The Division 2B action in the Energia All-Ireland League kicked off last night, with table toppers Galway Corinthians hitting the 10-point mark already after accounting for local rivals Galwegians on a 30-13 scoreline in Cloonacauneen.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 2B: Saturday, October 12
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
BLACKROCK COLLEGE (4th) v MALAHIDE (9th), Stradbrook
Leinster opposition for Malahide again this week and a chance to right the wrongs of a losing Division 2B debut. Number 8 Eoin Crowley’s opportunist first half try was the highlight of a 25-10 defeat to Greystones which gave the north Dubliners a glimpse of the level they need to reach this season.
Danie Poolman, who was due to start Blackrock’s opener at inside centre, has shaken off a knock to feature in today’s starting XV. Player-assistant coach Denis Hurley reverts to the bench after his try-scoring exploits in their dogged 17-12 win at Dungannon.
Hooker James McShane and winger Killian O’Leary have also been brought into the ‘Rock side by James Blaney, whose new signings include highly-regarded number 8 Matthew Cosgrove. The 23-year-old was previously part of the Connacht sub-Academy and starred for Sligo at club level in recent seasons.
GREYSTONES (2nd) v BALLINA (10th), Dr. Hickey Park
Ferdia Kenny, Greystones’ speedy try-scoring replacement against Malahide, is rewarded with a start on the right wing for today’s match against Ballina. ‘Stones head coach Kevin Lewis moves Andrew Kealy into midfield, the former captain having contributed 10 points from the tee last week.
Ballina’s Dylan Prendergast, Evan Ferguson and Aidan McNulty swap the bench for starting positions. McNulty, the Moy men’s Player of the Year in 2018/19, packs down at number 8, with Ferguson joining Fergal Tully in the second row and Ireland Under-19 international Prendergast part of a much-changed back-line.
Chris O’Neill shifts to full-back, Kieran Lindsay is now at inside centre and Darragh Whyte fills the left wing berth. Held scoreless by Corinthians last week, the reigning Division 2C champions need a big performance beside the Co. Wicklow coastline.
SLIGO (8th) v BELFAST HARLEQUINS (6th), Hamilton Park
Sligo were 24-14 and 22-12 winners over Belfast Harlequins last season and a repeat dose would do nicely, on the back of last week’s lacklustre 18-10 loss to Galwegians. Lineout issues and costly penalties let Paddy Pearson’s charges down during that first round game.
Harlequins had a ding-dong battle with Wanderers last week, the losing bonus point the least they deserved in a late 27-25 home defeat. There are visible improvements from Nick Well’s second season at the helm, but producing consistent results is the big challenge.
Sligo want to make their Strandhill base much more of a fortress this term, having tasted defeat on four occasions at home last year. A slip-up here would certainly dent confidence levels, but a return to winning ways looks the most likely result.
WANDERERS (5th) v DUNGANNON (7th), Merrion Road
Merrion Road will play host to Wanderers’ first home league fixture of the club’s 150th year. Half-backs Conor Byrne and Conor McQuaid played starring roles against Belfast Harlequins seven days ago, with the latter scoring two tries in a thrilling two-point triumph.
The Dubliners’ head coach Eoin Sheriff has opted for four changes as Niall O’Donoghue and Eoin O’Shaughnessy are drafted into the back-three, prompting a move to midfield for Peter Crowley. Aaron O’Callaghan and Geoff Mullan are handed starts in the tight five.
It was a frustrating opening day for Dungannon who were edged out 17-12 by Blackrock. They have bad memories of their last trip to the Dublin 4 venue – a 28-3 loss last December – so revenge will be sweet if they can bounce back with a winning display here.