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

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

Second row Paul Monahan will lead Naas into battle against St. Mary's College on Saturday afternoon ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

With their unbeaten run ended by Naas, Michael Bradley’s UCC side are on the road to new leaders Buccaneers in the match of the round in Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1B.


Saturday, November 12

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

BANBRIDGE (10th) v CITY OF ARMAGH (5th), Rifle Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Banbridge: LWLLL; City of Armagh: WLWLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Banbridge: Points: James Humphreys 29; Tries: Ben Carson 3; City of Armagh: Points: Kyle Faloon 29; Tries: James McCormick 3

Preview: Banbridge were very honest with themselves after a record All-Ireland League defeat to St. Mary’s College. Following the 66-7 loss, head coach Mark McDowell said: “We’re starting into the face of another relegation battle if we don’t turn things around and quickly.”

Having their Ulster players released is an obvious help, so Rob Lyttle and Academy duo Ben Carson and James Humphreys will start in the backs. Callum Reid, David McCann and Greg Jones also feature up front for the division’s bottom side.

Sitting in fifth place, City of Armagh arrive on the back of an impressive four-try victory over Highfield. Ulster’s Michael McDonald, James McCormick and Frank Bradshaw-Ryan will start in an otherwise unchanged line-up.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 2, 2021: Banbridge 10 City of Armagh 20, Rifle Park; Saturday, April 9, 2022: City of Armagh 18 Banbridge 28, Palace Grounds

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: City of Armagh to win

BUCCANEERS (1st) v UCC (2nd), Dubarry Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Buccaneers: LWWWW; UCC: WWWWL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Buccaneers: Points: Michael Hanley 48; Tries: Josh O’Connor, Will Reilly, Shane Layden, Saul O’Carroll, Shane Delahunt 2 each; UCC: Points: Daniel Squires 39; Tries: Sean Condon 4

Preview: Connacht’s Shane Jennings, Matthew Burke, Shane Delahunt, Darragh Murray, Oisin McCormack and Ciaran Booth will all start for Buccaneers in this top of the table clash, which has experienced coaches Eddie O’Sullivan and Bradley in opposing corners.

O’Sullivan has made six changes to the team that won 35-18 at Malone, including the repositioning of Danny Qualter to lock. The last time Buccs hosted UCC in a league game back in 2016, current Ireland Sevens star Jordan Conroy scored two tries in a 49-36 win.

Bradley moves his captain Louis Bruce to centre for this Athlone encounter, the presence of Munster hooker Scott Buckley in the front row another boost for UCC who are aiming to bounce back from their first defeat of the season – a 26-21 reversal at home to Naas.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 8, 2016: Buccaneers 49 UCC 36, Dubarry Park; Saturday, March 11, 2017: UCC 13 Buccaneers 12, the Mardyke

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win

HIGHFIELD (8th) v OLD BELVEDERE (4th), Woodleigh Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Highfield: WWLLL; Old Belvedere: WLWLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Highfield: Points: Cian Bohane 20; Tries: Cian Bohane 4; Old Belvedere: Points: Kale Thatcher, Joe White 15 each; Tries: Kale Thatcher, Joe White 3 each

Preview: Munster prop James French is one of five changes to the Highfield team that lost by a dozen points in Armagh. Shane Buckley leads the back-line from out-half, with starts too for Luke Kingston, Robert Murphy and Aidan Keane.

Captain Dave O’Connell switches to blindside flanker, keen for a repeat of last season’s two successful results against Old Belvedere. Highfield won 24-20 in the capital twelve months ago before winning the rematch by two points in February.

Old Belvedere look an improved outfit since then, now chasing their fourth win in six games. One of their four changes sees the return of their joint-top try scorer Kale Thatcher at number 8, with Paddy Dowling reverting to the second row.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 6, 2021: Old Belvedere 20 Highfield 24, Ollie Campbell Park; Saturday, February 26, 2022: Highfield 22 Old Belvedere 20, Woodleigh Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win

NAAS (6th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (3rd), Forenaughts

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Naas: LLLWW; St. Mary’s College: LWLWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Naas: Points: Bryan Croke 27; Tries: Andrew Osborne 5; St. Mary’s College: Points: Mick O’Gara 56; Tries: Hugo Conway, Conor Hickey, Steven Kilgallen 4 each

Preview: Player coach Craig Ronaldson returns from injury at out-half for Naas’ date with an equally in-form St. Mary’s College. Connor Halpenny joins him at half-back, with Bryan Croke and Oscar Cawley swapping out this week.

The Cobras’ pack is unchanged, but Connacht prop Jordan Duggan is poised for some game-time off the bench. Johne Murphy coaches against Sean Cronin for the first time, although the former Ireland hooker was involved with St. Mary’s as an assistant coach last season.

There are three changes to the Mary’s team that ran out 66-7 winners at Banbridge. Jack Reidy Walsh replaces Mick McCormack at tighthead prop, Peter Starrett also comes into the tight five, and Niall Hurley is added to a back row that sees captain Ronan Watters shift to number 8.

Recent League Meetings – Friday, December 3, 2021: Naas 35 St. Mary’s College 19, Forenaughts; Saturday, January 22, 2022: St. Mary’s College 27 Naas 17, Templeville Road

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

OLD WESLEY (7th) v MALONE (9th), Energia Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WLLWL; Malone: LLWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Ian Cassidy 29; Tries: Alex Molloy, Reuben Pim 2 each; Malone: Points: Rory Campbell 34; Tries: Ben Gibson, Dan Kerr 2 each

Preview: Old Wesley managed to pick up a losing bonus point in their derby defeat to Old Belvedere, meaning they are four points outside of the top four, and four above the bottom two. Victory here against Malone would give them a timely lift.

Former Shannon back Nathan Randles comes in on the right wing for Wesley, who also give starts up front to Howard Noonan and 6ft 8in lock David Moyter. Visitors Malone lost by five points on their most recent visit to Energia Park.

Forwards Dan Kerr and Stuart Dodington have stood out recently for the Cregagh Red Sox with player-of-the-match performances. They did bounce back from two opening defeats with a win over Banbridge, and are hoping to repeat that feat against Morgan Lennon’s men.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 6, 2021: Old Wesley 16 Malone 11, Energia Park; Saturday, February 26, 2022: Malone 29 Old Wesley 34, Gibson Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win