The latest Limerick derby in the top flight sees close rivals Shannon and Garryowen clash under the Thomond Park floodlights, while on Saturday leaders Cork Constitution visit a Young Munster side scrapping for points at the wrong end of the table.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, January 26
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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SHANNON (5th) v GARRYOWEN (4th), Thomond Park, tonight, 8pm
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Shannon: LWWLWLLLWW; Garryowen: WWLLLWWWWL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Jake Flannery 69; Tries: Jake Flannery 4; Garryowen: Points: Ben Healy 45; Tries: Diarmuid Barron 4
Preview: Shannon have completed a hard-earned double over UCD since being edged out by Garryowen in a nail-biting finish at Dooradoyle in early December. Winning the rematch would give a huge boost to their play-off ambitions.
They will be wary of a Garryowen side smarting from their own late loss to UCC last Saturday. Their maul continues to be a big weapon with Liam Cronin and Diarmuid Barron popping up with regular tries. Munster’s Alex Wootton, Liam Coombes and Jack Daly all come in as starters tonight.
This is Shannon’s first time to host the Light Blues in a league fixture since December 2014, and a big night for Ben Daly less than a week on from his senior debut at out-half. Ikem Ugwueru, Pa Ryan and Ger Finucane are the changes behind the scrum, with Sean Walsh and Luke Clohessy added to the pack.
Recent League Meetings – Friday, December 19, 2014: Shannon 17 Garryowen 34, Thomond Park main pitch; Friday, December 7, 2018: Garryowen 30 Shannon 29, Dooradoyle
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (7th) v CLONTARF (3rd), College Park
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Dublin University: LDLWWWLWLL; Clontarf: WWWWWWLLWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: James Fennelly 89; Tries: Robert Russell, Michael Silvester, Colm Hogan 3 each; Clontarf: Points: David Joyce 62; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 4
Preview: This is a tricky time for both of these clubs as players juggle provincial and international commitments. Promising second row Jack Dunne’s call-up to the Leinster bench this week is ‘an opportunity he’s worked extremely hard for and deserves’, according to Trinity captain Colm Hogan.
The students’ defence completely capitulated against Lansdowne, leaking an eye-watering ten tries. They will dust themselves off to chase a prized double over Clontarf. Centre James Hickey, who impressed with his hard running last Saturday, scored their lone try in last month’s 16-12 defeat of ‘Tarf.
The north Dubliners have developed a nine-point lead over play-off rivals Garryowen in fourth, and will not want to let that slip. With three tries in the last four rounds, their former captain Matt D’Arcy is hitting good form ahead of the Ireland Club team’s clash with Scotland in Edinburgh next week.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 9, 2017: Dublin University 13 Clontarf 17, College Park; Saturday, December 8, 2018: Clontarf 12 Dublin University 16, Castle Avenue
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win
TERENURE COLLEGE (10th) v UCD (6th), Lakelands Park
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Terenure College: LLLWLLLLLL; UCD: WDLWLLDWLL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Terenure College: Points: Matthew Byrne 30; Tries: Matthew Byrne 6; UCD: Points: Matthew Gilsenan, Cillian Burke 29 each; Tries: Ronan Foley 4
Preview: Joe Schmidt’s son Tim will start at full-back for Terenure College tomorrow, replacing their top try scorer Matthew Byrne (6 tries) as they look to halt their six-match losing streak. They take on UCD for the inaugural Eddie Thornton Memorial Trophy.
Two changes in the ‘Nure pack see Tiarnan Creagh and Matthew Caffrey added to the tight five, with the recently returned Harrison Brewer reverting to the back row. They were held try-less by the students when they met at Belfield last month.
Since that 31-3 victory, UCD have lost back-to-back games to Shannon with an aggregate margin of just five points. Half-backs Matthew Gilsenan and Paddy Patterson and flanker Jonny Guy return to the starting XV for this round 11 tie.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 6, 2018: UCD 26 Terenure College 31, Belfield Bowl; Saturday, December 8, 2018: UCD 31 Terenure College 3, Belfield Bowl
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCD to win
UCC (9th) v LANSDOWNE (2nd), the Mardyke
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCC: LLLLLLWLLW; Lansdowne: LLWWWWWWWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: James Taylor 78; Tries: Ryan Murphy 6; Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 53; Tries: Daniel McEvoy 6
Preview: Having rested some players for their pre-Christmas clash, UCC are back to near full-strength for Lansdowne’s first league trip to the Mardyke in seven years. Last week’s deserved win over Garryowen has the students on the cusp of breaking out of the bottom two.
Winger Michael Clune is promoted from the bench to replace Murray Linn in UCC’s only change. Their back row, led by captain Daire Feeney, is growing in influence as a unit, with number 8 Ryan Murphy’s try tally now standing at six.
A fourth successive encounter with a student side for Lansdowne, who trounced Trinity 66-33 last Saturday and put 31 points on UCC last month. Tom Roche replaces Connacht call-up Tom Daly at inside centre, while Joe O’Brien slots back in at blindside flanker and Jack O’Sullivan covers Oisin Dowling’s absence in the second row.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 29, 2011: UCC 16 Lansdowne 11, the Mardyke; Saturday, December 8, 2018: Lansdowne 31 UCC 15, Aviva Stadium back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win
YOUNG MUNSTER (8th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (1st), Liam Clifford Park
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Young Munster: WLWLLLDLLL; Cork Constitution: WWWLWWWWWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Young Munster: Points: Clayton Stewart 49; Tries: Darragh O’Neill 5; Cork Constitution: Points: Aidan Moynihan 76; Tries: JJ O’Neill, Rob Jermyn 4 each
Preview: Young Munster’s performance level was where head coach Gearoid Prendergast wanted it, but the result eluded them at Clontarf. The concession of an intercept try and another from an opportunist kick let them down at Castle Avenue.
It has been seven rounds without a win for the Cookies and they have lost Calvin Nash and Gavin Coombes to the Munster bench tomorrow. They are joined by Cork Constitution front rowers Kevin O’Byrne and Liam O’Connor who impressed in last week’s 28-5 dismissal of Terenure.
Although Con were not at their best in that game, their enviable ability to turn it on and score at will maintained their winning run. Their Ireland Club XV contingent, including newly-announced captain Niall Kenneally, will want to sign off on the right note ahead of the start of the Dalriada Cup series with Scotland.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 17, 2018: Young Munster 15 Cork Constitution 11, Tom Clifford Park; Saturday, December 8, 2018: Cork Constitution 26 Young Munster 3, Temple Hill
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win