Energia All-Ireland League Division 2C’s final round sees Skerries and Bangor chasing home advantage for the promotion play-offs, while Sunday’s Well and City of Derry are still fighting to avoid finishing in the bottom two.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – MEN’S DIVISION 2C:
AS THINGS STAND:
Promotion Play-Off Semi-Finals (April 23): 1st (Enniscorthy at home) v 4th (Tullamore); 2nd (Skerries or Bangor at home) v (3rd (Skerries or Bangor)
Promotion Play-Off Final (April 30): Home advantage to highest-ranked team
Relegation Play-Off First Leg (April 23): 10th (Clonmel at home) v 9th (City of Derry or Sunday’s Well)
Relegation Play-Off Second Leg (April 30): 9th (City of Derry or Sunday’s Well at home) v 10th (Clonmel)
ROUND 18: Saturday, April 9
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
BRUFF (6th) v BANGOR (3rd), Kilballyowen Park
Since losing at table toppers Enniscorthy in late January, Bangor have won four of their last five games to secure a promotion play-off spot. Skerries are their confirmed semi-final opponents, but can they leapfrog them to secure home advantage?
Currently trailing Skerries by three points, Bangor director of rugby Tom Rock said: “There’s a lot of rugby still to be played. We haven’t achieved anything yet, but we have belief and I see a side now who can compete and beat anyone in the league.”
It is a case of what might have been for mid-table Bruff who stunned Skerries with a six-try 42-37 defeat at Holmpatrick last week. To do it with a player sent-off before half-time shows what the Limerick men are capable of on their day.
CITY OF DERRY (9th) v TULLAMORE (4th), Judge’s Road
The fact that Tullamore are guaranteed to finish fourth – thanks to back-to-back home wins – could work in City of Derry’s favour. Derry were a missed conversion away from drawing with Enniscorthy, showing how their performances have improved.
Richard McCarter’s side know what they have to do, as well as hoping that Sunday’s Well, who have a two-point buffer, slip up at Clonmel. Captain Cathal Cregan and returning winger Simon Logue have really stepped up for Derry in recent rounds.
Clever use of a second half wind, with accurate kicking and a powerful maul, saw Tullamore come out top against Omagh last week. With Enniscorthy on the horizon, Darin Claasen’s charges will want to take some momentum into the play-offs.
CLONMEL (10th) v SUNDAY’S WELL (8th), Ardgaoithe
Last Saturday’s derby success against Midleton moved Sunday’s Well out of the bottom two. It has been all hands to the pump, including Denis Hurley who, in his first season as the ‘Well’s head coach, has donned the boots for a return at inside centre.
Victory here would see Hurley avoid a quick-fire rematch with his former Munster team-mate Ian Keatley, whose Clonmel side are planning for the relegation play-off. Clonmel drew 17-all with the ‘Well in October’s season opener.
Scoring has been a problem for the Tipperary outfit, with an average of just over 10 points per game despite the best efforts of Luke Hogan and Darren Cass. Improving their conversion rate from attacks could be crucial in the coming weeks.
MIDLETON (5th) v ENNISCORTHY (1st), Towns Park
Losing their last three away matches, including that hard-fought Cork derby, proved particularly costly for Midleton whose promotion hopes are now over. The Red Devils’ best performances have come at home with six wins out of eight.
Enniscorthy gave their Australian head coach Ben Manion a winning debut back in October, beating Midleton 39-17. They have since shown themselves to be the division’s most consistent team, chalking up a very impressive 15 victories.
With players of the calibre of Nick Doyle, captain Tomás Stamp and Timmy Morrissey, ‘Scorthy will take some stopping in the play-offs. Manion says ‘when the weather gets better and grounds get harder and faster, that will suit us’.
OMAGH ACADEMICALS (7th) v SKERRIES (2nd), Thomas Mellon Playing Fields
Omagh have been very competitive across the second half of the season, but have lost six games in a row and picked up five losing bonus points in the process. There is plenty of hope for the future with their squad having an average age of just 22.
Skerries have a shot at a home semi-final with a dozen victories behind them. Having been top of the table pre-Covid in 2020, almost a year on from their relegation from Division 2B, Kevin McGrath and his team-mates have unfinished business to take care of.
Step one is to ensure they are back at Holmpatrick for knockout rugby in two weeks’ time. Having lost to Tullamore and Bruff during the last two rounds, the Goats need a timely return to winning ways from their long trip north to Tyrone.