All five Division 2C fixtures this weekend see teams from opposing halves of the table go head-to-head. The action kicks off with tonight’s derby matches at Estuary Road and Liam Fitzgerald Park.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 2C: Saturday, January 19
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Malahide (5th) v Seapoint (10th), Estuary Road, tonight, 8pm
The Christmas break was a welcome one for bottom side Seapoint who endured a five-match losing streak across November and December. Refreshed and eager for improved results, Eric Miller will want his charges to attack the second half of the season.
Tries from Brian Duggan and Cian Buckley had them leading Malahide 14-11 at half-time in the previous round, but the north Dubliners scored 21 unanswered second half points while ‘Point lost Cian Cunningham and Peter Ferris to the sin-bin.
Player-coach Brendan Guilfoyle’s well-finished bonus point try off a scrum moved Malahide within five points of the top four. A third win in a row would maintain their recent momentum and register their first season’s double over Seapoint in the league.
Thomond (9th) v Bruff (3rd), Liam Fitzgerald Park, tonight, 8pm
Bruff had 17 points to spare when they hosted second-from-bottom Thomond before Christmas, with early tries from Cian Clifford and Mike Cooke setting up the win. Lying five points off the summit, it is quite a turnaround considering their battle against relegation last season.
Just a single victory over the first half of the campaign leaves Thomond in trouble, but they can still reel in a couple of sides above them. There is a lot riding on tonight’s Limerick derby and their upcoming clashes with Tullamore and City of Derry.
Dermot Fitzgerald, Liam Brock and Eoghan Carr come into the Soda Cakes’ back-line, with Mike Madden replacing Aaron McCloskey in the second row. Bruff bring in Rob Coates at hooker, pair up Mike Cooke and Taylor Jones in the second row, and captain John Clery reverts to the back row.
Ballina (1st) v City of Derry (8th), Heffernan Park
Ballina are emerging as the team to beat in this division after closing out 2018 with five successive wins. Their latest one was a 26-7 bonus point success away to City of Derry, a game in which out-half Kieran Lindsay scored a try and took his league tally to 74 points.
The table toppers’ defence held up well despite a couple of yellow cards, as wind-backed Derry only mustered a single try in the second half. It is a tough start to the New Year for the Ulstermen with fixtures against the top two, Ballina and Midleton.
For their trip to Co. Mayo, Derry are boosted by the inclusion of Ireland Under-19 international Conor McMenamin at blindside flanker. Simon Logue’s absence at scrum half sees Philip Duffy start with Ulster Under-18 Clubs scrum half Rory Maginty promoted to the bench.
Midleton (2nd) v Tullamore (7th), Towns Park
Looking to keep pace with Ballina, former leaders Midleton make five personnel changes as they aim to complete the double over Tullamore. Jon Gardiner and Michael Cronin return in the second row and back row respectively, with young prop Ciaran Ryan selected at loosehead.
Benji Cottle and Rian Hogan also resume in the back-line as the Red Devils look to follow up on their hard-fought 14-7 victory in the midlands. They have conceded only two tries in the last two rounds, maintaining their standing as the best defenders in the division.
Tullamore ran Midleton closer than most in rain-soaked conditions last month, and were left to rue being held up twice during the opening quarter. Full-back Sean McCabe typified their gritty display in defence and attack, but winning in east Cork looks a tall order.
Omagh (4th) v Bangor (6th), Thomas Mellon Playing Fields
Between the league and the Ulster Premiership, Omagh have won their last four games, two of them against tomorrow’s opponents. Bangor were beaten 19-13 at home by the Accies last time out in Division 2C, and fell 49-22 in the Premiership tie in Tyrone.
Accies boss Phil Marshall welcomes back Ali Beckett for his first league appearance of the season, with forwards Richard Harpur, Jack Mitchell and Nathan Kilfedder in line to replace Stuart Allen (groin/hip), work-tied lock Jonny Sproule and Richard Smyth, who is doubtful with a hamstring complaint.
Having got game-time with the seconds recently, the fit-again Gareth Millar is due to start at out-half for Bangor. Declan Maguire comes in at full-back in a rejigged back-line, while loosehead Phil Whyte and back rowers James Henly and Mike Weir are the changes up front.