It is another straight shoot-out for league glory in Division 2B as Greystones head into the final round with a one-point lead over Armagh. The leading pair are both at home tomorrow, while there is a three-way battle between Skerries, City of Derry and Bective to avoid the relegation play-off spot.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2B: Saturday, April 15
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Armagh (2nd) v Bective Rangers (7th), Palace Grounds
Armagh will give it their all in one last push for the divisional title but they need Old Crescent to do them a massive favour and beat Greystones. Even if the top two finish level on points, ‘Stones have the vastly superior scoring difference.
Alex McCloy’s men can only control what happens at the Palace Grounds where they have won seven out of eight league games so far. No prizes for guessing who trumped the Ulster side on their travels.
Last week’s bonus point win over Thomond should see Bective finish clear of relegation trouble. Six losing bonus points show that the Dubliners have not been far off, and their points conceded total (-303) is the third best in the division.
Greystones (1st) v Old Crescent (4th), Dr. Hickey Park
Greystones are poised to go up to Division 2A as champions, twelve months on from losing a promotion play-off final to Sunday’s Well. But Kevin Lewis’ charges will tread with caution as play-off-bound Old Crescent are a quality outfit.
If the leaders can maintain their free-scoring form, there should be only one winner – ‘Stones’ lowest points tally in the last four rounds was 34. Flying winger Jack Keating scored a superb hat-trick of tries away to Wanderers last Saturday.
Crescent put a half-century of points on MU Barnhall last week, with their own Val McDermott matching Keating’s try haul, however they were held try-less by the Wicklow men in September (19-3) and Wanderers (19-9) two rounds ago.
MU Barnhall (6th) v Dungannon (5th), Parsonstown
Sixth and fifth respectively in the table and both out of the running for the play-offs. Scoring difference is the only thing separating Barnhall and Dungannon who have eight wins, one draw, eight defeats and seven bonus points each.
That 51-33 defeat at Old Crescent, which included a Brendan McSorley red card, dashed the Blue Bulls’ hopes of snatching a play-off place in the final rounds, while an ever-increasing injury list put paid to ‘Gannon’s bid for the top four – they lost nine players to injury in their last two outings.
Barnhall finished sixth and a point above the Tyrone side in last year’s standings, and home advantage should help them end the current campaign on a winning note.
Skerries (9th) v City of Derry (8th), Holmpatrick
Skerries, who came down from Division 2A last season, have a final day scrap on their hands to avoid finishing second-from-bottom. Captain Ross McAuley’s last-minute bonus point try away to Dungannon last Saturday may yet prove vital.
Visitors City of Derry are just one place and two points better off than the Goats, so this game has a real ‘cup final’ feel to it. With both teams leaking 40 or more points last week, a tighter defence is a must for whoever comes out on top.
Derry player-coach Richard McCarter will start Gerard Doherty in the second row in place of the unavailable Adam Bratton. It is a huge weekend for Skerries on two fronts as their J1 team are playing Tullow in Sunday’s Provincial Towns Cup final.
Thomond (10th) v Wanderers (3rd), Liam Fitzgerald Park
Thomond’s last game in Division 2B sees them come up against third-placed Wanderers who, as things stand, will be away to either Armagh or Greystones in next week’s promotion play-offs. It was only a year ago that the Dubliners came up from Division 2C via the play-off route.
These last two seasons have been particularly tough for Thomond who have dropped from Division 2A to the bottom tier in little over 24 months. Their upcoming AGM will give club officials the chance to take stock and start the rebuilding process.
Wanderers were 54-19 winners when they hosted the Soda Cakes in September’s opening round, and a season’s double will keep their confidence levels high ahead of that road trip in the play-off semi-finals.