The top of the table clash between Ulster rivals Instonians and Bangor is the headline act in the third round of Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 2C.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE MEN’S DIVISION 2C – ROUND 3:
Saturday, October 15
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
BRUFF (6th) v SKERRIES (8th), Kilballyowen Park
An up-and-down start to the season for both clubs with a win and a loss so far. Bruff battled back for a try-scoring bonus point at Spollanstown, but their leaky defence allowed Tullamore to rack up 50 points.
Scrum half Paul Collins continues to lead by example, picking up his third try and scoring 31 points already. Bruff will need others to step up too, as Skerries, following a big defeat to Instonians, are a wounded animal.
The Goats, who won 18-17 on their last visit to Kilballyowen Park, will have been working hard on their maul defence. Injuries have hampered them, and they are hoping to have the likes of Paul O’Loghlen, Ruairi Woods and Ronan Mulcahy back in due course.
CLONMEL (7th) v TULLAMORE (5th), Ardgaoithe
Clonmel were frustrated that they failed to build on a 10-point lead away to Omagh. A losing bonus point also slipped away from them, so putting together consistent results, especially at home, is a big target.
Tullamore’s tails are most definitely up after putting 50 points past Bruff. Their Zimbabwean centre Lance Batten burst into life with four tries, while new lock Alex Bercovici, who has moved across from Mullingar, impressed up front.
It should be quite a match-up at scrum half between Clonmel’s promising youngster Ross Slattery, who touched down last week in Omagh, and Tullamore play-maker Conor Dunne, the former Leinster and Ireland underage international.
INSTONIANS (1st) v BANGOR (2nd), Shaw’s Bridge
Instonians have made two changes to their back-line for the visit of second-placed Bangor. Former Ballynahinch scrum half Rhys O’Donnell starts at half-back, while Matthew Kilpatrick moves to midfield with Zak Davidson returning on the right wing.
The table toppers’ lineout drive has been hugely effective so far – hooker Neil Saulters has scored five tries during the opening two rounds – so that will be a key area for Bangor to get to grips with.
The Seasiders have been in free-scoring form themselves, averaging 31 points before this crunch Ulster derby. They have had seven different try scorers across the first fortnight, and a 27-point contribution from reliable young goal-kicker Rhys Larmour.
MIDLETON (4th) v OMAGH ACADEMICALS (3rd), Towns Park
Midleton won last week’s Cork derby with plenty to spare and now have a second successive home fixture to get their teeth into. Out-half Stuart Lee showed his class with a hat-trick of tries as part of an overall 23-point haul.
The Red Devils’ back-line carried plenty of threat, thriving off Lee’s slick distribution and well-directed attacks. They will need no reminding that Omagh won their two clashes last season, including a 21-14 victory at Towns Park in January.
The Accies were clinical in taking their handful of chances that day. They are yet to hit top form this term, but winger and captain Ryan Mitchell has led the way with three tries and stalwart second row Mervyn Edgar has touched down twice.
SUNDAY’S WELL (10th) v BALLINA (9th), Musgrave Park
The two teams occupying the division’s bottom runs meet on Leeside. Influential flanker Cormac Kelliher looks like a big loss for Sunday’s Well after his injury-enforced departure against Midleton.
More responsibility will fail on the shoulders of fellow back rower and skipper Conor O’Brien, whose ability to steal lineouts is a big asset. Their scrum also looks like it could have an impact in tight games.
This looks like being one of those, with Ballina drawing encouragement from their late bonus point picked up in Bangor. The Moy men have a talented crop of young players coming through, including Ireland Under-19 call-up Blayze Molloy.