A bumper attendance is expected at Thomond Park tonight as Paul O’Connell makes his comeback from a long-term injury in the colours of his club, Young Munster. The Cookies face local rivals Shannon in a mouth-watering derby as the All-Ireland League gets the ‘Friday Night Lights’ treatment once again.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, November 27
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
SHANNON (8th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (6th), Thomond Park, 7.30pm (Friday, November 28)
All-Ireland League Season’s Form – Shannon: LWLLL; Young Munster: WWLLL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Gareth Quinn McDonogh 25; Tries: David Quinlan 2; Young Munster: Points: Alan Kingsley 48; Tries: Darragh O’Neill 2
Preview: Confirmation that Paul O’Connell is due to make his comeback from a long-term injury will add considerable interest to tonight’s Limerick derby.
The fierce rivals will be meeting in the most unusual circumstances with both outfits in the bottom three of the top flight. The involvement of O’Connell is sure to be a huge boost for Young Munster, although he will be badly lacking in match fitness after eight months on the sidelines.
Shannon, lying bottom of the table, conceded 38 points at Old Belvedere last time out. But they played much better than the 38-16 scoreline indicated and could get back to winning ways here.
Last Season’s Meetings – Young Munster were in Division 1B
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win by 1-5 points
BLACKROCK COLLEGE (4th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (3rd), Tom Clifford Park
All-Ireland League Season’s Form – Blackrock College: LWLWW; St. Mary’s College: LLWWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Blackrock College: Points: Ian Madigan 25; Tries: Alex Dunlop 2; St. Mary’s College: Points: Gavin Dunne, Darren Hudson 25 each; Tries: Darren Hudson 5
Preview: St. Mary’s College are one of the form teams at the moment, having won three league games in-a-row, but they will not be taking anything for granted at Stradbrook.
Blackrock College are just one place behind their rivals in fourth spot in the table, having travelled to Tom Clifford Park and defeated Young Munster with five penalties from their Leinster out-half Ian Madigan.
The problem for Blackrock is that Madigan and winger Andrew Conway are needed by Leinster this weekend.
It will be a tough ask to beat a St. Mary’s side determined to wipe out the memory of last weekend’s surprise defeat to UCD in the Leinster Senior League Cup final.
Last Season’s Meetings – Saturday, December 5, 2009: St. Mary’s College 25 Blackrock College 3, Templeville Road; Saturday, March 6, 2010: Blackrock College 9 St. Mary’s College 26, Stradbrook
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win by 6-10 points
DOLPHIN (5th) v OLD BELVEDERE (1st), Musgrave Park
All-Ireland League Season’s Form – Dolphin: WLLLW; Old Belvedere: WLWWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 62; Tries: Eric Moloney 2; Old Belvedere: Points: Conal Keane 34; Tries: Richie Leyden 4
Preview: Old Belvedere are very much the team of the moment after trouncing Shannon to move to the top of the table.
But Dolphin’s shock 19-9 victory over Cork Constitution means that the leaders’ trip to Musgrave Park is far from straightforward. Even without the formidable James Coughlan, the Cork outfit will be hard to defeat on their home patch.
Just the same, it is difficult to go against Old Belvedere stretching their winning run to four victories on the trot.
While they are sure to be missing centres Eoin O’Malley and Fergus McFadden because of Leinster commitments, they still should have enough firepower to keep their spot at the division’s summit.
Last Season’s Meetings – Old Belvedere were in Division 1B
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win by 6-10 points
GARRYOWEN (7th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (2nd), Dooradoyle
All-Ireland League Season’s Form – Garryowen: LLWLL; Cork Constitution: WWWWL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Declan Cusack 32; Tries: Robert Meyer, Ronan O’Mahony 2 each; Cork Constitution: Points: Richie Lane 67; Tries: Richie Lane 3
Preview: Both sides are hit by Munster’s Magners League clash with the Dragons at Rodney Parade. At some stage, the fact that they had so many players in the Munster set-up was bound to hit Cork Con. It did, when they were surprisingly beaten at home by Dolphin last time out.
They will be desperately keen to return to winning form but there is the possibility that the defeat by Dolphin has dented their confidence.
It is going to be interesting to see how they react. Allied to that, this is a huge game for second-from-bottom Garryowen who are winless since overwhelming Dolpin in round 3.
Last Season’s Meetings – Saturday, October 31, 2009: Cork Constitution 17 Garryowen 13, Temple Hill; Saturday, January 23, 2010: Garryowen 6 Cork Constitution 6, Dooradoyle
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win by 6-10 points