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Ulster Bank League: Division 1A Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1A Previews

Three cracking Friday Night Lights fixtures toninght including Lansdowne v St. Mary’s in Aviva Stadium. What better way to treat your Valentine!

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Friday, February 14

Kick-off 7.30pm unless stated

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Cork Constitution (4th) v Dolphin (8th), Temple Hill

Cork Constitution should not be lacking in confidence following their surprise 9-8 away success over leaders Clontarf last time out.

Their recent run has moved them up to fourth spot in the table, only trailing Lansdowne on points difference. No one is playing better just now than their scrum-half and captain Gerry Hurley.

Hurley, who skippered the Irish Club international side to victory over their Scottish counterparts, nailed three vital kicks in dreadful conditions against Clontarf. His goalkicking will clearly again be of vital importance against Dolphin.

Dolphin, for their part, will be looking to complete a double over their great rivals. When the sides met in the first series of matches, the Musgrave Park outfit emerged victorious 14-9 with Darren Sweetnam securing the vital try.

Lansdowne (3rd) v St Mary’s College (7th), Aviva Stadium Main Pitch (Match postponed due to unplayable pitch)

Good match in prospect between two teams that shared eight tries the last time they met. On that occasion, Lansdowne won 33-28 at Templeville Road.

They badly need to win again if they are to have any chance of keeping in touch with the top two sides in the table. Currently, third-placed Lansdowne trail Clontarf and Old Belvedere by 10 points.

But there will be nothing straightforward against a St Mary’s side that has imporved greatly in recent outings. Their 26-15 victory over UCD pushed them further clear of the relegation zone and up towards mid table.

Lansdowne, however, will be hoping that home advantage gives them the edge. They have been playing reasonably well without obviously reaching the high standards of last season.

UCD (6th) v Clontarf (1st), Belfield (Match postponed due to unplayable pitch)

Clontarf need to bounce back quickly following their following their disappointing home defeat to Cork Constitution.

Although they weren’t at their best, it was still a match they must feel they should have won. But they failed to take advantage of the elements in the first half and, for once, out-half David Joyce had an off day with his goalkicking.

Joyce had no such problems on the previous occasion the league leaders met UCD. He was responsible for 20 points as Clontarf beat UCD 25-16 at Castle Avenue.

Up to that point, the students had been flying high but things unfortunately haven’t gone nearly so well since. Their problem is coping with some of the more experienced packs, especially one of Clontarf’s ability.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, February 15

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated

Ballynahinch (9th) v Old Belvedere (2nd), Ballymacarn Park (Match postponed due to unplayable pitch)

Huge match for both teams. Ballynahinch because they are second from bottom and Garryowen have now moved to within seven points of them.

By contrast, Old Belvedere are locked in a battle with Clontarf at the top end of the table. They continued to play some great stuff with their full-back and captain Danny Riordan leading the way.

Riordan again showed himself to be in top from when scoring a try in the Club International victory over Scotland last weekend. He is sure to provide a big treat to Ballynahinch.

But Old Belvedere will definitely not be underestimating the challenge of Ballynahinch. The Ulster side, after all, gave them a real battle at Anglesea Road in the first series of matches, only losing 30-26.

Young Munster (5th) v Garryowen (10th), Tom Clifford Park

After their victory against Ballynahinch last time out, bottom side Garryowen will be hopeful of making it two in a row against their great rivals Young Munster at Tom Clifford Park.

It was the manner of their victory over Ballynahinch which has provided Garryowen with some real hope. To come from nine points down in the final quarter and win 18-9 suggests that there is nothing wrong with the character of the Garryowen side.

At last they also appear to be taking advantage of their goalkicking opportunities, something they clearly failed to do when they lost 9-8 to Young Munster in the first series of games.

Young Munster badly need a boost following a heavy home defeat by Clontarf and the somewhat controversial postponement of their game against Dolphin. Once again, Brian Haugh will be their key man.