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Energia Men’s All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

Energia Men’s All-Ireland League: Division 1B Previews

After losing to St. Mary's College, City of Armagh return home looking to bounce back with a positive result against Navan ©Paul Lundy

Division 1B leaders Highfield make their first trip of the season to the capital to face Old Belvedere, while the meeting of Shannon and St. Mary’s College in Limerick is another potential cracker.

ENERGIA MEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – DIVISION 1B:

ROUND 5: Saturday, November 6

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

OLD WESLEY (2nd) v MALONE (8th), Energia Park, 2pm

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WWWW; Malone: WLLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Josh Miller 24; Tries: Alastair Hoban, Nathan Randles, Tommy O’Callaghan 2 each; Malone: Points: Rory Campbell 31; Tries: Dave Cave, Andy Bryans 2 each

Preview: Old Wesley will be livestreaming their Donnybrook date with Malone, as they look to make it five wins on the trot. The Belfast side have been difficult opponents for Wesley, who lost twice to them in 2019/20.

Nonetheless, on current form and with home advantage, you would have to favour Morgan Lennon’s men. It took a full squad effort to get over Naas, with two tries from former Ireland Under-18 Sevens flyer Tommy O’Callaghan.

Malone were reinforced with some more Ulster talent last week and gave leaders Highfield a serious rattle. Provincial half-backs Angus Curtis and Lewis Finlay will hopefully get more game-time together.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 14, 2019: Malone 17 Old Wesley 5, Gibson Park; Saturday, January 11, 2020: Old Wesley 9 Malone 12, Energia Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win

BANBRIDGE (10th) v NAAS (7th), Rifle Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Banbridge: LLLL; Naas: LWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 22; Tries: Adam Doherty, Robin Sinton, Alex Thompson, Robert Mathers, Conor Field, Neil Kilpatrick, Andrew Morrison 1 each; Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 42; Tries: Bryan Croke 3

Preview: The confidence levels of both Banbridge and Naas took a dip after disappointing finishes last Saturday. The wait for a first victory goes on for Mark McDowell’s young Banbridge side.

Reacting to Naas’ 36-20 reversal at the hands of Wesley, head coach Johne Murphy has brought Sam Cahill, Conor Doyle and Cillian Dempsey into the starting XV. Adam Coyle switches to tighthead and Ryan Casey packs down at number 8.

McDowell commented: “Naas are at the same end of the table as ourselves, they had another loss last week. We’re going to need a really vocal support at Rifle Park, that would make a big difference to a team that knows they’re better than the table suggests.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 9, 2019: Banbridge 13 Naas 3, Rifle Park; Saturday, February 29, 2020: Naas 3 Banbridge 6, Forenaughts

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Naas to win

CITY OF ARMAGH (3rd) v NAVAN (9th), Palace Grounds

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: City of Armagh: WWWL; Navan: LLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – City of Armagh: Points: Kyle Faloon 39; Tries: Shea O’Brien, Andrew Willis 2 each; Navan: Points: Mark Farrell 17; Tries: Paddy Fox 3

Preview: Contrasting fortunes for these teams last week, with City of Armagh going down to a Conor Dean-inspired St. Mary’s outfit, and Navan lifting themselves off the bottom rung with a dramatic defeat of Banbridge.

Navan provided some moments of class against Bann, particularly in unlocking the defence for two Paddy Fox tries. The newcomers are beginning to gel more, with former Shannon out-half Ben Daly having a nice cameo.

City of Armagh boss Chris Parker commented: “St. Mary’s were ruthless in punishing our mistakes. We need to eliminate a lot of errors from our game and I’m glad we have an opportunity to rectify matters with a home game this week.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 27, 2014: City of Armagh 20 Navan 15, Palace Grounds; Saturday, November 2, 2019: Navan 0 City of Armagh 19, Balreask Old

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: City of Armagh to win

OLD BELVEDERE (6th) v HIGHFIELD (1st), Ollie Campbell Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: WLWL; Highfield: WWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Justin Leonard 26; Tries: James McKeown 3; Highfield: Points: James Taylor 23; Tries: Paul Stack, Miah Cronin 3 each

Preview: Old Belvedere welcome back captain Connor Owende from injury, the big lock making a timely recovery with league leaders Highfield in town for this livestreamed game.

Following a bad day at the office against Shannon, ‘Belvo make four changes with starts too for Jack Gilheany and Aaron Atkinson in the back-line, as well as Ryan McMahon at tighthead prop.

Highfield, who needed a late penalty to overcome Malone, have two alterations as winger Gavin O’Leary and flanker Cathal Gallagher come into the side. Shane O’Riordan continues at out-half with James Taylor still sidelined.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 9, 2019: Highfield 14 Old Belvedere 10, Woodleigh Park; Saturday, February 29, 2020: Old Belvedere 12 Highfield 17, Ollie Campbell Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win

SHANNON (4th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (5th), Thomond Park back pitch

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Shannon: LWLW; St. Mary’s College: LLWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: John O’Sullivan, Jake Flannery 22 each; Tries: Daniel Okeke, Jake Flannery, Ikem Ugwueru 2 each; St. Mary’s College: Points: Conor Dean 27; Tries: Matt Timmons, Myles Carey 3 each

Preview: Jake Flannery, with 22 points, and three-try centre Myles Carey were the star performers last week for Shannon and St. Mary’s College respectively, so this should be a very entertaining contest on the back pitch.

If Munster’s Flannery is involved again, he will have a tasty duel with former Connacht out-half Conor Dean. Opposing second rows Sean McCarthy and Liam Corcoran will battle for supremacy in the lineout.

Shannon forwards coach Stephen Keogh told SRTV: “We’ve worked hard on the lineout. We’re fortunate to have guys in the pack who lead it, some really good jumpers and hookers. Everyone buys into it to make sure we deliver on the day.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 7, 2019: Shannon 24 St. Mary’s College 11, Thomond Park back pitch; Saturday, January 25, 2020: St. Mary’s College 25 Shannon 28, Templeville Road

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win