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All-Ireland League: Division 2A Previews

All-Ireland League: Division 2A Previews

Lineout action from the recent Munster derby clash between Dolphin and UL Bohemians in Division 2A at Irish Independent Park ©David Ribeiro/M. Lee Media

Four of the six Munster clubs in All-Ireland League Division 2A face off tonight with second-placed Cashel’s trip to UL Bohemians, who lie fourth overall, a key contest in the race for promotion and the play-off places.

ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 2A: Saturday, February 16

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Nenagh Ormond (7th) v Old Crescent (5th), New Ormond Park, tonight, 8pm

Old Crescent will fancy their chances of continuing their flying start to 2019. They were the best performers in the last round, putting 49 points past Blackrock with winger Val McDermott helping himself to a terrific 22-minute second half hat-trick. His try tally now stands at nine after 11 rounds.

Nenagh Ormond will want to inflict revenge for November’s 29-15 defeat at Rosbrien, a game which they led 15-3 just after the break. They have looked a most consistent team of late, moving out of the relegation zone and becoming one of only three teams to score more than 21 points against leaders Highfield.

Nenagh have noticeably upped their try-scoring rate with nine in their last two outings, including five from half-backs Alex Ropeti (2) and Nicky Irwin (3). A win for the Tipperary men would edge them closer to mid-table safety, while Crescent’s third straight victory could move them into the top four.

UL Bohemians (4th) v Cashel (2nd), University of Limerick 4G pitch, tonight, 8pm

Number 8 and captain Brian Walsh has led by the example with a try in each of UL Bohemians’ last three games, two of which resulted in narrow wins. Tonight’s floodlit fixture at the University ground brings together two play-off rivals, with second-placed Cashel two places and 14 points better off than Bohs.

They are going for a season’s double over the Red Robins following November’s 24-20 success at Spafield. That was a cracking contest and a great advertisement for Division 2A rugby, Cashel showing the greater control, guided by skipper James Ryan and Ed Leamy, as lock Richard Moran’s maul try and a scrum-inspired penalty try set them on their way.

UL’s speedy backs, including Ireland Under-20 international James McCarthy, caused Cashel problems late on as they fought back for a losing bonus point that night. They will be eager to utilise that pace on their all-weather surface and right the wrongs of their recent home loss to Old Crescent.

Blackrock College (9th) v Dolphin (8th), Stradbrook

A huge encounter for both clubs with Blackrock currently second-from-bottom and Dolphin sitting two points above them. ‘Rock boss Mick Carroll will have rallied his troops and drawn a line under their heavy losses to Highfield (twice) and Crescent, which saw them concede an eye-watering 174 points.

Fixing those defensive issues is top of Carroll’s list as they look to climb above Dolphin, who were 20-16 winners when the sides met in December. The Corkmen lost narrowly to UL Bohs last time out, although they were boosted by the returning Liam Walsh and Dave O’Mahony, while Finnish newcomer Jussi Viljanen impressed on his debut.

Stradbrook will be a hive of activity on Saturday with a double header of fixtures seeing the Blackrock Women follow the men’s side into action with their All-Ireland Cup semi-final against Suttonians at 5pm. “Where it’s possible (to have double headers), I think it’s fantastic and should be considered a hell of a lot more,” said Carroll.

Galwegians (10th) v Highfield (1st), Crowley Park

Not for the first time this season Galwegians were left bemoaning some cruel luck in their 7-5 defeat to Navan last time out. Sean O’Sullivan was denied a match-winning try late on – what would have been his second score of the game – and ‘Wegians suffered three sin-binnings, two of which certainly seemed harsh.

Their collective performance bodes well, though, as the Blues continue their fight against automatic relegation. However, their opponents tomorrow, Highfield, are seven points clear at the summit and chasing their tenth straight league win. If they continue their high-scoring form, they could break the 500-point barrier in Glenina.

Jack Duffy and Eddie Earle come into the Highfield back row, as the two personnel changes to the side that won 40-22 at Nenagh Ormond. Winger Paul Stack (11 tries) and centre Dave O’Sullivan (10) continue to pick up scores for the Corkmen, with full-back Luke Kingston and back rower Miah Cronin (eight each) not far behind them.

Queen’s University (6th) v Navan (3rd), Dub Lane

Queen’s University had three players – including captain David Whitten – involved in the Ireland Students’ comprehensive 31-3 win over Scotland last Sunday. The Belfast youngsters are hoping that winning feeling rubs off on the rest of their squad after losing five of their last six league matches.

Navan were 24-17 winners when they entertained Queen’s in December, their set piece strength proving the difference on the day. In-form full-back Paddy Fox claimed their opening try in that home fixture, and he followed up with equally well-taken scores against Cashel, both home and away, and Galwegians.

Queen’s really have to make the most of home advantage over the next week with potentially season-defining games against Navan and UL Bohemians, two teams currently residing in the top four. However, the Meath men are gunning for their fourth victory in six away trips this term, and they were 26-17 winners over Harlequins on their most recent trip to Belfast.