary’s College

Big Match Focus: Dungannon v St. Mary’s College

On the only previous occasion (December 1999) that St. Mary’s College opened their AIB League campaign with a victory (13-9) at Stevenson Park, little did the Dubliners know that they would be crowned Division One champions at Lansdowne Road at the end of that very season. Will history repeat itself in 2008/09?

AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION ONE: Saturday, October 4

DUNGANNON v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE, Stevenson Park, 2.30pm
Referee: Leo Colgan (Munster)

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Dungannon were the first Ulster club to win the AIB League Division One title back in 2000/01, whereas St. Mary’s College are the only Leinster club to have achieved the distinction (1999/2000).

The County Tyrone club have lost all seven games away to the Dubliners and since January 1993 have managed to win only three of their six fixtures at home to them.

St. Mary’s are unbeaten in their last four outings against Dungannon but curiously have not won on their last three visits to the Stevenson Park venue.

Having recently reached the semi-finals of the Leinster Senior League Cup – they face Clontarf at home on November 15 – St. Mary’s are one of the form sides in Leinster at the moment.

Dungannon, for their part, are six points clear at the top of the Ulster Senior League, having won their opening five matches and collected an extra four bonus points for tries scored.

Two Irish coaches will be in opposition on Saturday. St. Mary’s are coached this season by former Ireland ‘A’ hooker Peter Smyth, who has recruited extremely well over the summer months. Australian Shaun McCarthy has arrived in as backs player-coach.

Dungannon are coached for a second season by Ballymena Academy PE teacher John Andrews and are relying on former Queen’s University lock Michael Rainey to lead them into the top-eight at the end of the season.

St. Mary’s have failed to finish in the top-eight during the past three seasons whereas their opponents this weekend finished sixth in the 2006/07 final table.

Over the nine seasons that bonus points have been available in the AIB League, Dungannon have been awarded 48, and 20 of these have been for scoring tries.

St. Mary’s have been awarded 43, 18 of which have been for scoring tries. Looking at the current crop of Division One clubs, only Buccaneers (42) and Young Munster (37) have collected less bonus points than St. Mary’s.

Former Leinster and current Ulster-contracted scrum half Cillian Willis has been allocated to Dungannon this season. Will the Ulster management allow him to make an appearance on Saturday?

Willis replaces former Ireland and Ulster scrum half Kieran Campbell in the Dungannon ranks. Campbell has moved to Connacht and is affiliated with Galwegians.

RECENT AIB LEAGUE MEETINGS –

2006/07 – Dungannon 17 St. Mary’s College 17, Stevenson Park
2007/08 – St. Mary’s College 26 Dungannon 3, Templeville Road

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dungannon to win by less than 7 points

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