AIB League Division 3 is all but decided but there is still one play-off spot up for grabs and Portadown need a bonus point win and a massive points swing if they are to avoid the promotion/relegation play-off.
AIB LEAGUE: DIVISION 3: Saturday. April 10
– Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated
Banbridge (4th) v Navan (8th), Rifle Park
Banbridge are in prime position to seal the last play-off spot this weekend and it would be just reward for their hard work this season. That said, Sunday’s Well are ready to pounce should the County Down club slip up against Navan.
Banbridge were on a nice run of wins going back to December but came a-cropper against Suttonians and then ran into Midleton, so this is a chance to end the league on a winning note.
Navan have enjoyed a steady season after promotion and thought they have lost eight games, a losing bonus point has been secured in six of those. A home win is on the cards but expect more from both clubs next season.
Barnhall (10th) v Queen’s University (1st), Parsonstown
Barnhall have mastered the art of surviving in the AIB League and this term have managed a few notable results without threatening the top four.
They may end the season down the table but they can look forward to next season and capitalising on their new relationship with NUI Maynooth to bring in some new faces.
This has been an outstanding season for Queen’s University and they are deservedly promoted in top spot. One hopes they can round out the season with a place in the play-off final – exams permitting – and can sustain the style of play in Division 2 next season.
Connemara (13th) v Naas (14th), Monastery Field
Both clubs flirted with relegation this season and Naas need to make absolutely certain they do not allow Portadown sneak in the unlikely back door.
Connemara have shipped a lot of points this season, so defence is an area to work on for next term.
Naas’ recent wins over Barnhall and Sunday’s Well may have helped them to survive but they need to beef up for next season. This game could go either way and a narrow win is to be expected.
Portadown (15th) v County Carlow (16th), Chambers Park
Second-from-bottom Portadown need a massive points swing if they are to avoid the promotion/relegation playoff – not a prospect they will relish given the calibre of sides currently battling it out in the AIB League Provincial League play-offs.
It has been a long hard season for both clubs and while Carlow face the prospect of the Leinster League next season, Ports still have some hope of staying in the senior ranks. A win either way would be a statement of intent.
Rainey Old Boys (12th) v Ards (11th), Hatrick Park
Not much to separate these sides on Saturday. Only a point between them in the table and both have scored 209 points, though Ards have shipped a few more.
Rainey Old Boys enjoyed a big derby win over Instonians in recent weeks and that may leave them buoyed for another Ulster scalp at Hatrick Park.
Ards have had a curious season with terrific wins over Suttonians and Nenagh Ormond recently, while slipping up elsewhere. Home advantage could tell on Saturday but watch out for Ards spoiling that party.
Sunday’s Well (5th) v Instonians (7th), Musgrave Park
Sunday’s Well are poised to take a play-off spot should they get a big favour from Navan on Saturday, but they need to make sure they do all they can by beating this young Instonians team.
The ‘Well lost out to Queen’s University last time out but it was the beating by Naas that really cost them.
Instonians are still smarting from their local spat with Rainey Old Boys and they felt the after effects at Wanderers last weekend. A home win is on the cards but a better season next time for both clubs is also on the horizon.
Suttonians (9th) v Midleton (2nd), JJ McDowell Memorial Grounds
Midleton will be playing in Division 2 next season and with the play-off spot nailed down, they need to avoid complacency on the road this weekend.
Suttonians are poised on seven wins and seven losses and would dearly like a big scalp and ‘plus one’ in the win-loss count.
Both sides can play an attractive game and with only pride at stake it could be an entertaining game with an away win the more likely.
Wanderers (6th) v Nenagh Ormond (3rd), Merrion Road
Nenagh Ormond may yet do something in the play-offs but they will rue losses such as that to Ards that cost them a shot at promotion.
Wanderers seemed unsure what they wanted from the season and never really showed the ambition that would bring them in to top four contention.
Next season holds out some promise but it will not be easy and both clubs would like to end the league campaign with a win. Home advantage may just tell this weekend as the Tipperary side prepare for the semi-finals.