With Cork Constitution and Garryowen in action in the AIB Cup final on Saturday, the chance of grabbing top spot in Division 1A of the AIB League is opened up. St. Mary’s College and Shannon, who meet at Templeville Road, are poised to take advantage.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A:
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (3rd) v SHANNON (2nd), Templeville Road, 2.30pm (Saturday, January 30)
AIB League Current Form – St. Mary’s College: WWWWLWLLL; Shannon: LLLWWLWWW
AIB League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Gavin Dunne 58; Tries: Robin Copeland 7; Shannon: Points: Tadhg Bennett 64; Tries: Stephen Kelly 6
Preview: Having lost their last three games, the Templeville Road outfit badly need a win if they are to maintain their title push. There are no easy games in the top flight but they could have asked for an easier task than entertaining a resurgent Shannon.
It is a bit like role reversal for these two clubs. With lock Robin Copeland scoring tries for fun, the St. Mary’s graph was climbing in the early part of the season but losses to Cork Con, Garryowen and Dolphin in recent weeks have put a dent in their run.
By contrast, Shannon’s season got off to a rocky start but they are back on form with recent wins over Clontarf, Dolphin and UL Bohemians.
The reigning champions will not have Marcus Horan or Jerry Flannery in their side this weekend, after both started against Bohs last Saturday, and with Felix Jones ruled out for the rest of the season, they will need to rely on their regulars such as top-scoring out-half Tadhg Bennett and form players like flanker Eoghan Grace and winger Stephen Kelly.
The winners will go top of the Division 1A standings, albeit that current leaders Cork Con will have a game in hand.
Last Season’s Meeting – Sunday, December 14, 2008: Shannon 26 St. Mary’s College 20, Coonagh
This Season’s First Meeting – Saturday, October 10, 2009: Shannon 7 St. Mary’s College 12, Thomond Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win by 6-10 points
DOLPHIN (5th) v CLONTARF (6th), Musgrave Park, 2.30pm (Sunday, January 31)
AIB League Current Form – Dolphin: WWWLLWLW; Clontarf: LLWWLWLWL
AIB League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 50; Tries: Barry Keeshan, Barry O’Mahony 2 each; Clontarf: Points: Martin Dufficy 60; Tries: Michael Keating 4
Preview: Dolphin have dropped from the giddy heights of the top of the table perch that they held early in the season. They have missed the services of James Coughlan in recent weeks and the absence of injured Nick Williams was also felt.
Dolphin will be hoping that out-half and captain Barry Keeshan will be fit to play and can repeat the 22-point haul he managed when the teams met back in October, although Cormac O’Flynn’s 21 points against St. Mary’s last Saturday mean they have an able deputy.
Clontarf, who were overhauled by Blackrock last time out, do not look like repeating last season’s final appearance and they need a win to pull themselves clear of any potential relegation dog fight with Garryowen and UL Bohs.
The north Dubliners have won twice on the road this season, but Dolphin have only lost twice in the league at ‘Muzzer’ in the past three seasons and a home victory looks likely here.
Last Season’s Meeting – Sunday, December 14, 2008: Dolphin 16 Clontarf 10, Musgrave Park
This Seaon’s First Meeting – Saturday, October 10, 2009: Clontarf 19 Dolphin 27, Castle Avenue
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dolphin to win by 1-5 points