Tullamore’s victory at Kanturk last Saturday has sealed off the top four but the finishing order is still in doubt, with leaders Navan holding a three-point lead over Sligo ahead of their potential title showdown during Easter weekend.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2C: Saturday, April 8
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Bangor (7th) v Navan (1st), Upritchard Park
Bangor got a huge lift last week when they won for the first time in nine rounds, 19-year-old out-half Gareth Millar landing a late penalty to down Midleton 29-28. Ulster ‘A’ centre Lewis Sampson scored two of their four tries.
Leaders Navan are a different kettle of fish altogether, but the seventh-placed Seasiders have been the only away team to win at Balreask Old this season. Desi Fusco’s brace of tries proved crucial in a 23-19 success for Bangor.
However, Navan have since emerged as champions-elect. If they can avenge that early season defeat, Alan Kingsley’s men will be just 80 minutes away from winning the division and gaining automatic promotion.
Boyne (9th) v Rainey Old Boys (3rd), Shamrock Lodge
Boyne were one of the clubs in action last week, winning their rescheduled match against Seapoint 12-6 thanks to a try in each half. The Drogheda outfit have climbed above Kanturk in their scrap to avoid automatic relegation.
Rainey, who will contest the promotion play-offs, are next up for Graeme Eastwood’s resurgent side who are aiming for their third straight win. Certainly, the visitors can expect a much stiffer test than September’s runaway 38-3 triumph in Magherafelt.
Ulster Academy prop Tommy O’Hagan has been released for club duty after playing for Ulster ‘A’ last week, although Ireland Under-19 call-up John McCusker and the injured George Fritz and Jonny Lees are notable absentees.
Midleton (8th) v Bruff (5th), Towns Park
Midleton fell agonisingly short against Bangor last Saturday, losing out to an injury-time penalty in a 29-28 reversal. Their best play stemmed from their forwards who drove second row Aidan McCarthy over for two first half tries, while Ross O’Mahoney added the third in the 64th minute.
They need to regroup quickly for this important Munster derby, as they might need another point or two to secure their Division 2C status. Visitors Bruff are now out of contention for the top four as Tullamore are too far ahead.
March was a deflating month for Bruff who suffered three defeats on the bounce. They will be keen to gain revenge on Midleton who were comfortable 35-16 winners of September’s encounter in Limerick.
Seapoint (6th) v Kanturk (10th), Kilbogget Park
Although disappointed with their 12-6 loss at Boyne, Seapoint’s losing bonus point has guaranteed their place in Division 2C next season. The south Dubliners certainly came good in the latter stages of the campaign, having endured a five-match winless run between November and January.
Visitors Kanturk have two matches left to dig themselves out of a hole. Now bottom of the pile, the ‘Turks trail Boyne by three points after losing their rescheduled game at home to Tullamore (16-8).
It is vital that they get something out of this trip to Killiney. Young full-back/winger Ronan O’Brien could be their best bet – he has scored three tries in their last two outings – and goal-kicking scrum half Conor Cremin has a very reliable right boot.
Sligo (2nd) v Tullamore (4th), Hamilton Park
When these sides met in round 2, Karl Dunne’s fourth successful penalty steered Tullamore to a 12-8 win. Roll on almost seven months and it is Sligo who are challenging for the league title and automatic promotion.
A tenth successive victory is the target for the Connacht club in their final home game as they look to set up a winner-takes-all clash with leaders Navan on Saturday week. Strandhill is abuzz with anticipation.
The forwards battle should be an intriguing one at Hamilton Park, with openside Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill and his opposite number Colm Heffernan standing out for their consistent performances. Tighthead Ger Molloy could have a big influence again for Tullamore, while Sligo’s front row contains schools prop Kuba Wojtkowicz who is one to watch out for.