The leading three clubs in Division 2B are all away from home this weekend, with leaders MU Barnhall heading north to Belfast Harlequins, second-placed Greystones facing a Friday Night lights clash with Skerries, and Dungannon, in third, travelling to top-four rivals Sunday’s Well.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 2B: Saturday, October 27
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Skerries (8th) v Greystones (2nd), Holmpatrick, tonight, 8pm
Centre and captain Mikey Sherlock remains sidelined for Skerries who ended their losing start to the season with a 16-all draw at Wanderers. Given their injury-enforced absentees and setbacks during the game, it was a positive result for the resilient Goats.
Winger Ruairi Woods and prop Neil Martin are Skerries’ two personnel changes for tonight’s encounter with second-placed Greystones, who are three from three. Ferdia Kenny’s outstanding try from an Andrew Kealy cross-field kick, which left three Rainey players trailing the flying winger, is evidence of their current form.
‘Stones will be wary of a Skerries side that pushed leaders MU Barnhall all the way in a try-laden second round fixture at this venue. However, the Wicklow men, who won 36-11 on their most recent league visit to Holmpatrick in November 2016, should have too much in their armoury.
Belfast Harlequins (7th) v MU Barnhall (1st), Deramore Park
MU Barnhall showed their strength-in-depth against Sligo when Dan Murphy and Stephen Dwyer came off the bench to score a closing try and penalty respectively. The table toppers are the top scorers across all five divisions with 110 points and 17 tries so far.
Winger Conor Lacey leads the way for the Blue Bulls with four tries, matching Belfast Harlequins’ tally so far on his own. Mark Glover has bagged a brace for ‘Quins and looked dangerous when joining the line from the full-back position.
15 points has been Harlequins’ highest match tally so far, and they certainly need to get their attack firing on all cylinders tomorrow afternoon. Keeping things tight is the best hope for Nick Wells’ charges whose defence is capable of frustrating Barnhall.
Rainey Old Boys (10th) v Corinthians (9th), Hatrick Park
Neither club will have envisaged this being a basement battle so early in the season. It just has not happened so far for bottom side Rainey, who have five points to make up on Corinthians and face into two successive home games.
Encouragingly, injuries have cleared in Rainey’s front row ranks, although fellow forwards Tim Barker and Ronan McCusker will not be available for some time. The return of hooker Michael Caithness and centre Damien McMurray will strengthen the line-up as the Magherafelt outfit look to pick up the pace.
Corinthians will travel with renewed confidence after flanker Nick Harrison’s late try opened their win account at Sunday’s Well. JP Cooney’s men boast some talented and wily operators, not least out-half Mark McDermott who tallied up 18 points last time out, including a first half try.
Sligo (6th) v Wanderers (5th), Hamilton Park
Winger Sean Mullin and lock Ciaran Cassidy come in as two changes to the Sligo team that had a right rattle at leaders Barnhall. They have a strong home record to protect – unbeaten in Strandhill since last January – and have the official opening of their newly-developed second grass pitch tomorrow.
Niall Gray’s absence sees Calum Goddard shift to full-back for the Yeats men, while visitors Wanderers have also shuffled their deck in the back-line following their draw with Skerries. Their reliable out-half Peter Brougham has opened the campaign with 24 points.
Belgian summer signing Martin Bosch starts on the right wing for the Chaps, with Rob O’Beirne resuming in midfield and Eoin O’Shaughnessy reverting to the scrum half position. There should be some big collisions at Hamilton Park with Sligo enforcers Mata Fifita and Jason Havea coming up against Wanderers captain Brian Quill and Paddy Mallon.
Sunday’s Well (4th) v Dungannon (3rd), Irish Independent Park
Dungannon are near full-strength for their trip to Cork as the likes of Jonah Mau’u, fit-again winger Andrew McPhillips and Conor McGeough all return. Guilhem Lopez reverts to the second row. Despite a number of injuries, ‘Gannon ground out a 16-9 derby win over Belfast Harlequins two weeks ago.
Their Argentinian centre Lucca Avelli has already become an important player, kicking 29 points to date. Andy Hughes’ men are expecting Sunday’s Well to be in feisty form after their nine-match unbeaten run was ended by Corinthians.
Skipper Cyprien Jouve, whose versatility sees him switch between centre and openside flanker, typifies the determination of the ‘Well to regain their third tier status following relegation from Division 2A in April 2017. A win here would keep them on the right track.