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AIB League: Division One Preview And Team News

AIB League: Division One Preview And Team News

There are some pivotal games at both ends of AIB League Division One this weekend. Only four points separates the top seven sides in the table and fourth-placed Dolphin’s visit to leaders Garryowen is a massive encounter. Meanwhile, relegation-threatened Young Munster face a season-defining trip to Buccaneers.

After ten straight league wins, Garryowen have risen to the top of the table and will be eager to continue where they left off against Ballymena last time out.

Dara O’Sullivan’s men beat a weakened Ballymena 45-7 at Dooradoyle and with the AIB Cup off the radar now and their place in next season’s Division One Section A secured, their full focus is in regaining the title they lost to Cork Constitution last May.

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The top flight’s other Cork club, Dolphin, could derail Garryowen’s title charge on Saturday though. Dolphin are particularly hard to beat at their Musgrave Park base.

With James Coughlan and Nick Williams probably available to them, Dolphin are still poised to challenge for a home semi-final spot.

A win this weekend could catapult them into the top two for the final round of matches and recent form suggests they may well end Garryowen’s winning streak.

Annacotty will be the venue for an intriguing Limerick derby between UL Bohemians and Shannon. Bohs will be without some of their highly-rated Under-20 players this weekend as they contest the All-Ireland Cup final against Blackrock College.

But they do boast a settled squad and the inclusion of Munster team manager Shaun Payne on the right wing certainly does not weakened the side.

30-25 winners at UCD last time out, UL are currently seven points away from the top four so they have to beat Shannon to keep their play-off hopes alive.

Shannon may be fifth at the moment but they are just two points behind leaders Garryowen and they bounced back from a St. Patrick’s Day defeat to Cork Constitution by coming from behind against Old Belvedere (23-19).

Geoff Moylan’s side will be boosted by the women’s side’s All-Ireland Plate success and they will want to uphold Shannon’s fine tradition of reaching the play-offs.

Out of contention for the top eight, Ballymena will have only pride to play for when they entertain Clontarf at Eaton Park.

The Braidmen qualified for the Ulster Senior Cup final last week and will want to put memories of that heavy Garryowen defeat to bed.

With the Ulster-capped Seamus Mallon, Ian Whitten and Bryan Young in their starting line-up, Jacques Benade’s charges will be all out to win their final home game of the league campaign.

Clontarf are sixth and need a win to keep themselves in semi-final contention. The north Dubliners lost two of their last three away games to UL Bohs and Cork Con but with Martin Dufficy and Paul O’Donohoe back at half-back they should have enough in their armoury to post a victory.

Many eyes will be on defending champions Cork Constitution to see how they recover from recent defeats to Blackrock College (in the league) and Ballynahinch in last Sunday’s AIB Cup final.

Brian Walsh’s outfit were soundly beaten by a fired-up ‘Hinch. With out-half Jeremy Manning available to them, they will be keen to get back on the winning trail at Old Belvedere and end the Dublin 4 side’s top eight hopes in the process.

Fans at Dubarry Park will witness a real ‘eight pointer’ when relegation rivals Buccaneers and Young Munster go head-to-head. This is a ‘must win’ match for both sides, who were both promoted from Division Two last season, as relegation will be a real prospect for the loser.

Young Munster played their game in hand last Saturday when they were decidedly unfortunate when losing narrowly 11-9 to St. Mary’s College.

But home advantage should stand to Buccs who know that a win of any kind will be enough to maintain their Division One status. In full-back Danny Riordan and flanker Kolo Kiripati, they have potential match winners.

Galwegians have already secured their place in Division One Section B next season so their clash with relegated Terenure at Crowley Park is effectively a dead rubber.

There will be a lot to play for at Templeville Road as St. Mary’s College, who are still aiming for semi-final qualification, fight it out with third-from-bottom UCD. Just like Buccs and Munsters, ‘College need a win to avoid the drop to Division Two.

The match will throw up a fascinating duel at out-half between Mary’s backs coach Shaun McCarthy and UCD’s Ireland Under-20 starlet Ian McKinley. But Mary’s look to have the advantage in the pack.

It is a similar scenario at Stevenson Park where lowly Dungannon will look to build on their 22-8 triumph over Terenure College.

However, their visitors, second-placed Blackrock, are riding high after their surprise victory over Cork Con and an away win looks likely as ‘Rock continue their push for a play-off spot.

AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION ONE: Saturday, April 11

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

Ballymena v Clontarf, Eaton Park

Ballymena: P Budina; T Seymour, S Mallon, I Whitten, R Johnson; T Woods, C Woods; Bryan Young, S Douglas, S Shawe, B Caldwell, Bob Young, T Booth, A Cupples, S McKinney.

Clontarf: P Howard; N O’Brien, D O’Shea, B O’Donnell, M Keating; M Dufficy, P O’Donohoe; A Clarke, A Dundon, N Treston, B Reilly, D O’Siochain, H Stride, N Carson, M Garvey. 

Buccaneers v Young Munster, Dubarry Park

Buccaneers: D Riordan; J O’Brien, A Gaughan, P Harte, AN Other; S Rolleston, M Bruce; M Diffley, M Madden, K Moran, C Richardson, J Tormey, K Kiripati, K O’Gorman, A Hanley.

Dolphin v Garryowen, Musgrave Park

Dungannon v Blackrock College, Stevenson Park

Galwegians v Terenure College, Crowley Park

Galwegians: R O’Beirn; J Cleary, C Brigl, C Rodgers, B Murphy; R Shaughnessy, B Draper; J Stephens, C Muldoon, D O’Connell, D Nolan, B McClearn, L Scahill, I Muldoon, L Casserly.

Terenure College: M McDermott; B Flanagan, J Bollard, G Coffey, R McCarthy; C Gildea, G Flanagan; S Knoop, B Blaney, J Barretto, K O’Dwyer, B Moroney, P O’Malley, C Smith, A Dunlop. 

Old Belvedere v Cork Constitution, Anglesea Road

St. Mary’s College v UCD, Templeville Road

St. Mary’s College: D Fanning; R Doherty, C McPhillips, M Sexton, C Donohoe; S McCarthy, P Brophy; R Murphy, Richard Sweeney, Robert Sweeney, G Logan, R Copeland, P Nash, H Hogan, K Sheehan.

UCD: N Reid; C Aherne, M Hastings, K Lett, V Artemiev; I McKinley, D Geraghty; JA Lee, C Geoghegan, B Barclay, A Houlihan, M Flanagan, K Croke, D Gilchrist, M Nagle.

UL Bohemians v Shannon, Annacotty

UL Bohemians: E Torrie; S Payne, M McPhail, C Finn, M Butler; F Lawlor, C Delooze; K Flanagan, S Henry, M Storey, B Madigan, D Foley, J O’Neill, T O’Donnell, A Hartigan.