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

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

Former Highfield captain Chris Banon is pictured in possession against Buccaneers recently ©Voicu Duma/Perfectlight

Neighbours Old Belvedere and Old Wesley battle it out in Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1B on Saturday, while leaders UCC are back at home to face Johne Murphy’s Naas.


Saturday, November 5

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

CITY OF ARMAGH (7th) v HIGHFIELD (4th), Palace Grounds

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: City of Armagh: WLWL; Highfield: WWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – City of Armagh: Points: Shea O’Brien 19; Tries: James McCormick, Shea O’Brien 2 each; Highfield: Points: Cian Bohane 20; Tries: Cian Bohane 4

Preview: Both of these teams are smarting from defeats, City of Armagh’s the more alarming one as they leaked 22 unanswered second half points against St. Mary’s College. A heavy penalty count really hurt them in the end.

Number 8 Neil Faloon is one of the players swapping back in from the Armagh bench. Highfield, who have lost two games on the trot, make most of their changes up front, bringing in Daragh Fitzgerald, John O’Callaghan and blindside flanker Con Butler.

Armagh head coach Chris Parker commented: “We need to improve our discipline so the opposition stop getting easy yards up the pitch. The squad have worked hard this week and I expect a reaction against Highfield and a much improved performance.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 4, 2021: Highfield 21 City of Armagh 10, Woodleigh Park; Saturday, January 22, 2022: City of Armagh 27 Highfield 21, Palace Grounds

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win

MALONE (9th) v BUCCANEERS (2nd), Gibson Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Malone: LLWL; Buccaneers: LWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Rory Campbell 26; Tries: Ben Gibson, Dan Kerr 2 each; Buccaneers: Points: Michael Hanley 33; Tries: Josh O’Connor, Will Reilly 2 each

Preview: Three defeats out of four leave Malone second from bottom in the table. They are determined to put an error-strewn second half display against Naas behind them, as Buccaneers pay them a visit for the first time since March 2019.

Buccs are on a three-match winning run and they are able to field an unchanged team, which again includes Connacht hooker Shane Delahunt. Danny Qualter, Oisin McCormack and Ciaran Booth form a dynamic back row trio.

It remains to be seen if Malone’s top scorer Rory Campbell (26 points) will be involved after suffering a hamstring injury last Saturday. They key for the Cregagh Red Sox is getting on the front foot and maintaining their advantage when they do.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 3, 2018: Buccaneers 23 Malone 24, Dubarry Park; Saturday, March 2, 2019: Malone 6 Buccaneers 11, Gibson Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win

OLD BELVEDERE (6th) v OLD WESLEY (5th), Ollie Campbell Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: WLWL; Old Wesley: WLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Joe White, Kale Thatcher 15 each; Tries: Joe White, Kale Thatcher 3 each; Old Wesley: Points: Ian Cassidy 20; Tries: Alex Molloy, Reuben Pim 2 each

Preview: The division’s Dublin 4 derby sees former Dublin University out-half Mick O’Kennedy start for hosts Old Belvedere. Joe White, the scorer of three tries so far, reverts to the left wing with David Wilkinson joining him in the back-field at full-back.

Belvedere cover the absence of New Zealander Kale Thatcher by moving Paddy Dowling to number 8, while Barry Dooley fills the loosehead prop berth. Old Wesley beat ‘Belvo twice last season, including a 34-18 triumph at Ollie Campbell Park.

Wesley make just one personnel change from last week’s gritty 6-5 success at home to Highfield. Former Lansdowne flanker Josh O’Hare, who was part of the wider Ireland Under-19 squad last year, comes in at blindside, with Sam Pim now at lock.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 27, 2021: Old Belvedere 18 Old Wesley 34, Ollie Campbell Park; Saturday, January 29, 2022: Old Wesley 22 Old Belvedere 7, Energia Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (3rd) v BANBRIDGE (10th), Templeville Road

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: LWLW; Banbridge: LWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Mick O’Gara 42; Tries: Hugo Conway, Steven Kilgallen 3 each; Banbridge: Points: James Humphreys 29; Tries: Ben Carson 3

Preview: Former Connacht Academy player Hugh Lane will line out on the right wing for St. Mary’s College as they look to make it three wins in four games. Mark Fogarty also joins the division’s top scorer Mick O’Gara (42 points) in midfield.

Two more of Mary’s summer signings complete the changes from last week – former Old Belvedere flanker Ethan Baxter and Kiwi lock Harry MacDonald, who was previously playing for High School Old Boys in Christchurch.

Harry Bird, Justin Burns, Josh Cromie and Macauley Little all come into the Banbridge back-line. Maintaining a positive outlook, their head coach Mark McDowell said: “This is never any easy league, the margins are so tight. But I still think we are well placed to pick up more wins in this half of the season.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 16, 2021: Banbridge 17 St. Mary’s College 29, Rifle Park; Saturday, March 26, 2022: St. Mary’s College 34 Banbridge 10, Templeville Road

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

UCC (1st) v NAAS (8th), the Mardyke

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCC: WWWW; Naas: LLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCC: Points: Daniel Squires 33; Tries: Sean Condon 3; Naas: Points: Oscar Cawley 20; Tries: Oscar Cawley 4

Preview: Louis Bruce returns to captain UCC from full-back after missing their 32-21 bonus point triumph at Banbridge. 22-year-old Munster hooker Scott Buckley also starts, following some recent appearances off the province’s bench.

The Division 1B leaders restore Rory Duggan and Mark Bissessar to the tight five too. This is Naas’ first trip to the Mardyke since March 2018, and their only change sees Patrick O’Flaherty make way for David Benn in the second row.

There should be some fireworks in the backs with UCC winger Sean Condon seeking his fourth try in five rounds, and the Kildare men have plenty of young attacking talent of their own – Oscar Cawley is on four tries, followed by Andrew Osborne on three.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 7, 2017: Naas 5 UCC 13, Forenaughts; Saturday, March 31, 2018: UCC 31 Naas 36, the Mardyke

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCC to win