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Energia All-Ireland League: Division 1A Previews

Energia All-Ireland League: Division 1A Previews

Clontarf flanker Tony Ryan is tackled by Cork Constitution's Luke Cahill during last May's Division 1A final at the Aviva Stadium ©INPHO/Laszlo Geczo

A repeat of last May’s final between Clontarf and Cork Constitution tops the bill in Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A tomorrow. Another mouth-watering clash takes place in the capital at Belfield where UCD entertain arch rivals Dublin University.


Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

CLONTARF (4th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (5th), Rifle Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Clontarf: W; Cork Constitution: W
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Clontarf: Points: Tadgh McElroy 5; Tries: Tadgh McElroy 1; Cork Constitution: Points: Aidan Moynihan 9; Tries: Greg Higgins 1

Preview: Winners by just one and two points respectively in the first round, top-flight heavyweights Clontarf and Cork Constitution meet for the first time since Brian Hickey’s men were crowned champions five months ago following a Rob Jermyn-inspired 28-13 final win.

They both began the new season with quite a turnover in personnel and additional absentees due to Celtic Cup commitments. Debutant hooker Tadgh McElroy certainly grasped his opportunity for ‘Tarf last week, scoring a late match-winning try at Young Munster.

Some of the league’s best goal-kicking talent will be on show at the north Dublin venue with Gearoid Lyons, David Joyce, Aidan Moynihan and Tomas Quinlan all classy operators. Hold tight for the collisions between the number 8s – ‘Tarf’s talismanic captain Michael Noone and Con powerhouse Evan Mintern.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 16, 2019: Cork Constitution 34 Clontarf 24, Temple Hill; Sunday, May 5, 2019: Final: Cork Constitution 28 Clontarf 13, Aviva Stadium

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win

GARRYOWEN (6th) v LANSDOWNE (2nd), Dooradoyle

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Garryowen: L; Lansdowne: W
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Jamie Heuston 8; Tries: Tommy O’Hora 1; Lansdowne: Points: Tim Foley 18; Tries: Adam Boland 2

Preview: Lansdowne have found away wins against Garryowen hard to come by, winning only once on their last five visits to Dooradoyle. There was a 16-all draw, a 32-25 victory, and then Conan Doyle’s Light Blues were 24-16 and 17-14 winners in the league these past two seasons.

Last January they also ended Lansdowne’s Bateman Cup title defence with a 14-12 semi-final triumph, set up by a late try from hooker Liam Cronin who will pack down opposite former Garryowen favourite James Rael tomorrow. Jack Stafford and Jack Daly return from Munster ‘A’ duty to start for the hosts.

Ireland Sevens international Adam Leavy, Tim Murphy and Adam Boland, who bagged a late brace against UCD last Saturday, are Lansdowne’s three personnel changes. Their young out-half Tim Foley is already top of the scoring charts, kicking seven-out-of-seven for an 18-point haul against the students.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 13, 2018: Garryowen 17 Lansdowne 14, Dooradoyle; Saturday, April 6, 2019: Lansdowne 54 Garryowen 26, Aviva Stadium back pitch

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win

TERENURE COLLEGE (3rd) v YOUNG MUNSTER (7th), Lakelands Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Terenure College: W; Young Munster: L
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Terenure College: Points: Jake Swaine 8; Tries: Liam Hyland, Jake Swaine 1 each; Young Munster: Points: Evan Cusack 6; Tries: 

Preview: Terenure College saved their Division 1A status in April with a 22-15 success against Young Munster, and a repeat result here would continue their strong start under new head coach Sean Skehan. He knows the Limerick rugby scene very well given his time with Glenstal Abbey, Garryowen and the Munster Under-19s.

The Cookies are smarting from their single-point loss to Clontarf, although there were plenty of positives to take from their opening performance. They have some new backs bedding in, while backs coach Derek Corcoran and forwards Ger Slattery remain key on-field generals.

Generating and taking try-scoring opportunities will be crucial for Munsters’ hopes at Lakelands, as Terenure showed a clinical edge when it mattered most against Ballynahinch. Joe Schmidt’s 23-year-old son Tim has made the switch to full-back in a pacy ‘Nure back-line.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 6, 2018: Young Munster 22 Terenure College 5, Tom Clifford Park; Saturday, April 13, 2019: Terenure College 22 Young Munster 15, Lakelands Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College to win

UCC (1st) v BALLYNAHINCH (8th), the Mardyke

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCC: W; Ballynahinch: L
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: James Taylor, Matthew Bowen 10 each; Tries: Matthew Bowen 2; Ballynahinch: Points: Sean O’Hagan 14; Tries: Rhys O’Donnell 1

Preview: Ballynahinch did the double over UCC two seasons ago, including a tight 22-18 victory at the Mardyke, but the Cork students looked in much better fettle last Saturday. Their 30-20 first round triumph at Trinity certainly caught the eye as they jumped straight to the top of the table.

‘Hinch’s selection is hampered by the Ulster ‘A’ team’s involvement in the Celtic Cup final, but they will still travel with a strong side – Ross Adair and Aaron Cairns the running threats out wide, and captain John Donnan, James Simpson and Aaron Hall providing the grunt up front.

Considering UCC only won five regular season games in 2018/19, back-to-back opening wins would be a massive boost. Munster Academy talent John Hodnett comes in at number 8, alongside skipper Daire Feeney who has bounced back to AIL rugby after a stint with Christchurch club Burnside.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 25, 2017: UCC 18 Ballynahinch 22, the Mardyke; Saturday, January 27, 2018: Ballynahinch 23 UCC 7, Ballymacarn Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCC to win

UCD (10th) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (9th), Belfield Bowl, 3pm

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCD: L; Dublin University: L
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: Matthew Gilsenan 3; Tries: –; Dublin University: Points: Micheal O’Kennedy 10; Tries: Donnacha Mescal, James Moriarty 1 each

Preview: A slightly later kick-off for this early-season Belfield showdown between UCD and Trinity. The University pair currently occupy the bottom two rungs of the league ladder. College were held try-less by Lansdowne last week and Tony Smeeth’s youngsters were outplayed by UCC.

The home side are bolstered by the return of new captain Jonny Guy and Stephen McVeigh to the back row, while backs Andy Marks, Eoin Barr and David Moran complete their five changes. It is Kevin Croke’s first home league game in charge of UCD.

Trinity welcome back Colm Hogan at full-back, and there is a start too for former Wicklow hooker Mark Nicholson. Six points was the aggregate margin across both encounters last season – a draw at College Park and Trinity won the Colours match 18-12.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 13, 2018: Dublin University 23 UCD 23, College Park; Thursday, April 4, 2019: UCD 12 Dublin University 18, Belfield Bowl

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win