Promoted sides UCC and Ballynahinch will face off in a potential humdinger of a Division Two play-off final, with the Cork students bidding for back-to-back titles and ‘Hinch chasing their fourth senior trophy of a stellar season.
2008/09 AIB LEAGUE DIVISION TWO FINAL: Saturday, May 9
BALLYNAHINCH v UCC, Dooradoyle, 2pm
Preview/Team News: Twelve months ago at Donnybrook, Gavin Dunne kicked UCC to a superb 18-8 win over promoted side Young Munster to give the Cork students the Division Two play-off title.
This term the Conor Twomey-coached UCC side have gained promotion to Division One Section B with an excellent run of results, including a 21-9 win over their final opponents Ballynahinch at the Mardyke back in January.
Indeed, both UCC (with 13 successive league wins) and ‘Hinch (with 15 wins in-a-row in all competitions) are in fine form as they look to finish their campaigns on a high.
AIB Club international scrum half Sam Cronin leads a very talented UCC squad, which includes the likes of former underage internationals Ian Nagle and Neilus Keogh.
A large number of UCC players remain from last season’s and keeping that nucleus together has been the key to the ongoing success of the set-up, which is headed by director of rugby Gary Byrne.
Incredibly, this will be a 38th match of the season for Derek Suffern’s Ballynahinch side. They swept all before them in Ulster, winning both the Ulster Senior Cup and Senior League for the first time in the County Down club’s history.
But arguably, their greatest achievements this term were winning the AIB Cup – beating four Division One teams in the process – and making a successful, late charge to gain promotion to Division One Section B.
With New Zealand out-half Ryan Bambry excelling behind a beefy and dynamic pack and the likes of Jonny Cullen and Aaron Ferris on song in the back-three, ‘Hinch have proved so difficult to stop.
But all good things must come to an end and having to play four games in nine days recently, in the lead-up to this final, has surely taken a toll on the squad.
That is the question – will UCC’s freshness allow them to dictate play and get the win? Or can ‘Hinch hit the heights one last time and pull off an amazing quadruple success?
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win by more than 7 points
BALLYNAHINCH: J Cullen; A Ferris, N Spence, D Harris, D Nicholson; R Bambry, H McAleese; C Stevenson, N Hanna, J Cronin, G Rourke, C Napier, M Graham, W Faloon (capt), J Gunson.
UCC: S Deasy; P Shallow, I Dineen, A Kelleher, C Crowley; G Dunne, S Cronin (capt); R O’Neill, W Falvey, S Archer, I Nagle, N Keogh, D Keogh/D O’Callaghan, S O’Sullivan, R Barry.
Referee: Peter Fitzgibbon (IRFU)
Match Odds (Paddy Power): Ballynahinch to win: 6/4; Draw: 20/1; UCC to win: 8/15
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