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Energia All-Ireland League: Division 2A Previews

Energia All-Ireland League: Division 2A Previews

Centre Damien McMurray is pictured on his way to the try-line during Rainey Old Boys' first round defeat to Nenagh Ormond last Saturday ©www.charleshendersonphotography.co.uk

Cashel and MU Barnhall, two of the Division 2A teams that claimed maximum points last week, will clash at Spafield today in what is set to be a super-charged Energia All-Ireland League encounter.


Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

BALLYMENA (10th) v NENAGH ORMOND (5th), Eaton Park

Jordan Foster, Sam Millar and Ali Burke are back in the Ballymena team this week, with head coach Andy Graham freshening up his selection after a deflating 36-7 loss at MU Barnhall. Glenn Baillie moves to out-half, while dynamic youngster JJ McKee will have an enhanced role in the second row.

The big right boot of Conor O’Brien certainly delivered the goods for Nenagh Ormond last Saturday, a gritty 22-17 comeback victory over Rainey Old Boys seeing the goal-kicking winger land six of his seven kicks for a vital 17-point haul.

Teenager O’Brien makes way for Gerard O’Gorman as Nenagh travel north in pursuit of back-to-back league triumphs. The pack is unchanged with try-scoring hooker John Healy and captain John Hayes, at number 8, both leading by example during the opening round.

CASHEL (3rd) v MU BARNHALL (1st), Spafield

Josh Pickering’s return at scrum half sees the versatile Aiden McDonald revert to his regular centre berth for Cashel’s second round showdown with MU Barnhall. Conor Cashman switches to the left wing and former Munster Under-19 prop Conor Ryan comes in at loosehead.

Barnhall will back up with an unchanged starting XV following last week’s 36-7 bonus success against Ballymena. Paul Nalty, Dylan Thomas and captain Tom McKeown combine again in the loose forwards, with the ever-durable McKeown set for his 178th AIL appearance.

Incredibly, the 33-year-old Blue Bulls stalwart has played 136 consecutive league games for the club – an astonishing feat that shows his sheer commitment to his team and an enviable ability to maintain both form and fitness.

OLD CRESCENT (2nd) v DOLPHIN (7th), Rosbrien

This is the second of three Munster derbies for Old Crescent at the start of the league campaign. Matt Brown’s men got off to a flyer last weekend, outscoring local rivals UL Bohemians by four tries to one with newly-appointed captain Ronan McKenna kicking the other 12 points.

Crescent’s defence was the bedrock of that performance – Brown felt they ‘brought a lot of energy to the defence and were outstanding’ – and they will need to reach that level again this afternoon with a wounded Dolphin side their visitors.

The Corkmen were held try-less by Cashel, suffering a 25-9 reversal on their 3G home pitch. They achieved a season’s double over Crescent last year and have fond memories of Daryl Foley converting Alan O’Sullivan’s late try to confirm a divisional status-clinching 15-14 victory at Rosbrien in March.


Ireland Under-19 international Ben Power’s inclusion at outside centre is the only change to the Queen’s team that won 24-6 at Buccaneers last Saturday. Half-backs Richie McMaster and Conor McKee contributed half of those points, including the latter’s 29th-minute try.

UL Bohemians, who lost 35-3 on their most recent visit to the Dub, welcome back new signing Jamie Shanahan from Celtic Cup duty with Munster ‘A’. The Skibbereen man slots straight in at full-back with Robbie Bourke reverting to out-half and Harry Byrne now stationed at inside centre.

Hooker Kieran O’Shea, another player with Munster ‘A’ experience, comes into the Bohs pack along with Philip Poillot, Niall Queally and Hugh Kelleher. Senior team coach Tom Hayes says the Red Robins will ‘go and attack the Queen’s trip as best we can’.

RAINEY OLD BOYS (6th) v BUCCANEERS (8th), Hatrick Park

A first ever league match between these clubs in Magherafelt. It was a losing start for both last week, newly-promoted Rainey coughing up a 17-3 lead against Cashel, and Buccaneers succumbing to a 24-6 home defeat to another of the Ulster sides, Queen’s University.

Rainey boss John Andrews has made four personnel changes, adding Harry Evans and Martin Connolly to a rejigged back-line, and Josh McAuley and Mattie Millar to the back row. Andrew Magrath shifts to midfield, while Jack Bresland is now in the engine room.

Former Ireland Under-20 flanker and Connacht prospect Rory Moloney returns from suspension to boost Buccaneers, who are also set to give starts to four of last week’s replacements – winger Eoghan O’Reilly, front rowers Matthew Murphy and Rory Grenham, and second row Ruairi Byrne.