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Ulster Bank League: Division 1A Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1A Previews

League positions matter no more as the top four contest the Division 1A semi-finals on Saturday, with 10/1 title outsiders Young Munster hoping to upset first-placed Lansdowne and Terenure College aiming to dethrone defending champions Clontarf.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: Saturday, April 25

DIVISION 1A SEMI-FINALS –

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Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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LANSDOWNE (1st) v YOUNG MUNSTER (4th), Aviva Stadium main pitch, 2.30pm

Lansdowne Looking Forward To ‘A Huge Club Day’

Preview: Respective coaches Mike Ruddock and John Staunton expect league form to go out the window when their teams meet in the first of Saturday’s Division 1A semi-finals.

Ruddock’s Lansdowne side comfortably finished top of the table, earning five more wins than fourth-placed Young Munster, and they are odds-on favourites to lift their second league title in three years.

Lansdowne were missing a few frontliners in their recent 15-5 defeat away to Munsters in the final round, and they will be quietly confident of reversing that result with home advantage and the return of Rising Star award winners Cian Kelleher and Tom Farrell.

Playing at headquarters will bring back fond memories of Young Munster’s glory days, and their 1993 title success in particular. Five carriage-loads of supporters are making the trip up from Limerick. “It is cup rugby from here on in,” said Cookies boss Staunton, who is set to field an unchanged team. That format often brings out the best in Munster clubs – as Cork Con proved in last week’s Bateman Cup decider.

Recent League Meetings – Sunday, November 23, 2014: Lansdowne 28 Young Munster 21, Aviva Stadium back pitch; Saturday, April 11, 2015: Young Munster 15 Lansdowne 5, Tom Clifford Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win

LANSDOWNE: Cian Kelleher; Cian Aherne, Tom Farrell, Tom Daly, Ian Fitzpatrick; Scott Deasy, Adam Griggs; Peter Dooley, Tyrone Moran, Ian Prendiville, Brian Moylett, Stephen Gardiner, Joe McSwiney, Aaron Conneely, Ron Boucher (capt).

Replacements: Paddy Flood, Adam Boland, Tadhg Beirne, Joe O’Brien, Paddy O’Driscoll, Conor McKeon, Mark Roche.

YOUNG MUNSTER: Shane O’Leary; Diarmaid McCarthy, Dan Goggin, Gearoid Lyons, Eamonn Carr; Willie Staunton, Rob Guerin; David Begley, Ger Slattery (capt), Hugh McGrath, Tom Goggin, Sean Duggan, Alan Kennedy, Yasin Browne, Sean Rennison.

Replacements (from): Luke O’Halloran, Paul Allen, Darren Gallagher, Darren Ryan, Ben Kilkenny, Diarmaid Dee, Kolio Hifo, Evan Mulcahy, Ed O’Keeffe, David O’Mahony.

Referee: David Wilkinson (IRFU)

TERENURE COLLEGE (2nd) v CLONTARF (3rd), Lakelands Park, 3pm

Terenure Plan A Day To Remember At Lakelands

Preview: A crowd in the region of 2,000 is expected at Lakelands for the all-Dublin semi-final showdown between second-placed Terenure College and Clontarf, who finished just a point behind them in third.

Just two short seasons ago Terenure were competing in Division 2A, so their excellent sustained progress under James Blaney should certainly act as an inspiration to other clubs below them. “If we get our performance right, I’d be fairly confident we’ll get the result,” said Blaney of the semi-final.

Clontarf, first-time league champions just a year ago, have had to quickly get over last week’s Bateman Cup final disappointment and the additional setback of having out-half David Joyce sidelined with a shoulder injury. Head coach Andy Wood has no doubt they can ‘rise to the challenge’ as they have done on a regular basis over the past 18 months.

Two of the division’s best finishers this season, centres Stephen O’Neill and Matt D’Arcy (who moves to number 10 to cover Joyce’s absence), will be the ones to watch with ball in hand. And, as ever, there is a huge amount riding on the battle between ‘Nure’s mobile pack and the physically bigger Clontarf eight.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 1, 2014: Terenure College 14 Clontarf 9, Lakelands Park; Saturday, February 21, 2015: Clontarf 16 Terenure College 11, Castle Avenue

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College to win

TERENURE COLLEGE: Ian Hanly; James O’Donoghue, Stephen O’Neill, Harrison Brewer, Harry Moore; James Thornton, Kevin O’Neill; Gary Hamilton, Robbie Smyth, Oisin Heffernan, Fergal Walsh, Kevin O’Dwyer, Robert Duke, James O’Neill (capt), Kyle McCoy.

Replacements: Kevin Buckley, Rory Harrison, Jonathan Barretto, Niall Lalor, Mark O’Neill, Graham Coffey, Shane Donovan.

CLONTARF: Rob Keogh; Michael Brown, Colm O’Shea, Evan Ryan, Conor O’Brien; Matt D’Arcy, Sam Cronin (capt); Ivan Soroka, Bryan Byrne, Royce Burke Flynn, Tom Byrne, Ben Reilly, Karl Moran, Adrian D’Arcy, Anthony Ryan.

Replacements: Rory Litchfield, Liam Og Murphy, Ian Hirst, Dermot O’Meara, Ariel Robles, Rob McGrath, Conor O’Keeffe.

Referee: Stuart Gaffikin (IRFU)

DIVISION 1A PROMOTION/RELEGATION PLAY-OFF –

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (9th, Div 1A) v GARRYOWEN (2nd, Div 1B), Templeville Road, 2.30pm

Preview: Away from the glamour of league semi-finals, St. Mary’s and Garryowen face into a season-defining clash as they contest the Division 1A promotion/relegation play-off.

This will be a real test of character for both teams and a tense 80 minutes awaits as St. Mary’s fight to preserve their top flight status and the Light Blues try to bounce straight back up from last year’s relegation.

Captain Kevin Sheahan has dubbed it Mary’s ‘most important game in the last number of years’. Despite some up and down form, they have beaten semi-finalists Young Munster and Clontarf at home this term.

Garryowen were just two points away from automatic promotion in Division 1B, faltering in the final round away to close rivals Galwegians. The pain of that defeat might just propel Conan Doyle’s charges to their most important result of the year.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 4, 2014: Garryowen 14 St. Mary’s College 24, Dooradoyle; Saturday, April 12, 2014: St. Mary’s College 40 Garryowen 26, Templeville Road

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win