The heavyweight clash of Shannon and Cork Constitution takes centre stage this weekend in All-Ireland League Division 1A, with three intriguing Leinster v Munster derbies also taking place.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, October 30
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
BLACKROCK COLLEGE (8th) v GARRYOWEN (4th), Stradbrook
All-Ireland League Season’s Form – Blackrock College: LWL; Garryowen: LLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Blackrock College: Points: Rob Keogh 13; Tries: Alex Dunlop, Niall Morris, Andrew Conway, Paul Graham, Brendan Macken, Mick Carroll 1 each; Garryowen: Points: Conor Murray 18; Tries: Robert Meyer, Ronan O’Mahony 2 each
Preview: Blackrock College must get out of the habit of conceding useful leads in the final quarter. For much of last weekend’s match against Old Belvedere, they looked the more likely winners but fell apart in the closing stages.
Their punishment is a position at the bottom of the table. Andy Wood’s men will be hugely motivated to try and overcome a side that ‘Rock did the double over last season.
Garryowen’s performance in scoring five tries against Dolphin last time out indicates that they are on the up, with half-backs Declan Cusack and Conor Murray impressing behind a hard-grafting pack. If Blackrock are to beat them, they simply must play for the full 80 minutes.
Last Season’s Meetings – Saturday, October 10, 2009: Blackrock College 48 Garryowen 14, Stradbrook; Saturday, April 3, 2010: Garryowen 11 Blackrock College 18, Dooradoyle
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Blackrock College to win by 1-5 points
DOLPHIN (6th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (5th), Musgrave Park
All-Ireland League Season’s Form – Dolphin: WLL; St. Mary’s College: LLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 39; Tries: James Coughlan, Eric Moloney, Brian Dennehy, Tom Parker 1 each; St. Mary’s College: Points: Darren Hudson 20; Tries: Darren Hudson 4
Preview: Dolphin have reason to fear St. Mary’s College following the Templeville Road club’s performance in putting a record-breaking 53 points on Shannon.
Everything suggests that last season’s runners-up have at last clicked into gear. No doubt, the Cork outfit will be paying special attention to young left winger Darren Hudson, who crossed for four tries against Shannon.
The one consolation for Dolphin, who are without the Munster-tied James Coughlan, could be that St. Mary’s are unlikely to be able to call on such a strong side this weekend.
Their loosehead prop Jack McGrath and blindside flanker Rhys Ruddock will be absent, having made the Leinster replacements bench for Saturday’s match against Edinburgh.
Last Season’s Meetings – Saturday, October 31, 2009: St. Mary’s College 19 Dolphin 10, Templeville Road; Saturday, January 23, 2010: Dolphin 21 St. Mary’s College 13, Musgrave Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win by 6-10 points
SHANNON (7th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (1st), Coonagh
All-Ireland League Season’s Form – Shannon: LWL; Cork Constitution: WWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Gareth Quinn McDonogh 25; Tries: Gareth Quinn McDonogh 1; Cork Constitution: Points: Richie Lane 37; Tries: Richie Lane, Brian Hayes 2 each
Preview: This should be an intriguing encounter for all sorts of reasons. The most obvious of which is to see how Shannon respond to their humiliating 53-point defeat by St. Mary’s College.
Presumably, much of the missing passion will return for a game to be played at Coonagh. The injured Marcus Horan has been among those helping out by taking a Shannon training session during the week.
Something else which will help them is that fact that a number of the Cork Constitution team are needed by Munster for Friday’s game against Ulster – Scott Deasy, Ivan Dineen, Denis Hurley, Billy Holland, Ian Nagle, Darragh Hurley, Stephen Archer, Peter O’Mahony, Duncan Williams and Simon Zebo.
So, this may not be quite as straightforward as it first seemed for the reigning champions and current league leaders.
A touch of inspiration from out-half Gareth Quinn McDonogh, Shannon’s only scorer so far in this season’s league, could be the spark Shannon need.
Last Season’s Meetings – Saturday, December 5, 2009: Shannon 8 Cork Constitution 9, Coonagh; Saturday, March 6, 2010: Cork Constitution 17 Shannon 10, Temple Hill
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win by 6-10 points
YOUNG MUNSTER (3rd) v OLD BELVEDERE (2nd), Tom Clifford Park
All-Ireland League Season’s Form – Young Munster: WWL; Old Belvedere: WLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Young Munster: Points: Alan Kingsley 39; Tries: Darragh O’Neill, Danny Grace, Matthew Costelloe 1 each; Old Belvedere: Points: Conal Keane, Richie Leyden 15 each; Tries: Richie Leyden 3
Preview: The two promoted teams from last season meet in what is certain to be a very-hard fought encounter. Both have started their campaigns well with two wins and one defeat.
Old Belvedere lie second, with Young Munster third, so there is a lot to play for. Young Munster may well feel that home advantage, and the accurate place-kicking of scrum half Alan Kingsley, can give them an edge.
But Old Belvedere are very resilient. Last weekend they went in against Blackrock and proved they are capable of winning without player-coach Andy Dunne, and their Leinster midfield pair of Fergus McFadden and Eoin O’Malley.
Last Season’s Meetings (Division 1B) – Saturday, October 24, 2009: Young Munster 3 Old Belvedere 3, Tom Clifford Park; Saturday, January 16, 2010: Old Belvedere 15 Young Munster 16, Anglesea Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win by 1-5 points