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AIB League: Division 3 Previews

AIB League: Division 3 Previews

Divison 2 has Lansdowne, Division 3 has Midleton. Unbeaten in nine games, this week it is the turn of Leixlip side Barnhall to have a cut at the high-flying Corkmen in the AIB League. There is also the little matter of Queen’s waiting in the wings to take advantage.

AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 3: Saturday, January 30

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Ards (12th) v Queen’s University (2nd), Hamilton Park

A nice local derby to blow out the cobwebs but Ards could have wished for an easier game than the visit of second-placed Queen’s.

Ards should be clear of the drop zone with four teams below them in the league, but they will be hard pushed to improve on their current standing this weekend.

There is a serious chance of Midleton going unbeaten all season and still not topping the table and Queen’s could be the team to do it. Seven wins in eight games, five try-scoring bonus points and a game in hand sees them just five points behind the Cork side.
Another win is on the cards for the Belfast students but another bonus could pile the pressure on Midleton and the chasing pack.
Barnhall (10th) v Midleton (1st), Parsonstown
The teams in 2nd, 3rd and 4th positions have chopped and changed but Midleton have been number 1 for many weeks now.
Midleton come into this game on the back of a tight win over Cork rivals Sunday’s Well and comprehensive 37-point haul over Wanderers the week before.
The task of beating them falls to Barnhall this weekend. The Leixlip side lost to the Rory Best-inspired Banbridge last weekend and while Midleton do not have an equivalent star this Saturday, they should still be able to take the points.
Connemara (14th) v Banbridge (4th), Monastery Field
An interesting match-up this one. Connemara lie in 14th place and face a real battle to avoid the drop. Banbridge are in fourth with a chance of making the play-offs. In theory it should be an easy one to call but relegation focuses the mind and the County Galway side could be in the mood to pull off a big one.
Bann had the Grand Slam-winning Rory Best in their starting line-up last Saturday. He is on duty with Ireland ‘A’ this weekend so they will have to tough this one out without him.
Connemara had a promising win over Ports last time out, while Banbridge come in on the back of a win over Barnhall. An away victory is on the cards in the Monastery Field.
Nenagh Ormond (5th) v Instonians (3rd), New Ormond Park
A tough forward battle in prospect with this game at New Ormond Park on Saturday. Both sides can dog it out and both have proved they can score tries with three try-scoring bonus points apiece.
A win for Nenagh would put them back in the promotion and play-off hunt. A loss for ‘Inst could cost them both, while a win would see them poised to pounce should either Queen’s or Midleton slip up.
Nenagh lost to Queen’s last weekend but beat Naas well the week before. ‘Inst come into this one having beaten Suttonians but they too lost to Queen’s the week before. A tough one to call but well worth 80 minutes out of your day.
Rainey Old Boys (11th) v Naas (15th), Hatrick Park
A banana skin of game. Rainey should be safe in 11th place but a slip-up here could leave them sweating it out especially as they lost last week to bottom side County Carlow.
Rainey should be too strong for Naas up front and their powerful pack will make the telling difference. Rainey’s last win came in December over Portadown while Naas have not recorded a victory since their November win over Carlow.
Weighing things up, a home triumph is on the cards.
Sunday’s Well (6th) v Navan (9th), Musgrave Park
The ‘Well have given a few teams a good run for their money – Midleton and Banbridge can testify to this – and with five wins in the bank they have shown they can win games.
Neither side will make the play-offs but there is still plenty at stake as both will have an eye on building for next season.
Navan come into this game on the back of a terrific win over Wanderers and an equally solid success over Rainey Old Boys, making them probably marginal favourites.
Suttonians (8th) v Portadown (13th), JJ McDowell Memorial Grounds
What was that about banana skin games? On paper Suttonians should be too strong for Ports. Five wins and 22 points has them 11 points clear of their Ulster rivals but Portadown badly need a win.
Suttonians lost to ‘Inst last Saturday but had a comprehensive win over Connemara the week before while Ports lost to Connemara last week – but then it does not always work out like that.
A home win is still the likely outcome of this game.
Wanderers (7th) v County Carlow (16th), Merrion Road
We have said it before – Wanderers have made hard work of some games against lower placed sides – the loss to Navan last week being the most telling and probably costing them a play-off spot in the long run.
Any hopes they have really rest on getting a win here. They should but their all-square points difference demonstrates that they have a propensity to let things slip from time to time and you cannot afford that.
County Carlow picked up their first win of the season last weekend over Rainey Old Boys. They are 19 points adrift of the chaps from Merrion Road and it looks an uphill task for them.