The order of the chasing pack behind Clontarf will be confirmed on Saturday as Energia All-Ireland League Division 1A’s final round is sure to bring high drama to Lakelands Park, Temple Hill and Dooradoyle.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – MEN’S DIVISION 1A:
AS THINGS STAND:
Division 1A Semi-Finals (April 23): 1st (Clontarf at home) v 4th (Cork Constitution or Dublin University); 2nd (Terenure College or Lansdowne at home) v 3rd (Lansdowne or Terenure College)
Division 1A Final (May 1)
Relegation Play-Off First Leg (April 23): 10th (UCC or Ballynahinch at home) v 9th (Ballynahinch or UCC)
Relegation Play-Off Second Leg (April 30): 9th (Ballynahinch or UCC at home) v 10th (UCC or Ballynahinch)
ROUND 18: Saturday, April 9
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
BALLYNAHINCH (9th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (6th), Ballymacarn Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: LLLLLLLLLLLLWLLLL; Young Munster: WWWWWLLWWWLLLWWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Greg Hutley 75; Tries: Kyle McCall, Greg Hutley 4 each; Young Munster: Points: Evan Cusack 131; Tries: Conor Hayes 9
Preview: Having only posted one win in the league this year, back in February, Ballynahinch could do with a timely boost heading into the relegation play-off. That two-legged affair against fellow strugglers UCC will define their season.
Young Munster’s bid to reach the semi-finals fell short with five defeats in the last seven rounds. They can still finish fifth, exactly where they were when Covid-19 struck in 2020 and an improvement of two places from the 2018/19 campaign.
Munsters were 26-24 winners when they last visited Ballymacarn Park two-and-a-quarter years ago. Out-half Evan Cusack, a try scorer that day, is currently joint-top of this season’s scoring charts with 131 points, level with Cork Constitution’s Aidan Moynihan.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 25, 2020: Young Munster 35 Ballynahinch 21, Tom Clifford Park; Saturday, October 2, 2021: Young Munster 29 Ballynahinch 7, Tom Clifford Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win
CORK CONSTITUTION (4th) v LANSDOWNE (3rd), Temple Hill
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Cork Constitution: LLLWWWWWLLWWDWLLW; Lansdowne: WWWLWLWWWWLWWLLWL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Aidan Moynihan 131; Tries: Greg Higgins 6; Lansdowne: Points: Charlie Tector 77; Tries: Sean Galvin, Peter Sullivan 6 each
Preview: This match is undoubtedly drawing the most attention in the top flight, as reigning champions Cork Constitution try to extend their enviable run of semi-final appearances which stretches back to 2016.
Reversing their 16-11 round one defeat to Lansdowne is the goal, with fourth-placed Con currently holding a two-point lead over Dublin University. Lansdowne still have plenty to play for, but Terenure College have their noses in front for second place.
For the trip to Leeside, Clive Ross steps up as Lansdowne’s captain in the absence of Jack O’Sullivan. Ireland Under-20 prop Oisin Michel joins Jamie Kavanagh and Greg McGrath in a new-look front row, with Jack Matthews partnering Charlie Tector at half-back.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 19, 2019: Cork Constitution 21 Lansdowne 17, Temple Hill; Saturday, October 2, 2021: Lansdowne 16 Cork Constitution 11, Aviva Stadium back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win
GARRYOWEN (7th) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (5th), Dooradoyle
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Garryowen: WWWWLLLLLLWLLLWLW; Dublin University: LWWLLWWLWWLWLLWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Tony Butler 87; Tries: Colm Quilligan 7; Dublin University: Points: Mick O’Kennedy 90; Tries: Aran Egan, Mark Nicholson, Alan Francis 5 each
Preview: Dublin University’s play-off hopes rest on getting a result here at Garryowen and hoping that Lansdowne can do them a favour in Cork. Trinity make the trip in confident mood after last week’s 34-27 Colours triumph over UCD.
Forwards Mark Nicholson and Alan Francis have moved up as the students’ joint-top try scorers (five each), while Trinity captain Mick O’Kennedy has returned in fine form from the tee, kicking 36 points across the last three rounds.
Garryowen only have pride to play for, but their late win at UCC last week showed their determination to end the season with momentum. Having Liam Coombes available again would certainly help, the Skibbereen man having touched down twice against Trinity in October.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 19, 2019: Dublin University 37 Garryowen 19, College Park; Saturday, October 2, 2021: Dublin University 10 Garryowen 35, College Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win
TERENURE COLLEGE (2nd) v UCC (10th), Lakelands Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Terenure College: WLLLWWWWWWWWWWLWW; UCC: LLLLLWLLLLLLLLLLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Terenure College: Points: Jake Swaine 74; Tries: Craig Adams 11; UCC: Points: Daniel Squires 32; Tries: Matthew Bowen 6
Preview: Terenure College make four changes for their final round clash with UCC, chasing a closing win to seal a home semi-final. Andy Keating and Conall Boomer return up front, the latter deputising at number 8 for Jordan Coghlan.
Caolan Dooley, who had a 20-point cameo off the bench against Lansdowne, and James Thornton are added to the Terenure back-line. Sean Skehan’s men ran out 37-13 bonus point winners when they visited UCC at the start of the season.
UCC, who are gearing up for the relegation play-off, are much-changed, bringing Timothy Duggan and Matthew Bowen back in on the wings. Rory Duggan, Alan McDonald, David O’Halloran and Richard Thompson all come into the tight five.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 29, 2020: UCC 12 Terenure College 14, the Mardyke; Saturday, October 2, 2021: UCC 13 Terenure College 37, the Mardyke
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College to win
UCD (8th) v CLONTARF (1st), UCD Bowl
Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCD: LLLWWLLLLLWLDWWWL; Clontarf: WWWWLWWWWWWWWWWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: James Tarrant 81; Tries: David Ryan 9; Clontarf: Points: Dylan Donnellan 75; Tries: Dylan Donnellan 15
Preview: With the conclusion of their All-Ireland League season and a Fraser McMullen Cup semi-final also on the agenda, UCD are set for a busy weekend. Among their seven personnel changes are Ireland U-20 prop Jack Boyle who starts at loosehead.
The hard work is already done for Clontarf, with their progression to the semi-finals as table toppers. Ahead of a home date with either Cork Con or Dublin University in two weeks’ time, ‘Tarf boss Andy Wood is likely to rest some players.
Leinster Academy forwards Alex Soroka, Martin Moloney and Brian Deeny have gained valuable game-time during ‘Tarf’s almost unblemished campaign. However, they lost on their last visit to Belfield in February 2020, UCD’s current leading try scorer, David Ryan, crossing the whitewash in a 22-19 home win.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 29, 2020: UCD 22 Clontarf 19, UCD Bowl; Saturday, October 2, 2021: Clontarf 29 UCD 12, Castle Avenue
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win