The Energia Men’s All-Ireland League’s final round before Christmas certainly has some festive crackers, including the meeting of table toppers Clontarf and former leaders Garryowen.
ENERGIA MEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – DIVISION 1A:
ROUND 9: Saturday, December 11
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
BALLYNAHINCH (10th) v LANSDOWNE (2nd), Ballymacarn Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: LLLLLLLL; Lansdowne: WWWLWLWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Greg Hutley 28; Tries: Shane Ball 2; Lansdowne: Points: Charlie Tector 45; Tries: Cormac Foley 5
Preview: Defeating high-flying Lansdowne would be like Christmas coming early for Adam Craig’s Ballynahinch, who were held scoreless by Terenure College last week and remain without a win, eight rounds in.
They can draw inspiration from their two 2019/20 meetings with Lansdowne, including a stunning 43-5 home victory. Winger Aaron Cairns scored a hat-trick of tries that day.
Lansdowne welcome back captain Jack O’Sullivan from injury, and while they are without Connacht’s Peter Sullivan this week, he has a high-quality replacement in Michael Silvester. Leinster’s Cormac Foley continues at scrum half, chasing his sixth try.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 9, 2019: Ballynahinch 43 Lansdowne 5, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, February 29, 2020: Lansdowne 12 Ballynahinch 6, Aviva Stadium back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win
CORK CONSTITUTION (3rd) v TERENURE COLLEGE (5th), Temple Hill
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Cork Constitution: LLLWWWWW; Terenure College: WLLLWWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Aidan Moynihan 52; Tries: Cathal O’Flaherty 4; Terenure College: Points: Caolan Dooley 27; Tries: Craig Adams 5
Preview: Cork Constitution take great pride in athletic young forward John Forde, who can play in the second row or back row, making the Munster bench for their Heineken Champions Cup opener against Wasps.
His club-mates are looking to sign off before Christmas with a sixth straight league win. Players like Duncan Williams and second row Cathal O’Flaherty, with four tries in as many games, have really come to the fore.
Nonetheless, Terenure College will be quietly confident of upsetting the reigning champions, making the trip down with an unchanged team. Their in-form number 8, Jordan Coghlan, has scored four tries in two matches.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 19, 2019: Cork Constitution 28 Terenure College 5, Temple Hill; Saturday, November 2, 2019: Terenure College 10 Cork Constitution 13, Lakelands Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (7th) v UCC (9th), College Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Dublin University: LWWLLWWL; UCC: LLLLLWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: Mick O’Kennedy 33; Tries: Harry Sheridan 3; UCC: Points: Matthew Bowen 27; Tries: Matthew Bowen 5
Preview: An intervarsity derby that is sure to warm up supporters on a cold winter’s day. Driven on by stand-in captain Louis O’Reilly, Dublin University were not as far behind Clontarf as their 20-point defeat suggests.
As well as important league points, with UCC in the bottom two and currently trailing Trinity by 13 points, the Dudley Cup is up for grabs as the Cork side aim for a repeat of their October 2019 win (30-20) at College Park.
UCC’s selection is unfortunately hampered by Munster call-ups, three in the team and key flanker Jack Kelleher as a travelling reserve. Their lock pairing of Mark Bissessar and Sam O’Sullivan looks a promising one.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 16, 2019: Dublin University 31 UCC 29, College Park; Saturday, October 5, 2019: Dublin University 20 UCC 30, College Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win
GARRYOWEN (6th) v CLONTARF (1st), Dooradoyle
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Garryowen: WWWWLLLL; Clontarf: WWWWLWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Tony Butler 43; Tries: Colm Quilligan 4; Clontarf: Points: Dylan Donnellan, Conor Kearns 40 each; Tries: Dylan Donnellan 8
Preview: With their top points scorer, Tony Butler, required by Munster, Jamie Heuston continues at out-half for Garryowen. He will have added responsibility tomorrow, captaining the team in the absence of Kevin Seymour.
Prop Jack Mullany and flankers Johnny Keane and Nicky Greene are the three personnel changes for the Light Blues. It has been a disappointing November-December period for them with four successive losses.
In contrast, Clontarf have won three on the bounce to hit the summit. 23-year-old lock Cormac Daly has starred in ‘Tarf’s last two outings, standing in as captain, scoring four tries, and winning the player-of-the-match award.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 16, 2019: Garryowen 13 Clontarf 10, Dooradoyle; Saturday, February 22, 2020: Clontarf 13 Garryowen 32, Castle Avenue
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win
UCD (8th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (4th), UCD Bowl
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCD: LLLWWLLL; Young Munster: WWWWWLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: James Tarrant 46; Tries: Paddy Patterson 3; Young Munster: Points: Evan Cusack 73; Tries: Conor Hayes 8
Preview: UCD move Leinster Academy talent Chris Cosgrave into midfield for the visit of Young Munster. Luke Maloney switches to full-back and captain Jack Ringrose reverts to the right wing.
Richie Fahy is rewarded for his try last week with a start at scrum half, while James Culhane and Jack Coolican have big shoes to fill, deputising for the injured Ronan Foley and Sean O’Brien in the students’ back row.
Hooker Aaron Hennessy is the only change to the Young Munster selection. The Cookies travel with two of the division’s most prolific scorers in out-half Evan Cusack, the leading scorer with 73 points, and Conor Hayes, the joint-top try scorer with eight.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 16, 2019: UCD 33 Young Munster 31, Belfield Bowl; Saturday, November 2, 2019: UCD 9 Young Munster 9, Belfield Bowl
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win