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Ulster Bank League: Division 1A Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1A Previews

Castle Avenue in Clontarf should be packed to the rafters on Saturday for the potential title decider between Clontarf and St. Mary’s College, which is being broadcast live on RTE Two. Elsewhere Shannon, Blackrock and Old Belvedere are locked in a relegation scrap.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, April 14

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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CLONTARF (1st) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (2nd), Castle Avenue, 1.15pm

Preview: First against second, northside against southside and the league title up for grabs. No pressure then! The permutations are complicated but if Clontarf win by more than seven points and with a try-scoring bonus point then they will be champions.

Only a point separates them in the table but the home side are 80 points better off in the points difference stakes, so anything less than a win for St. Mary’s could effectively hand the title to ‘Tarf.

For their part, St. Mary’s will be looking to win and then make sure of the title in their final outing at home against Young Munster. It is difficult to know how it will work out, given that the two sides are so evenly matched.

There was nothing in it when they met at Templeville Road in early December. St. Mary’s won 22-20 with an injury-time Philip Brophy try, converted by Gavin Dunne, after Clontarf lock Jamie Chipman had been sin-binned.

After coming from behind to beat Cork Constitution last time out, St. Mary’s will not be lacking confidence. They will be further encouraged by the news that their skipper Hugh Hogan is set to return to the back row after missing the last two games.

Clontarf are hopeful that prop Ben Barclay will be able to take his place after sustaining an ankle injury, along with out-half Noel Reid who will be on the Leinster bench tonight.

It could be that the performances of the respective place-kickers, Clontarf’s Richie Lane and Dunne of St. Mary’s, decide it. The two Corkmen have had a very high success rate all season.

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win by 1-5 points

GARRYOWEN (6th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (5th), Dooradoyle

Preview: One of the few games with nothing at stake only pride, but then both these sides have that in spades.

Possibly fifth-placed Cork Constitution have the greater incentive in that they will be keen to finish as far up the table as they can. Losing the likes of Simon Zebo, Peter O’Mahony, Frank Cogan and Richie Lane would hurt any side but Cork Con will be back all the stronger for it next season.

One suspects that Garryowen’s minds will be mainly on their upcoming Ulster Bank Bateman Cup final against Ballymena (Saturday, April 28).

They played well for a long spell against Clontarf last time out with Corey Hircock scoring two tries, but eventually lost their way in the second half.

Cork Con will feel that they blew their game against St. Mary’s after leading going into the closing stages. In many ways, it summed up their season. But they remain a decent outfit. Both sides have the ability to score tries, so it should be a pretty lively affair.

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win by 6-10 points

OLD BELVEDERE (10th) v LANSDOWNE (4th), Anglesea Road

Preview: All of a sudden Old Belvedere have a chance of somehow avoiding relegation after winning two games on the trot. Clearly, Andy Dunne has done an excellent job since taking over as head coach.

There is a new found confidence in the team which was demonstrated by their achievement in scoring four tries in the 31-16 win over Shannon.

Daniel Riordan remains a big threat at full-back, while the promising Jack Conan did really well to score two tries against Shannon.

But Old Belvedere will appreciate that Lansdowne represent far more dangerous opposition. Their runaway 44-18 victory over Young Munster has moved them up to fourth in the table. Potentially, they could claim third spot, so they are unlikely to do Old Belvedere any favours.

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win by 1-5 points

SHANNON (8th) v BLACKROCK COLLEGE (9th), Coonagh

Preview: A huge relegation battle. Both sides are on on the 22-point mark, just a point ahead of bottom side Old Belvedere. Blackrock’s problem is that they have such a poor points difference.

They have endured a miserable time recently but importantly recorded a much-needed 31-24 win over a weakened Dolphin side last time out.

Shannon have also had major problems, culminating in their 31-16 defeat to Old Belvedere. Player-coach Stephen Keogh needs to get the sort of response which brought them an away victory over Lansdowne in February.

They have been relying far too much on the scoring ability of Tadhg Bennett at out-half. Blackrock will be hoping that centre Brendan Macken, named on the Leinster bench tonight, is available.

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win by 6-10 points

YOUNG MUNSTER (3rd) v DOLPHIN (7th), Tom Clifford Park

Preview: Their chances of winning the title have gone following two successive defeats but third-placed Young Munster will be keen to restore some pride.

They will start as favourites against a Dolphin side that has precious little to play for. A further incentive for Young Munster is that they will be looking to take revenge for an away defeat by Dolphin.

Quite obviously, they were some way short of their best when conceding 44 points to Lansdowne. Previously, Young Munster had performed pretty well in a fierce battle at home against Clontarf only to narrowly lose out.

If they can repeat that sort of form, and Willie Staunton can regain his goal-kicking touch, then they must have a great chance of securing a victory.

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win by 6-10 points