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

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

Ulster back rower David McCann is pictured in action during Banbridge's win at Old Belvedere last week ©JKaysPhotos/Banbridge RFC

Buoyed by back-to-back wins, Banbridge host new leaders Old Wesley as it continues to be tight at the top and bottom of Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B.

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

ROUND 11: Saturday, January 22

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

BANBRIDGE (9th) v OLD WESLEY (1st), Rifle Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Banbridge: LLLLLLLLWW; Old Wesley: WWWWWLWWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 72; Tries: Conor Field 6; Old Wesley: Points: Ian Cassidy 48; Tries: Tommy O’Callaghan 5

Preview: This looks an intriguing contest given the jolt of confidence Banbridge gained from their back-to-back victories over Old Belvedere. Winger Conor Field’s brace last week took his try haul to six for the season.

Bann head coach Mark McDowell commented: “We had a tight game against Old Wesley in Dublin (losing 24-14). They’re an excellent side but I believe they’ll be facing a Banbridge team that is significantly more confident in what they’re trying to do than the one they met in Donnybrook.”

Facing into a crucial few weeks, which includes a rematch with Highfield, Wesley are determined to keep up their winning momentum. Tommy O’Callaghan and David Poff are particularly dangerous out wide, scoring nine tries between them.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 5, 2019: Old Wesley 13 Banbridge 3, Energia Park; Saturday, December 4, 2021: Old Wesley 24 Banbridge 14, Energia Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win

CITY OF ARMAGH (6th) v HIGHFIELD (2nd), Palace Grounds

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: City of Armagh: WWWLLWWLLL; Highfield: WWWWWWWWLD
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – City of Armagh: Points: Kyle Faloon 99; Tries: Andrew Willis, Kyle Faloon 4 each; Highfield: Points: James Taylor 54; Tries: Miah Cronin 5

Preview: Looking to bounce back from a disappointing 26-8 loss to Old Wesley, City of Armagh make two changes with Harry Boyd replacing Romain Morrow at out-half and Josh McKinley returning at lock.

Cutting down on the penalties and improving their decision-making are top of the agenda this week for Armagh. They are hoping to avenge a 21-10 defeat to Highfield from early December.

Highfield have also made two alterations, bringing in Mark Dorgan at inside centre and Daragh Fitzgerald at tighthead prop. After being held try-less by Shannon in successive rounds, the Corkmen will want to make amends.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 15, 2020: City of Armagh 10 Highfield 15, Palace Grounds; Saturday, December 4, 2021: Highfield 21 City of Armagh 10, Woodleigh Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win

NAVAN (10th) v OLD BELVEDERE (7th), Balreask Old

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Navan: LLLWWDLLLL; Old Belvedere: WLWLLLLWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Navan: Points: Paddy Fox 27; Tries: Paddy Fox 5; Old Belvedere: Points: Justin Leonard 68; Tries: James McKeown, John McKee 5 each

Preview: Navan are offering free entry at Balreask Old tomorrow, while Old Belvedere will also be live streaming the game as they aim to recapture the form that saw them beat Navan 32-12 before Christmas.

Former Dublin University captain Colm Hogan returns at full-back in a much-changed Belvedere back-line. Justin Leonard joins David Butler in midfield and the half-back slots are filled by David Wilkinson and Peter O’Beirne.

Navan deserved something out of last week’s floodlit clash with Naas, but ended up as 22-point losers. ‘Belvo are only five points ahead of them in the table, so a win here could be huge in terms of the relegation battle.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 12, 2019: Old Belvedere 39 Navan 17, Ollie Campbell Park; Saturday, December 4, 2021: Old Belvedere 32 Navan 12, Ollie Campbell Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Navan to win

SHANNON (5th) v MALONE (8th), Thomond Park back pitch

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Shannon: LWLWLDLWWD; Malone: WLLLLWLLDD
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: John O’Sullivan 44; Tries: Killian Dineen 3; Malone: Points: Rory Campbell 48; Tries: Aaron Sexton 6

Preview: Shannon are unbeaten in three games, winning against Malone and Highfield during that profitable spell, and those results have Pat O’Connor’s men knocking on the door of the top four.

Head coach O’Connor commented: “We’re really starting to gel and really start to come out the right side of tough matches. Clinically we were a little bit off last week, but that’s the pressure that Highfield put you under.”

Malone have gone four rounds without a win, dropping down to third-from-bottom. They are, at least, regularly getting over the whitewash with Ulster flyer Aaron Sexton scoring five tries in their last five matches.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 12, 2019: Malone 13 Shannon 32, Gibson Park; Saturday, December 4, 2021: Malone 12 Shannon 15, Gibson Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (4th) v NAAS (3rd), Templeville Road

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: LLWWWWWLDD; Naas: LWLLWLWWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Conor Dean 54; Tries: Myles Carey, Ronan Watters 5 each; Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 118; Tries: Donal Conroy 7

Preview: In an incredible turn of events, St. Mary’s College drew both of their back-to-back games against Malone. Last week’s low-scoring affair saw winger Craig Kennedy score late to earn them two points.

Naas have put together four wins on the trot, frustrating Navan into submission last Friday night with their defensive wall led by Paul Monahan, Adam Coyle and number 8 Paulie Tolofua.

Johne Murphy’s Cobras were ruthless in putting away their chances – promising winger Donal Conroy helped himself to a hat-trick – and they will need more of the same against Mary’s, the division’s leading scorers.

Recent League Meetings – Friday, February 14, 2020: St. Mary’s College 15 Naas 25, Templeville Road; Friday, December 3, 2021: Naas 35 St. Mary’s College 19, Forenaughts

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win