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Energia All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

Energia All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

St. Mary's College captain Tom O'Reilly makes a carry during last week's Division 1B win over Navan at Balreask Old ©Navan RFC

Old Belvedere’s Anglesea Road home ground will be officially renamed Ollie Campbell Park tomorrow, with the first match of an Energia All-Ireland League double-header seeing their men’s side play Navan.


Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

BANBRIDGE (9th) v HIGHFIELD (1st), Rifle Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Banbridge: L; Highfield: W
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 3; Tries: –; Highfield: Points: Shane O’Riordan 10; Tries: Luke Kingston, Mark Dorgan 1 each

Preview: Highfield were the most impressive performers in the opening round, winning 27-6 against Malone on their Division 1B debut. With a clean bill of health, player-coach Tim Ryan will field an unchanged team for the first of three trips to Ulster.

Experienced operator Dale Carson is Banbridge’s only change, slotting in at blindside flanker tomorrow. Their new head coach Mark McDowell said they ‘lacked a wee bit of killer instinct at key moments’ during last Saturday’s tight 13-3 defeat at Old Wesley.

He added: “Our boys are excited to have their first home All-Ireland League game of the season. I’m sure we’ll get a big crowd down who will provide a big boost for the boys as well.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 3, 2016: Highfield 26 Banbridge 15, Woodleigh Park; Saturday, January 21, 2017: Banbridge 6 Highfield 13, Rifle Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win

MALONE (10th) v SHANNON (6th), Gibson Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Malone: L; Shannon: L
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Callum Smith 6; Tries: –; Shannon: Points: Billy Gray 10; Tries: Pa Ryan, Colin Slater 1 each

Preview: New Malone boss Chris Henry has made a few notable tweaks for his first home league match. Connor Spence switches half-back positions, allowing Lewis Finlay to come in at scrum half. There are also starts for winger Michael Cartmill and lock Michael Shiels.

Shannon have not visited Gibson Park since April 2015 and their newly-appointed head coach Tadhg Bennett is expecting ‘a huge challenge’ from the Cregagh Red Sox, who will be ‘very well organised’ under former Ulster and Ireland flanker Henry.

Bennett’s charges have Will Leonard back from New York in midfield, utilising his talents during Major League Rugby’s off-season. Shannon’s relegation from the top flight last season saw them lose their final eight games – they last won 24-20 at UCD in January.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 6, 2014: Shannon 12 Malone 10, Coonagh; Saturday, April 11, 2015: Malone 37 Shannon 34, Gibson Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win

NAAS (8th) v OLD WESLEY (2nd), Forenaughts

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Naas: L; Old Wesley: W
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Fionn Higgins 5; Tries: Fionn Higgins 1; Old Wesley: Points: Rory Stynes 8; Tries: Conor Barry 1

Preview: Ireland Club international prop Cronan Gleeson will pack down as Old Wesley’s only change to the side that saw off Banbridge 13-3. He replaces Stephen McGivern at tighthead as Wesley meet Naas for the first time since last April’s 20-17 extra-time play-off semi-final win.

The Kildare men, who lost 13-7 away to City of Armagh last Saturday, started the new league campaign with only 11 players of that semi-final squad available. Their most notable absentee is injured number 8 and captain Paulie Tolofua who could be out until after Christmas.

Naas’ new head coach Dan van Zyl said: “It’s a rebuilding phase for us, we’ve done well the last four years. Our first home game is Wesley and I was with them for seven years, and we’ve had great battles. That will be a battle in itself.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 9, 2019: Naas 7 Old Wesley 5, Forenaughts; Sunday, April 28, 2019: Old Wesley 20 Naas 17, Energia Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (4th) v CITY OF ARMAGH (3rd), Templeville Road

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: W; City of Armagh: W
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Ruairi Shields 6; Tries: Hugo Conway 1; City of Armagh: Points: Cormac Fox 8; Tries: Andrew Smyth 1

Preview: Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam winner Cormac Foley, an influential half-time replacement last week at Navan, is brought in at scrum half as St. Mary’s College aim to continue their winning start to their Division 1B run.

City of Armagh boss Willie Faloon felt his players ‘were slow getting into the tempo of the game’ against Naas, so they will be targeting a much faster start in Templeogue tomorrow. 13 unanswered second half points got the job done for them in that first round tie.

Armagh’s Andrew Smyth is rewarded for his crucial try with a start at hooker, while pacy young winger Evin Crummie, Gerard Treanor and Barry Finn also come into the starting XV. James Hanna switches to the engine room with Finn filling the openside flanker berth.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 27, 2018: St. Mary’s College 27 City of Armagh 11, Templeville Road; Saturday, March 9, 2019: City of Armagh 39 St. Mary’s College 21, Palace Grounds

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win

OLD BELVEDERE (5th) v NAVAN (7th), Ollie Campbell Park, 3.30pm

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: W; Navan: L
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Steve Crosbie 17; Tries: James McKeown 1; Navan: Points: Colm O’Reilly 8; Tries: Evan Dixon, Riaan van der Vyver 1 each

Preview: It will be a momentous day in the history of Old Belvedere Rugby Club when they officially rename their home ground, ‘Ollie Campbell Park’. There is a Men’s and Women’s AIL double-header to mark the occasion, Andy Kenny’s side returning home after a 22-20 win at Shannon.

Captain Steve Crosbie starred with a 17-point kicking haul in Limerick, and he switches to inside centre tomorrow to accommodate former Trinity back Tommy Whittle’s league debut for Belvedere at out-half. Ireland Under-19 prop Ryan McMahon also gets the nod at tighthead.

The only change made to the Navan team that lost 23-18 to St. Mary’s is Eoghan Noonan’s inclusion at blindside flanker. Second row Conor Hand was their man-of-the-match last Saturday and more of the same will be required against a robust ‘Belvo pack.

Recent League Meetings – N/A

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win