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All-Ireland League: Division 2A Previews

All-Ireland League: Division 2A Previews

Bottom side Galwegians renew rivalries with Dolphin as they go in search of a much-needed win in Division 2A ©David Ribeiro/M. Lee Media

Three of this weekend’s Division 2A fixtures are in Munster, including trips for the two teams that came up from Division 2B last season – Old Crescent and Navan – as they continue their quests for promotion at leaders Highfield and UL Bohemians respectively.

ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 2A: Saturday, March 2

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Nenagh Ormond (8th) v Cashel (2nd), New Ormond Park, tonight, 8pm

Neither team will be reading too much into last week’s results, although Nenagh must be concerned by the 46 points and six tries which they conceded at Dolphin. Form aside, facing their local rivals under the Lisatunny floodlights should bring the best out of Dermot Dunne’s men.

Nenagh have to stop giving away cheap penalties and points, the same streak of indiscipline which cost them in November’s first Tipperary derby. Cashel took advantage to build an 18-0 lead and then see out an eventual 30-7 bonus point victory thanks to two late tries from replacement Tommy Anglim.

A mounting injury toll has been a concern for promotion-chasing Cashel at such an important time of the season. Openside and captain James Ryan is a notable absentee from the starting XV, but the visitors still travel with a strong panel which includes Croatian international prop Ivan Miljak at loosehead.

Blackrock College (9th) v Queen’s University (4th), Stradbrook

Three of Blackrock’s four wins to date have come at home and they will need Stradbrook to be their 16th man as they look to break out of the bottom two. It is difficult to see them turning Queen’s over, though, as the students are currently leading the charge for a fourth-place finish and play-off rugby.

Derek Suffern’s well-drilled outfit need to keep up their winning form as Old Crescent and UL Bohemians also sit on 35 points. Queen’s are expected to make minimal changes to the team that saw off Bohs 35-3. Last week centre Rory Bell took his try tally to four in four games, while captain David Whitten has scored three in three.

It was a tight enough contest when Blackrock visited Dub Lane in early November, the home side needing a Richie McMaster penalty to close out an 18-12 triumph. Queen’s had hit choppy waters after yellow cards for Alexander Clarke and Curtis Pollock but did well to stay ahead of fast-finishing ‘Rock.

Galwegians (10th) v Dolphin (7th), Crowley Park

Galwegians head coach Brian McClearn has done a good deal of tinkering to his starting XV as they cling onto the hope of reeling in Blackrock over the remaining rounds. Full-back Ewan Strang’s injury, which caused a long delay against Old Crescent last Saturday, is thankfully not as serious as first feared.

The number 15 jersey is taken by Sean O’Sullivan with James Kennedy and Rory Dempsey coming onto the wings, Danny Faulkner switches to midfield and Eamonn Dowling gets the nod at scrum half. Prop Pa Curran and lock Eoin Tarmey make it five personnel changes for the Blues.

Dowling will come up against Dolphin’s in-form captain Daryl Foley who accumulated 21 points against Nenagh last week, scoring their bonus point try and splitting the posts seven times. He kicked seven points in the Corkmen’s 22-17 home defeat of ‘Wegians in November, with a late maul turnover proving crucial for the victors.

Highfield (1st) v Old Crescent (5th), Woodleigh Park

Navan had Highfield’s number last week, the long-term leaders unable to claw back an early deficit but battling back to earn a losing bonus point. They now have three successive Munster derbies to get their teeth into, including a St. Patrick’s weekend trip down the road to play Dolphin.

Highfield player-coach Tim Ryan continues at tighthead, with his three changes from the Navan game seeing Mark Dorgan drafted in at outside centre and Jack Duffy and Eddie Earle both added to the back row. Earle scored one of their nine tries in November’s 61-14 hammering of Crescent.

The Limerick club, who remain very much in the hunt for a play-off berth, have rejigged their back-line this week. Kevin Meade starts at full-back with the 11-try Val McDermott reverting to the left and Cathal Monaghan shifting to outside centre. Cathal O’Reilly and Mark Rickard bolster the front row.

UL Bohemians (6th) v Navan (3rd), University of Limerick 4G pitch

Robbie Bourke returns at out-half for UL Bohemians’ must-win match against third-placed Navan. The Red Robins could narrow the gap between the sides to five points, or even four, as they head towards the final stretch of games. Mike Mullally moves to inside centre but a number of players are facing late fitness tests.

Former captain Ian Condell is set to step up from the bench to start at openside flanker, with David O’Grady reverting to the blindside. Although Bohs went down 32-7 to Navan in early November, they have since become a lot more consistent at home and collected wins on the all-weather pitch against Queen’s, Dolphin and Cashel.

Navan will feel they can beat anyone in the division after lowering the colours of Highfield. However, they have averaged just one try per game in the last three rounds and know that they have to carry more of a threat close to the line. In contrast, their defence is up there as the best in the third tier, only conceding 15 points on average.