Munster is a hotbed of Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 2A action this weekend, with the province playing host to four second round fixtures.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE MEN’S DIVISION 2A – ROUND 2:
Saturday, October 8
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
BALLYMENA (8th) v NAVAN (5th), Eaton Park
Ballymena are looking to quickly put last week’s opening defeat to Blackrock College behind them. Navan will be a tough nut to crack, though, as they showed their battling qualities in outlasting Cashel to win their opening by a single point.
It will be interesting to see how Navan develop as the season progress, especially with Italian Simone Ragusi on board as player-backs coach. Ballymena captain Glenn Baillie says they are ‘focusing on ourselves and looking to make the most of our first home game’.
The Braidmen’s new head coach Andy Hughes commented: “For me, it’s probably going to take a few AIL games to see what the guys are made of. I am still learning about the different personalities we have in the squad, but we are getting there.”
CASHEL (6th) v UL BOHEMIANS (9th), Spafield
Tipperary opposition again for UL Bohemians following on from their 20-5 loss to Nenagh Ormond. Ian Keatley’s charges deserved a closer scoreline, but still plenty of lessons to learn as they prepare to face one of last season’s promotion play-off semi-finalists.
Having been just a whisker away from winning in Navan, Cashel will be hugely determined to get back to winning ways. They have welcomed back big prop James Kendrick from Garryowen, while Argentinian Alfredo Bergada has also joined.
UL Bohs head coach Keatley has made five changes for the second round tie. Joe Murray replaces the injured Juan Ignacio Garcia on the right wing, Kiwi centre Ben Swindlehurst starts, and James Burton, David Kinane and Niall Queally are added to the pack.
DOLPHIN (10th) v BLACKROCK COLLEGE (3rd), Musgrave Park
Queen’s University were utterly ruthless in taking their chances against Dolphin. Brian Scott’s side will have spent the week licking their wounds and working on a game-plan to beat Blackrock College, last season’s Division 2B promotion winners.
The Corkmen have props James Rochford and Dave Jennings both back in harness, with their reinforced scrum and maul key parts of their overall game. Captain Ryan Foley remains a big influence at half-back.
Former Garryowen centre Dave McCarthy is set to make his first AIL start for Blackrock. Roy Whelan has also joined from the Light Blues. He partners Cian Reale, formerly of Old Crescent, in the second row, and there is another ex-Crescent player in the back row – Niall Hardiman.
NENAGH ORMOND (4th) v MU BARNHALL (2nd), New Ormond Park
There are three personnel changes to the Nenagh Ormond team that accounted for UL Bohemians on a 20-5 scoreline. Former Ireland Sevens international Josh Rowland and David Gleeson come into the back-three.
Jake O’Kelly switches to the second row with former Ireland underage international Evan Murphy taking his place at openside flanker. Veteran hooker Gareth Murray and South African lock Anre O’Neill are MU Barnhall’s only changes.
These clubs won their respective away fixture last season, the Blue Bulls winning 32-24 at Lisatunny on the opening day and Nenagh hitting back as 45-28 winners in the final round.
OLD CRESCENT (7th) v QUEEN’S UNIVERSITY (1st), Takumi Park
Old Crescent were one of the few teams that tested table-topping Queen’s last season, losing 40-21 to them at their Rosbrien base. Their new players include Garryowen pair Aaron Cosgrove and Daniel Feasey.
Judging by the way in which they dispatched Dolphin by 57 points, Queen’s will take some stopping as they hunt down that elusive promotion to the second tier. They have threats all over the pitch.
Derek Suffern’s young guns racked up 11 tries in their opening game despite missing talismanic captain David Whitten. Ulster Academy duo Rory Telfer and Joe Hopes, who is only 18, will also come in and make their selection even stronger.