Front-running duo Sligo and Thomond are both looking to hit back after surprise defeats in round 8, while the meeting of promoted clubs Omagh and Malahide should produce fireworks up in Tyrone.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 2C: Saturday, December 2
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Sligo (1st) v Bangor (4th), Hamilton Park, 2pm
Sligo were thankful that their closest rivals, Thomond, also lost last weekend, with two points now the gap between Ross Mannion’s table toppers and the chasing pack.
Sligo’s surprise 10-point defeat at Seapoint saw them outmanoeuvred and outmuscled at the breakdown, so that will be a key area to improve upon during these back-to-back fixtures.
Bangor are also looking to bounce back from a loss, after Bective Rangers took away their unbeaten home record. The Seasiders’ forwards coach Lewis Stevenson is unavailable today, so Jack Cooke moves from number 8 to the second row.
Bective Rangers (9th) v Thomond (2nd), Donnybrook
Tough opposition again for Bective Rangers, but their tails are up after last week’s 22-17 victory at Bangor which was teed up by converted first half tries from Kevin Byrne and Philip McCarthy.
Lapses in concentration and defence cost Thomond dearly as they collapsed in the closing stages to Omagh. Losing in that manner at home really stings, but the Soda Cakes have the character and resolve to recover quickly.
Donnybrook’s 4G surface should suit Thomond’s try-hungry back-line with winger Darragh O’Neill now in double figures for the season. With the worst defence in the division, Bective will have to work very hard to nullify his threat.
Bruff (6th) v Midleton (7th), Kilballyowen Park
Both Bruff and Midleton remain within reach of the top four despite some scratchy recent results. The Limerick men will be pleased to see the back of November, during which they had three successive losses.
Last week’s 21-0 reversal at Malahide was particularly disappointing, with injuries hampering Bruff’s selection on the day. If they can convert their pressure into points with more regularity, the results will come.
Midleton’s Red Devils have also been blowing hot and cold. They too need to produce a full 80-minute performance after losing their way at crucial stages during last Saturday’s 20-all draw with Tullamore.
Omagh (3rd) v Malahide (5th), Thomas Mellon Playing Fields
Omagh must be pleased with their lot, as they continue to put together a determined drive for promotion. Results like their 39-32 comeback win at Thomond gives everyone in the set-up a huge boost.
Malahide, who are also in the top half of the table, return to the Mellon Fields where they won 26-17 in last season’s Round Robin series. Rory Kavanagh’s midfield-busting try off a scrum was the best of their three against Bruff last time out.
Looking forward to this clash of the promoted sides, Omagh boss Phil Marshall said: “Malahide won here last season – that’s all we have to remember. This will be the halfway point in the season and if we could be in the top four after these back-to-back matches, I will be delighted.”
Tullamore (10th) v Seapoint (8th), Spollanstown
A hard-fought draw at Midleton was not enough to prevent Tullamore from slipping to the bottom rung of the league ladder. They certainly have the personnel to be much higher up.
Players like Aidan Wynne, Karl Dunne, Lemeki Vaipulu and Ger Molloy need to spark the best out of the Tulliers, especially with only six points separating the teams in the bottom half of the table.
That is very much the case for Seapoint too, having shown what they are capable of in overcoming Sligo 22-12. Indeed, their most recent win on the road was last April’s 24-19 success at Spollanstown.