Division 1B leaders Old Wesley entertain near neighbours Old Belvedere in the Energia All-Ireland this weekend. Ulster bragging rights are also up for grabs between City of Armagh and Malone.
ENERGIA MEN’S ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – DIVISION 1B:
ROUND 12: Saturday, January 29
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
HIGHFIELD (2nd) v BANBRIDGE (9th), Woodleigh Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Highfield: WWWWWWWWLDL; Banbridge: LLLLLLLLWWL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Highfield: Points: James Taylor 56; Tries: Miah Cronin 5; Banbridge: Points: Adam Doherty 81; Tries: Conor Field 6
Preview: Highfield are hoping to celebrate industrious flanker Ronán O’Sullivan’s call-up to the Ireland Under-20 squad with a first win in four games. Results-wise, they have suffered a mid-season slump.
After two defeats and a draw, this YouTube-live streamed game is a vital one for the Corkmen. Banbridge earned a losing bonus point against Highfield in November and they look a much-improved side of late.
Having run Old Wesley close last week, Bann head coach Mark McDowell said: “It’s another big challenge. Highfield will be hurting after that defeat at Armagh, but we’ve won on the road this season and we can do it again.”
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 12, 2019: Banbridge 28 Highfield 42, Rifle Park; Saturday, November 27, 2021: Banbridge 19 Highfield 26, Rifle Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win
MALONE (8th) v CITY OF ARMAGH (6th), Gibson Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Malone: WLLLLWLLDDL; City of Armagh: WWWLLWWLLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Rory Campbell 48; Tries: Aaron Sexton 7; City of Armagh: Points: Kyle Faloon 99; Tries: Andrew Willis, Kyle Faloon 4 each
* Covid-19-affected match cancelled – 0-0. Both teams are awarded two points
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 25, 2020: Malone 7 City of Armagh 22, Gibson Park; Saturday, November 27, 2021: City of Armagh 20 Malone 14, Palace Grounds
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: City of Armagh to win
NAAS (5th) v SHANNON (4th), Forenaughts
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Naas: LWLLWLWWWWL; Shannon: LWLWLDLWWDW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Peter Osborne 120; Tries: Donal Conroy 7; Shannon: Points: John O’Sullivan 44; Tries: Killian Dineen, Lee Nicholas 4 each
Preview: Naas make five personnel changes as they look to get straight back to winning ways. They had three cousins lining out against St. Mary’s College – captain Peter Osborne, Cillian Dempsey and Leinster’s Jamie Osborne.
Matt Stapleton, Sam Cahill and scrum half Connor Halpenny return behind the scrum, with Connor Johnson and Patrick O’Flaherty both handed starts up front.
Shannon, who lost 35-29 to Naas earlier this season, have sharpened up their defence since then. Forwards coach Stephen Keogh said: “The guys dug deep late on against Malone (last week), defended really well. Didn’t give them a score, it’s important we show that resilience right to the end.”
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 22, 2020: Shannon 50 Naas 10, Thomond Park back pitch; Saturday, November 27, 2021: Shannon 29 Naas 35, Thomond Park back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Naas to win
NAVAN (10th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (3rd), Balreask Old
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Navan: LLLWWDLLLLL; St. Mary’s College: LLWWWWWLDDW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Navan: Points: Mark Farrell 37; Tries: Paddy Fox, Evan Dixon 5 each; St. Mary’s College: Points: Conor Dean 71; Tries: Myles Carey 6
Preview: Navan are missing lock Colm Carpenter following the leg injury he sustained against Old Belvedere. Last week’s losing bonus point could prove important in their quest to move out of the bottom two.
St. Mary’s College are unbeaten in the last three rounds. They have largely kept faith with the side that won 27-27 against Naas, with only Matt Timmons and Padraig Dundon promoted from the bench.
It could be another try-fest at Balreask Old, with Mary’s having won 45-26 when they hosted Navan back in November. It was six tries to four in the end, and Mary’s number 8 Ronan Watters bagged a well-taken brace.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 5, 2019: Navan 18 St. Mary’s College 23, Balreask Old; Saturday, November 27, 2021: St. Mary’s College 45 Navan 26, Templeville Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win
OLD WESLEY (1st) v OLD BELVEDERE (7th), Energia Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WWWWWLWWWWW; Old Belvedere: WLWLLLLWLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Ian Cassidy 56; Tries: Tommy O’Callaghan 5; Old Belvedere: Points: Justin Leonard 80; Tries: James McKeown, John McKee 5 each
Preview: This Dublin 4 derby will be live streamed on Old Wesley’s YouTube page, as Morgan Lennon’s men aim for their sixth straight win. That run kicked off with a 34-18 victory at nearby Old Belvedere.
Belvedere come looking for revenge, and their attack is back firing on all cylinders after a five-try display at Navan. Two of their tight five crossed the whitewash – Ryan McMahon and Will McDonald.
Wesley’s powerful pack is led by 6ft 5in lock Iain McGann, who got on the scoresheet via a loose Banbridge lineout last week. He is a club stalwart, playing with them since the age of six. This is his third year as captain.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 2, 2019: Old Belvedere 10 Old Wesley 11, Ollie Campbell Park; Saturday, November 27, 2021: Old Belvedere 18 Old Wesley 34, Ollie Campbell Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win