The pressure builds at the top of Ulster Bank League Division 3 with five teams chasing four automatic promotion places. After Greystones’ big win over Instonians last Saturday, nothing is a certainty as we near the business end of the season.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 3: Saturday, February 26
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
Ards (14th) v Connemara (16th), Hamiltion Park
No relegation this season means that there is really only pride and the future to play for in this clash at Hamilton Park.
Ards are five points clear of what would normally be the relegation zone and after their stunning win over City of Derry last weekend, they clearly have pride in spades and the future in mind.
Connemara continue their rebuilding and while the results are not going their way, they are gaining much-needed experience within the squad.
Highfield (8th) v Greystones (3rd), Woodleigh Park
Highfield enjoyed a good win over Navan last Saturday to push them up to eighth place. Five wins, five losses and one draw seems about right for the team in mid-table.
Greystones stunned Instonians last time out and with seven try-scoring bonus points to their name, they are now real title contenders – only two points behind Instonians and three behind leaders Seapoint.
Momentum seems to be with the Wicklow club and if Reggie Corrigan can keep his young team well grounded, another win looks on the cards here.
Instonians (2nd) v Banbridge (5th), Shaw’s Bridge
What to make of Instonians? Unbeaten up to last Saturday, they suffered a heavy defeat to a Greystones team on the rise. Can they bounce back in this Ulster derby at Shaw’s Bridge?
Another great club game on the cards here. Bann are still chasing automatic promotion and an away win on Saturday would be a real boost.
But ‘Inst are sure to be fired up as they bid to get their title chase back on track. Get down to the Belfast venue for what could be match of the day in Division 3.
Naas (10th) v Navan (15th), Forenaughts
Kildare against Meath – two bellwether constituencies in the election – but how will their rugby representatives fare on Saturday and who will end up on the right side of the tally?
Naas have put in some good performances this season but they were well-beaten, though with honour intact, by Seapoint last weekend.
Navan are still struggling to bed in a new team and new coaching set-up, but they would dearly love to put one over on their provincial rivals on Saturday.
Nenagh Ormond (9th) v City of Derry (4th), New Ormond Park
Nenagh Ormond face Ulster opposition for a second week in-a-row and after picking up a losing bonus point against Banbridge last Saturday, they may well fancy their chances of going one better this time out.
City of Derry have had something of a speed wobble in recent weeks. They struggled to put Wanderers away, lost to Rainey Old Boys and then were rocked by Ards last weekend.
Bevan Lynch’s men are still in fourth place in the division and by no means out of the running, but they badly need a good win to get themselves back on the rails.
Rainey Old Boys (6th) v NUIM Barnhall (11th), Hatrick Park
A late surge from Rainey Old Boys has seen them win their last three games on the trot and give themselves an outside shot at fifth place and a promotion play-off.
Terrific results against Ulster rivals Banbridge and City of Derry and a big win in Connemara last weekend suggest they have hit the form that saw them pick up an All-Ireland Junior Cup not too many seasons back.
Visitors NUIM Barnhall could not repeat their last-minute heroics from the game against Sunday’s Well when they hosted Wanderers last Saturday. Form favours a home win this time out.
Seapoint (1st) v Suttonians (12th), Kilbogget Park
Barring a major slide in form, Seapoint look set to complete another remarkable season by gaining promotion to Division 2 in their first season in the Ulster Bank League.
Will they do it as the number 1 team in Division 3? They have their fate in their own hands and a one-point advantage currently.
Their rivals from across Dublin Bay, Suttonians, travel on the back of a big win over Sunday’s Well last weekend, giving them a run of three successive wins. Still, the odds favour the home side at Kilbogget Park.
Wanderers (13th) v Sunday’s Well (7th), Merrion Road
Wanderers are comfortably clear of what would be the relegation zone normally but with only four games left they cannot be happy with their season.
They have certainly improved in recent weeks with two wins and a good performance against City of Derry, but can they finish the season strongly?
Sunday’s Well may have seen the last of their outside shot at a promotion place when they lost in Sutton last Saturday.
Still, they can but keep plugging away and a win on their second trip to Dublin in as many weeks would see them back in the hunt if results elsewhere go their way.