There are only five points between Lansdowne in first place and Dolphin in fifth in Division 1A which means there is little room for error in this weekend’s Ulster Bank League clashes.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, November 17
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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DOLPHIN (5th) v CLONTARF (6th), Musgrave Park
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Dolphin: LWWWL; Clontarf: LLWWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 47; Tries: Harry Fleming, Cian Bohane, Rob O’Herlihy, Christy Condon, James Cronin, Chris Bannon, Eamon Mills, Niall Scannell 1 each; Clontarf: Points: Richie Lane 54; Tries: Martin Garvey, Timmy McCoy 2 each
Preview: Both sides are trying to bounce back from defeats last weekend. Of the two, Clontarf came the closest to victory, only losing out to the last kick of the game to Lansdowne.
While Lansdowne deserved their success, Clontarf are improving. Just how much will surely be determined when take on Dolphin at Musgrave Park.
Dolphin won the corresponding fixture 9-3 last season. After the disappointment of going down 18-13 in last weekend’s derby match against Cork Constitution, they will be very keen to retun to winning form.
As always, the contribution of Barry Keeshan will be vital. But Clontarf also have an ace kicker in the former Cork Con man Richie Lane, so it is likely to be another closely-fought encounter.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 7, 2012: Dolphin 9 Clontarf 3, Musgrave Park; Saturday, February 4, 2012: Clontarf 32 Dolphin 23, Castle Avenue
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win by 1-5 points
LANSDOWNE (1st) v UL BOHEMIANS (8th), Aviva Stadium back pitch
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Lansdowne: WWWLW; UL Bohemians: LWLWL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: Craig Ronaldson 52; Tries: Cian Aherne 6; UL Bohemians: Points: JJ Hanrahan 36; Tries: Mossy Lawler, Rory White 2 each
Preview: Leaders Lansdowne will undoubtedly go into this one as favourites but they definitely will not be taking anything for granted following their last two outings.
One ended in an injury-time defeat to Cork Constitution, the other saw them beat Clontarf with the last kick of the game. Tom Daly, the player responsible for the match-winning penalty, looks a definite prospect.
The youngster showed a lot of composure to take over the kicking duties from Craig Ronaldson. This time around the talented Lansdowne outfit will, no doubt, be hoping to make certain of victory before the game goes into injury-time.
It is a tough ask for UL Bohemians on the back pitch at the Aviva Stadium. But they do have a potential match winner in JJ Hanrahan, presuming he is available, and they can be very dangerous when given the opportunity.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 23, 2010: UL Bohemians 19 Lansdowne 9, Thomond Park; Saturday, February 5, 2011: Lansdowne 13 UL Bohemians 17, Aviva Stadium back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win by 1-5 points
OLD BELVEDERE (7th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (3rd), Anglesea Road
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Old Belvedere: LLLWW; Cork Constitution: WLWWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Steve Crosbie 23; Tries: David Mongan, Daniel Riordan, Eddie Devitt, Jack Conan 2 each; Cork Constitution: Points: Johnny Holland 24; Tries: Darragh Lyons, Ivan Dineen 3 each
Preview: Interesting game between an Old Belvedere side that has won their last two and third-placed Cork Constitution.
Initially, it looked as though Old Belvedere were going to struggle badly again but last weekend’s last-ditch 18-16 away success over St. Mary’s shows that they have improved considerably. Jack Conan and Steve Crosbie are just two of their very talented crop of young players.
But Cork Con are not lacking in experience or emerging talent. They have put together two top class performances to beat Lansdowne away and Dolphin at home.
Scott Deasy is doing a lot of damage in the centre, Johnny Holland has excelled at out-half and Darragh Lyons seems very much at home at full-back. They must go into this game as favourites.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 7, 2012: Old Belvedere 7 Cork Constitution 9, Anglesea Road; Saturday, April 21, 2012: Cork Constitution 22 Old Belvedere 25, Temple Hill
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win by 6-10 points
SHANNON (10th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (9th), Coonagh, Sunday, November 18, 2.30pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Shannon: LLLLL; St. Mary’s College: WLLLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Rob Guerin 22; Tries: John Shine 2; St. Mary’s College: Points: Gavin Dunne 23; Tries: Marcus O’Driscoll, Kevin Croke, Kevin Sheahan, Robbie Hudson, Conor Hogan 1 each
Preview: It is remarkable to think that these two sides lie last and second last respectively in the Division 1A table.
So, there is a huge amount at stake. Shannon, after an appalling start, at least put up a much better effort when only going down 12-6 to second-placed Garryowen.
There has been a lot of turmoil within the club with the departure of their player-coach Stephen Keogh. The new coaching pairing of James Hickey and Brian Tuohy are now trying to turn things around.
St. Mary’s, of course, have problems of their own with only one win out of five. Any hope of retaining their title has long since disappeared and they now badly need something to go their way in order to move up towards mid-table.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 15, 2011: Shannon 18 St. Mary’s College 11, Thomond Park; Saturday, February 18, 2012: St. Mary’s College 24 Shannon 12, Templeville Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win by 1-5 points
YOUNG MUNSTER (4th) v GARRYOWEN (2nd), Tom Clifford Park, Sunday, November 18, 2.30pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Young Munster: WWLLW; Garryowen: WWWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Young Munster: Points: Brian Haugh 56; Tries: Mark Doyle, Darragh O’Neill 2 each; Garryowen: Points: Jamie Gavin 65; Tries: Barry O’Mahony 4
Preview: A massive test for second-placed Garryowen. So far, the coaching partnership of Tom Tierney and Paul Neville have done a fine job to win four out of five and only trail leaders Lansdowne by a point.
Fortunately, Jamie Gavin was again in great form with the boot in last weekend’s hard-earned derby success over Shannon. He will clearly need to be at his best again if they are to beat Young Munster.
The home side will be cheered on by a big support, always an important factor, particularly when they are up against one of their local rivals.
Young Munster have a lot to play for as they in fourth spot in the table, only trailing Garryowen by three points. Garryowen will also be looking for a a big performance from their in-form goal-kicker Brian Haugh.
Recent League Meetings – Friday, November 4, 2011: Garryowen 6 Young Munster 10, Dooradoyle; Saturday, February 18, 2012: Young Munster 21 Garryowen 15, Tom Clifford Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win by 6-10 points