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All-Ireland League: Division 2A Previews

All-Ireland League: Division 2A Previews

Queen’s University and UL Bohemians need to react in order to close the gap on the leading three sides in Division 2A, with Queen’s trailing third-placed Navan by six points. The action kicks off with two Limerick-Tipperary derbies at Spafield and Rosbrien.


Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Cashel (2nd) v UL Bohemians (5th), Spafield, Friday, 8pm

With three wins on the bounce, Cashel resume their campaign in fine fettle and have an opportunity to move temporarily to the top of the table. This Munster derby sees mid-table UL Bohemians chasing their third away victory after successful trips to Galwegians and Blackrock.

Cashel’s Kiwi full-back Jonty Rae has taken his season’s tally to 54 points in recent weeks, while centres Jason Newton and Aiden McDonald both touched down against Blackrock (22-8) last time out. They continue to set the standard defensively with only 62 points conceded so far.

Bohemians boss Christy Neilan makes one change to the side that defeated Queen’s University 36-24 in round six. Munster Academy back James McCarthy takes over from Shane Mullins on the wing as the Red Robins look to break into the top four for the first time this season.

Old Crescent (8th) v Nenagh Ormond (6th), Rosbrien, Friday, 8pm

Old Crescent and Nenagh Ormond both registered one-point wins in the last round, with half-backs Ronan McKenna and Gary Fitzgerald combining to score all of Crescent’s points in their 13-12 triumph at Galwegians. They are yet to win at home in the league this season.

Kiwi out-half Alex Ropeti’s late drop goal saw Nenagh prevail 24-23 against Dolphin, and for the trip to Rosbrien there are two changes up front. Hooker Aidan Doyle and flanker John Healy are both drafted as Dermot Dunne’s charges aim to complete a Limerick double – they were 13-12 winners at UL Bohs in mid-October.

With only 14 and 13 points scored in their last two outings, there will be pressure on Crescent to put more of their chances away. If they can achieve that, a confidence-boosting result against one of their Munster rivals should springboard them into two more key games before Christmas – Blackrock College (away) and UL (home).

Dolphin (9th) v Blackrock College (7th), Irish Independent Park

Second-from-bottom Dolphin could take inspiration from Munster’s try-scoring exploits on the same pitch as they target their third home victory in a row. Such a result would see the Corkmen swap places with Blackrock College and break out of the bottom two.

Blackrock travel south on the back of successive defeats to Bohs, Queen’s and Cashel, during which they struggled to convert pressure into points and string together tries. Their five personnel changes are made up of Stephen McLoughlin, Hugh Doyle and Leo Vignon in the pack, as well as full-back John Gallagher and out-half Peter Quirke.

Quirke’s return in the number 10 jersey sees Ben Mahon revert to the inside centre berth. He teams up in midfield with Hugo Godson Treacy, the ‘Rock pair duelling it out with Dolphin’s centre duo Will Hanly and Dan Horgan whose partnership has been increasingly effective with each passing week.

Highfield (1st) v Galwegians (10th), Woodleigh Park

Highfield are heavy favourites to continue on the winning trail against struggling Galwegians, who only have two losing bonus points on the board after the opening six rounds. ‘Wegians lost their December double header with the Corkmen last season, going down 40-18 in Glenina and 35-10 at Woodleigh Park.

Having won their top of the table clash with Navan in comprehensive fashion (40-10), Tim Ryan’s men make just two changes for the visit of the bottom side. Eddie Earle, a try-scoring replacement against the Meath outfit, replaces Cathal Gallagher at openside flanker and the 34-year-old Ryan will line out at tighthead prop.

Ryan’s side (224 points) are the second top points scorers across the five divisions, with only Greystones (232) in Division 2B ahead of them. Winger Paul Stack and centre Dave O’Sullivan are their leading try scorers with six and five respectively. Four of ‘Wegians’ last five tries have been scored by forwards.

Navan (3rd) v Queen’s University (4th), Balreask Old

It is third hosts fourth at Balreask Old where Navan will be looking to banish memories of their 30-point reversal to Highfield. Player-coach Ray Moloney takes over at out-half from Colm O’Reilly, while hooker Sean Healy and flanker Conor Hand are the two changes in the forwards.

Conor Ryan switches to number 8 to replace Bryan McKeever for this clash with the Belfast students, who are on the road again after losing 36-24 at UL’s Annacotty ground last time out. Queen’s were boosted their 29-24 Dudley Cup win over UCD two weeks ago.

With Angus Kernohan not part of Ulster’s matchday squad against Cardiff Blues, it will be interesting to see if the teenage winger is released to play for Derek Suffern’s youngsters. Queen’s will have to match Navan’s physicality up front, and versatile forward Andrew McGrath, who was recruited from Old Belvedere in the summer, could be a key player in that regard.

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