Shannon and UL Bohs both need a win this weekend as the relegation battle reaches end game in Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, April 20
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
Cork Constitution (3rd) v UL Bohemians (10th), Temple Hill
Can UL Bohemians make it three victories in a row and avoid automatic relegation?
No one would have thought they were in with a chance when they conceded 89 points when losing consecutive matches to Clontarf and Lansdowne. Yet, somehow they have got their act together to beat Young Munster and St Mary’s College.
Last Saturday’s 15-3 win over St Mary’s was particularly impressive, despite the lack of tries. Obviously, their attitude is right and Ben Martin continues to be a key figure.
But they are going to have to perform remarkably well to comple a league double over a Cork Con side that has won four in a row.
Inspired by Johnny Holland, Cork Con now have a real chance of securing the runners-up spot in the table.
Garryowen (4th) v Clontarf (2nd), Dooradoyle
Another two teams in with a chance of securing that second position behind Lansdowne. Currently, Clontarf are just about holding on to second spot but successive defeats to Lansdowne, Dolphin and Cork Constitution have made them very vulnerable.
While they continue to score plenty of points, their problem is that they are also conceding far too many.
Fourth placed Garryowen will, no doubt, believe they have a definite chance of beating them for a second time in the current campaign.
Their form recently had been pretty indifferent but they produced a really good effort to defeat Dolphin 15-6 away last Saturday.
But it would be very wrong to underestimate Clontarf because of their recent run of defeats. The pride has been hurt and they will, no doubt, be extemely keen to hold on to second spot.
Old Belvedere (7th) v Dolphin (5th), Anglesea Road
Hats off to Belvo. Who would have thought they would have finished the season in such dramatic fashion after they lost 41-13 at home to Clontarf on March 9.
Since then they have put together a tremendous run which has seen them win three out of four. They have beaten Garryowen, St Mary’s and Lansdowne with their only defeat being a 37-32 away loss to Cork Con.
That represents a fantastic turnaround. It has seen them move well clear of the relegation zone to go fourth from bottom, nine points clear of Shannon in second last place.
Last weekend’s shock 34-17 away success over the new champions Lansdowne, with Ben Woods getting a couple of tries, showed just how much they have improved.
But Dolphin, at their best, are a very useful side, so this have the making of an entertaining end of season encounter.
Shannon (9th) v Lansdowne (1st), Coonagh
There’s so much at stake for Shannon. They are only ahead of bottom side UL Bohs on points difference, so there’s a real possibilty of the league’s most successful club being relegated automatically.
The prize for staying ahead of UL Bohs is a promotion/relegation play against the runner-up in Division One B. Quite clearly though, Shannon are going to have to improve considerably from last Saturday’s 18-0 loss to Young Munster.
So much will depend on Lansdowne’s approach. With the title already won, they were missing their normal intensity when going down to a surprise home defeat to Old Belvedere last weekend.
It will be interesting to see if Lansdowne are close to full strength. When the sides met early in the season, Lansdowne coasted to a 48-7 success, so Shannon have a lot of ground to make up.
St Mary’s College (8th) v Young Munster (6th), Templeville Road
Not a great deal at stake in this game, apart from pride. Young Munster are currently sixth with St Mary’s back in eight spot.
To be fair, St Mary’s will be keen to give themselves a boost ahead of their Bateman Cup final against Cork Constitution.
They have had such an inconsistent season, good enough to beat Clontarf twice, but they also managed to lose 15-3 to bottom outfit UL Bohs last Saturday.
At their best, they can be very difficult opposition, particularly at Templeville Road. Young Munster, for their part, have dropped away alarmingly after, at one point, being the main challengers to Lansdowne.
But they did end a run of six defeats by thumping Shannon 18-0. Darragh O’Neill showed his finishing power in that game and they have found a talented youngster in Shane O’Leary.