A busy day of fixtures in All-Ireland League Division 2A includes leaders Highfield’s trip to Munster rivals Nenagh Ormond, a top-four face-off between Queen’s University and Cashel, and third-placed Navan’s date with bottom side Galwegians.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 2A: Saturday, December 8
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Blackrock College (9th) v Old Crescent (6th), Stradbrook
Blackrock continue to be competitive in matches without getting results, a losing bonus point their only consolation from a tight contest with Dolphin. Five defeat in a row have seen Mick Carroll men’s slide from third place to ninth overall.
Sixth-placed Old Crescent are only four points better off than ‘Rock so it could all change come the final whistle this afternoon. Crescent are hitting good form with back-to-back wins over Galwegians and Nenagh Ormond, during which scrum half Gary Fitzgerald scored two of their five tries.
There is one change from their 29-15 comeback success against Nenagh, as Luke Malone gets the nod at openside flanker with Jack O’Neill shifting to number 8. They had a superb final 30 minutes last weekend and will want a much more complete performance heading into their home derby against UL Bohemians.
Navan (3rd) v Galwegians (10th), Balreask Old
Navan boxed clever to overcome a resilient Queen’s outfit 24-17 in the last round, the result opening up a nine-point gap between themselves and the students in fourth. They will fancy their chances of chalking up a fifth straight home win against the division’s bottom side.
Galwegians did well to score three tries against leaders Highfield, but they are in danger of losing touch with the teams above them. Flanker Ronan ‘Chief’ Moore bagged two of those tries and he will need to lead by example again, alongside Paul Hackett and Matt Towey in the back row.
Nonetheless, Navan’s loose forwards Conor Hand, Conor Farrell and Conor Ryan will take some stopping, especially the latter if he gets within try-scoring range. Winger James McInerney will also be eager to impress, coming in as the hosts’ only change in personnel.
Nenagh Ormond (8th) v Highfield (1st), New Ormond Park
The first of two Munster derbies in the division today, and Nenagh Ormond need to right the wrongs of last week’s second half display against Old Crescent. They lost their grip on a 15-3 lead, leaking 26 unanswered points as hopes of a fourth win evaporated.
There are two personnel changes for the visit of table-topping Highfield, with Gerard O’Gorman added to the back-three, John Healy reverting to the hooker position and the promising Evan Murphy, who captained the Ireland Under-18 Clubs & Schools team last season, selected at openside.
Captain Fintan O’Sullivan is an absentee from the Highfield starting XV, with Eoin Keating taking his place in the engine room. Centre Dave O’Sullivan (7 tries) has edged ahead of winger Paul Stack (6) in the try-scoring stakes, while out-half Shane O’Riordan is scoring well and often with 75 points so far.
Queen’s University (4th) v Cashel (2nd), Dub Lane
Undoubtedly one of the matches that will command most of the attention in the third tier today. Queen’s may be only two places behind Cashel, but there are 12 points between the sides with the Tipperary men registering six wins compared to the students’ three.
Queen’s are back home after losing trips to Limerick and Navan and a win here is a must, given that three clubs above them are steamrolling through their fixtures at present. Ulster winger Angus Kernohan was on the bench last week and he should take a more prominent role this afternoon.
Darragh Lyons’ absence from the Cashel back-line is covered by Jason Newton’s switch to number 10. Conor Cashman also moves position to inside centre with Frank Kelleher slotting in on the left wing. Brendan Crosse and Keith Melbourne swap in as the starting locks.
UL Bohemians (5th) v Dolphin (7th), University of Limerick 4G pitch
Both of these sides had strong finishes last weekend, a late James McCarthy brace giving UL a losing bonus point at Cashel, while Dolphin, with tries from Alan O’Sullivan, Conor Flanagan and Rob Reardon, got the job done against Blackrock.
Mike Mullally comes in at out-half as Bohemians look to win for the first time in three league outings on their 4G pitch. Their one home victory so far came at Annacotty against Queen’s a month ago. Robbie Bourke, who has scored 46 points to date, reverts to full-back this afternoon.
Dolphin have picked up nine of their 13 points in the last three rounds, so this will be a good test of the strides they are making under head coach Robbie Doyle. Out-half Flanagan is gunning for his third try in as many matches.