Division 3 kicks off with a ‘Friday Night Lights’ clash at Musgrave Park between Sunday’s Well and Highfield, and there is plenty of action to follow on Saturday from the Aviva Stadium to Rifle Park.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 3: Saturday, January 29
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
Sunday’s Well (8th) v Highfield (11th), Musgrave Park, 7.30pm (Friday, January 28)
‘Friday Night Lights’ action at Musgrave Park should draw a good crowd as Sunday’s Well and Highfield square off in the league for the first time since 1997 – that one went the way of the ‘Well (24-23).
The home side are better than their current three and four win-loss ratio suggests, and the four Moynihan brothers in the squad have serious family pride at stake.
Highfield are two points and three places further down the table and will target this game to pull themselves back up. Local rivalry at Muzzer on a crisp January night – what more could you ask for?
Banbridge (5th) v Greystones (4th), Rifle Park
Contender for match of the day in the league as only points’ difference separates Banbridge and Greystones in what is a highly competitive race for promotion.
Both sides come into this clash on the back of big wins and both have shown real attacking flair in picking up three try-scoring bonus points so far.
‘Bann and ‘Stones have organised a golf outing the day before the game and the pre-match lunch is sold out, showing that the camaraderie of Irish club rugby is alive and well – the 80 minutes on pitch aside!
This could be a tough, tight game and the visitors may just have the edge. The winners will stay in the hunt, while the losing side will have to scramble to keep up.
City Of Derry (3rd) v Navan (15th), Judge’s Road
City of Derry are back on home soil after only their three-point defeat to Seapoint earlier this month. With Instonians pulling ahead and Greystones and Banbridge breathing down their neck, the Judge’s Road outfit need to win.
City of Derry forwards coach Mark Nicholl said: “The lads are flying in training and can’t wait to get back into action. The break might have done us good in some respects as we now have our full squad fully fit and available as we enter this crucial part of the season.
“We have eight All-Ireland League fixtures remaining with five at home and three away and with the two teams above us having to play one another on Saturday week and also play against the other league contenders before the end of the season, we feel confident that we can make up ground.”
Derry’s opponents on Saturday are a team in transition. From the highs of All-Ireland Junior Cup success and league promotion just a few seasons back, they are struggling to bed in a new-look side. A home win is the odds on result here.
Connemara (16th) v Seapoint (2nd), Monastery Field
Another top versus bottom encounter with the home side likely to draw little comfort. It has been a tough campaign for the Connemara All Blacks so far, as they are without a win in the league. With no relegation this year, they can take the chance to build for next season.
Seapoint are a team on the rise. Another former All-Ireland Junior Cup winning side, the Dubliners look set to be right in the thick of it when promotion is on the line.
The long road west on Saturday should be bright though as they will fancy their chances of grabbing a bonus point at the picturesque Monastery Field.
NUIM Barnhall (7th) v Naas (6th), Parsonstown
Kildare bragging rights are up for grabs in this derby match at Parsonstown. NUIM Barnhall have put together some impressive performances of late, with a big win over a durable Highfield side last time out and a losing bonus point in City of Derry two recent highlights.
Naas’ most recent win was over Connemara and with a game in hand they look set fair to finish the season strongly.
The sides are level on points in the Division 3 table and while Naas boast a better defensive record, Barnhall are on something of a roll – a tough one to call, but we favour the visitors.
Rainey Old Boys (10th) v Nenagh Ormond (9th), Hatrick Park
Rainey Old Boys, coached by Chris Campbell and Richard Boyd, are the fourth former winners of the All-Ireland Junior Cup in this division (Seapoint, Navan and City of Derry are the others).
They have three wins to their name so far and a couple of try-scoring bonus points also. Nenagh Ormond are a point ahead of them, have a game in hand and also bring a solid defensive record to Hatrick Park.
Both sides beat Ards by similar margins recently so it could be a close encounter on Saturday afternoon. There is history between these two, as well – Nenagh Ormond, of course, beat Rainey 18-17 in a play-off almost six years ago to clinch senior status.
Suttonians (12th) v Ards (14th), JJ McDowell Memorial Grounds
In a regular season this match would count as a relegation dogfight, but with new structures coming in next season both clubs can view this one in terms of pride and building for the future.
Suttonians’ two draws are the difference between these two sides who both have one win to their name.
The Sutton outfit appear to have the edge with two try-scoring bonus points in the bag, and should be good enough to take the points on Saturday.
Wanderers (13th) v Instonians (1st), Aviva Stadium
The back pitch at the Aviva Stadium is something of a talking point this season. Sitting over an underground car park, the artificial surface in the shadow of the stadium has proved a boon for Lansdowne but far less so for Wanderers.
The home side are struggling – two wins and a losing bonus point are all they have from the season to date.
It is not expected that this Saturday will be bring much comfort as the fast surface is likely to suit the undefeated Instonians, who blooded some youngsters in last weekend’s Ulster Senior League victory over Rainey. An away win is on the cards at headquarters.
Related Links –