Munster is the focus for much of the All-Ireland League Division 2A fare this weekend, as there are matches in Limerick, Cork and Tipperary. There is one game out west, Galwegians hosting UL Bohemians in what could prove to be the most engrossing contest of the lot.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 2A: Saturday, October 6
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Old Crescent (5th) v Cashel (3rd), Rosbrien, tonight, 8pm
The fight that Old Crescent showed in holding on for a 21-19 first round win at Queen’s will have pleased head coach Matt Brown, albeit that the Limerick men could and should have put the students away sooner. Out-half Ronan McKenna’s 11 points from four kicks was a key contribution.
Cashel will have to keep a tight rein tonight on Crescent’s starting back-three of backs coach Brian Tuohy, Argentinian recruit Franco Bonavena and Val McDermott, last season’s Division 2B Player of the Year. The Tipperary side were 26-10 bonus point winners at Dolphin, and there should be an interesting tactical battle between number 10s McKenna and Darragh Lyons.
Crescent swept all before them at home in Division 2B last season – Navan ran them closest at two points – and their last league defeat at Rosbrien was against City of Armagh back in February 2017. Nonetheless, they will be wary of Cashel strong set piece game and Lyons’ influence behind the scrum.
Dolphin (8th) v Navan (2nd), Irish Independent Park
Dolphin need to put some points on the board with back-to-back home matches against Navan and Crescent before visiting Highfield in a Friday night derby. There are two changes to the team that lost 26-10 at Cashel as winger Tim Marron, the club’s U-20 Player of the Year last season, and hooker Dave Byrne both come in.
Navan’s two-try scrum half Brian Haugh went straight to the top of the division’s scoring charts with 21 points in their 36-16 bonus point dismissal of Nenagh Ormond. Consistently matching that performance level will be vital for the Meath men, who have a well-balanced back row in Conor Hand, Conor Farrell and captain Conor Ryan.
The new 3G modified surface at Irish Independent Park should suit both back-lines who like to run the ball and play with width. This is the first of four trips to Munster for Navan before the Christmas break, so their results down south could have a big impact on a potential push for the play-offs.
Galwegians (7th) v UL Bohemians (10th), Crowley Park
Galwegians got off to a losing start in the division, going down 30-20 to a more clinical Blackrock despite two well-taken tries from centre Dave Clarke. A dose of home comforts and cutting down on the errors should give the Blues a good shot at overturn bottom-placed UL Bohemians in Glenina.
Robbie Bourke’s intercept try was UL’s high-point against Highfield, who came away from the University’s North Campus with a convincing 36-10 victory. That result, and particularly the margin, will have dented the Red Robins’ pride. They have to park it and embrace what is a winnable away fixture. David Rowsome comes into the starting pack this week.
Previewing tomorrow’s game between the former top flight clubs, ‘Wegians head coach Brian McClearn told Irish Rugby TV: “We’ve a lot of history with Bohs, we’ve played them a lot over the years. It’s our first home game, we’re looking for big support and we’ll definitely welcome UL to 2A with a bang. Hopefully we’ll get one over them.”
Highfield (1st) v Queen’s University (6th), Woodleigh Park
Unsurprisingly, Highfield are set to field an unchanged team tomorrow, on the back of their six-try success at UL Bohs. There were try doubles from captain Miah Cronin and winger Paul Stack, and the table-topping Corkmen look in free-scoring form already judging by their recent displays.
Queen’s were left to rue some individual errors in their 21-19 loss to Crescent, including a fumbled scrum on their own line which saw the concede a soft try. However, there is a positive outlook at the Dub with five players making their league debuts last Saturday and big numbers at training across the club’s senior and underage teams.
Derek Suffern is forced into some personnel changes this week, with Michael Orr replacing the unavailable Ritchie McMaster at out-half and the injury-enforced absence of Rory Bell sees Mark Keane switch to midfield where he partners Conor McKee. Forwards Andrew McGrath, Andrew Clingan and Curtis Pollock are also promoted from the students’ bench.
Nenagh Ormond (9th) v Blackrock College (4th), New Ormond Park
Contrasting fortunes for these sides in the first round – Nenagh have been licking their wounds after a 26-point reversal at Navan, and a strong finish netted five points for Blackrock at home to Galwegians. Much changed both on and off the field, the Tipperary men had six league debutants starting and three more on the bench.
They even lost player-backs coach Stephen Carey to a groin injury in the warm-up, forcing a change at full-back. It will take a while for new head coach Dermot Dunne and the inexperienced players to bed in at Lisatunny, and a home win in front of their own supporters would certainly provide a timely lift.
Blackrock took their scoring chances well against ‘Wegians. Mick Carroll’s men have lost their last five away games in the league stretching back to December (including a 22-17 defeat to Nenagh), so winning on the road tomorrow would be significant in terms of building blocks for a promotion bid.