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All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

Nine points cover top to bottom in All-Ireland League Division 1B as clubs continue to jostle for position, including former leaders Naas and third-placed Ballynahinch who meet at Forenaughts tomorrow afternoon.


Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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BALLYMENA (10th) v CITY OF ARMAGH (6th), Eaton Park

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Ballymena: LLWL; City of Armagh: LDWL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Ballymena: Points: Tim Small 31; Tries: Tim Small, David Whann, John Andrew, Glenn Baillie, Connor Smyth 1 each; City of Armagh: Points: Cormac Fox 23; Tries: Andrew Smyth 3

Preview: Ballymena and City of Armagh come into this Ulster derby as two wounded animals, the Braidmen going down by 30 points to Banbridge last Saturday at the same time as Armagh leaked 27 unanswered points to St. Mary’s College.

Ballymena’s defence coughed up four tries, two while back rowers Connor Smyth and Clive Ross were in the sin-bin. Captain Marcus Rea needs to lead by example, along with Stephen Mulholland, who returns at number 8. Dean Reynolds and Jordan Foster come in on the wings..

Ireland Under-19 call-up Ryan O’Neill may not be involved in the Armagh selection tomorrow, but the rest of the side is expected to be retained. Willie Faloon will give them an immediate chance to right the wrongs of their 27-11 loss to Mary’s. Their hooker Andrew Smyth is chasing his fourth try of the campaign.

Recent League Meetings – N/A

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win

BANBRIDGE (1st) v OLD WESLEY (8th), Rifle Park

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Banbridge: LWWW; Old Wesley: WDL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 38; Tries: Peter Cromie 5; Old Wesley: Points: Rory Stynes 20; Tries: Paul Harte 3

Preview: With Old Wesley’s round 4 clash with Naas rescheduled for next Friday night, they lost ground last week and fell to eighth overall. Despite captain Paul Harte’s three-try contribution, a win eluded Morgan Lennon’s men in their last two matches.

So, all the momentum is with Banbridge who took advantage of Naas’ refixed game to move to the top of the table. Their best performance of the season so far saw them finish 38-8 clear of Ballymena, and their excellent discipline saw them concede just two penalties over the first hour.

Injured flanker Caleb Montgomery and winger Adam Ervine are ruled out along with the Ulster-tied James Hume. Bann head coach Simon McKinstry said: “Wesley beat us (21-10) in Dublin last year and we had a narrow win at home. We know we’ll have to work hard again if we’re to pick up another win. It’s about focusing on ourselves and bringing the same performance levels as last week.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 25, 2017: Old Wesley 21 Banbridge 20, Donnybrook; Saturday, January 27, 2018: Banbridge 18 Old Wesley 12, Rifle Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Banbridge to win

BUCCANEERS (9th) v MALONE (2nd), Dubarry Park

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Buccaneers: LLWL; Malone: WWLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Buccaneers: Points: Luke Carty 27; Tries: Darragh Corbett 3; Malone: Points: Jack Milligan 12; Tries: Josh Pentland, David Irvine, David McMaster 2 each

Preview: A try-scoring debut from 22-year-old Connacht Academy centre Kieran Joyce helped Buccaneers pick a battling bonus point at Ballynahinch. Changes are expected in the Pirates’ pack with Evan Galvin, Simon Meagher and Conor Kenny all picking up knocks last Saturday.

Malone make the trip to the midlands on the back of a superb 39-8 bonus point triumph over Old Belvedere. Winger Ben McCaughey marked his debut with the opening try, while Ryan Campbell and Ryan Clarke also impressed on their returns at full-back and number 8 respectively.

These teams last met four years ago when they traded home wins. For tomorrow’s rematch Malone head coach Paddy Armstrong makes three personnel changes, bringing in Ulster Academy teenager Stewart Moore at centre, Dan Kerr at hooker and Josh Davidson in the second row.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 13, 2014: Malone 29 Buccaneers 11, Gibson Park; Saturday, December 20, 2014: Buccaneers 32 Malone 14, Dubarry Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Malone to win

NAAS (4th) v BALLYNAHINCH (3rd), Forenaughts

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Naas: WWL; Ballynahinch: LDWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 35; Tries: Andy Ellis 4; Ballynahinch: Points: Hilton Gibbons 26; Tries: Rhys O’Donnell, Richard Reaney 3 each

Preview: Former Lansdowne out-half Peter Hastie is one of three personnel changes to the Naas team that lost 20-16 to Banbridge. Hastie and Max Whittingham pair up at half-back with Cillian Dempsey replacing David Benn in the second row.

Ballynahinch achieved a season’s double over the Cobras in 2017/18, winning this equivalent fixture 27-24 thanks to a sweetly-struck 84th-minute drop goal from winger Richard Reaney. The same player scored a hat-trick of tries in their 42-31 success against Buccs last week.

The competition for places is increasing at ‘Hinch with Ulster releasing Academy recruit Iwan Hughes to get game-time and Zac Ward, son of former Ulster captain Andy Ward, also back training. Brian McLaughlin’s men need to keep their discipline, otherwise Peter Osborne, who is averaging 12 points per game, will punish them.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 4, 2017: Ballynahinch 18 Naas 10, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, February 3, 2018: Naas 24 Ballynahinch 27, Forenaughts

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Naas to win

OLD BELVEDERE (7th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (5th), Anglesea Road

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: WDLL; St. Mary’s College: WLLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Steve Crosbie 36; Tries: Jack Keating 4; St. Mary’s College: Points: Sean Kearns 25; Tries: Mark Fogarty, Cormac Foley 2 each

Preview: St. Mary’s head coach Steven Hennessy has unsurprisingly kept faith with the team that earned a 27-11 comeback win over City of Armagh. It was very much a squad effort with important cameos from Colm McMahon and fit-again back rower Nick McCarthy off the bench.

It was one home win apiece when these Dublin rivals met in the top flight during the 2016/17 season. Current Old Belvedere player-backs coach and captain Steve Crosbie kicked five points in their 15-0 victory over Mary’s at Anglesea Road in December 2016.

Both sides will want to end this opening five-week block of matches on a high note, particularly Belvedere whose eye-catching first round triumph over Banbridge seems a long time ago now. The head-to-head at full-back brings together two players at opposite ends of their career – ‘Belvo’s 34-year-old veteran Daniel Riordan and Mary’s tyro Tim MacMahon, who was playing schools rugby just a few months ago.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 3, 2016: Old Belvedere 15 St. Mary’s College 0, Anglesea Road; Saturday, January 28, 2017: St. Mary’s College 27 Old Belvedere 18, Templeville Road

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win