After Dublin University made it back-to-back Colours match wins over UCD, Division 1A of the All-Ireland League continues tonight with two massive derbies in Cork and Limerick where there is a huge amount riding on both results.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, April 6
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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CORK CONSTITUTION (1st) v UCC (7th), Temple Hill, tonight, 8pm
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Cork Constitution: WWWLWWWWWWWWLWWL; UCC: LLLLLLWLLWWLLWLW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Aidan Moynihan 130; Tries: JJ O’Neill 7; UCC: Points: James Taylor 133; Tries: Ryan Murphy 7
Preview: Two teams with contrasting aims entering the penultimate round. Cork Constitution, who welcome back captain Niall Kenneally and Joe McSwiney, need one more win to secure a home semi-final and UCC are fighting for their Division 1A lives. The Cork students have found form at just the right time, climbing into seventh place after victories over Shannon and Young Munster.
UCC’s last three away trips have resulted in narrow losses – incredibly they scored 29 points in each game – and they feel they owe Cork Con one after November’s narrow loss at the Mardyke. Jack O’Sullivan’s Munster ‘A’ call-up comes at a bad time but Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam winner John Hodnett is a more than able deputy at number 8.
Alex McHenry, Sean French and Ross O’Neill are also on Cara Cup duty and absent for Con, who will want to banish memories of a couple of below-par performances recently against University sides. Tonight’s derby brings together the division’s two top scorers, out-halves Aidan Moynihan and James Taylor, who have amassed a whopping 263 points between them.
Recent League Meeting – Friday, October 12, 2018: UCC 18 Cork Constitution 20, the Mardyke
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win
YOUNG MUNSTER (8th) v SHANNON (9th), Tom Clifford Park, tonight, 8pm
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Young Munster: WLWLLLDLLLLLWLWL; Shannon: LWWLWLLLWWLLLLLL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Young Munster: Points: Shane Airey 51; Tries: Darragh O’Neill 5; Shannon: Points: Jake Flannery 69; Tries: Jake Flannery, Eathon Moloney, Pa Ryan 4 each
Preview: One of the biggest crowds of the season is expected at Greenfields for the top flight’s final Limerick derby of the season. With both clubs teetering on the brink of relegation, Young Munster and Shannon are sure to get it everything they have with every point so important in these deciding weeks.
Munsters have been hardest hit by the province’s Cara Cup trip to Boston, but other players will take on responsibility – including Dan Walsh who covers Gavin Coombes’ absence in the back row. Young centre Luke Fitzgerald has caught the eye with two tries in the last three games, with Conor Hayes and Evan O’Gorman stepping up this evening at full-back and inside centre respectively.
Shannon head coach Tom Hayes, whose bench is boosted by provincial players Ciaran Parker and Stephen Fitzgerald, told SRTV: “It’s obviously a really special occasion and the circumstances of league position puts an extra bit of bearing on it as well. We’ll focus on being the best that we can be and see where it takes us.”
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 13, 2013: Young Munster 18 Shannon 0, Tom Clifford Park; Friday, October 12, 2018: Shannon 23 Young Munster 10, Thomond Park main pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win
CLONTARF (2nd) v TERENURE COLLEGE (10th), Castle Avenue
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Clontarf: WWWWWWLLWWLLWWWW; Terenure College: LLLWLLLLLLWLWLWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Clontarf: Points: David Joyce 100; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 8; Terenure College: Points: James Thornton 76; Tries: Matthew Byrne 8
Preview: These two teams are playing some of the best attacking rugby at the moment. Four straight wins have Clontarf honing in on a home semi-final, and even if they manage to dispatch Terenure tomorrow, next week’s trip to Lansdowne is shaping up to be a straight shootout for the second and third placings.
Sam Coghlan Murray’s two-try salvo steered ‘Nure past Shannon a fortnight ago, making it four victories in six rounds. Given the two sides above them meet tonight (they are level with Shannon and two points behind Munsters), James Blaney’s men will know exactly where they stand ahead of this Dublin derby. Their only change is Tiarnan Creagh’s selection at tighthead.
Despite the current league positions, a tight tussle is in the offing and Clontarf have made three personnel changes, Ivan Soroka and Ruadhan Byron starting up front and Sean O’Brien returning out wide. ‘Nure cannot afford a repeat of their October clash with the north Dubliners, who had a first league try from scrum half Angus Lloyd to make it 24-3 before the hosts scored twice to make it a nine-point deficit.
Recent League Meetings – Friday, February 16, 2018: Terenure College 19 Clontarf 18, Lakelands Park; Saturday, October 13, 2018: Terenure College 15 Clontarf 24, Lakelands Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win
LANSDOWNE (3rd) v GARRYOWEN (5th), Aviva Stadium back pitch
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Lansdowne: LLWWWWWWWWLWLWLW; Garryowen: WWLLLWWWWLWWLLWL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: Scott Deasy 92; Tries: Peter Sullivan 12; Garryowen: Points: Peadar Collins 71; Tries: Diarmuid Barron 7
Preview: It is almost twelve months since Lansdowne hosted Garryowen in a league semi-final, but the Light Blues’ last-four hopes are all but over this season. Dublin University’s Colours success at UCD has them on 51 points, a tally the Limerick men can only match with bonus point victories at Lansdowne and Trinity.
Even then, a negative scoring differential is very much against Conan Doyle’s charges. Although they will take encouragement from their October home win over Lansdowne, maximum points are required in the capital and the table shows they only have three try-scoring bonuses so far. Trinity have the lowest tally of the top four with seven.
Lansdowne have won all seven home games to date and finish the league phase with two more. Given their average score on the back pitch is 42.5 points, it is hard to see Mike Ruddock’s men losing here. Tom Roche and Tim Murphy are added to the back-line, with James Rael, Jack Dwan and Aaron Conneely the changes up front. Willie Earle reverts to number 8.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 28, 2018: Semi-final: Lansdowne 36 Garryowen 19, Aviva Stadium main pitch; Saturday, October 13, 2018: Garryowen 17 Lansdowne 14, Dooradoyle
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win