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Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 2B Previews

Holmpatrick will get the ‘Friday Night Lights’ treatment again when Skerries host Wanderers in what should be a well-attended Dublin derby tomorrow, while the top of table clash of Armagh and Greystones is the headline act on Saturday.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2B: Saturday, January 28

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Skerries (8th) v Wanderers (3rd), Holmpatrick, Friday, January 27, 7.30pm

Confidence is on the up for both sides after last week’s results, Skerries doing the double on Bective and Wanderers gleefully ending Armagh’s nine-match winning streak.

Skerries were at a low ebb in November and their poor run of form included a thumping 33-11 defeat at the hands of Wanderers, but things are starting to click for them again with a strong set piece structure and some quality backs – centre Ross Dempsey is one of those, making a big impact last week on his return from long-term injury.

Indeed, there should be some intriguing individual match-ups across the back-lines tomorrow night. Wanderers’ elusive full-back Niall O’Donoghue will certainly pose a threat for the visitors – he has grabbed tries in two of his last three league outings.

Armagh (1st) v Greystones (2nd), Palace Grounds

Armagh’s aura of invincibility slipped slightly with that 23-14 loss away to Wanderers. It was a frustrating day at the office for Alex McCloy’s side whose error count was higher that usual along with their penalty count.

So, they have a number of things to work on ahead of this rematch with Greystones. The ambitious Co. Wicklow club, who walloped Thomond in the last two rounds, will be all out for revenge after going down 28-18 to the table toppers in late November.

Armagh were ultra clinical in that game but a repeat of their patchy round 10 performance and the Kevin Lewis-coached ‘Stones – the top scorers and best defenders at present in the division – will be ready to pounce.

Dungannon (6th) v City of Derry (9th), Stevenson Park

Second-from-bottom City of Derry seem to have the bit between their teeth. It is no surprise that Terry McMaster’s return to the coaching set-up preceded their first two wins. They beat Dungannon 16-15 in the New Year’s Eve rain and then overcame MU Barnhall 23-11 last week.

A late missed conversion denied Dungannon the victory when these sides met at Judge’s Road a few weeks back, whereas Neil Burns’ enviable accuracy off the tee, combined with an increasingly miserly defence marshalled by tough-tackling captain Stephen Corr, have been key features in Derry’s revival.

Can they secure a first victory on the road now? It would be a big step in their battle to avoid relegation. Sixth-placed Dungannon are in danger of being left behind in the promotion race. They really need to win here and need more of their players to match the standards set by talismanic duo James McMahon and Paul Armstrong.

MU Barnhall (5th) v Bective Rangers (7th), Parsonstown

Bective will need no reminding that they are without a win since early November. A draw with Dungannon was followed by three losing bonus point performances. Had they put their scoring chances away, they could be on a three-match winning run at the moment.

They lost a 40-point thriller to Barnhall at Donnybrook but if they cut down on the individual errors and improve their finishing, a return to winning ways could be on the cards in Co. Kildare.

Of course, the Blue Bulls will be doing their utmost to prevent that. Producing a better attacking platform up front and getting dangerous full-back Darren Hudson back in try-scoring form is at the top of their list.

Thomond (10th) v Old Crescent (4th), Liam Fitzgerald Park

Their second Limerick derby of the league campaign comes at a bad time for Thomond who lie tenth overall and have the unwanted record of the worst defence (401 points conceded) across all five divisions.

Greystones showed no mercy to the Soda Cakes in their two encounters either side of Christmas, however Thomond can take encouragement from how they played in November’s 29-20 loss at Crescent. They led 17-14 at the 50-minute mark with tries from Diarmuid Ryan and Pat McNamara.

Crescent, it must be said, have been making a habit of strong final quarter performances of late. They hit Thomond with two closing tries that day and did likewise last Saturday at home to Dungannon. A fifth win on the trot would keep them nicely positioned in third or fourth.