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

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

Highfield's David O'Sullivan, supported by his centre partner Cian Bohane, takes the ball into contact against Buccaneers in the last round ©Voicu Duma/Perfectlight

Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1B resumes with a top-three tussle between Buccaneers and Old Belvedere, and leaders UCC face a tough challenge in overcoming battle-hardened Banbridge.


Saturday, October 29

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

OLD WESLEY (8th) v HIGHFIELD (4th), Energia Park, 2pm

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WLL; Highfield: WWL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Ian Cassidy 14; Tries: Alex Molloy, Reuben Pim 2 each; Highfield: Points: Cian Bohane 20; Tries: Cian Bohane 4

Preview: Old Wesley are back at their Donnybrook base after two contrasting defeats. Ian Cassidy and Keith Kavanagh, who had both started the season strongly, return at half-back, while former Shannon hooker Ty Chan makes his first league start for his new club.

Highfield have tweaked their back-three with the addition of Luke Kingston, who fills the full-back berth, and Colin O’Neill. It was one home win apiece last season with Highfield going down heavily in the corresponding fixture – 30-3.

Former Munster player Cian Bohane remains the division’s leading try scorer with four tries to date. Wesley’s centres Eoin Deegan, a two-time Under-20 Player of the Year at the club, and James O’Donovan will relish coming up against him.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 20, 2021: Highfield 20 Old Wesley 7, Woodleigh Park; Saturday, February 19, 2022: Old Wesley 30 Highfield 3, Energia Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win

BANBRIDGE (9th) v UCC (1st), Rifle Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Banbridge: LWL; UCC: WWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Banbridge: Points: James Humphreys 23; Tries: Ben Carson 2; UCC: Points: Daniel Squires 26; Tries: Sean Condon 3

Preview: Banbridge have to play Saturday’s game behind closed doors, as a result of two incidents during their most recent fixture against Malone. The IRFU Disciplinary Committee decided that it was the appropriate sanction for the club.

Disappointed with how Bann finished the Ulster derby, with full-back Adam Doherty seeing red, director of rugby Andy Duke said: “The break gave us time to reflect on just where we went wrong in that second half and how we can put it right. We need to put it all together for 80 minutes, not just 40.”

Leaders UCC made their first trip to Rifle Park since winning the 2018 promotion play-off final there. Cian Whooley captains them from out-half – in the absence of Louis Bruce – and there are starts for Johnny Murphy at full-back, hooker Luke McAuliffe, and number 8 Patrick McBarron.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 7, 2018: UCC 32 Banbridge 31, the Mardyke; Saturday, April 28, 2018: Division 1B Promotion Play-Off Final – Banbridge 10 UCC 15, Rifle Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCC to win

BUCCANEERS (2nd) v OLD BELVEDERE (3rd), Dubarry Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Buccaneers: LWW; Old Belvedere: WLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Buccaneers: Points: Michael Hanley 19; Tries: Josh O’Connor, Will Reilly 2 each; Old Belvedere: Points: Joe White 15; Tries: Joe White 3

Preview: Second-placed Buccaneers welcome back Danny Qualter from holiday, the former Connacht and Nottingham forward slotting into a back row that also includes Ciaran Booth, one of the province’s up-and-coming number 8s.

Michael Hanley, who was an injury doubt, and Will Reilly are poised to start for the Pirates at half-back. Experienced Connacht hooker Shane Delahunt is also pencilled in to start after a spell on the sidelines with a hamstring injury.

Fresh from his late try-scoring heroics against Naas, Joe White switches to full-back for Old Belvedere. David Wilkinson dons the number 10 jersey, Gavin Nugent is drafted in on the left wing, and former skipper Connor Owende is restored to the second row.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 8, 2018: Old Belvedere 11 Buccaneers 10, Anglesea Road; Saturday, January 26, 2019: Buccaneers 20 Old Belvedere 12, Dubarry Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win

NAAS (10th) v MALONE (7th), Forenaughts

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Naas: LLL; Malone: LLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Oscar Cawley 15; Tries: Oscar Cawley 3; Malone: Points: Rory Campbell 19; Tries: Ben Gibson 2

Preview: Naas have had to quickly put the disappointment of losing Sean O’Brien to a hamstring injury behind them. A first win of the season is really a must here, especially with the current eight-point gap to the top half of the table.

Talented teenager Charlie Sheridan joins Henry Smith in the Cobras’ midfield, behind an unchanged pack. Malone will make the trip with renewed confidence after claiming the Ulster derby spoils against Banbridge.

The Cregagh Red Sox should have Ulster duo Aaron Sexton and Declan Moore available again. Hooker Moore touched down on his club debut against Bann, and the game also saw the jet-heeled Sexton set up a second score of the season for Ben Gibson.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 9, 2021: Naas 41 Malone 24, Forenaughts; Saturday, April 2, 2022: Malone 33 Naas 16, Gibson Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Naas to win

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (6th) v CITY OF ARMAGH (5th), Templeville Road

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: LWL; City of Armagh: WLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Mick O’Gara 30; Tries: Hugo Conway, Liam Corcoran, Richie Halpin, Conor Hickey, Adam McEvoy, Jack Reidy Walsh, Ronan Watters 1 each; City of Armagh: Points: Shea O’Brien 14; Tries: James McCormick 2

Preview: Andrew Willis and Evin Crummie are both promoted from the bench, starting in a City of Armagh back-line that is missing captain Tim McNiece. They are boosted by the presence of Ulster and Emerging Ireland’s Michael McDonald at scrum half.

James McCormick and Frank Bradshaw-Ryan also bring provincial experience to the visitors’ pack. St. Mary’s College will try to counter that with a strong back row trio of captain Ronan Watters, the freshly-introduced Niall Hurley, and Ronan Foley.

Mary’s head coach Sean Cronin has also swapped in Steven O’Brien and Mick McCormack as starters in the front row. The final change from their tight defeat to UCC sees Ryan O’Loughlin join Mick O’Gara, the division’s top scorer (30 points), in midfield.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 30, 2021: St. Mary’s College 35 City of Armagh 13, Templeville Road; Saturday, March 5, 2022: City of Armagh 21 St. Mary’s College 10, Palace Grounds

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