The make-up of the top four remains undecided heading into a gripping final round in Energia All-Ireland League Division 2B. Connacht clubs Ballina and Galwegians will contest the relegation play-off.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – MEN’S DIVISION 2B:
AS THINGS STAND:
Promotion Play-Off Semi-Finals (April 23): 1st (Greystones or Blackrock College at home) v 4th (TBC); 2nd (TBC at home) v (3rd (TBC)
Promotion Play-Off Final (April 30): Home advantage to highest-ranked team
Relegation Play-Off First Leg (April 23): 10th (Galwegians at home) v 9th (Ballina)
Relegation Play-Off Second Leg (April 30): 9th (Ballina at home) v 10th (Galwegians)
ROUND 18: Saturday, April 9
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
BALLINA (9th) v GALWEGIANS (10th), Heffernan Park
Ballina’s hopes of climbing out of the bottom two were ended by last week’s 45-0 defeat to high-flying Blackrock College in Dublin. Their survival mission now rests on a two-legged relegation play-off against Connacht rivals Galwegians.
Intriguingly, the two sides meet tomorrow afternoon and a psychological blow could be landed as the Moy men chase their first victory since late February, while bottom side ‘Wegians were last triumphant in early March.
The Blues pipped Ballina 23-22 on the opening day of the season, courtesy of a Conor O’Shaughnessy penalty. Talented half-back Mickey Murphy, with an incredible 450 club appearances behind him, will lead Ballina’s revenge mission.
DUNGANNON (7th) v GREYSTONES (1st), Stevenson Park
Dungannon are in limbo land in seventh spot, although they could still have a big say in who finishes top of the table. Greystones are bringing a big travelling support as they look to finish the regular season in first place.
Kevin Lewis’ ‘Stones side were back to their rampaging best last week, thumping Malahide 83-0 with thirteen tries scored. Captain Killian Marmion touched down and kicked nine conversions, adding to his already mammoth haul for the campaign.
Two early tries off mauls, combined with James McMahon’s player-of-the-match performance from number 8, were the highlights of Dungannon’s 29-19 defeat at Sligo. Greystones, notably, have a point to prove after losing three of their last four away games.
GALWAY CORINTHIANS (4th) v BLACKROCK COLLEGE (2nd), Corinthian Park
Two of the five clubs that are still in the hunt for promotion. Galway Corinthians could finish as high as second or miss out completely, while visitors Blackrock College have booked their play-off spot but need to nail down home advantage.
If Blackrock prevail, this would be their fourth straight victory over Connacht opposition. Last Saturday they beat Ballina 45-0 with two tries coming from number 8 James Burke, one of the coaches involved in Blackrock’s Leinster Schools Senior Cup success.
With fifth-placed Wanderers breathing down their necks, Corinthians need a big performance. Their outgoing head coach JP Cooney said: “Wanderers will be keeping constant pressure on us. It’s plain and simple, we either win on Saturday or that’s where the season finishes for us all.”
MALAHIDE (8th) v BELFAST HARLEQUINS (3rd), Estuary Road
Leaking over 80 points to Greystones will have hurt a lot, so Malahide player coach Brendan Guilfoyle is seeking a big reaction from his side in their final home fixture. They are out to avenge a 28-24 first round loss to Belfast Harlequins.
Harlequins have hit form at just the right time, putting together six wins on the bounce. Their latest one, a 20-10 triumph at home to Corinthians, saw their maul impress again with Steven Weir and Malcolm Corry both dotting down.
Neil Doak, whose ‘Quins team are pressing for a second place finish, commented: “Corinthians are a quality side and that game was a must-win for us. The league has been so tight for a number of weeks and every win is vital to keep us in the top four.”
WANDERERS (5th) v SLIGO (6th), Merrion Road
Despite some disappointing away results, with five defeats on the road before last week’s win at Galwegians, Wanderers’ brilliant haul of 17 bonus points (including eleven try bonuses) has them challenging for the play-offs.
Eoin Sheriff’s men can only do what is within their control this weekend and that is defeating Sligo at home. They are also hoping that Blackrock can do them a favour in Galway.
Sligo are aiming to finish on a high after a six-match losing run knocked the stuffing out of their challenge for promotion. They came from 14-0 down last week to beat Dungannon 29-19, with their Scottish out-half Euan Brown scoring 14 points.