After winning their top of the table clash with Bangor, Midleton face Ulster opposition again with a tough trip to fourth-placed Omagh. A first victory of the campaign is the prize on offer at Kilbogget Park where Seapoint and Tullamore face off.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 2C: Saturday, October 27
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Bangor (3rd) v City of Derry (6th), Upritchard Park
Having been knocked off top spot last time out, Bangor have their first Ulster derby of the league season to get their teeth into. Only a point separates the third-placed Seasiders from City of Derry, who squeezed past Seapoint (19-17) to stay close to the top-four.
Since coming on as a replacement in the opening game, young Derry out-half Conall Gill has impressed while racking up 31 points, including a late match-winning penalty against Seapoint. Openside James Henly, Bangor’s Player of the Month for September, has made a similarly strong start.
Following the five-try 34-8 loss to Midleton, Bangor player-head coach Michael Ferguson is set to make three personnel changes with centre Adam Alexander rejoining the back-line, while Evan Wellard-McMillan gets the nod at loosehead prop and assistant coach Lewis Stevenson returns at lock.
Bruff (5th) v Ballina (2nd), Kilballyowen Park
Second-placed Ballina’s three-match winning run is sure to get a thorough test from Bruff who are chasing their third straight victory. Despite a high turnover in players, the Limerick men have looked cohesive in attack with nine different try scorers so far.
Quelling Ballina’s running game will be crucial for Bruff tomorrow, a tough assignment given the Moy men have already taken the scalps of Omagh, Tullamore and Malahide. Their in-form out-half Kieran Lindsay is gunning for his fourth try in as many games.
Former Connacht junior hooker John Keaveney and Bruff captain John Clery will lead the battle for supremacy in the lineout and scrum, while there is another intriguing head-to-head at half-back with Lindsay opposed by Tony Cahill, a lasting link back to the heady days of Bruff’s first All-Ireland League title in 2007 (Division 3).
Malahide (10th) v Thomond (7th), Estuary Road
Last week’s break in fixtures came at an opportune time for Malahide as they look to reset after three opening defeats. It has been a baptism of for player-coach Brendan Guilfoyle, who was their lone try scorer against Ballina last time out.
Their sluggish start can be negated by a strong second block, and tomorrow’s visitors Thomond are just four points better off in seventh place. A high-scoring encounter looks likely given these sides have the worst defensive records so far, both conceding an average of around 30 points per game.
Malahide will have to limit the scoring opportunities for Thomond out-half Evan Cusack who has contributed 36 of their 56 points. Former Thomond and Shannon prop TJ Relihan is now part of the north Dubliners’ front row ranks, while Guilfoyle, the ex-Thomond player-coach, is of course another familiar face.
Omagh (4th) v Midleton (1st), Thomas Mellon Playing Fields
This clash brings back memories of Omagh’s electric first home game on their return to the All-Ireland League last September. The Accies twice led by 12 points but Midleton talisman Stuart Lee converted his own injury-time try for a share of the spoils – 29-all.
if they can take up where they left off against Bangor in the last round, Midleton stand a good chance of holding onto top spot. The Red Devils reintroduce Dan Murray at full-back this week, with Louis Farnham reverting to the right wing and Mark Corby restored to the second row.
However, back-to-back wins have Omagh motoring along nicely with captain Stewart McCain and influential replacement Mervyn Edgar bagging two tries each. If it comes to a kicking duel with Lee, former UUC player Stuart Ballantine (31 points) has shown consistent form for Phil Marshall’s men.
Seapoint (8th) v Tullamore (9th), Kilbogget Park
Either side can salvage something from the first month of matches with a maiden win here. Seapoint had that result within their grasp – thanks to debutant flanker Tiernan Mealiffe’s maul score and a penalty try – but City of Derry denied them right at the death.
Tullamore also went close against Bruff a fortnight ago, going down 13-9 with both teams scoreless in the second half. Five tries scored across 240 minutes is a rate the Offaly men need to be improved, particularly their young back-line.
Grandstand finishes were the order of the day when these Leinster rivals met last season, with their December double header seeing Seapoint prevail 23-20 thanks to a late maul-inspired penalty try at Spollanstown, and Tullamore returned the favour a week later – 23-22.