Two matches really stand out in this weekend’s Division 2B schedule, as top four rivals Wanderers and Old Crescent meet at headquarters and it is win or bust for bottom side Thomond against City of Derry.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2B: Saturday, March 25
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Skerries (7th) v MU Barnhall (5th), Holmpatrick, Friday, March 24, 7.30pm
The first of two Leinster derbies in the division this weekend sees Skerries entertain MU Barnhall under the Holmpatrick floodlights. One more win should secure the Goats’ 2B status.
However, Barnhall are two places and 12 points better off than Skerries and still have a chance of catching Old Crescent in fourth. A victory here would be the ideal precursor to their April 8 trip to Crescent.
Ex-Leinster back Darren Hudson, who helped Barnhall prevail 27-24 when they hosted Skerries in October, has been chosen to captain the Irish Universities team against England Students in Oxford next week.
Armagh (2nd) v Dungannon (6th), Palace Grounds
It is full steam ahead for Armagh who are neck and neck with Greystones with just a few furlongs left in the race for automatic promotion. They are chasing their fifth win on the trot in this Ulster derby.
Alex McCloy’s charges won 18-9 at Dungannon in October and full-back Tim McNeice returns this week from a wrist injury. ‘Gannon are nursing a number of injuries and captain James McMahon is their most notable absentee.
Dungannon boss Andy Hughes says the teams should be ‘sick of the sight of each other’ as they prepare for their fourth meeting of the season. “It is about finishing the campaign strongly with some positive results to continue the club’s rebuilding,” he said.
Greystones (1st) v Bective Rangers (9th), Dr. Hickey Park
Points are precious for both sides with new leaders Greystones just nosing ahead of Armagh, while second-from-bottom Bective are determined to avoid finishing in the relegation play-off spot.
The Wicklow men were 20-9 winners when they pitched up at Donnybrook in October and they are building some big scores of late. Bective’s lowly position belies the fact that, statistically, they have the division’s third best defence.
However, it is unlikely to be enough to put free-scoring Greystones off their stride, especially at Dr. Hickey Park where the hosts have lost just once in the league all season.
Thomond (10th) v City of Derry (8th), Liam Fitzgerald Park
A huge game for both clubs. Everything is on the line for Thomond who are destined for the drop unless they win here. For Derry, the four points could be hugely significant come the end of the season.
The Ulstermen deserved to be closer to Greystones than 57-22 last time out, with intercept passes contributing to their downfall. Tidying up those errors will be foremost in player-coach Richard McCarter’s mind.
Thomond’s last home outing where they earned two bonus points against Barnhall, coupled with October’s 13-all draw with Derry, will give the Soda Cakes added confidence. In-form centre Pat Ryan is chasing his third try in as many games.
Wanderers (3rd) v Old Crescent (4th), Aviva Stadium back pitch
Both Wanderers and Old Crescent are on course to feature in the promotion play-offs, but it will be interesting to see who comes out on top here at headquarters.
Crescent, who are worse off by three points, have slightly more work to do to produce that top four finish. Indeed, either Barnhall or Dungannon could halve the Limerick side’s eight-point cushion by tomorrow evening.
Wanderers have a perfect seven-from-seven record at home in 2016/17, but Crescent are dangerous opponents and are capable of repeating October’s 24-16 win over the Dubliners. Key backs Val McDermott, Brian Tuohy and Larry Hanly all crossed the whitewash that day.