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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

The opening month of Ulster Bank League Division 1B wraps up on Saturday when table toppers UL Bohemians and third-placed Ballynahinch both face tricky away trips.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, October 8

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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GALWEGIANS (6th) v UL BOHEMIANS (1st), Crowley Park, 2pm

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Galwegians: LWL; UL Bohemians: WWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Galwegians: Points: Mitch Lam 22; Tries: Ed O’Keeffe, Matthew Byrne, Cormac Brennan, Jack Dinneen, Conor Carey, Aidan Moynihan, Alan McMahon, Adam Leavy 1 each; UL Bohemians: Points: Rick McKenna 32; Tries: Jamie McNamara 4

Preview: Despite falling to Dolphin, Galwegians will not be too downbeat after losing two of their first three games under Brian McClearn. The new half-back pairing of Mitch Lam and Stuart Lee looks promising.

But it is hard to see ‘Wegians stopping table toppers UL Bohemians in their tracks. The start of Christy Neilan’s coaching reign could hardly have gone any better, with three successive bonus point wins.

Winger Jamie McNamara is on fire with four tries already, while Ed Kelly and captain Ian Condell drive a talented pack that is providing quality ball for McNamara and company.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 27, 2014: Galwegians 13 UL Bohemians 10, Crowley Park; Saturday, January 10, 2015: UL Bohemians 15 Galwegians 18, Thomond Park back pitch

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UL Bohemians to win

BALLYMENA (4th) v DOLPHIN (9th), Eaton Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Ballymena: WWL; Dolphin: LLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Ballymena: Points: Mark Best 32; Tries: Mark Best 3; Dolphin: Points: Barry Keeshan 19; Tries: Cameron O’Shaughnessy, Barry Fitzgerald, Dave O’Mahony, Karl Keogh 1 each

Preview: Ballymena must do without a number of players owing to Ulster ‘A’ commitments this weekend. Heading that list is top-scoring centre Mark Best who has accumulated 32 points and three tries so far.

Another of the their midfield contingent, Paddy James, is on duty with the Ireland rugby league side. However, Andy Graham has had upwards of 35 players at training this week so the rejigged Braidmen will be well drilled.

Dolphin ended their losing streak against Galwegians and would dearly love win number two. Ex-Ireland Club international Barry Keeshan was a commanding presence at out-half last week, and more of the same is required if they are to take something from this game.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 19, 2015: Dolphin 10 Ballymena 37, Irish Independent Park; Saturday, April 2, 2016: Ballymena 22 Dolphin 23, Eaton Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win

BUCCANEERS (2nd) v UCC (8th), Dubarry Park

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Buccaneers: LWW; UCC: LLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Buccaneers: Points; Conor McKeon 19; Tries: Jordan Conroy 3; UCC: Points: Kevin O’Keeffe 27; Tries: Conor Barry, Peter McCabe, Cillian Ansbro, Chris McAuliffe, James Kiernan 1 each

Preview: Second in the table against second-from-bottom, but such is the nip and tuck nature of the division that only six points currently separate Buccaneers and visitors UCC.

The Cork students had a stirring comeback victory over Ballymena, try scorer James Kiernan and goal-kicker Kevin O’Keeffe leading the way with key second half contributions.

You have to go back five years for the sides’ last league meeting – a 43-22 home victory for Buccs. Their current captain, number 8 Kolo Kiripati, is sidelined with an ear injury (sustained against Naas last week) that required considerable stitching.

Recent League Meetings – N/A

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win

OLD WESLEY (5th) v BALLYNAHINCH (3rd), Donnybrook, 4pm

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WWL; Ballynahinch: WLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Barry McLaughlin 40; Tries: Paul Harte 3; Ballynahinch: Points: Johnny McPhillips 15; Tries: Sam Windsor, Jordan Grattan 2 each

Preview: Old Wesley gave league leaders UL a really good test last week and will relish this encounter with former Division 1A dwellers Ballynahinch.

Wesley’s goal-kicking winger Barry McLaughlin is already top of the division’s scoring charts with 40 points, but they fell foul of Eddie Hogan O’Connell’s whistle in Limerick and must fare better tomorrow under visiting Italian referee Elia Rizzo.

Number 8 James Simpson captains much-changed ‘Hinch who travel without a host of frontliners, including Ulster ‘A’ representatives Johnny McPhillips, Angus Lloyd, Aaron Cairns, John Donnan and Lorcan Dow.

Recent League Meetings – N/A

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win

SHANNON (10th) v NAAS (7th), Thomond Park back pitch, 4pm

Ulster Bank League Season’s Form: Shannon: LLL; Naas: WLL
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Ronan McKenna 21; Tries: Ronan McKenna, Riley Winter, Shane Mullally 1 each; Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 22; Tries: Fionn Carr 2

Preview: Former Munster team-mates Marcus Horan and Johne Murphy go up as opposing coaches for the first time, with Horan’s Shannon looking to break their losing streak.

They produced a big effort to pick up a losing bonus point away to Ballynahinch, but their rate of just one try per game has to be improved. Munster Academy winger Greg O’Shea is expected to play, although Stephen Fitzgerald underwent ankle surgery this week.

Naas’ late collapse saw them lose at home to Buccaneers. They can get back to winning ways here, especially if Fionn Carr adds to his two-try tally so far.

Recent League Meetings – N/A

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Naas to win