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All-Ireland League: Division 2B Previews

All-Ireland League: Division 2B Previews

The east coast is the hub for much of Division 2B’s final round before Christmas, as unbeaten pair Greystones and MU Barnhall collide at Dr. Hickey Park, while Skerries and Wanderers are also looking to make home advantage count this afternoon.

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

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Sligo (6th) v Belfast Harlequins (8th), Hamilton Park, 2pm

A slightly earlier kick-off for Sligo’s first home match in three rounds. They accumulated nine points from their trips to Skerries and Corinthians and head back to Strandhill with a chance to close the five-point gap between themselves and the top four.

Four wins out of nine would be a solid return for Sligo having come up as Division 2C champions. Their round 9 opponents, Belfast Harlequins, almost swapped divisions with them, but staved off relegation and have had a couple of bright moments since then.

Winning at Corinthians and Wanderers showed what ‘Quins are capable of. Last week they were a whisker away from beating Skerries but a last-minute concession led to a share of the spoils. Full-back Mark Glover had led their try-scoring so far with three tries.

Greystones (1st) v MU Barnhall (2nd), Dr. Hickey Park

The one they have all been waiting for, with two precious unbeaten records on the line at Dr. Hickey Park. Having played one game more, Greystones now hold a four-point lead at the summit following their bruising 20-17 comeback win at Dungannon.

‘Stones are certainly battle-hardened from that game, with the hope too that some injuries clear in time of the visit of the Blue Bulls. Barnhall had last weekend off after their round 8 fixture was postponed due to the death of Wanderers FC President John Roche Kelly.

This top of the table clash brings together some of the most prolific scorers across all five divisions. ‘Stones captain Andrew Kealy has already amassed 112 points, proving himself to be one of the top goal-kickers around, while Barnhall’s handsome try haul includes seven from winger Conor Lacey who is averaging a try per game.

Rainey Old Boys (3rd) v Dungannon (9th), Hatrick Park

With competition for places ramping up following their 41-6 win at Sunday’s Well, Rainey Old Boys have made four personnel changes for their Ulster derby encounter. Their 37-year-old lock Tim Barker will feature against his former club.

Backs Oisin Quinn and Damien McMurray and prop Kieran Donaghy are also drafted in for the Magherafelt men. They have been scoring well of late with scrum half Jason Bloomfield their leading try scorer with four, closely followed by Michael McCusker and Andrew Donaghy (three each).

Dungannon will miss the silky work of Argentinian centre Lucca Avelli who is nursing a hand injury. Andrew McGregor slots into midfield with tighthead prop Jonathan Gamble the second change. ‘Gannon will become very familiar with Rainey as they also host them in the Ulster Premiership and AIL on December 29 and January 19 respectively.

Skerries (10th) v Sunday’s Well (7th), Holmpatrick

Sunday’s Well will be glad to be playing a team from the bottom half of the table after shipping some heavy recent defeats. They played the current top four in the last four rounds, scoring 47 points and conceding a whopping 143.

Injuries have not helped their cause, so the Christmas break is coming at a good time. They are only seven points away from fourth place and coaches Peter Scott and Anthony Horgan know how big a result a win at Holmpatrick would be, certainly from a psychological point of view.

That is most definitely the case too to Skerries, who remain on the bottom rung but are edging ever closer to that elusive first victory. Their second draw of the campaign saw them peg back ‘Quins in the dying seconds, centre Kevin McGrath doing well to score from close range with Bill Mulcahy nervelessly converting.

Wanderers (4th) v Corinthians (5th), Merrion Road

It will be emotional occasion at Merrion Road as Wanderers return to league action just a few days on from the funeral of their club President John Roche Kelly. A third straight win will be their target as they look for a strong finish to this block of games.

Winger Martin Bosch, loosehead Fionan Sheehan and flanker Danny O’Sullivan are the three changes to the Wanderers side originally named to start the postponed match against Barnhall. Tom Walsh reverts to the engine room alongside captain Brian Quill.

The Corinthian line-up has changed quite considerably from last week’s frustrating 19-17 loss to Sligo. Simon Keller and Ryan Guilfoyle take the reins at half-back in a rejigged back-line, while former skipper Colin Raftery comes in at lock and Jack Noone fills the number 8 berth.

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