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Energia All-Ireland League: Men’s Division 1B Previews

Energia All-Ireland League: Men’s Division 1B Previews

Leinster contact skills coach Sean O'Brien will make his return to All-Ireland League rugby as a player with Naas ©INPHO/Ben Brady

A certain Sean O’Brien is on the Naas bench as the Cobras chase their first win of the season at Old Belvedere, while Division 1B’s top four clubs are in Cork for two tasty encounters.


Saturday, October 15

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

CITY OF ARMAGH (7th) v OLD WESLEY (6th), Palace Grounds

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: City of Armagh: WL; Old Wesley: WL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – City of Armagh: Points: Shea O’Brien 7; Tries: Frank Bradshaw-Ryan, James McCormick, Neil Faloon, Dylan Nelson, Nigel Simpson 1 each; Old Wesley: Points: Ian Cassidy 14; Tries: Alex Molloy 2

Preview: City of Armagh’s Ulster forwards James McCormick and Frank Bradshaw-Ryan return to club duty, the latter having made his senior debut last week against the Ospreys. Paul Mullen and Ryan O’Neill also start up front.

Romain Morrow will direct the Armagh back-line from number 10. Visitors Old Wesley also lost in the last round, taking plenty of learnings from a four-try midlands beating at the hands of Buccaneers.

Wesley managed to win 19-16 on their most recent visit to the Palace Grounds last December. Tommy O’Callaghan scored the decisive try that day, and his back-three colleague, Alex Molloy, has started the new season with two in as many games.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 11, 2021: City of Armagh 16 Old Wesley 19, Palace Grounds; Saturday, January 15, 2022: Old Wesley 26 City of Armagh 8, Energia Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: City of Armagh to win

HIGHFIELD (2nd) v BUCCANEERS (4th), Woodleigh Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Highfield: WW; Buccaneers: LW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Highfield: Points: Cian Bohane 20; Tries: Cian Bohane 4; Buccaneers: Points: Michael Hanley 19; Tries: Darren Browne, Shane Jennings, Oisin McCormack, Josh O’Connor, Will Reilly 1 each

Preview: Ruaidhri Fallon replaces injured top scorer Michael Hanley at out-half for Buccaneers’ top four tussle with unbeaten Highfield. Sean O’Connell comes into the back row for the Connacht-tied Ciaran Booth.

Connacht prop Sam Illo is back from the Emerging Ireland tour and features on the Buccs bench. Highfield have made changes to their tight five, bringing in James French at tighthead and Sean Garrett pairs up with captain Dave O’Connell at lock.

Back rower Eddie Earle is promoted from the replacements to fill the blindside berth. The Pirates will have to keep close tabs on Cian Bohane, the 31-year-old ex-Munster centre, who is the division’s leading try scorer with four after two rounds.

Recent League Meetings – N/A

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win

MALONE (9th) v BANBRIDGE (8th), Gibson Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Malone: LL; Banbridge: LW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Rory Campbell 12; Tries: Dave Cave, Ben Gibson, Sam Green, Dan Kerr, David McMaster 1 each; Banbridge: Points: James Humphreys 14; Tries: Ryan Emerson, Conor Field, James Humphreys, Rob Lyttle, Robin Sinton 1 each

Preview: Division 1B’s first Ulster derby of the season sees Malone hosts a Banbridge side that overcame Old Belvedere last Saturday. That result gave Bann a timely lift, with director of rugby Andy Duke saying ‘it will give the players lots of confidence’.

He had praise for Ulster Academy out-half James Humphreys who ‘has slotted in seamlessly in a position that has been problematic for us over recent seasons’. Malone will also benefit from some provincial releases.

Ulster’s Declan Moore and Aaron Sexton are set to start for the Cregagh Red Sox. Head coach Josh Pentland commented: “The boys showed greater character to come away from St. Mary’s with two bonus points. With this being an Ulster derby, we expect that added edge and physicality to the game.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 20, 2021: Malone 22 Banbridge 21, Gibson Park; Saturday, February 19, 2022: Banbridge 22 Malone 15, Rifle Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Banbridge to win

OLD BELVEDERE (5th) v NAAS (10th), Ollie Campbell Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: WL; Naas: LL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: David Wilkinson, Kale Thatcher 10 each; Tries: Kale Thatcher 2; Naas: Points: Oscar Cawley 10; Tries: Oscar Cawley 2

Preview: Former Leinster, Ireland and Lions back rower Sean O’Brien is set to make his much-anticipated debut for Naas on Saturday, having been named on the bench for their trip to Old Belvedere.

Oscar Cawley, Conor Doyle and Eoin Walsh are the Cobras’ three changes, with head coach Johne Murphy saying: “Sean still has the grá and the want to play at a high level. So that’s really important and we’re definitely going to benefit from that throughout the season.”

Old Belvedere were a missed conversion away from beating Banbridge. A return to winning ways here would give a positive finish to this first block of fixtures for Ben Manion and fellow coaches Karl Miller, Quenton O’Neale and Ken Knaggs.

Recent League Meetings – Friday, October 1, 2021: Old Belvedere 16 Naas 13, Ollie Campbell Park; Saturday, April 9, 2022: Naas 53 Old Belvedere 7, Forenaughts

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win

UCC (1st) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (3rd), the Mardyke

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCC: WW; St. Mary’s College: LW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: Daniel Squires 16; Tries: Sean Condon 2; St. Mary’s College: Points: Mick O’Gara 25; Tries: Hugo Conway, Liam Corcoran, Conor Hickey, Steven Kilgallen, Tim MacMahon, Ronan Waters 1 each

Preview: A gruelling late defensive stand earned UCC victory by the narrowest of margins against City of Armagh. It keeps the early season momentum going for new director of rugby Michael Bradley, who looks to be building some solid foundations.

This Mardyke clash will see the division’s best defence come up against the most potent attack, with St. Mary’s College averaging 34.5 points per game so far. UCC will want to curb the influence of Mick O’Gara who amassed 21 points against Malone.

Mary’s and UCC have not played each other since their 2018 promotion/relegation play-off semi-final. The Cork students triumphed 36-24 that day in Templeogue, scoring five tries with a brace from current Terenure College centre Peter Sylvester.

Recent League Meeting – Saturday, April 21, 2018: Promotion/Relegation Play-Off Semi-Final – St. Mary’s College 24 UCC 36, Templeville Road

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win