Two AIB League Division Three fixtures has been postponed ahead of Saturday’s programme, with the Sunday’s Well v Queen’s University and Suttonians v Ards games both off due to waterlogged pitches. But the other six encounters promises thrills, spills and plenty of excitement.
With leaders Queen’s University having their trip to Cork cancelled, their chief rivals County Carlow and Corinthians look set to battle it out for top spot in the final round of Division Three matches before the Six Nations.
Carlow, going well under Australian coach Jason Jones, scored a 22-10 home win over Midleton last weekend, with the defeat knocking the Corkmen down from second to fifth in the table.
Jones’ men built a 16-0 half-time lead and four penalties in all from centre Greg Jacob proved crucial.
Speaking afterwards, Carlow scrum half Billy Murphy said: “In many of the games we haven’t started well. Today for whatever reason we started well. Even when we are losing games we always play well against the top sides.
“I was worried, really worried towards the end (when Midleton came back at us).
“But then again when we kept the ball and put pressure on them we got scores and Greg kicked two really good penalties and denied them the bonus point which was massive.”
This Saturday Carlow are away to Connemara and they will be hoping to keep up their record as the best defensive team in this season’s AIB League, having conceded just 66 points in their nine outings to date.
Connemara are mid-table at the moment but will be difficult opponents coming off the back of last week’s five-try 40-35 victory at Waterpark.
Connemara’s Galway rivals Corinthians have 2009 in good form and they showed their battling qualities last Saturday when edging out Suttonians 20-18 at Corinthian Park.
Corinthians’ showdown with former leaders under the Chambers Park floodlights promises to be a cracker, particularly as Portadown cannot afford to lose any more ground.
Hika Reid’s charges have lost two of their last three league games and they are now five points off the pace. January will be a very costly month if they end it with another loss.
The Kildare derby between Barnhall and Naas is sure to have plenty of bite and with the Blue Bulls worse off in 14th place, Ian Morgan’s side are expected to pull out a big performance.
Barnhall’s pack has been playing well in recent weeks but last Saturday’s 12-6 reversal at Nenagh Ormond was a setback, especially with Nenagh also in the lower reaches of the table.
Barnhall had enough possession to win the game but could not convert pressure into points – something they will simply have to do this weekend at Parsonstown, where interestingly the club’s first ever match was played against Naas on May 16, 1969.
Nenagh themselves, with place-kicker John Lillis in talismanic form, face a long trip to Magherafelt to take on Rainey Old Boys.
With Nenagh 13th in the table and Rainey just a point above them, this is the proverbial ‘eight pointer’ – although Nenagh do have a game in hand and Rainey have yet to win at home this season.
The two other Division Three games this Saturday will see play-off chasers Midleton (fifth) and Old Wesley (fourth) meeting Banbridge and Waterpark respectively.
Bottom side Waterpark, with just two points to their name, need a lucky break and it is unlikely that they will get it at Donnybrook where Old Wesley have been very hard to beat. The Dubliners are quite accomplished on the road too, as evidenced by last week’s 36-10 success at Rainey.
On paper, Jason Holland’s Midleton side should have too much in their armour for Banbridge. This will be the Cork club’s first trip to Rifle Park since 1998 but Bann are unlikely to be welcoming hosts on the pitch, having been galvanised by last week’s hard-fought 17-15 triumph over Naas.
AIB LEAGUE FIXTURES: Saturday, January 31
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
Banbridge v Midleton, Rifle Park
Banbridge (v Midleton): A Waugh; A Finlay, S Wilson, A Gibson, S Cowan; R Finlay, J Dodds; G Jelly, P Ross, M Cromie, S McKinstry, C Bickerstaff, A Davidson, D Cochrane, M Irvine.
Barnhall v Naas, Parsonstown
Barnhall (v Naas): O Sirven; D Martin, P Burke, D Stewart, M Harrison; B McCarthy, D Furlong; P Courtney, C Dufficy, J Nolan, JP Ennis, J Lark, C Feeney, J van Hout, B Dunne.
Naas: D Aherne; B Fitzgerald, J Delaney, H Bryce, D Droney; J Moran, G Delaney; B O’Shea, J Toland, D Miley, A Muggleton, D Coneran, C Rowan, A Kearney, J Holmes.
Connemara v County Carlow, Monastery Field
Connemara (v County Carlow): R Bourke; E Bourke, P Madden, B Bester, P O’Toole; S Joyce, G Conroy; E Ferron, F Leonard, J East, A Kelly, K Keogh, M Coyne, O Delapp, B Keaney.
Old Wesley v Waterpark, Donnybrook
Old Wesley (v Waterpark): S Walsh; A Thompson, B Hastings, B Doherty, R Johnson; D Smith, D van Zyl; E Kelder, J Kerins, I Wallace, P Hosie, M Warburton, C McClean, R Gleeson, C Wallace.
Rainey Old Boys v Nenagh Ormond, Hatrick Park
Sunday’s Well v Queen’s University, Musgrave Park (Postponed due to an unplayable pitch)
Suttonians v Ards, John J McDowell Memorial Grounds (Postponed due to an unplayable pitch)
Portadown v Corinthians, Chambers Park, 5pm
Portadown (v Corinthians): T Overy; J Holden, D Whitten, O Montells, N Jackson; M Tehakaraina, P Spence; M Neilly, C O’Kane, M Henderson, C Banks, P Jackson, D O’Kane, A Scott, S Douglas.
Corinthians: R Ferguson; D Claassens, W Williams, C Begley, D Murphy; K Diffenthal, M Roche; P McClernon, D Barden, D Small, P Cunningham, S Murphy, A Casanova, S Geraghty, R Conlon.
To subscribe to the AIB League fixtures and results service, please text ON AIB to 53235; To unsubscribe, text STOP AIB to 53235.
Open to customers of O2, Vodafone and Meteor. Alerts cost 30c. Standard text rate to subscribe/unsubscribe.