There is a frantic scramble to avoid relegation from All-Ireland League Division 2C, with Thomond closest to the drop and three other clubs also jostling to avoid the relegation play-off spot. Elsewhere, Bruff and Omagh both have home fixtures with fourth place still up for grabs.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: DIVISION 2C: Saturday, April 13
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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Bangor (9th) v Malahide (3rd), Upritchard Park
A season-defining day for second-from-bottom Bangor who have had some cruel luck with injuries of late. The worst of the lot was centre Lewis Sampson’s dislocated ankle and fractured fibula against Thomond last Saturday afternoon, which compounded their 21-10 loss to the division’s bottom side.
While former Ulster lock Lewis Stevenson (bicep tear) is also sidelined, current star Craig Gilroy’s presence as backs coach on match day is providing a visible lift to the Bangor players. Out-half Oscar Yandell and James Carson both return to the starting XV, the latter combining with the strong-carrying Dave Caughey in the second row.
Malahide need a win to be certain of a third place finish. As things stand, they would be away to Galway Corinthians in next Saturday’s promotion/relegation play-offs. Their key men are producing the goods, with the likes of Simon Malone, Marcus McAllister, Danie Poolman and player coach Brendan Guilfoyle all touching down against Omagh.
Bruff (4th) v Midleton (2nd), Kilballyowen Park
Bruff swapped places with Malahide last week, losing ground in the play-off race due to their 27-19 reversal at City of Derry. Winger Liam Treacy’s brace of tries was the highlight of their performance, and he will need to be at his clinical best as they look to avenge a first round defeat to Midleton.
The Red Devils began their campaign with a 35-8 bonus point dismissal of Bruff, their new centre pairing of Benji Cottle and Martijn Korterik scoring a try apiece. They are unchanged from last week’s 31-15 victory away to Seapoint, a game in which forwards Jon Gardiner and Rob Carey notched two of the four tries.
One of the biggest crowds of the season is expected at Kilballyowen Park with Bruff putting on an earlier match in tribute to the late Alfie Laffan. Some of the club greats, including the Malones, Carrolls and Horans, will be involved in a game between Bruff’s famous All-Ireland title-winning U-20s and their Bateman Cup winners. Kick-off is at 12.30pm and all proceeds go to Milford Hospice.
Omagh (5th) v Ballina (1st), Thomas Mellon Playing Fields
A home win over champions Ballina, combined with Midleton defeating Bruff, would be a dream outcome for play-off-chasing Omagh. Phil Marshall’s men showed their battling qualities by picking up a try-scoring bonus point at Malahide, but the gave the well-drilled Dubliners too much of a head start.
Mark Smyth, an influential replacement, scored two tries on his league debut last Saturday and is rewarded with the number 3 jersey today. Kyle Alexander and Jake McCay are added to the bench for the Accies who are missing Ricky Hemphill, Kaine Holden, Ali Beckett and Dean Kane this week.
Ballina maintained high standards all year and are sure to put in another strong performance away from their Heffernan Park fortress. Club President Martin Boland described the current squad as ‘the best ever in the 91-year history of the club’. A ringing endorsement for the work being done by coaches JP Leonard and David Newman.
Seapoint (7th) v Thomond (10th), Kilbogget Park
Everything is on the line for basement side Thomond this afternoon as they attempt to save their All-Ireland League status. They venture to Kilbogget Park needing maximum points and seventh-placed Seapoint have not been at their best at home this season, losing five of their eight games so far.
Despite the Soda Cakes beating Bangor 21-10 last Saturday, there was obvious frustration that they missed out on a bonus point score after first half tries from forwards Tom Sheehan, Mike Madden and Ryan Aherne. Their two personnel changes for the final round see Adam Murphy and Adam Malone brought into the back-three.
Seapoint, who lost 33-20 to Thomond on the opening day of the season, slot Zac Jungmann back in at openside flanker after he missed the Midleton match. Brian Duggan and Alex Macaulay revert to roles in the front row and second row respectively, while there is a vacancy on the left wing with Cian Buckley in at full-back and Tim Kelly swapping to outside centre.
Tullamore (8th) v City of Derry (6th), Spollanstown
One team still fighting for their Division 2C lives, the other having got the job done last time out against Bruff. Relegation-threatened Tullamore are looking to gather their biggest crowd of the season as they chase their most important win of an unforgiving campaign against City of Derry.
Forwards coach Lemeki Vaipulu, who starts at blindside flanker, is one of two personnel changes for the hosts, with Eamonn Bracken also coming back in at tighthead prop. The Tulliers racked up four second half tries against Ballina, salvaging a bonus point from a game that was very much getting away from them.
Despite being safe in sixth place, Derry are eager to back up their 27-19 triumph over Bruff and finish Paul O’Kane’s first year at the helm on a winning note. Earlier on he had set them a target of eight wins and they are one away from that tally. Denis Posternik and Conor McMenamin are handed starts at inside centre and lock respectively.