Five postponed games that were due to be played in 2015 will kickstart the New Year action across Division 2A, 2B and 2C of the Ulster Bank League. The pick of them is the Cork derby between Kanturk and Midleton with a big crowd expected at Knocknacolan.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: Saturday, January 2
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Nenagh Ormond (7th) v Naas (5th), New Ormond Park
A New Year but Nenagh Ormond will be hoping for more of the same after they ended 2015 with back-to-back wins over Skerries and Naas, their visitors this weekend.
Another victory would see Nenagh climb to sixth place just behind the Kildare men, who won 29-10 against Thomond on their most recent trip to Munster in late November.
Scrum half Mike Fogarty inspired Nenagh’s 10-7 success at Forenaughts, but Naas have it in them to gain revenge – especially with the carrot of a move back into the top three on offer.
MU Barnhall (9th) v Highfield (3rd), Parsonstown, 2pm
With December a veritable washout and only five Division 2B matches taking place during the entire month, January is packed full of interesting encounters. This meeting of MU Barnhall and Highfield certainly falls into that category.
The clubs will clash this Saturday and also on January 23 as they prepare for a punishing run of six league games in as many weeks. A win here is vital for Highfield’s promotion hopes, with their January 16 trip to leaders City of Derry looming large on the horizon.
But they cannot afford to take their eye off the ball as Barnhall are playing much better rugby than their league position suggest. Their 17-5 dismissal of Greystones last time out showed what they are capable of.
Seapoint (10th) v Armagh (5th), Kilbogget Park
Like Barnhall, bottom side Seapoint are another team who are playing some good stuff but just not finishing off chances and picking up wins. Nine defeats in a row means they are very low on confidence.
However, the south Dubliners will relish this opportunity to have another crack at Armagh after running them close at the Palace Grounds last time out. On a very wet and windy day, full-back Harry Boyd kicked the Ulstermen to a 9-0 win.
Armagh’s stranglehold of possession and territory in the second half saw them close out a hard-fought home victory and if captain Neil Faloon leads by example again, they should be heading back into the top four.
Sligo (9th) v Tullamore (2nd), Hamilton Park, 2pm
Tullamore finished off 2015 with a thumping 49-0 bonus point win over struggling Sligo, and another five-point return for the Offaly men out west would see them join leaders Old Crescent on 38 points at the top of the table.
Winger Jordan Conroy scored a brace of tries and there were five other Tullamore players across the Sligo whitewash in that one-sided tie at Spollanstown.
Tightening up their defence is paramount for Sligo if they want to get out of relegation trouble. A series of competitive performances against Tullamore, Bruff and Old Crescent would prime them for their vital January 30 visit to bottom side Dundalk.
Kanturk (8th) v Midleton (6th), Knocknacolan
Midleton had Kanturk’s number when these Cork rivals met a few weeks before Christmas. They made the most of home advantage as Kevin Brierley, Daniel Murray and Rob Smyth all crossed for tries in a 25-0 triumph at Towns Park.
Kanturk have lost four of their last five games to fall to eighth in the league standings. Wanderers, Old Crescent and Tullamore have all won at Knocknacolan this season, and Midleton look in good fettle to complete their own derby double.
However, following the festive break, Ben Martin’s Kanturk side will be undoubtedly eager to right the wrongs of recent performances and the margin should be a lot tighter this time around.