All ten clubs in Ulster Bank League Division 2C will be aiming for a big push in the final two rounds before Christmas, with just seven points covering the top half of the table and the bottom three sides currently split by three points.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2C: Saturday, November 26
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Boyne (9th) v Tullamore (4th), Shamrock Lodge, 2pm
Five places and seven points separate these sides in the table at present. Second-from-bottom Boyne are due a big performance after two frustrating outings against Sligo and local rivals Navan.
The Drogheda side really need to cut down on the errors and rediscover their try-scoring touch, with only one touchdown in the last two rounds. They will need more than Niall Kerbey’s reliable boot to get past promotion-chasing Tullamore.
The Co. Offaly club’s late comeback bid failed against table toppers Rainey, going down 25-21 despite the best efforts of try-scoring brothers, Brian and Tom Gilligan. An immediate return to winning ways is vital if they want to maintain their presence in the top four.
Seapoint (7th) v Sligo (6th), Kilbogget Park, 2pm
Drama and excitement seem to be guaranteed whenever Sligo play. In the last four rounds, Ross Mannion’s charges have had one-point and two-point wins and also defeats by the exact same margins.
Four missed conversions proved costly in their 22-20 loss to Midleton in round 7, the main positives being influential scrum half Ryan Feehily’s two-try contribution and the strong running of centres Daire Byrne and Mark Rooney.
Seapoint, who were two-point winners over Midleton recently, have the carrot of leapfrogging over Sligo in mid-table. A complete 80-minute performance will be the target for Eric Miller’s men after they lost their grip on a 13-point lead at Bangor two weeks ago.
Bangor (3rd) v Bruff (8th), Upritchard Park
A dominant scrum helped Bangor to seal their 20-13 comeback victory against Seapoint, but Bruff should provide stiffer opposition up front as they make the long trip north from Limerick.
Rebounding from three opening defeats, Bruff have claimed two wins in the last four rounds and pocketed 12 out of a possible 20 points. Their scrum is proving a powerful weapon and Tony Cahill remains a real talisman from half-back.
Given the visitors’ ability to rack up scores (they were 36-8 winners at Kanturk in the previous round), Jason Morgan’s Seasiders will know they can ill-afford as sloppy a start as they made against Seapoint a fortnight ago.
Midleton (5th) v Navan (2nd), Towns Park
This has the potential to be a cracking contest, Midleton coming off the back of a last-gasp win at Sligo while visitors Navan are looking to complete a three-match winning run in November.
The Corkmen are six points worse off than Navan in the table, although they are the third top scorers so far with five bonus points also secured. Paul Daly has caught the eye with five tries in a lively back-line.
Navan boss Alan Kingsley had to be pleased with a five-try 34-6 hammering of Boyne, but three yellow cards could have hurt them on another day. Brian Haugh, Conor Ryan and Colm O’Reilly have all impressed in recent weeks.
Rainey Old Boys (1st) v Kanturk (10th), Hatrick Park
Top versus bottom and only one outcome looks likely, especially if Kanturk repeat their second half slump from last time out against Bruff. That 36-8 home defeat left a sour taste in their mouths and player-coach Ben Martin will be looking for a backlash.
This is only Kanturk’s second ever trip to Hatrick Park, they lost 43-9 there in a 2006 All-Ireland Junior Cup quarter-final tie. Captain Johnny Lees could make a timely return for Rainey from a hamstring injury, but young lock Ronan McCusker (shoulder) is set for a six-week lay-off.
Rainey’s lead at the summit has been whittled down to a single point, and pre-Christmas wins over Kanturk and Bruff would be just the trick. For Kanturk, a solid performance in Magherafelt is the target ahead of next week’s crunch home clash with Boyne.