It is a huge weekend in the top flight of the All-Ireland League, particularly for the bottom two, Terenure College and Young Munster, who are on the road after two brilliant home wins. Eighth-placed UCC are hoping to reel in Shannon in a much-anticipated Munster derby at the Mardyke.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, March 2
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (4th) v TERENURE COLLEGE (10th), College Park
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Dublin University: LDLWWWLWLLWWW; Terenure College: LLLWLLLLLLWLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: James Fennelly 94; Tries: Colm Hogan, Giuseppe Coyne 4 each; Terenure College: Points: James Thornton 59; Tries: Matthew Byrne 6
Preview: There may be six places and 20 points between these sides but Terenure have really turned a corner in their battle against relegation. Having beaten both UCD and Lansdowne in recent weeks, the challenge for James Blaney’s men is to repeat those results away from Lakelands Park.
Top flight survival was Trinity boss Tony Smeeth’s aim starting new season with another fresh crop. Their All-Ireland Under-20 champions from last year have really stood up to the task. Recent Leinster debutant Jack Dunne is set to start in the second row tomorrow, with Dan Sheehan, Dylan Doyle, Reuben Pim and current Ireland U-20 international Rob Russell the other changes.
Lansdowne have been the only away team to win at College Park this season, and a fourth successive victory would have the students in hot pursuit of a semi-final place. However, Terenure are much improved since their 25-8 November defeat to Trinity and bring in top-scoring full-back Matthew Byrne and prop Tiarnan Creagh as their two changes tomorrow.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 14, 2018: Terenure College 50 Dublin University 12, Lakelands Park; Friday, November 2, 2018: Terenure College 8 Dublin University 25, Lakelands Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win
GARRYOWEN (5th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (1st), Dooradoyle
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Garryowen: WWLLLWWWWLWWL; Cork Constitution: WWWLWWWWWWWWL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Peadar Collins 57; Tries: Diarmuid Barron 7; Cork Constitution: Points: Aidan Moynihan 103; Tries: JJ O’Neill 7
Preview: Garryowen are hoping it is third time lucky after losing twice to Cork Constitution already this season, including a 26-23 reversal in January’s tightly-contested Munster Senior Cup final. Incredibly, the Light Blues’ last three league outings at Dooradoyle have all finished in one-point cliffhangers.
Their narrow derby defeat at Young Munster saw them slip out of the top four, so Conan Doyle will be looking for a big reaction from his side. His Cork Con counterpart, Brian Hickey, will also be demanding a swift return to winning ways after UCD handed them their first loss in nine Division 1A fixtures.
Munster team-mates Alex Wootton and Duncan Williams could be in opposition tomorrow, with Garryowen looking a different team when Wootton is on the pitch and counter-attacking from deep. Look out too for Diarmuid Barron, the 20-year-old Munster Academy forward, and JJ O’Neill who are among the division’s top try scorers with seven each.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 9, 2017: Cork Constitution 37 Garryowen 11, Temple Hill; Saturday, November 3, 2018: Cork Constitution 27 Garryowen 3, Temple Hill
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win
LANSDOWNE (2nd) v YOUNG MUNSTER (9th), Aviva Stadium back pitch
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Lansdowne: LLWWWWWWWWLWL; Young Munster: WLWLLLDLLLLLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 68; Tries: Peter Sullivan 8; Young Munster: Points: Clayton Stewart 49; Tries: Darragh O’Neill 5
Preview: Under-20 scrum half James Kenny steps up for his first All-Ireland League start as Lansdowne aim to complete a season’s double over Young Munster. Ronan Kelleher and Oisin Dowling, two Leinster debutants since the turn of the year, are back to bolster Mike Ruddock’s selection.
Flanker Tom Murphy is Lansdowne’s fourth personnel change from last week’s frustrating 35-26 defeat to Terenure, with Willie Earle also reverting to the number 8 position. Munsters’ pack upped the ante against Garryowen, helping them to a vital derby win, and they will need more of the same tomorrow.
The Cookies certainly owe Lansdowne one after leaking a late intercept try in November’s 23-12 home loss. Head coach Gearoid Prendergast is determined to navigate them out of relegation trouble, and while four penalty goals were enough against Garryowen, they will need try-scoring clout in order to upset Ruddock’s charges on their home patch.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 7, 2018: Young Munster 24 Lansdowne 27, Tom Clifford Park; Saturday, November 3, 2018: Young Munster 12 Lansdowne 23, Tom Clifford Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win
UCC (8th) v SHANNON (7th), the Mardyke
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCC: LLLLLLWLLWWLL; Shannon: LWWLWLLLWWLLL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: James Taylor 111; Tries: Ryan Murphy 7; Shannon: Points: Jake Flannery 69; Tries: Jake Flannery, Eathon Moloney, Pa Ryan 4 each
Preview: Waterpark product Harry Jephson’s first league start at hooker is the only change UCC boss Brian Walsh has made the side that picked up two hard-earned bonus points at Clontarf. Leading the division’s scoring charts on 111 points, out-half James Taylor chipped in with a try and four successful kicks.
Taylor and his team-mates are out for revenge with Shannon having done the double on UCC in Division 1B last season and won 31-20 at Thomond Park in November. However, the Limerick men have lost their last three games and know that another defeat could draw them down into a relegation dog-fight.
It will be interesting to monitor the progress of 19-year-old Munster Academy lock Thomas Ahern who made his league bow off the bench against Trinity. Shannon head coach Tom Hayes rates him as ‘an exciting prospect who is still learning the position’. Ahern played in the backs until 2017 when he switched to the second row.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 14, 2018: Shannon 40 UCC 17, Thomond Park back pitch; Saturday, November 3, 2018: Shannon 31 UCC 20, Thomond Park back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCC to win
UCD (6th) v CLONTARF (3rd), Belfield Bowl
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCD: WDLWLLDWLLLWW; Clontarf: WWWWWWLLWWLLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: Conall Doherty 37; Tries: Andy Marks 7; Clontarf: Points: David Joyce 81; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 6
Preview: Fresh from his try-scoring RDS debut, scrum half Paddy Patterson is back on club duty with a UCD team brimming with confidence after upsetting leaders Cork Con last Saturday. The Leinster connection continues with James Ryan’s younger brother David starting for College in the centre.
Ryan and Paul Kiernan will have their hands full trying to shut down ‘Tarf’s midfield duo Matt D’Arcy and Sean O’Brien, who scored a try each against UCC last week with D’Arcy also supplying two classy assists. Current Ireland Under-20 prop Michael Milne is UCD’s third and final change for tomorrow afternoon’s match.
Clontarf were 11-point winners of the clubs’ two most recent meetings at Castle Avenue – 19-8 and 17-6 – and claimed a 31-24 bonus point triumph on their last visit to Belfield in November 2017, when the ever-influential D’Arcy and O’Brien scored two of their five tries.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 3, 2018: Clontarf 19 UCD 8, Castle Avenue; Friday, November 2, 2018: Clontarf 17 UCD 6, Castle Avenue
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win