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AIB League: Match Previews

AIB League: Match Previews

The club rugby scene bursts back into action after the festive break with the rescheduled AIB Junior Cup semi-finals and three re-fixed AIB League matches, with Garryowen and Dolphin headlining in Division 1A.

AIB LEAGUE: Saturday, January 2

DIVISION 1A:

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GARRYOWEN (8th) v DOLPHIN (4th), Dooradoyle, 2.30pm

AIB League Current Form – Garryowen: WLLLLW; Dolphin: WWWLLW
AIB League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Conor Murray 29; Tries: Ronan O’Mahony 2; Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 50; Tries: Barry O’Mahony, Barry Keeshan 2 each

Preview: A difficult season to date in the league for Garryowen but maybe things are changing. They beat Saturday’s opponents, Dolphin, before Christmas to qualify for the upcoming AIB Cup final, with out-half Willie Staunton scoring the only try in a 16-9 win.

The previous week, Paul Cunningham’s men ended a run of four successive defeats in Division 1A with a 9-5 derby victory over UL Bohemians.

So, while Garryowen are getting back on track, Dolphin ended 2009 in disappointing fashion with two defeats in their last three league games and that AIB Cup exit at the hands of the Light Blues. Still, their last league game saw them show their battling qualities to beat Blackrock 12-6 at Stradbrook.

On Saturday, the goalkicking battle between Garryowen’s Conor Murray and Dolphin skipper Barry Keeshan should prove crucial.

Dolphin, coached by Welshman Steve Ford, are without two-thirds of their first choice back row – Nick Williams is injured and James Coughlan has replaced him in the Munster side to play Ulster – but the Cork outfit will be all out for revenge nonetheless, particularly with Keeshan, currently the division’s top points scorer, in their ranks.

Garryowen will be without the services of hooker Mike Sherry, who is on the bench for Munster’s trip to Ulster.

However, with injuries clearing up, the benefit of home advantage and the obvious new year aim of lifting themselves off the bottom of the table, the Light Blues are favoured to pick up the points.

A win for Garryowen in this re-fixed game would lift them up to sixth in the standings, while a four point return for Dolphin would see them leapfrog Shannon into third place.

Last Season’s Meeting – Saturday, April 11, 2009: Dolphin 14 Garryowen 9, Musgrave Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win by 1-5 points

DIVISION 2:

Clonakilty (14th) v Thomond (8th), Shannonvale Cross, 2pm

Clonakilty entertain Thomond in their postponed Division 2 tie. Recent defeats to Malone and De La Salle Palmerston have seen Thomond’s promotion hopes fade, although a win on Saturday would have them back within reach of the top four.

If third-from-bottom Clonakilty can upset the odds and post a home win, they would climb to 12th. The Cork side have put in some credible performances in recent games against Dublin University, UCD and Malone whom they drew with last time out..

With home advantage, Clon could pick up the win they need to ease their relegation worries.

DIVISION 3:

County Carlow (16th) v Queen’s University (3rd), Oak Park, 2pm

Bottom side County Carlow are in serious need of a new year pick-me-up but third-placed Queen’s look to have too much quality to be overturned in this re-fixed clash.

The Belfast students have won their last four league matches, averaging 42 points per game, while Carlow have barely being making double figures in their recent fixtures.

They will have Padraig Brennan and Sean Hennessy back in their side for this weekend, while former Old Belvedere Under-20 player Alan Kelly could also make the starting line-up.

Carlow coach Jason Jones told the Carlow People: “I think we’ll turn the corner after Christmas. There were a few very positive signs against Instonians, and if we’re good enough we’ll do it and if not then we don’t deserve to be up here (in Division 3).”

Back in September, Queen’s University visited Oak Park in the first round of the AIB Cup and came away with a 43-3 victory. Robbie Moore’s men are eager to get back on the pitch after playing just once in the last five weeks.

Speaking to the Belfast Telegraph, Queen’s director of rugby Moore said: “The weather is going to be a big factor and we’re hoping we can avoid injuries. We’re optimistic that we can get a good victory.

“We just want to get the game played because we have five on the bounce, including some of the big clubs, and it could take its toll.”

Queen’s out-half James McKinney is on international duty with the Ireland Under-20s, so Michael Pyper with form the half-back partnership with Ian Porter and Ulster centre Jonny Shiels will be available to start.