Precious All-Ireland League points and local bragging rights will be on the line in Division 2A this weekend as the focus shines on four provincial derbies – including three in Munster.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 2A: Saturday, October 13
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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UL Bohemians (6th) v Nenagh Ormond (9th), University of Limerick 4G pitch, tonight, 8pm
19-year-old Munster Academy back James McCarthy comes in on the right wing for UL Bohemians’ provincial derby against Nenagh Ormond. McCarthy ran in the bonus point try in their 27-15 victory at Galwegians and is the only personnel change made by head coach Christy Neilan.
Nenagh are one of three teams without a point at the foot of the table. A second half slump saw them lose their grip on a 17-point lead against Blackrock College who prevailed 31-23 in Lisatunny. Wingers Patrick Scully and Ger McNamara did at least get among the tries, with the goal now to piece together consistent halves.
It was only six short months ago that Nenagh condemned UL to relegation with a 23-18 play-off semi-final defeat on the University’s 4G pitch. There have been big changes in coaching and playing personnel since then, so repeating that result may not be achievable just yet for newly-arrived head coach Dermot Dunne.
Cashel (1st) v Highfield (4th), Spafield
Conor Cashman replaces Jason Newton at inside centre as front-running Cashel welcome fourth-placed Highfield to Spafield. This games doubles up as a Munster Senior Cup quarter-final and should be a humdinger with both sides in high-scoring form, notching 11 tries between them last weekend.
The Corkmen will have run through plenty of defensive drills this week after conceding seven tries in going down 43-41 at home to Queen’s. Tim Ryan’s men pride themselves on their defence and that outcome will have hurt. Former Munster prop Ryan is due to start at tighthead tomorrow.
Highfield’s other two changes see Jamie Murphy selected at full-back and Michael Shinkwin gets the nod at hooker. Cashel’s back row of James Ryan, Ed Leamy and Michael Casey have been earning rave reviews and it should be quite a contest against Highfield’s loose forwards trio of Colm and Cathal Gallagher and Miah Cronin.
Dolphin (10th) v Old Crescent (7th), Irish Independent Park
Bottom-placed Dolphin are yet to cross the whitewash in this season’s league, with a penalty try against Cashel a fortnight ago their only significant score so far. A second successive outing on the new 3G modified pitch in Cork should hopefully see them improve in attack.
They face an Old Crescent team smarting from a 34-20 reversal at the hands of Cashel, a game in which number 8 Kevin Doyle saw red. Tevita Toia replaces him in a back row which also sees flanker Jack O’Neill brought in. Former captain Cathal O’Reilly and Mark Rickard have been added to the front row.
Worryingly for the Dolphin rearguard, Crescent winger Val McDermott looked sharp in bagging a first half brace last weekend, while backs coach Brian Tuohy, who recently turned 36, still has plenty of zip from full-back. This game will bring back memories of the 2003 Division Two final between the clubs, a 29-19 win for Dolphin with club legend John O’Mahony kicking 19 points.
Navan (2nd) v Blackrock College (3rd), Balreask Old
Navan and Blackrock College are both well placed after the first two rounds, with the Meath men’s defence only giving away 19 points so far. Their attack is also faring well, full-back Paddy Fox and flanker Conor Hand scoring two tries each and a lot of their best plays coming off South African centre Riaan van der Vyver.
Tomorrow sees van der Vyver come up against one of his former clubs, Blackrock. He will be partnered by Evan Dixon with player-coach Ray Moloney making way. Blackrock boss Mick Carroll has made two personnel changes following their 31-23 success at Nenagh, bringing in Kiwi lock Mickey Woolliams and Australian recruit Kim Henderson on the right wing.
‘Rock’s victory on the road in Tipperary certainly lay down a marker, and that could prove to be a very valuable five points come springtime. Navan are not playing like a newly-promoted team, though, and it hard to see them losing this all-Leinster tie if they can maintain their high standards of the last two weeks.
Queen’s University (5th) v Galwegians (8th), Dub Lane
Last week’s 27-15 home defeat to UL Bohemians was particularly costly for Galwegians, whose talismanic young out-half Morgan Codyre was sidelined with a worrying looking injury. They face student opposition again in the form of Queen’s University, who scored a stunning seven tries away to Highfield.
The Belfast outfit certainly play an attractive, attack-minded brand of rugby, and Galwegians scrum half Stephen Browne is looking forward to the challenge. “We went up to Queen’s last year, got a massive win (32-28) and it turned our season around. They like to throw the ball around. We’ll try to bring that as well,” he said.
‘Wegians will have to keep close tabs on Fijian flyer Falemaka El Vave, who marked his seasonal bow with a try last week, while versatile forward and captain David Whitten and scrum half Conor McAuley have scored two tries each so far for Queen’s.