Munster clubs play host to four of this weekend’s Division 2A matches, with the heavy rain making Woodleigh Park unplayable and seeing Highfield move their game against Blackrock to Irish Independent Park which will now stage an exciting double header.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 2A: Saturday, December 15
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Old Crescent (7th) v UL Bohemians (4th), Rosbrien, Friday, 8pm
It is Old Crescent’s third time to host a Friday Night Lights clash at Rosbrien this season and their record so far is won one and lost one. There is sure to a cup-final feel to this local derby as Crescent try to recapture the form that saw them put 29 points on Nenagh Ormond two rounds ago.
Crescent boss Matt Brown has reacted to last week’s 24-10 to Blackrock by making three changes, which see Jack Hogan lining out on the right wing, Padraig Monaghan at lock and Kevin Doyle at number 8. They need to cut down on the errors that saw them fail to manage the wet conditions as well as ‘Rock did.
Gunning for their third victory in four rounds, UL Bohemians have picked up the pace and looked a more cohesive team of late. They are benefiting from playing a settled side most weeks, the only alterations this week see Joe Murray and Shane Mullins rejoin the back-three and Sean Seymour partner Ed Kelly in the second row.
Cashel (2nd) v Navan (3rd), Spafield
This is set up to a heavyweight tussle between two robust and well-drilled packs, with a head-to-head at out-half between Cashel’s Darragh Lyons and Navan player-coach Ray Moloney adding to the intrigue. Denis Leamy’s Cashel side have put together a five-match winning run since losing to Highfield in mid-October.
Leamy has stuck with the bulk of the players who secured a 19-13 victory at Queen’s last Saturday, his only bit of tinkering seeing Cian O’Donnell start at loosehead and Richard Moran selected in the second row. The back row of James Ryan, Ed Leamy and Michael Casey earned the plaudits again in Belfast, backed up by ‘impact sub’ Tommy Anglim.
Navan will have another member of their coaching ticket on the pitch in forwards coach James O’Neill, who fills the openside role vacated by Conor Farrell. They also bring in Ben McEntagart on the wing and Emmet Banahan at scrum half, with both players having progressed to the senior ranks after helping the Navan Under-20s win their first ever Fraser McMullen Cup in 2017.
Dolphin (8th) v Queen’s University (5th), Irish Independent Park
With the two teams below them meeting in Galway, Dolphin could either be a few points clear of relegation trouble come full-time today or residing in the bottom two for Christmas. Their home form has been impressive with an encouraging run of wins over Crescent, Galwegians and Blackrock in Cork.
Ulster winger Angus Kernohan’s late try salvaged a losing bonus point for Queen’s against Cashel, but he is in camp with the Ireland Under-20s and misses the Dolphin game. Flanker James Catterson is another absentee for the students owing to his suspension for his red card against the Tipperary men.
Queen’s have lost their last three games and will not want to lose any more ground to the top four. Their away results will have to improve if they want to push for a play-off spot. Indeed, Dolphin are also in that clutch of clubs where there is very little between them. Mid-table is within reach for Robbie Doyle’s youngsters.
Galwegians (10th) v Nenagh Ormond (9th), Crowley Park
This is very much a relegation ‘eight-pointer’ and a potentially season-defining match for both sides. Given they are at home and a full 11 points behind Nenagh, the onus is on Galwegians to come out firing and deliver a winning performance to lift the gloom surrounding Glenina.
The Blues certainly have the personnel to knit together the results to spark a resurgence, and the level they reached for parts of their recent outings against Highfield and Navan was encouraging. However, they could do with some better luck with injuries, having lost promising winger Hugh Lane to a fractured fibula at Balreask Old last Saturday.
Nenagh have moved their Kiwi out-half Alex Ropeti to outside centre, pairing him up with backs coach Stephen Carey in midfield. Club stalwart John Lillis will don the number 10 jersey behind an unchanged pack which claimed two second half tries against Highfield, their scrummaging yielding a penalty try and lock Kevin O’Gorman touching down in injury-time.
Highfield (1st) v Blackrock College (6th), Irish Independent Park, 5pm
The wintry weather conditions have forced a switch to the modified 3G surface at Irish Independent Park and an evening kick-off between leaders Highfield and Blackrock. Second row Fintan O’Sullivan is back to skipper the Corkmen after missing last week’s five-try 36-17 dismissal of Nenagh – their sixth win in a row.
Blackrock will want to continue where they left off against Crescent, a game which was decided by three second half tries from Michael O’Leary, who starts at scrum half today, Paddy Cowhey and Killian O’Leary. The other changes are also in the back-line where Mick Carroll has picked Dave Rowan and Paul Cullen in midfield to try and counteract Highfield centres Ben Murphy and Dave O’Sullivan.
Tim Ryan’s charges won 35-19 when they entertained Blackrock in the opening round last season, their five tries that day including a 76th-minute closer from back rower Miah Cronin who has already touched down six times this term. Highfield will need no reminding that ‘Rock beat them 25-14 on the final day last April, as their push for automatic promotion fell short.