There are some potentially season-defining match-ups in All-Ireland League Division 1A tomorrow as the bottom four clubs face off, including Shannon and Terenure College who currently sit ninth and tenth respectively heading into the final three rounds.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, March 23
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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SHANNON (9th) v TERENURE COLLEGE (10th), Thomond Park back pitch, 1.30pm
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Shannon: LWWLWLLLWWLLLLL; Terenure College: LLLWLLLLLLWLWLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Jake Flannery 69; Tries: Jake Flannery, Eathon Moloney, Pa Ryan 4 each; Terenure College: Points: James Thornton 68; Tries: Matthew Byrne 8
Preview: An earlier kick-off due to Munster’s GUINNESS PRO14 clash with Zebre sees the bottom two go head-to-head as Shannon, who are without their Under-20 Grand Slam-winning half-backs Jake Flannery and Craig Casey, take on a rejuvenated Terenure College side.
Hosting Terenure for the first time in five years, Shannon need to recapture the form they showed in October’s 41-14 victory at Lakelands Park as five defeats on the bounce have sent them down to ninth place. ‘Nure trail them by four points following three recent bonus point wins, albeit all of them were at home.
Former Ireland U-20 international Matthew Byrne was back on the scoresheet for ‘Nure against UCC, bagging a brace to take his try haul to eight. His match-up at full-back against Shannon’s Jamie McGarry will be one to watch, as will the battle between captains Jade Kriel and Michael Melia in the engine room.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 22, 2014: Shannon 5 Terenure College 24, Thomond Park back pitch; Saturday, October 20, 2018: Terenure College 14 Shannon 41, Lakelands Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College to win
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (4th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (1st), College Park
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Dublin University: LDLWWWLWLLWWWWL; Cork Constitution: WWWLWWWWWWWWLWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: James Fennelly 99; Tries: Colm Hogan, Giuseppe Coyne 4 each; Cork Constitution: Points: Aidan Moynihan 122; Tries: JJ O’Neill 7
Preview: Holding onto that final play-off place, Dublin University have Garryowen breathing down their necks again. Teenage winger Ronan Quinn has grasped his opportunity for Trinity with two tries in three outings, while U-20 Grand Slam winners Rob Russell and Ryan Baird are set to start tomorrow on the right wing and in the second row respectively.
The biggest test of all comes in the form of Cork Constitution, who could wrap up top spot and a home semi-final with another winning performance in the capital. They fired a big warning shot with their seven-try dismissal of Lansdowne and make just two changes for tomorrow’s game, adding Dylan Murphy and Sean Duffy to the tight five.
Worryingly for the chasing pack, Con’s senior coach Paul Barr only rated the performance as an eight-out-of-ten. Ever the driver of high standards, he said it ‘was the best we’ve seen this season’ performance-wise, praising the collective work-rate as ‘the scores came from exciting rugby but it’s all underpinned by very hard work from everyone, one to 15’.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 3, 2018: Cork Constitution 41 Dublin University 6, Temple Hill; Saturday, October 20, 2018: Cork Constitution 24 Dublin University 13, Temple Hill
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win
GARRYOWEN (5th) v CLONTARF (2nd), Dooradoyle
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Garryowen: WWLLLWWWWLWWLLW; Clontarf: WWWWWWLLWWLLWWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Peadar Collins 71; Tries: Diarmuid Barron 7; Clontarf: Points: David Joyce 91; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 8
Preview: The Cara Cup will impact on both coaches’ selections here. Clontarf’s Sean O’Brien and Declan Adamson both lined out for Connacht Eagles in Weymouth in the last week, and while O’Brien is marked absent tomorrow, the Light Blues will need to keep close tabs on centres Michael Courtney and Matt D’Arcy who have scored three tries each in as many games.
With their penalty try-winning scrum turning the screw and scrum half Rob Guerin impressing, Garryowen came good in the second half against UCD to win for the first time in three rounds. It is almost twelve months to the day of their 35-30 bonus point success at ‘Tarf, during which versatile young forward Diarmuid Barron touched down twice.
Clontarf have fared well against Limerick opposition in the top flight this season, winning five out of five against Young Munster, Garryowen and Shannon so far. However, Conan Doyle’s side are sure to have a few things up their sleeve as they look to banish memories of October’s disappointing 28-10 defeat to ‘Tarf.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 24, 2018: Clontarf 30 Garryowen 35, Castle Avenue; Saturday, October 20, 2018: Clontarf 28 Garryowen 10, Castle Avenue
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win
LANSDOWNE (3rd) v UCD (6th), Aviva Stadium back pitch
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Lansdowne: LLWWWWWWWWLWLWL; UCD: WDLWLLDWLLLWWLL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 80; Tries: Peter Sullivan 10; UCD: Points: Conall Doherty 48; Tries: Andy Marks 7
Preview: It is neck-and-neck between Lansdowne and Clontarf in the battle for a home semi-final, with the headquarters club slipping to third place after leaking seven tries to Cork Con. For the visit of mid-table UCD, Leinster’s Ronan Kelleher returns at hooker with Tom Murphy and Willie Fay added to the back row.
Centre Conor Murphy and scrum half James Kenny complete the five personnel changes to the side that lost 49-17 on Leeside. Mike Ruddock’s men won the corresponding fixture with the students last season, triumphing 46-30 with scrum half Alan Bennie helping himself to a hat-trick of tries.
UCD are in a dangerous spot as successive home losses leave them 10 points outside of the top four and just five above the relegation zone. Andy Skehan’s charges faltered at crucial stages against Garryowen last time out, although young flanker Jonny Guy caught the eye with a cracking try and an abrasive all-round display.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 9, 2017: Lansdowne 46 UCD 30, Aviva Stadium back pitch; Friday, October 19, 2018: UCD 6 Lansdowne 20, Belfield Bowl
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win
UCC (8th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (7th), the Mardyke
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCC: LLLLLLWLLWWLLWL; Young Munster: WLWLLLDLLLLLWLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: James Taylor 125; Tries: Ryan Murphy 7; Young Munster: Points: Clayton Stewart 49; Tries: Darragh O’Neill 5
Preview: Young Munster climbed above UCC a fortnight ago and aim to put further distance between the teams tomorrow. However, the Cork students have played most of their best rugby this season at home and are determined to add the Cookies to the scalps of Trinity, Lansdowne and Shannon.
UCC are boosted by the return of Munster Academy talent Jack O’Sullivan, who makes his first start since a cruciate knee ligament injury sidelined him for last summer’s World Rugby Under-20 Championship. He features at number 8 and Brian Walsh also brings in Mark Bissessar at blindside flanker.
As the end of the regular season comes into view, there is a furious scrap for points with Munsters gunning for their maiden away victory after going very close recently at both UCD and Lansdowne. Their powerful scrum and maul provided the platform for October’s three-try 23-17 success against UCC in Greenfields.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 6, 2010: UCC 12 Young Munster 14, the Mardyke; Friday, October 19, 2018: Young Munster 23 UCC 17, Tom Clifford Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCC to win