All-Ireland League stalwart Bryan McKeever hits the 100-cap mark for promotion-chasing Navan this afternoon, while two of Division 2A’s in-form sides, Queen’s University and newly-crowned champions Highfield, meet at Dub Lane in the penultimate round’s match of the day.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 2A: Saturday, April 6
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Cashel (2nd) v Old Crescent (6th), Spafield, Friday, 8pm
League silverware and automatic promotion are now out of Cashel’s reach, but they still have home advantage in the promotion play-offs to fight for. Munster rivals Old Crescent provide the opposition here in this final Friday Night Lights encounter of the Division 2A campaign.
Had a couple of other results gone their way, Crescent would be right in the mix for a play-off spot. As things stand, it looks like they will fall short given Queen’s have a 10-point buffer. Still, having come up as Division 2B champions last year, the Limerick men have plenty to build on heading into 2019/20.
For Crescent’s last away trip of the season, backs coach Brian Tuohy slots in at full-back, Shane Mullally and Ronan McKenna make up the centre pairing and Kevin Meade moves to out-half. There are two further changes to the pack as prop Mark Rickard and flanker Tevita Toia both get the nod.
Blackrock College (9th) v Nenagh Ormond (8th), Stradbrook
Drawing a line under four recent defeats, Blackrock College could still pull off a late escape act as they look to reel in Nenagh Ormond, today’s visitors. Their mission in the final weeks of Mick Carroll’s coaching reign is to erase the six points that currently separate them from the Tipperary men.
The first part of achieving that is winning this must-win home tie, the head coach starting in the second row alongside Hugh Doyle with Peter Quirke and Michael O’Leary tasked with getting the most out of a ‘Rock back-line that has struggled to convert chances into points.
Nenagh travel to the cpital on the back of a very encouraging 10-5 victory over play-off-chasing UL Bohemians. Unsurprisingly, Dermot Dunne has selected the same pack from that game, led by hooker and captain John Healy. Returning out-half Alex Ropati is the only change behind the scrum.
Navan (3rd) v Dolphin (7th), Balreask Old
Dolphin have won their last two away games, including a gritty 15-14 defeat of Old Crescent which secured their Division 2A status for another year. Captain Daryl Foley coolly slotted over a touchline conversion to edge his team to a victory which was book-ended by tries from wingers Tim Phelan and Alan O’Sullivan.
Navan will be on their travels in the promotion play-offs unless they can reel in second-placed Cashel. Having come up through the play-off route last year, they quickly adapted to the third tier and made their presence felt under new player-coach Ray Moloney, who replaced Alan Kingsley.
It is a proud day for number 8 Bryan McKeever, who captained Navan to back-to-back promotions in the last couple of seasons. He will run out at Balreask Old for his 100th senior appearance for the club. Winger Ben McEntagart and forwards David Clarke and James O’Neill are their three team changes.
Queen’s University (4th) v Highfield (1st), Dub Lane
This is shaping up to be one of the matches of the weekend across the league, as Highfield head to Belfast just a week before they are officially anointed as champions. Player-coach Tim Ryan will want his charges to finish out the campaign with two more wins, possibly hitting the 80-point mark in the process.
One of only two teams to defeat Highfield this season, Queen’s still have some business to take care of in terms of sealing their promotion play-off place. They hammered Galwegians 73-7 last time out with versatile forward and captain David Whitten bagging a brace to take his tally to seven tries in six games.
The table toppers want to avenge that October loss and will field a strong line-up for the rematch, which shows three personnel changes from their 27-24 win over Cashel. Paul Stack returns on the right wing, Kevin Buckley packs down at loosehead prop and Eddie Earle comes in at blindside flanker.
UL Bohemians (5th) v Galwegians (10th), University of Limerick 4G pitch
Completing a season’s double over Galwegians is the goal for UL Bohemians who are also hoping Highfield can do them a favour at Queen’s. It is a tough one for ‘Wegians just a couple of weeks on from their relegation but the rebuilding mission must start now.
It was a good competitive contest when these sides met in early October, Bohs emerging as 27-15 winners despite a brace of tries from ‘Wegians winger Ewan Strang. Ireland Under-20 international James McCarthy notched a 70th minute bonus point for the Red Robins, who had earlier tries from Joey Conway, Niall O’Shea and Joe Murray.
UL boss Christy Neilan has made a few tweaks following on from their disappointing 10-5 loss at Nenagh. Centre Colin Ryan and winger Seosaimh McDonagh rejoin the back-line, while David Rowsome reverts from midfield to openside flanker, David Kinane gets the nod at lock and Darragh O’Grady fills the blindside berth.