Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League gets back on track this weekend with some cracking matches in store. League leaders Young Munster host third-placed St. Mary’s College, Anglesea Road will see a replay of last season’s final between Old Belvedere and Cork Con, while Dolphin welcome back Barry O’Mahony and Sam Cronin, albeit in Clontarf colours!
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, January 7
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
BLACKROCK COLLEGE (10th) v SHANNON (7th), Stradbrook
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Blackrock College: LLLWLLL; Shannon: WWWLDLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Blackrock College: Points: Darragh Fitzpatrick 47; Tries: Brendan Macken 2; Shannon: Points: Gareth Quinn McDonogh 39; Tries: Luke O’Dea 2
Preview: Two teams desperately in need of a victory. Blackrock because they lie bottom of the table with just one victory to their credit.
Shannon are in a much healthier position with three wins, a draw and three defeats in their seven outtings. But they have been in struggling recently after a really promising start to the season.
No doubt, they will see this encounter as a chance to stop the rot. The key could be the contribution of Tadgh Bennett at out-half.
Blackrock also have a very decent out-half in Darragh Fitzpatrick. To be fair, they played reaonably well for a long time against Garryowen last time out but, if they are get an overdue victory against Shannon, they will need to perform for the full 80 minutes.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 8, 2011: Shannon 38 Blackrock College 22, Coonagh; Saturday, March 26, 2011: Blackrock College 25 Shannon 21, Stradbrook
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win by 1-5 points
DOLPHIN (8th) v CLONTARF (2nd), Musgrave Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Dolphin: LWLLLLW; Clontarf: WWWWLWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 41; Tries: Eric Moloney, Cian Bohane 2 each; Clontarf: Points: Richie Lane 72; Tries: Barry O’Mahony 3
Preview: A hugely important game for Clontarf as they attempt to stay in touch with leaders Young Munster.
Two defeats in their last three games has seen them lose top spot and slip four points behind the Limerick outfit. But they remain very serious challengers.
In many ways, they were unlucky to lose 22-20 to St. Mary’s last time out. They were the better outfit for most of the game and St. Mary’s winning score only came in injury-time.
Clontarf’s Cork contingent, which includes two former Dolphin players in Barry O’Mahony and Sam Cronin, will know exactly what to expect at Musgrave Park.
Dolphin, despite a very erratic season to date, are capable of proving dangerous opponents on their home patch.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 10, 2009: Clontarf 19 Dolphin 27, Castle Avenue; Sunday, January 31, 2010: Dolphin 17 Clontarf 0, Musgrave Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win by 1-5 points
LANSDOWNE (6th) v GARRYOWEN (5th), Aviva Stadium back pitch
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Lansdowne: LWWLWLW; Garryowen: LWLWLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: Craig Ronaldson 73; Tries: Matt Healy 4; Garryowen: Points: Declan Cusack 40; Tries: Alan Gaughan 2
Preview: This is likely to be one of the most entertaining games of the day across the Ulster Bank League.
Lansdowne are getting better with every outing under the coaching of Mike Ruddock. Garryowen also have an astute coach in Paul Cunningham. Both coaches rely on young teams with a very attacking policy.
Each side has won four and lost three with Garryowen just a point ahead in the table. If they can beat Lansdowne on the artificial turf on the back pitch at the Aviva Stadium, they will be making a big statement as to their potential.
But that will be far from easy as Lansdowne have quite a few attacking options. Importantly, they also have the advantage of knowing what to expect from the artificial pitch.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 9, 2006: Garryowen 16 Lansdowne 15, Dooradoyle; Saturday, March 1, 2008: Lansdowne 5 Garryowen 11, the RDS
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win by 6-10 points
OLD BELVEDERE (9th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (4th), Anglesea Road
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Old Belvedere: LLLLDLL; Cork Constitution: WLWLWWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Andy Dunne 32; Tries: Peter Woods 4; Cork Constitution: Points: Gerry Hurley 65; Tries: Niall O’Driscoll 4
Preview: Who would have believed that the title holders Old Belvedere would be without a win after seven games this season?
Certainly not the side they beat in last year’s decider, Cork Constitution. The two teams provided a cracking final with Old Belvedere giving an outstanding performance to edge out Cork Con at Donnybrook.
Unfortunately, they have not even come close to that standard this season. To be fair, they are without many of their top players while another factor has been an undoubted shortage of confidence.
Cork Con, although lying in fourth spot, have also struggled to a degree because of the absence of many of last season’s contingent.
With the title to be decided on a league basis this year, they simply cannot afford to fall further behind current table toppers Young Munster.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 29, 2011: Cork Constitution 23 Old Belvedere 12, Temple Hill; Sunday, May 1, 2011: Final: Old Belvedere 20 Cork Constitution 17, Donnybrook
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win by 1-5 points
YOUNG MUNSTER (1st) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (3rd), Tom Clifford Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Young Munster: WLWWWWW; St. Mary’s College: WLLWWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Young Munster: Points: Willie Staunton 92; Tries: Matthew Costelloe 2; St. Mary’s College: Points: Gavin Dunne 74; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 2
Preview: First against third. What is more, it is the meeting of the division’s two form teams with St. Mary’s having won four on the bounce to move right back into contention.
If they can add the scalp of leaders Young Munster at Tom Clifford Park it will be quite an achievement. But Young Munster tend to be extremely hard to overcome on their home patch.
Even when they are below par they seem to have a capacity to dig out a victory. Certainly, that was the case when they beat Lansdowne with a late penalty from Willie Staunton in their last home outing.
Since then they confirmed their status at the top of the table with an impressive 23-16 away success over Cork Constitution. This is going to be a very competitive encounter.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 9, 2010: Young Munster 15 St. Mary’s College 9, Tom Clifford Park; Saturday, January 29, 2011: St. Mary’s College 13 Young Munster 11, Templeville Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win by 1-5 points