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All-Ireland League: Division 2B Previews

All-Ireland League: Division 2B Previews

Action from Sligo's recent clash with newly-crowned Division 2B champions MU Barnhall in the All-Ireland League ©Jean McConnell/Sligo RFC

MU Barnhall supremo Adrian Flavin said their title-winning run of 16 successive wins is ‘a byproduct of the effort they’ve put in on and off the pitch’. They wrap up their home schedule of fixtures this afternoon by hosting sixth-placed Skerries at Maynooth University’s North Campus.


Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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Dungannon (8th) v Sligo (4th), Stevenson Park

Just 10 points covers the teams from fifth place down to tenth in the current standings, with third-from-bottom Dungannon still not clear of trouble. Belfast Harlequins’ 10-8 Ulster derby win last time out means ‘Gannon’s lead over ‘Quins has been cut to three points. So they need a big bounce-back today.

They will get nothing easy from Paddy Pearson’s Sligo outfit who look solid in fourth position. They will want to add to their 41-point tally but it may prove to be enough anyway as they strive for back-to-back promotions – this time via the play-offs after finishing top of Division 2C last April.

The Yeats men opened their win account in the fourth tier with a 33-25 bonus point triumph over Dungannon back in early October. Scotsman Euan Brown returns at out-half in the only personnel change from Sligo’s 22-11 defeat to newly-crowned champions MU Barnhall in the last round.

Galway Corinthians (7th) v Greystones (2nd), Corinthian Park

Colm de Buitléar and Matthew Burke, who are both nominated for the Connacht Academy Player of the Year award, will start at full-back and tighthead prop respectively as Corinthians look to recover from a very poor showing against Sunday’s Well who thumped them 55-13.

JP Cooney’s youngsters entertain second-placed Greystones who are also smarting from a 35-19 reversal at the hands of Rainey Old Boys. ‘Stones, who came down from Division 2A last year, will contest the promotion play-offs and are gearing up to host Rainey in a mouth-watering rematch, as things stand.

An error-strewn second half performance in Magherafelt will have knocked Greystones’ confidence, yet they have formed a strong squad this season and will relish these coming weeks. There should be some interesting individual battles in Galway with de Buitléar up against Andrew Kealy, the Co. Wicklow club’s top scorer, and Burke scrummaging against Hungarian international Viktor Zelenka.

MU Barnhall (1st) v Skerries (6th), Maynooth University North Campus

Already assured of lifting the league trophy after full-time today, MU Barnhall take their final home match of the season to the North Campus pitch as part of Maynooth University’s Open Day. There is free entry as the buoyant Blue Bulls target their 17th win to move within 80 minutes of a perfect 18 out of 18.

Stalwart number 8 and captain Tom McKeown fittingly got among the tries in Barnhall’s 22-11 victory at Sligo, and they will need no reminding of the action-packed thriller they served up with Skerries when the two teams last met in October. A mammoth 14 tries were scored at Holmpatrick where the Kildare men prevailed 49-44.

Skerries’ most recent form has been very good, picking up home wins against Rainey and Wanderers. Their interplay and try-taking has stood out, along with the lineout ability of Ben Jenkinson and Tom Mulvany. Still, they are not yet out of the woods in sixth place and it would be a big surprise to see them knock over Barnhall.

Sunday’s Well (10th) v Belfast Harlequins (9th), Irish Independent Park

Having closed within four points of Belfast Harlequins, Sunday’s Well now have an opportunity climb above the Ulstermen and out of the automatic relegation play-off spot. If they can continue the form they showed against Corinthians in the last round, they stand a good chance of getting the desired result.

Peter Scott’s charges stunned the Galway outfit in a 55-13 bonus point victory, putting together an excellent eight-try display as they threw the shackles off after a confidence-sapping 11 straight losses. They were boosted by a number of returning players and had a two-try contribution from replacement Cormac Kelliher.

Today’s bottom of the table clash gives ‘Quins a shot at avenging October’s 15-12 home defeat by the ‘Well. The division’s lowest scorers, two unconverted tries proved enough for them against Dungannon, and if they are to take a tight verdict in Cork then the back row of Jaz Andress, Jona Siri and Ben Alexander will have to lead by example.

Wanderers (5th) v Rainey Old Boys (3rd), Merrion Road

Wanderers can still catch Sligo in fourth place but seven points is a lot to make up in the final two rounds. When they look back at their league campaign, March will stand out as a month they will rue given they lost crucial ground with a run of frustrating defeats to Harlequins, Sligo and Skerries.

The Chaps’ final home match takes place at Merrion Road, a venue they are unbeaten at this season with three wins and a draw. They make three personnel changes, handing starts to full-back David Gaynor, prop Ronan O’Mara and number 8 Paddy Mallon.

Out-half Andrew Magrath starred with 15 points in Rainey’s impressive 35-19 success against ‘Stones. Head coach John Andrews has made four changes for the Dublin trip, including the addition of Scott McLean and Andrew Donaghy to the back-three. Andrew Harbinson and Charlie Clarke also feature in the back row.