Cork Constitution, Lansdowne, Clontarf and Garryowen currently occupy the semi-final positions in the top flight of the All-Ireland League, and all four clubs are at home in the opening round of matches for 2019.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, January 19
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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GARRYOWEN (4th) v UCC (9th), Dooradoyle, 2pm
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Garryowen: WWLLLWWWW; UCC: LLLLLLWLL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Ben Healy 45; Tries: Cian O’Shea 3; UCC: Points: James Taylor 65; Tries: John Poland, Ryan Murphy 4 each
Preview: There are plenty of positive vibes emanating from Dooradoyle with Garryowen on a four-match winning streak in the league and pencilling in a Bateman Cup final date for the Easter weekend. Last week’s semi-final defeat of Lansdowne shows what they are capable of.
In contrast, putting together consistent results has been the issue for UCC over the first half of the league campaign. They will be all out for revenge after a late Ben Healy penalty denied them and gave the Light Blues a 14-12 victory at the Mardyke before Christmas.
For tomorrow’s rematch, UCC head coach Brian Walsh makes three changes as Crosshaven man Bryan O’Connor comes in at tighthead prop, Andrew Davies slots back into the second row and Lee McSherry replaces Ireland Under-20 call-up John Hodnett in the back row.
Recent League Meeting – Saturday, December 15, 2018: UCC 12 Garryowen 14, the Mardyke
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win
CLONTARF (3rd) v YOUNG MUNSTER (8th), Castle Avenue
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Clontarf: WWWWWWLLW; Young Munster: WLWLLLDLL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Clontarf: Points: David Joyce 53; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 3; Young Munster: Points: Clayton Stewart 49; Tries: Darragh O’Neill 5
Preview: Like Garryowen, Clontarf are also chasing a season’s double over their opponents to keep on course for the play-offs. They will want a strong showing in round 10 after losing their last home league match to Dublin University.
Brian Deeny scored one of their tries away to Young Munster last time out, and the Wexford youngster is now part of the Ireland Under-20s’ Six Nations squad along with ‘Tarf team-mate David Hawkshaw, the newly-announced Ireland U-20 captain.
The Cookies also have a promising crop of young players, including four Ireland U-20 call-ups. They will benefit from the presence of Munster’s Gavin Coombes at number 8 tomorrow, along with Calvin Nash on the right wing. Backs coach Derek Corcoran, who starts at outside centre, Jack Harrington and Mark O’Mara complete the changes.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 27, 2018: Clontarf 16 Young Munster 25, Castle Avenue; Saturday, December 15, 2018: Young Munster 11 Clontarf 17, Tom Clifford Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win
CORK CONSTITUTION (1st) v TERENURE COLLEGE (10th), Temple Hill
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Cork Constitution: WWWLWWWWW; Terenure College: LLLWLLLLL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Aidan Moynihan 68; Tries: JJ O’Neill, Rob Jermyn 4 each; Terenure College: Points: Matthew Byrne 30; Tries: Matthew Byrne 6
Preview: Since closing out 2018 with a 20-point dismissal of Terenure, Cork Constitution have started the New Year in business-like fashion by recapturing the Munster Senior Cup and seeing seven of their players picked for the Ireland Club International squad.
Table-topping Con resume their league run five points clear of defending champions Lansdowne. They are odds-on to hand ‘Nure their sixth defeat in a row. However, the Dubliners are boosted by the availability of former top scorer Jake Swaine and Harrison Brewer.
Full-back Matthew Byrne’s six-try haul almost accounts for a third of Terenure’s points tally so far in the top flight, while there has been a wider contribution to Con’s clutch of tries with forwards Patrick Casey and Joe McSwiney both touching down twice in the last three rounds.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 28, 2018: Semi-Final: Terenure College 15 Cork Constitution 22, Lakelands Park; Saturday, December 15, 2018: Terenure College 14 Cork Constitution 34, Lakelands Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win
LANSDOWNE (2nd) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (5th), Aviva Stadium back pitch
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Lansdowne: LLWWWWWWW; Dublin University: LDLWWWLWL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: James Fennelly 77; Tries: Robert Russell, Michael Silvester 3 each; Dublin University: Points: Harry Byrne 38; Tries: Eamonn Mills 5
Preview: Recent Connacht debutant Tom Daly is one of five changes to the Lansdowne team that recorded a 17-6 victory at Dublin University in the final round before Christmas. He pairs up with Harry Brennan in midfield, with Daniel McEvoy and Alan Bennie also added to the back-line.
Martin Mulhall and Tom Murphy are the two incoming players up front for Mike Ruddock’s men, who are looking to immediately banish memories of last Saturday’s frustrating Bateman Cup semi-final loss to Garryowen. They are unbeaten in the league since mid-October.
International recognition is coming thick and fast at College Park where twelve Trinity players have made either the Ireland Under-20 squad or the Ireland Students squad. The result against Lansdowne knocked them out of the top four but the recently-relaid all-weather pitch at headquarters will definitely suit their game.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 24, 2018: Lansdowne 76 Dublin University 26, Aviva Stadium back pitch; Saturday, December 15, 2018: Dublin University 6 Lansdowne 17, College Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win
UCD (6th) v SHANNON (7th), Belfield Bowl
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCD: WDLWLLDWL; Shannon: LWWLWLLLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: Matthew Gilsenan 29; Tries: Ronan Foley 4; Shannon: Points: Jake Flannery 69; Tries: Jake Flannery 4
Preview: Only a point separated these sides when they met on Thomond Park’s main pitch last month. A trio of penalties from out-half Jake Flannery, who is one of three Shannon players in the Ireland U-20 squad, saw Tom Hayes’ youngsters triumph 9-8.
UCD’s revenge mission will see them field a team showing six personnel changes. Former Munster U-20 captain Paul Kiernan, Cillian Burke and Nick Peters are brought into the back-line, with Sam Griffin, Brian Cawley and blindside Cian Prendergast, who scored a try for the Leinster Development side recently, added to the pack.
Incredibly, this is Shannon’s first trip to Belfield since March 2008 when they claimed a resounding 45-14 win. Former Limerick Gaelic footballer Stephen Kelly helped himself to a hat-trick of tries that day, with Shannon’s current backs coach David O’Donovan kicking three conversions.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, May 4, 2013: Promotion/Relegation Play-Off: Shannon 0 UCD 42, Coonagh; Saturday, December 15, 2018: Shannon 9 UCD 8, Thomond Park main pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win