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Ulster Bank League: Division 1A Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1A Previews

It comes down to the last round of games in Ulster Bank League Division 1A with the meeting of relegated Garryowen and table toppersOld Belvedere live on RTE Two on Saturday afternoon.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, April 19

Kick-off 2.35pm unless stated –

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GARRYOWEN (10th) v OLD BELVEDERE (1st), Dooradoyle (live on RTÉ Two/www.rte.ie/live)

Old Belvedere head coach Paul Cunningham knows better than anyone that nothing can be taken for granted as his team bids to capture the Ulster Bank League title at Dooradoyle.

Okay, Old Belvedere will be warm favourites to secure the victory which will earn them the title ahead of Clontarf.

But the Anglesea Road club only have to look at what has happened to Clontarf in recent weeks to appreciate how easily things can go wrong.

Furthermore, Garryowen gave Old Belvedere a really difficult match when the sides met back in December. Had Garryowen been able to avail of their opportunities at Anglesea Road they could easily have established a big lead by half-time.

Instead, it was ‘Belvo who took their chances to come away with a somewhat flattering 15-5 victory. Since then, of course, Garryowen managed something of a revival but ultimately failed in their bid to avoid automatic relegation.

In theory they have very little to play for this weekend. But Cunningham, a long-time former Garryowen player and coach, believes that the sheer pride surrounding the club will make them difficult opponents.

The fact that the television cameras will be present is a further incentive. Consequently, it is up to Old Belvedere to bring their number one game to Dooradoyle if they are to make certain of a second title in four years.

Their supporters will be hoping that their full-back and skipper Daniel Riordan will be able to return, but the odds, it seems, are against him. Riordan has missed out on the last two matches because of an ankle injury.

Without him, their backs division does not quite have the same threat. Cunnigham must also check on the availability of their outstanding young back rower Jack Conan, although Leo Auva’a did a fine job at number 8 in last Saturday’s 21-15 victory over Dolphin.

CLONTARF (2nd) v BALLYNAHINCH (9th), Castle Avenue

It is difficult not to have sympathy for Clontarf following their dramatic collapse which has seen them lose to UCD and Lansdowne over the past few weeks.

The home game against Ballynahinch should have been set up for them to capture that elusive and overdue title. Instead, they now must depend of Garryowen gaining an upset win over Old Belvedere if they are to succeed.

While anything can happen, Clontarf must be really disappointed that matters are now out of their hands. All they can do is to beat Ballynahinch and just pray that Garryowen can do them a favour.

Then again, defeating Ballynahinch is not exactly straightforward. The Ulster side are currently enjoying a rich vein of form which has seen them take maximum points from their last three games.

Furthermore, there is still a chance of them moving away from the second last spot if they can beat Clontarf and other results go their way. They are a very useful team with very dangerous backs in Stuart Morrow and Rodger McBurney.

The fact that they have run up big scores against Cork Constitution and UCD in their last two games speaks for itself. 

Also, when they met Clontarf at Ballymacarn Park, it was a very close encounter with the Dublin club only winning 16-12.

So,  Clontarf will need to put the disappointment of the last few weeks behind them and return to their very best form if they are to wind up their campaign with a victory.

CORK CONSTITUTION (5th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (6th), Temple Hill

Not a great deal at stake between two teams in the middle of the table. But Cork Con will, no doubt, be looking for a boost prior to facing UCD in the Bateman Cup final.

Generally, their form has been up and down. They were absolutely demolished in their last home game by Ballynahinch but bounced back with a dramatic 24-23 away success over Young Munster last Saturday.

Once again, the value of Gerry Hurley was demonstrated when he contributed 14 points. St Mary’s, for their part, have responded pretty well after a poor opening half to the season.

Last weekend’s 40-26 home victory over Garryowen would indicate that they are in pretty good shape. They scored six tries with Marcus O’Driscoll again showing his worth by getting two of them.

DOLPHIN (8th) v LANSDOWNE (3rd), Musgrave park

It is important that Dolphin get something out of this game to make sure that they stay ahead of Ballynahinch.

To be fair, they played reasonably well when losing 21-19 to league leaders Old Belvedere last time out.

They scored the only two tries of the game and Old Belvedere were quite relieved to hear the final whistle.

At the same time, the point should be made that they have gone down to some really big defeats during their campaign. And one of those saw them lose 61-11 away to Lansdowne.

But Dolphin were well below full strength that day and should be much better prepared for the return encounter.

That said, they know they will have to perform at their best if they are to get anything against a Lansdowne outfit that returned to form by upsetting Clontarf last weekend.

UCD (4th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (7th), Belfield

UCD will be hoping for some encouragement prior to their Bateman Cup decider against Cork Con when they take on Young Munster at Belfield.

It promises to be a tough test as Young Munster defeated the students 22-16 when the sides previously met at Tom Clifford Park. What is more, the Limerick outfit will be aware that they need something from the game to make absolutely certain that they stay ahead of Ballynahinch.

As things stand they are a point in front of Dolphin and five ahead of Ballynahinch. But Ballynahinch have a superior points difference to the other two.

While it is probably asking a bit much for Ballynahinch to take maximum points away to Clontarf,  Young Munster cannot afford to take anything for granted.

Once again, the contribution of goal kicker Brian Haugh is going to be vital against a UCD side that carries a threat right along their backs division.