Highfield v Thomond is the first of nine Cork v Limerick clashes which will take place in Division Two of the AIB League this season. Highfield finished eighth in Division Two last term, their best finish ever in the league.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION TWO: Saturday, October 4
HIGHFIELD v THOMOND, Woodleigh Park, 2.30pm
Referee: Brian MacNiece (Leinster)
Highfield actually topped the table on two occasions during last season and only drifted out of the top four with three rounds to go. This descent coincided with the departure of the head coach Geoff Moylan, who is now back at Shannon.
Money, it appears, is not a problem at the Bishopstown club, so much so that they secured Welsh coach Paul Young from Galwegians during the off-season.
With former international scrum half Brian O’Meara leading the troops, Highfield have once more started the season with a bang.
Victories over Sundays Well (46-3) and Midleton (30-6) have brought them to a second Cork Charity Cup final in as many seasons. They are due to meet Cork Constitution again in a repeat of last season’s decider.
Highfield are also through to the second round of the AIB Cup where they are away to Galwegians.
Add to that, a 24-22 away win at Young Munster in the Munster Senior Cup (they will entertain Garryowen in the quarter-finals on November 8) and it is quite evident that all is rosy on the Model Farm Road at the moment.
Thomond, this season, are playing in Division Two for the eighth time. They have never made the play-offs and seventh place in 2002/03 has been the club’s best finish yet.
One of only six clubs to have moved up two divisions in successive seasons, the ‘Soda Cakes’ have an impressive home record at Liam Fitzgerald Park but have tended to be a little flaky on the road.
Long time head coach, the popular Martin Ryan, stands aside this season and has been replaced by former Munster centre Pat Cross with Brian Buckley assisting.
Over the past month, Thomond have had the misfortune to be drawn against first division big guns Garryowen in both the Limerick Charity Cup (they lost 21-12) and Munster Senior Cup (they lost 41-24).
And now the Limerick ‘royal blues’ must travel yet again to play the Limerick ‘sky blues’ in the second round of the AIB Cup over the first weekend in November.
Highfield have previously played Thomond in Divisions Four (January 2000), Three and Two (four times) of the AIB League.
The Cork city club have won their last two matches with the Limerick city side and their last two games at home to them.
RECENT AIB LEAGUE MEETINGS –
2006/07 – Highfield 19 Thomond 14, Woodleigh Park
2007/08 – Thomond 11 Highfield 12, Liam Fitzgerald Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win by 7 or more points