St. Mary’s College launch the defence of their Ulster Bank League crown at home to UL Bohemians on Saturday, but much of the focus on Friday night will be on the Shannon v Young Munster derby clash which will be broadcast live on Irish Rugby TV.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Friday, September 28
Kick-off 7.30pm unless stated –
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GARRYOWEN v DOLPHIN, Dooradoyle
Preview: Quite a lot has changed at Garryowen with former Ireland scrum half Tom Tierney the new head coach and retired flanker Paul Neville now looking after the forwards.
Last season’s half-backs Fergal Lawlor and Declan Cusack have departed. But Garryowen still have a quality back row with Shane Buckley, Anthony Kavanagh and David Sherry all available and they possess a very promising young hooker in James Rael.
They will be keen to make home advantage pay against a Dolphin side which is sure to prove very competitive in the forward exchanges. They too have a very talented young hooker in Ireland Under-20 captain Niall Scannell.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 26, 2011: Dolphin 9 Garryowen 14, Musgrave Park; Saturday, January 28, 2012: Garryowe 19 Dolphin 13, Dooradoyle;
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win by 1-5 points
OLD BELVEDERE v LANSDOWNE, Anglesea Road
Preview: Very lively match in prospect between two teams that will be looking to play open rugby. ‘Belvo head coach Andy Dunne did a remarkable job to keep Old Belvedere in the top flight last season when all seemed lost.
He did so by bringing in quality young players. Jack Conan at number 8 has made a big impression while skipper Daniel Riordan will be another important figure at full-back.
But they have to play very well if they are to beat the Mike Ruddock-coached Lansdowne. Scrum half John Cooney is tied up with Leinster but they still have plenty of quality.
Out-half Craig Ronaldson is available following a trial with Bath, along with Connacht-contracted players Matt Healy and Kyle Tonetti. Full-back Ross McCarron will again skipper the side.
Recent League Meetings – Friday, October 14, 2011: Lansdowne 22 Old Belvedere 18, Aviva Stadium main pitch; Saturday, April 14, 2012: Old Belvedere 22 Lansdowne 18, Anglesea Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win by 6-10 points
SHANNON v YOUNG MUNSTER, Thomond Park (live Irish Rugby TV)
Preview: A hugely competitive game anticipated between these two great Limerick rivals. They had very contrasting seasons last year with Young Munster in the running for the title and Shannon only narrowly avoiding relegation.
But that counts for nothing at Thomond Park. Young Munster, for instance, have lost several players, including their high scoring out-half Willie Staunton who has joined Terenure College.
He is set to be replaced by former Shannon player Gareth Quinn McDonogh who has linked up with Young Munster after a spell with Doncaster Knights.
Shannon will also show some changes from last season. Former Dolphin centre Eric Moloney has joined, along with the highly-regarded John Shine in the back row from Bruff.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 29, 2011: Young Munster 9 Shannon 3, Tom Clifford Park; Friday, February 10, 2012: Shannon 20 Young Munster 23, Thomond Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win by 1-5 points
CORK CONSTITUTION v CLONTARF, Temple Hill, Saturday, September 29, 2.30pm
Preview: Two sides that again look certain to be in the running for the title. Clontarf so very nearly did it last season, only just losing out to St. Mary’s College.
Although influential flanker Barry O’Mahony has since linked up with Munster, ‘Tarf still have plenty of top class players within their squad. Darragh Fitzpatrick is a useful signing from Blackrock College.
Cork Con were impressive in beating holders Garryowen 16-6 in the second round of the Munster Senior Cup. Yet again, they will lose top players to Munster but head coach Brian Walsh always seems to produce a decent side.
The contributions of half-backs Gerry Hurley and Johnny Holland will be vital. When the two sides met last season, they each won their home game.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 5, 2011: Cork Constitution 26 Clontarf 18, Temple Hill; Saturday, February 18, 2012: Clontarf 10 Cork Constitution 9, Castle Avenue
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win by 1-5 points
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE v UL BOHEMIANS, Templeville Road, Saturday, September 29, 2.30pm
Preview: Intriguing opening match in their defence of the title for St. Mary’s. They have a new head coach with former number 8 Hugh Hogan taking over from Peter Smyth.
No doubt Hogan’s considerable presence will be missed on the pitch, but St. Mary’s will still have a formidable pack with new skipper Richie Sweeney featuring alongside his brother Rob in the front row.
Unfortunately, centre Mark Sexton is on the injury list for what is likely to be a real test for the defending champions.
Newly-promoted UL Bohs are reputed to be playing the best rugby in Limerick at the moment. They will be looking to stretch St Mary’s with their exciting backs division which includes potential match winners in Ireland Under-20 out-half JJ Hanrahan, Ben Martin and Martin McPhail.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 14, 2009: UL Bohemians 25 St. Mary’s College 20, Thomond Park; Saturday, February 20, 2010: St. Mary’s College 39 UL Bohemians 12, Templeville Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win by 1-5 points