The respective Conference 2 leaders, Greystones, Dolphin and Belfast Harlequins, are all on the road in round two of the Energia Community Series. We preview Saturday’s matches in Leinster, Munster and Ulster.
ENERGIA COMMUNITY SERIES – SECOND ROUND: Saturday, October 3
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
LEINSTER CONFERENCE 2
Enniscorthy (8th) v Malahide (7th), Alcast Park
Malahide make their way into the ring for their opening Leinster Conference 2 battle, travelling south to face Enniscorthy. The Brendan Guilfoyle-coached Dubliners won the Round Robin qualifiers in 2017 to earn promotion, and ‘Scorthy joined Division 2C via the same route two years later.
Guilfoyle is testing out some young and new players given they have lost half-a-dozen of last season’s squad, including captain Rory Kavanagh. With players of the calibre of Rising Star award winner Nick Doyle, ‘Scorthy are always extremely tough to beat at home and they will be looking to cut down on the errors from their 25-10 reversal at Wanderers.
Malahide’s new skipper, hooker Damien Butler, said: “With an abrupt end to last season with the team performing well, it left an aura of disappointment among us. But I know that I speak for the whole team when I say that we’re delighted to be back on the pitch and are fully focused for the season ahead.”
MU Barnhall (3rd) v Greystones (1st), Parsonstown
MU Barnhall are champing at the bit to get their Community Series campaign underway after last week’s opener away to Tullamore was cancelled due to a Covid-19 situation. Tomorrow they tackle familiar rivals in Greystones with whom they enjoyed a memorable promotion duel in Division 2B in 2018/19.
Pinpoint-accurate full-back Andrew Kealy helped himself to 25 points, including a late try, in Greystones’ impressive 45-22 bonus point victory away to Blackrock College. Captain Killian Marmion and his brother Eoin also got amongst the tries for the first-round leaders.
Adrian Flavin’s Blue Bulls did the double over ‘Stones, either side of Christmas 2018. Second row Brendan McSorley crossed twice in Barnhall’s 21-6 triumph at Dr. Hickey Park, before they backed up that result at home in January, winning 17-11 with an early Michael Mellett try setting them on their way.
Skerries (5th) v Blackrock College (9th), Holmpatrick
Match cancelled – 0-0. Both teams are awarded two points.
Wanderers (2nd) v Tullamore (6th), Merrion Road
Like the Skerries v Blackrock fixture, it will be a 2B-2C match-up when Wanderers entertain Tullamore tomorrow afternoon. Eoin Sheriff’s Chaps also have the benefit of being battle-hardened following last week’s three-try dismissal of Enniscorthy which has them sitting second in the table.
Against that, they will be going slightly into the unknown as Tullamore have only had a recent friendly outing against Athy – a 54-5 win. Head coach Darin Claasen is a back-line specialist and should have the Tulliers’ attack sharpened with the extra week’s training behind them.
This will be the first time that the 32-year-old Sheriff and South African Claasen will come up against each other as coaches. Interestingly, they did play in an ‘A’ interprovincial at nearby Donnybrook 11 years ago, with flanker Sheriff helping Leinster ‘A’ to a 31-3 win over their Connacht counterparts, who had Claasen starting at full-back.
Navan – Bye
MUNSTER CONFERENCE 2
Clonmel (6th) v Bruff (3rd), Ardgaoithe
Clonmel have been licking their wounds this week, frustrated by their 23-point losing margin against Tipperary rivals Nenagh Ormond. They are much better than that result suggests and their failure to take advantage of Fionn McGibney’s 32nd-minute red card was disappointing.
Wearing their new canary-yellow kit, Bruff certainly added a splash of colour to Munster Conference 2’s opening day with a 32-14 bonus point success against Sunday’s Well. Competition for places is already very high at Kilballyowen Park, giving coaches Neilus Keogh and Andrew O’Byrne, the scorer of 22 points last Saturday, some early selection headaches.
Clonmel won 18-13 when hosting Bruff in Division 2C last December. Captain Greg Carroll profited from their ability to stretch Bruff out wide to cross for the opening try, and replacement David O’Gorman touched down from a second-half forwards drive. Nonetheless, it took a gritty defensive stand to hold off Bruff’s strong finish.
Midleton (7th) v Nenagh Ormond (2nd), Towns Park
With Midleton operating two divisions below them, Nenagh Ormond will fancy their chances of making it back-to-back wins at the business end of the Conference. Influential number 8 John Hayes was in talismanic form, particularly as a ball carrier, and he deservedly rounded off their five-try triumph over Clonmel six days ago.
Midleton have ground to make up after losing 38-14 at Dolphin. They maintained a high work-rate throughout, but any defensive lapses were ruthlessly punished by the home side. Rob Williams is pushing hard for a start after his try-scoring cameo off the Midleton bench.
Head coach Ivan Muldoon will have been pleased with the resilience Nenagh showed against Clonmel after out-half McGibney’s dismissal for a high tackle. Nicky Irwin, the former Munster Junior and Young Munster scrum half, impressed across the 80 minutes and showed some nice touches in attack.
UL Bohemians (4th) v Dolphin (1st), University of Limerick 4G pitch
UL Bohemians are the last Munster club into Energia Community Series action. With a Munster Senior Cup exit at the hands of Shannon, it has been a slow-burning start for the Bohs brains trust, which incudes new director of rugby Cathal Sheridan, retained head coach George Murray and new contact skills coach Tommy O’Donnell and forwards coach BJ Botha.
They take on a Dolphin team that will have their tails up following last Saturday’s 38-14 bonus point victory over Midleton. UL won 50-24 when they entertained Dolphin at their North Campus base last December, with pacy winger Jamie McNamara nabbing a second half hat-trick of tries.
The Corkmen looked an improved unit on evidence of their Conference opener. It was a full squad effort, their desire summed up by lively replacement Andrew Dorgan who set up a score for Timmy Phelan and then followed up on his own break and kick-through to score their sixth and final try.
Sunday’s Well – Bye
ULSTER CONFERENCE 2
Ballymena (5th) v Belfast Harlequins (1st), Eaton Park
Second half tries from Pierce Crowe, Sam Millar and Ireland Under-20 international Ben Moxham showed the best of Ballymena’s attacking play last week, but it was not enough to make up for the 26-point head-start they allowed visitors Dungannon in their opening round clash.
The Braidmen are at Eaton Park for the second week running as they target a more cohesive performance and a first victory over Belfast Harlequins. They cannot allow ‘Quins out-half Paul Kerr to wield as much influence as he did against Bangor – he finished with a terrific 21-point tally, including two tries.
Ballymena and Harlequins’ most recent Energia All-Ireland League duels were during the 2015/16 season, when they were both in Division 1B. There was a home win apiece with a then-relegated ‘Quins winning 36-26 in the last round – current captain Mark Glover was one of the try scorers.
Bangor (6th) v Omagh Academicals (4th), Upritchard Park
Bangor were held scoreless by Belfast Harlequins, despite putting in a promising first half display. Reviewing the 31-0 loss, the Bangor management will at least have been boosted by the effectiveness of their scrum and the industry of their forwards on both sides of the ball.
Phil Marshall’s 10-year coaching reign at Omagh is a very tough act to follow for Glenn Kyle, the former Ballynahinch player and Clogher Valley player-coach. It has been a disrupted start to Kyle’s tenure at the Accies with a Covid-19 situation cancelling two of their games and giving them a short training lead-in to the Bangor match.
There was very little between these teams in Division 2C last season, two thrilling encounters going right down to the wire. Zack Kerr dived over late on to see Bangor pip Omagh 26-25 last December, before the Co. Tyrone club bounced back a few weeks later with a 29-25 triumph, thanks to tries from James Catterson (2), Ryan Mitchell, Stewart McCain and Scott Barr.
Dungannon (2nd) v City of Derry (3rd), Stevenson Park
Match cancelled – 0-0. Both teams are awarded two points.