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All-Ireland League: Division 2C Previews

All-Ireland League: Division 2C Previews

There are a number of games this weekend involving teams from opposite ends of the table, as the All-Ireland League Division 2C campaign hits the halfway point with Ballina on course to be number one for Christmas.

ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 2C: Saturday, December 15

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Bruff (3rd) v Thomond (9th), Kilballyowen Park, tonight, 8pm

A very tasty Limerick derby to whet appetites heading into the Christmas festivities. The table has turned upside down from last season when Thomond finished third to reach the promotion play-offs and second-from-bottom Bruff dug deep to stave off relegation.

Seven wins out of nine would be a fine return for Bruff at the midpoint of the season. David O’Grady and Daniel Jackson lead an unchanged back-line, while Brian Bulfin, Liam O’Dwyer and Cillian Rea are the changes in all three lines of the pack.

Thomond led 17-6 against Tullamore last week but ended up having to battle for a losing bonus point. Three tries from locks Aaron McCloskey (2) and Mike McMahon were the highlights. Changes tonight see Keelan Stephenson stationed at full-back with Fintan Cross added to the back row.

Seapoint (10th) v Malahide (6th), Kilbogget Park, tonight, 8pm

Their 29-point beating at the hands of Omagh sent Seapoint to the bottom of the table, and head coach Eric Miller has reacted by bringing in winger Declan Byrne, prop Eoghan Dalton and lock Brian Duggan for tonight’s must-win Dublin derby.

Malahide make the trip southside on the back of a well-judged 19-14 win over high-flying Bruff. They triumphed at Midleton in early November and another road victory is the target, with Dave Mongan and props Peter O’Connor and Tom Collis added to the starting XV.

Seapoint supremo Miller told Irish Rugby TV: “We have been in games, a lot of them have been close. Friday night games, there’s always a good buzz around the place. Spirits are high (in the squad), we’ve been able to blood a lot of young players in the last few weeks and hopefully that will stand us in good stead.”

Bangor (5th) v Omagh (4th), Upritchard Park

Bangor’s powerful pack delivered two tries against leaders Ballina, one from a lineout maul and the other via scrum pressure, but it was not enough in the end. They have four points to make up on fourth-placed Omagh who visit them in tomorrow’s Ulster derby.

Teenage out-half Oscar Yandall and back rower David Bradford will start for the Seasiders, the latter making his first start since breaking his leg last season. Omagh lost last year’s corresponding fixture 19-5, having drawn six-all in their home game.

The Accies have won three of their last four matches, with assistant coach Ashley Blair saying: “Bangor present a different set of problems for us. They have a big set of forwards, we’ll have to match them up front. If we can get parity in the set piece, I think we have the back-line to match or beat anybody at the minute.”

City of Derry (8th) v Ballina (1st), Craig Thompson Stadium, Judge’s Road

City of Derry, who have slipped to eighth in the standings, have a tough task on their hands if Ballina can maintain their table-topping exploits. Derry are boosted by the return of Simon Logue at scrum half, although a shoulder injury while on Ireland U-19 duty rules out promising forward Conor McMenamin.

Paul O’Kane has tweaked the hosts’ pack following their 36-7 defeat at Midleton, as David Ferguson reverts to the hooker role and Craig Huey and Chris Lamberton rejoin a back row that will need to outwork their counterparts in the loose.

The Ballina forwards are known for having a high work-rate around the pitch, with lock Aiden McNulty’s tackling around the fringes earning him the man-of-the-match honour against Bangor. Out-half Kieran Lindsay’s two conversions for the Moysiders last Saturday took his season’s haul to 65 points.

Tullamore (7th) v Midleton (2nd), Spollanstown

Tullamore will have to go some to make it a hat-trick of December wins. Former leaders Midleton are in town and are determined to keep pace with Ballina. Winger Josh Deady and lock Stephen Hickey are the changes to the side that picked up maximum points against Derry.

Tullamore boss John Burns has stuck to the winning formula from last week, naming an unchanged team. It was the immense work-rate of the forwards and out-half Karl Dunne’s precise goal-kicking in dismal conditions that saw them beat Thomond 27-20.

The Tulliers drew 20-all with Midleton at Towns Park thirteen months ago, before losing January’s rematch 31-3. Louis Farnham, who moves from the wing to outside centre tomorrow, scored two of the east Cork club’s five tries that day, with the result helping them to climb out of relegation trouble.

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