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Energia All-Ireland League: Division 1A Previews

Energia All-Ireland League: Division 1A Previews

Ballynahinch winger Aaron Cairns, the division's joint-top try scorer, tries to get back Dublin University's Paddy Opperman ©INPHO/Morgan Treacy

A titanic tussle awaits at Dooradoyle tonight as Limerick rivals Garryowen and Young Munster go head-to-head, both putting their play-off ambitions on the line heading into the final five rounds of Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A.

ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE DIVISION 1A: Saturday, February 29

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

#EnergiaAILTry Of The Month has returned for the 2019/20 season. The competition is in its third year and entries are now open to tries scored in all divisions of the Men’s and Women’s Energia All-Ireland League. Click here for entry information.

GARRYOWEN (2nd) v YOUNG MUNSTER (5th), Dooradoyle, tonight, 8pm

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Garryowen: LWLWWWWWLWWWW; Young Munster: LLLDLWWWLLWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Jamie Heuston 57; Tries: Bryan Fitzgerald, Colm Quilligan 5 each; Young Munster: Points: Evan Cusack 101; Tries: Jordan Stewart, Evan Cusack, Evan O’Gorman, Luke Fitzgerald, Alan Kennedy 3 each

Preview: Garryowen and Young Munster kick off another action-packed weekend in the top flight of the Energia All-Ireland League. The second-placed Light Blues, who won a Greenfields cliffhanger 19-13 back in November, are chasing their fifth straight victory.

There is a genuine feel-good factor at both clubs currently, as the leading Limerick sides are both right in contention for the play-offs. Fifth-placed Munsters have hit form in timely fashion, stringing together wins over Ballynahinch, Dublin University and Lansdowne.

Cookies captain Alan Kennedy has led by example with two important tries in the last two rounds. The hosts are without Munster call-up Diarmuid Barron, but the availability of Ben Healy would be a big boost, and provide a cracking out-half duel with Young Munster’s Evan Cusack, the division’s second top scorer (101 points).

Recent League Meetings – Friday, February 22, 2019: Young Munster 12 Garryowen 10, Tom Clifford Park; Friday, November 8, 2019: Young Munster 13 Garryowen 19, Tom Clifford Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win

DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (8th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (1st), College Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Dublin University: LLWWLLLLLWLLW; Cork Constitution: WWWWWWWWWWWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: Micheal O’Kennedy 92; Tries: Ronan Quinn 4; Cork Constitution: Points: Brian Hayes 40; Tries: Brian Hayes 8

Preview: A Dublin University side battling to pull clear of relegation troubles offers another difficult task for unbeaten leaders Cork Constitution. Captain Niall Kenneally praised Con’s ‘grit and heart’ after they defended doggedly to pull off a narrow derby win over UCC at a weather-beaten Temple Hill.

Also delighted to have out-half Aidan Moynihan back following four months out with a broken leg, Moynihan said: “We’d always have confidence in our defence. It’s about who can man up and who really wants it more. Names go out the window on nights like that.”

The Leesiders are a prized scalp and Trinity did come close in November, losing 25-22 in Cork. The competition for places in their back-three keeps increasing, with Rob Russell (2) and Paddy Opperman both contributing tries in last week’s bonus point win at Ballynahinch.

Recent League Meetings – Sunday, April 28, 2019: Semi-Final: Cork Constitution 23 Dublin University 3, Temple Hill; Saturday, November 9, 2019: Cork Constitution 25 Dublin University 22, Temple Hill

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win

LANSDOWNE (4th) v BALLYNAHINCH (10th), Aviva Stadium back pitch

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Lansdowne: WLLLLLWWWWWWL; Ballynahinch: LLLLWWLLLWLLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Lansdowne: Points: Tim Foley 49; Tries: Adam Leavy, Adam Boland, Peter Sullivan, Dan Sheehan 3 each; Ballynahinch: Points: Sean O’Hagan 85; Tries: Aaron Cairns 8

Preview: Lansdowne are set to field an unchanged team against bottom side Ballynahinch, no doubt fired up to right the wrongs of last Saturday’s agonising one-point defeat to Young Munster. It was their first loss in seven rounds, stretching back to mid-November.

Returning out-half Craig Ronaldson is clearly enjoying being back in Lansdowne colours, forming a promising half-back partnership with James Kenny and contributing a terrific 34 points in the last fortnight, including a quick-tap try against the Cookies.

Ballynahinch have fond memories of dishing out a 43-5 hammering to the Dubliners in November. The availability of their Ulster players remains crucial in their relegation fight, with next week’s shot at lifting the Ulster Senior Cup against City of Armagh also carrying plenty of importance.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 2, 2016: Lansdowne 29 Ballynahinch 24, Aviva Stadium back pitch; Saturday, November 9, 2019: Ballynahinch 43 Lansdowne 5, Ballymacarn Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win

UCC (9th) v TERENURE COLLEGE (7th), the Mardyke

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCC: WWWLLLLLLLLLL; Terenure College: WWWLWLLLWLLLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: James Taylor 37; Tries: Murray Linn 5; Terenure College: Points: James Thornton 33; Tries: Sam Dardis 5

Preview: Second-from-bottom UCC have lost Jack O’Sullivan and John Hodnett to Munster duty this week, but still possess plenty of quality in their back row ranks. Indeed, captain Ryan Murphy and Australian ace Rory Suttor have scored three tries between them in the last three rounds.

Terenure won 22-14 when they hosted the Cork students earlier in the season, aided by a try from winger Sam Coghlan Murray who also crossed against UCD last week. This is a must-win fixture if ‘Nure are to hold onto their play-off hopes – they lie eight points outside of the top four.

While UCC have scored the least amount of points (212) in the division so far, their defence has been a big positive with only three teams conceding a fewer amount of points. Brian Walsh’s young guns are due a change in fortunes and it could come at the end of a luckless ten-match losing streak.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 9, 2019: Terenure College 39 UCC 29, Lakelands Park; Saturday, November 9, 2019: Terenure College 22 UCC 14, Lakelands Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCC to win

UCD (3rd) v CLONTARF (6th), Belfield Bowl

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCD: LWWDWWWLWLLWW; Clontarf: WLLWLLLWWLWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: James Tarrant 42; Tries: Ronan Foley, Jack Ringrose 5 each; Clontarf: Points: Sean Kearns 103; Tries: Matt D’Arcy 6

Preview: Silverware is on offer tomorrow at the Belfield Bowl as this round 14 clash doubles up as this season’s Leinster Senior Cup final. A couple of tight three-try triumphs over UCC and Terenure still have UCD well positioned behind Division 1A’s leading two sides.

February has been a month to forget so far for Clontarf, who have fallen down to sixth after defeats to fellow play-off hunters Lansdowne and Garryowen. Elusive centre Matt D’Arcy continues to spark their attack with three tries in as many games.

UCD head coach Kevin Croke, whose charges won 17-13 at ‘Tarf in November, commented: “We’ve never got too carried away with the fact that we’re in the top four. That doesn’t matter. What matters is performing and setting ourselves up to perform as well as we can. The biggest challenge is maintaining that in these next few games.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 2, 2019: UCD 17 Clontarf 26, Belfield Bowl; Saturday, November 9, 2019: Clontarf 13 UCD 17, Castle Avenue

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win