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Ulster Bank League: Division 1A Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1A Previews

Friday Night Lights comes to Clontarf and Shannon this weekend. League leaders Lansdowne travel to Dolphin tomorrow


Clontarf (5th) v St Mary’s College (8th), Castle Avenue 19:30

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St. Mary’s will be hoping to complete the double over Clontarf in this Friday night Castle Park encounter. When they met at Templeville Road in early January, St Mary’s finished decisive 16-3 winners.

But the match was much closer than the scoreline indicated. The difference was that St Mary’s availed of their chances, wing Darragh Fanning scoring the game’s only try, while Clontarf failed to take advantage of some very good positions.

Since then, St Mary’s have lost at home to Cork Constitution, a result which means that they are still third from bottom. Clontarf, for their part, travelled to Coonagh to defeat Shannon.

Everything suggests a tough close struggle. St Mary’s are a much better side than their lowly position indicates but they are going to have to perform really well if they are to get the better of Clontarf at Castle Avenue.

Shannon (10th) v UL Bohemians (9th), Thomond Park, 19:30

Massive amount at stake between these two great Limerick rivals at Thomond Park… If Shannon were to lose, they would face a seemingly impossible situation at the bottom of the table.

As thing stand, they are now eight points adrift of UL Bohs and St Mary’s. They have managed just one victory in their nine outings but that did come against UL Bohs (16-8) at the same venue on January 4.

No doubt, Shannon will feel what they have done once they can do again. But they did lose out 20-14 at home to Clontarf last weekend while Ul Bohs travelled to Anglesea Road to secure a vital 27-24 victory over Old Belvedere.

Former Shannon man Mossie Lawlor was a key figure, scoring one of their tries. He will know exactly what to expect in what is bound to prove a fierce struggle.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, February 2nd

Dolphin (6th) v Lansdowne (1st), Musgrave Park, 15:00

IF you were to read too much into Lansdowne’s 23-0 away demolition of Garryowen last weekend, you would imagine this should be fairly straightforward for the League leaders.

Furthermore, Lansdowne thumped Dolphin 37-7 when they sides met on the back pitch at the Aviva Stadium a number of weeks back.

Even so, the Lansdowne coach Mike Ruddock will definitely not be taking anything for granted.

Ruddock is aware that Dolphin tend to be a different animal when they are playing at Musgrave Park. Around this stage of last season,for instance, they inflicted a surprise 12-8 defeat on the eventual champions St Mary’s.

So, they are quite capable of lifting their game. But Lansdowne must be favourites, particularly if the pack and scrum-half John Cooney play as well as they did against Garryowen.

Garryowen (2nd) v Cork Constitution (4th), Dooradoyle, 16:00

Second placed Garryowen must lift their game considerably from last weekend’s disappointing 23 point home defeat to Lansdowne.

No one could have predicted that they would perform so poorly. Coach Tom Tierney was at a loss, describing it as one of the days when absolutely nothing went right.

In fact, they only had one real scoring opportunity in the entire game. Quite clearly, as their record of seven wins in their nine games shows, they are capable of an awful lot better.

They proved as much by beating Cork Constitution 20-14 at Temple Hill in early January. But fourth-placed Cork Con responded well to that loss by defeating St Mary’s away last weekend and will no doubt fancy their chances of taking revenge.

Old Belvedere (7th) v Young Munster (3rd), Anglesea Road, 14:30

Following the postponement of their game against Dolphin, third-placed Young Munster will be keen to demonstrate that they are worthy title challengers. All of their recent form suggests that they will remain in the hunt.

Besides beating Lansdowne, they demolished Old Belvedere 40-3 when the sides met at Tom Clifford Park on January 5.

They secured a bonus point with four tries, while Brian Haugh was in outstanding form with the boot, contributing 20 points. Old Belvedere, however, will surely lift their game on their home ground.

They have a lot at stake, as they lie dangerously close to the relegation zone. Coach Andy Dunne badly needs a repeat of the effort which saw them shock Cork Con at the same venue earlier in the season.