The penultimate match of the entire All-Ireland League season pits UCC against Old Wesley. The Cork students are 80 minutes away from retaining their Division 1A status, but will be wary of a tenacious Wesley side who came through extra-time against Naas last weekend.
ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE: Saturday, May 4
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DIVISION 1A PROMOTION/RELEGATION PLAY-OFF FINAL:
UCC (9th, Div 1A) v OLD WESLEY (2nd, Div 1B), the Mardyke, 2.30pm
All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCC: LLLLLLWLLWWLLWLWLDW; Old Wesley: WDLWLWLWWWLWWWLWLWW
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: James Taylor 167; Tries: Ryan Murphy 7; Old Wesley: Points: Rory Stynes 163; Tries: Paul Harte 6
Preview: UCC memorably gained promotion through the play-off route twelve months ago, a feat Old Wesley are hoping to match. Brian Walsh’s youngsters were just two points away from staying up, but bounced back in determined fashion last Saturday with three second half tries to see off Malone 27-11.
Walsh makes just one personnel change for the play-off final as Mark Bissessar returns at lock. Players of the calibre of James Taylor, Division 1A’s top points scorer (167 points), dynamic number 8 Jack O’Sullivan and classy ex-Munster centre Cian Bohane are huge assets for UCC in such a high-stakes clash.
Wesley had two narrow losses to UCC last season in Division 1B and will be quietly confident of reversing those results. Notably, five former UCC players – Tom Kiersey, Charlie O’Regan, Ben Burns, Conor Barry and Paul Derham – all start today for Morgan Lennon’s men, who battle on impressively in an unchanged starting XV from their epic encounter of over 100 minutes with Naas.
Replacement Josh Miller’s extra-time penalty was the difference in a 20-17 victory, giving Wesley a shot at returning to the league’s highest division – they spent six seasons in Division 1 up to their relegation in 1997. The Mardyke factor just tips this one in UCC’s favour, especially if Taylor can outscore fellow points machine, Rory Stynes.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 28, 2017: UCC 31 Old Wesley 27, the Mardyke; Saturday, February 17, 2018: Old Wesley 19 UCC 22, Donnybrook
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCC to win