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All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

Last weekend’s results have made things especially tight at both ends of the Division 1B table. With table-topping Naas not playing tomorrow, a number of clubs have an opportunity to finish the opening month as the leaders.


Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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BALLYNAHINCH (5th) v BUCCANEERS (9th), Ballymacarn Park

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: LDW; Buccaneers: LLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Hilton Gibbons 24; Tries: Zack McCall, Rhys O’Donnell, Conor Piper, Rory Butler, Campbell Classon, James Simpson, Bradley Luney 1 each; Buccaneers: Points: Luke Carty 16; Tries: Colm Reilly, Simon Meagher, Darragh Corbett, Evan Galvin, Rory O’Connor, Thomas McGann 1 each

Preview: With all the unbeaten runs across the division ended last week, it will be interesting to see who can kick on into the winter months. Former Carrickfergus lock Bradley Luney had a very encouraging league debut for Ballynahinch as they got the better of Old Belvedere (32-17).

Luney and James Simpson’s second row partnership looks like one they can build on, particularly on the back of Peter Browne’s unfortunate recent retirement. Provincial players also made a difference in Buccaneers’ 41-14 victory over Old Wesley, namely Connacht Eagles lock Peter Claffey and out-half Luke Carty.

Buccs’ last trip to Ballymacarn Park, back in September 2016, resulted in a 35-13 loss to the hosts. The margin should be a lot closer on this occasion, but it is hard to see them chalking up win number two if injury continues to rule out Rory Moloney and Callum Boland.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 17, 2016: Ballynahinch 35 Buccaneers 13, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, April 15, 2017: Buccaneers 40 Ballynahinch 10, Dubarry Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win

BANBRIDGE (2nd) v BALLYMENA (10th), Rifle Park

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Banbridge: LWW; Ballymena: LLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Banbridge: Points: Peter Cromie 25; Tries: Peter Cromie 5; Ballymena: Points: Tim Small 28; Tries: Tim Small, David Whann, John Andrew, Glenn Baillie 1 each

Preview: With Naas’ match against Old Wesley moved to next month, second-placed Banbridge have an opportunity to take over at the summit this weekend. On the other hand, the teams are so tightly packed that a win for bottom side Ballymena could see them go level with Bann on nine points.

Ulster’s Caleb Montgomery, Alex Thompson and James Hume are expected to be available for the hosts, although David McCann is away at an Ireland Under-20 camp which also involves Ballymena’s Bruce Houston. Marcus Rea and Michael Stronge have been released for the Braidmen, and Clive Ross could also feature.

Praising Banbridge hooker Peter Cromie, who has scored five tries so far, head coach Simon McKinstry said: “Peter was outstanding, not just because of the two tries (against Naas) but also his tackle count, flawless throwing in to the lineout and tremendous work-rate. He was captain for the first time and he did really well, leading by example.”

Recent League Meeting – Saturday, November 23, 2013: Ballymena 15 Banbridge 17, Eaton Park 

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Banbridge to win

MALONE (4th) v OLD BELVEDERE (6th), Gibson Park

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Malone: WWL; Old Belvedere: WDL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Jack Milligan 12; Tries: Josh Pentland, David Irvine 2 each; Old Belvedere: Points: Steve Crosbie 33; Tries: Jack Keating 4

Preview: Malone and Old Belvedere were both rocked back onto their heels by defeats last Saturday, leaking 32 points to their opponents. Malone were also held try-less, and head coach Paddy Armstrong had reacted by bringing Rory Campbell, David Irvine and Shane Kelly into the back-line.

Ulster front rowers Adam McBurney and Ross Kane combine with promising 21-year-old loosehead prop Peter Cooper, while the fifth and final change sees Ryan Clarke slot back in at number 8. Captain Ross Todd reverts to the openside flanker role.

Likewise, Old Belvedere boss Andy Kenny has changed his props with James Bollard and Declan Lavery, who recently made his 100th league appearance for the club, both coming in. Centre Jamie McAleese and lock Connor Owende complete the alterations, with Eoin Sweeney making the move to number 8.

Recent League Meetings – N/A

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Malone to win

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (8th) v CITY OF ARMAGH (3rd), Templeville Road

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: WLL; City of Armagh: LDW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Sean Kearns 25; Tries: Liam Corcoran, Sean Kearns, Marcus O’Driscoll, Cormac Foley, Dave Fanagan, Conor Dean, Richard Halpin, Mark Fogarty 1 each; City of Armagh: Points: Cormac Fox 17; Tries: Andrew Smyth 2

Preview: St. Mary’s College forwards Jamie Cornett comes up against his former club, while it is a return to Tempeville Road for Armagh’s ex-St. Mary’s lock Peter Starrett as Willie Faloon’s men look to go three games unbeaten in the division.

Fresh from their excellent 32-3 dismissal of Malone, Armagh are expected to stick mostly to the winning formula, although their bench had a big say in the closing stages last week. Replacement hooker Peter Lamb scored the bonus point try and Michael Hoey and James Hanna also impressed.

After suffering back-to-back losses to Malone and Ballymena, the Mary’s management have made a few tweaks with Tim MacMahon, who was playing Leinster Senior Schools Cup rugby just seven months ago, lining out at full-back. Centre Myles Carey and lock Liam Curran are the other additions for tomorrow’s match.

Recent League Meetings – N/A

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: City of Armagh to win