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All-Ireland League: Division 1A Previews

All-Ireland League: Division 1A Previews

Lansdowne winger Daniel McEvoy, Division 1A's current top try scorer with seven tries, is pictured on his way to the whitewash against Dublin University ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

Saturday’s heavyweight clash of Cork Constitution and Clontarf, who both provided a number of Ireland’s Dalriada Cup-winning players over the past fortnight, is commanding most of the attention as the All-Ireland League’s top flight heads towards the final third of an intriguing season.

ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, February 16

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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CORK CONSTITUTION (1st) v CLONTARF (3rd), Temple Hill

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Cork Constitution: WWWLWWWWWWW; Clontarf: WWWWWWLLWWL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Aidan Moynihan 82; Tries: JJ O’Neill 6; Clontarf: Points: David Joyce 66; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 5

Preview: Leaders Cork Constitution are edging ever closer to locking in a home semi-final with plenty to spare. Another win at Temple Hill tomorrow, taking four points and denying Clontarf anything, would move Brian Hickey’s men a full 17 points clear of third-placed ‘Tarf with six rounds remaining.

The north Dubliners slipped up against Dublin University last time out, but it could be a good time to face Cork Con given they had six frontliners involved in the Ireland Club team’s Dalriada Cup success against Scotland last weekend. It is certainly a balancing act for coaches to cope with players’ club and country commitments.

Andy Wood’s charges will have been waiting for this game ever since losing a 10-point lead in an eventual 16-13 December defeat to Con. Aidan Moynihan’s injury-time penalty guided the Leesiders to the top of the table and the 23-year-old out-half also shone most recently for the Ireland Club XV, landing all nine of his place-kicks across the two legs.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 14, 2018: Clontarf 43 Cork Constitution 12, Castle Avenue; Saturday, December 1, 2018: Clontarf 13 Cork Constitution 16, Castle Avenue

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win

DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (5th) v UCC (8th), College Park

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Dublin University: LDLWWWLWLLW; UCC: LLLLLLWLLWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: James Fennelly 89; Tries: Robert Russell, Michael Silvester, Colm Hogan, Giuseppe Coyne 3 each; UCC: Points: James Taylor 88; Tries: Ryan Murphy 6

Preview: Just six days on from combining for the Ireland Students side in a thumping 31-3 win over Scotland, the club and University rivalries resume for the likes of Colm Hogan, Cian Bohane and others. Indeed, Dublin University’s Rowan Osborne and UCC sharpshooter James Taylor were Ireland’s starting half-backs last Sunday.

Ireland Under-20 squad member Ryan Baird comes into the Trinity side as one of four changes. Ronan Quinn, the former Ireland Under-18 Sevens captain, is another notable addition on the left wing. Tony Smeeth’s youngsters are gunning for revenge after a disappointing 28-14 reversal at the Mardyke in December.

Hooker Paidi McCarthy and flankers Brian O’Mahony and Cian Fitzgerald have been promoted from the bench to start for UCC. Blindside O’Mahony was a try scorer in their superb 25-22 win at home to Lansdowne last time out, a result which has them hunting for a hat-trick of wins since the turn of the year.

Recent League Meeting – Saturday, December 1, 2018: UCC 28 Dublin University 14, the Mardyke

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win

GARRYOWEN (4th) v TERENURE COLLEGE (10th), Dooradoyle

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Garryowen: WWLLLWWWWLW; Terenure College: LLLWLLLLLLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Peadar Collins 49; Tries: Diarmuid Barron 5; Terenure College: Points: James Thornton 42; Tries: Matthew Byrne 6

Preview: Are there signs of a resurgence at Terenure? The division’s bottom side pulled off a vital 49-21 triumph over UCD in the last round and desperately need to repeat that performance and result on the road tomorrow. They must stay in touch with Young Munster who are five points ahead of them.

Munsters’ Limerick rivals Garryowen resume their pursuit of a semi-final place after their excellent five-try derby success at Shannon. The combined threats of their powerful maul and the likes of Liam Coombes and Peadar Collins, in the back-line, steered the Light Blues to only their second try-scoring bonus point of the campaign.

While news of James Blaney’s decision to step down at the end of the season is disappointing, Terenure can use the impending departure of their much-liked head coach to spur them on. If they can gain parity up front with Garryowen, ‘Nure are capable of an upset as their backs showed the required clinical edge in the UCD game.

Recent League Meetings – Sunday, March 11, 2018: Garryowen 13 Terenure College 29, Dooradoyle; Saturday, December 1, 2018: Terenure College 16 Garryowen 17, Lakelands Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win

LANSDOWNE (2nd) v SHANNON (6th), Aviva Stadium back pitch

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Lansdowne: LLWWWWWWWWL; Shannon: LWWLWLLLWWL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 53; Tries: Daniel McEvoy, Peter Sullivan 6 each; Shannon: Points: Jake Flannery 69; Tries: Jake Flannery 4

Preview: These storied clubs have won twelve All-Ireland League crowns between them, and this season’s first meeting was a tight contest before Lansdowne pulled away in the second half for a 32-15 bonus point win. Neither side won in the last round, with the headquarters club’s eight-match winning streak ended by UCC in a gripping game on Leeside.

Scrum half Tim Murphy and forwards James Rael and David O’Connor are promoted from the Lansdowne bench to feature in tomorrow’s starting XV, which also sees Jack O’Sullivan revert to the blindside flanker role. Winger Daniel McEvoy, one of the division’s top try scorer with six tries, returns from Ireland Club XV duty.

With his side determined to bounce back, Shannon boss Tom Hayes said: “(Losing 28-7 to Garryowen) was a tough pill to swallow. It was a lesson to us that if you don’t turn up and absolutely follow your game-plan and execute it as much as you can, then you end up on the end of results like that unfortunately.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 20, 2013: Shannon 38 Lansdowne 19, Coonagh; Saturday, December 1, 2018: Shannon 15 Lansdowne 32, Thomond Park back pitch

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win

UCD (7th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (9th), Belfield Bowl

All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCD: WDLWLLDWLLL; Young Munster: WLWLLLDLLLL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: Matthew Gilsenan, Cillian Burke 29 each; Tries: Ronan Foley 4; Young Munster: Points: Clayton Stewart 49; Tries: Darragh O’Neill 5

Preview: UCD and Young Munster slumped to heavy defeats in round 11, with 28 and 26-point losing margins respectively. A close battle looks likely, especially if this return match follows the pattern of December’s 34-all draw at Greenfields where 11 tries were scored and the students were left to rue a last-minute missed conversion.

The Cookies are without a league win since mid-October, but did run Garryowen and Clontarf close in two of their most recent away trips. They will fancy their chances of outmuscling the UCD pack tomorrow, with big performances required from the likes of Tom Goggin, captain Alan Kennedy and tighthead Conor Bartley.

The way the fixtures have fallen, this is UCD’s only encounter with a team near them in the table for a number of weeks. They play the leading four sides in the next four rounds, so Andy Skehan’s charges really need to halt their slide and restore some confidence ahead of some even tougher challenges.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 14, 2018: UCD 31 Young Munster 29, Belfield Bowl; Saturday, December 1, 2018: Young Munster 34 UCD 34, Tom Clifford Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win