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

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

Clontarf prop Ben Griffin tackles Cork Constitution and Munster's Liam O'Connor during last season's Division 1A semi-final at Castle Avenue ©INPHO/Dan Sheridan

Two titanic top four tussles are on Saturday’s menu in Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1A. The round wraps up with a big Limerick derby under the Thomond Park floodlights.

ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE MEN’S DIVISION 1A – ROUND 8:

Saturday, December 3

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

CORK CONSTITUTION (3rd) v CLONTARF (4th), Temple Hill

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Cork Constitution: WLWWWWW; Clontarf: WWWWWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Cork Constitution: Points: Aidan Moynihan 60; Tries: Alessandro Heaney, Billy Scannell 3 each; Clontarf: Points: Conor Kelly 55; Tries: Dylan Donnellan 6

Preview: Newly-capped Georgian international Vakh Abdaladze will pack down in Clontarf’s front row for their trip to Cork Constitution, in what is a repeat of last season’s semi-final. The pressure is on defending champions ‘Tarf after losing to both Young Munster and Terenure College.

Backs Greg Higgins and Ian Leonard come into the Cork Con team that battled past Ballynahinch in windy conditions last week. Jonny Holland’s men are striving for their sixth win in a row and some revenge for that 29-13 play-off defeat to the north Dubliners last April.

Notably, the leading try scorers for both clubs come from the front row ranks – ‘Tarf hooker Dylan Donnellan with a division leading haul of six, while Billy Scannell and Alessandro Heaney have notched three each so far for Constitution.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 26, 2022: Cork Constitution 12 Clontarf 24, Temple Hill; Saturday, April 23, 2022: Semi-Final – Clontarf 29 Cork Constitution 13, Castle Avenue

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win

GARRYOWEN (10th) v BALLYNAHINCH (6th), Dooradoyle

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Garryowen: LLLLLLL; Ballynahinch: WWLLWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Garryowen: Points: Tony Butler 42; Tries: JJ O’Neill 4; Ballynahinch: Points: Greg Hutley 68; Tries: George Pringle 5

Preview: Ballynahinch head south to bottom-placed Garryowen, with their starting XV including Ulster pair Ben Moxham and Cormac Izuchukwu. Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam-winning captain Reuben Crothers is a notable addition to their bench.

This is Garryowen’s final home game of 2022 and they have to make the most of it. Last week saw them pick up just their second league point, battling back with an encouraging four-try second half at Lansdowne where young forward Brian Gleeson stood out.

The Light Blues won both of their matches against ‘Hinch last season, by five points on the road and three points at home. Centre Matt Sheehan, a debutant last March, struck right at the death for the match-winning try in a 29-26 triumph at Dooradoyle.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 30, 2021: Ballynahinch 22 Garryowen 27, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, March 5, 2022: Garryowen 29 Ballynahinch 26, Dooradoyle

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win

TERENURE COLLEGE (1st) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (2nd), Lakelands Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Terenure College: WWWWWWW; Dublin University: WWWWLWL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Terenure College: Points: Caolan Dooley 43; Tries: Craig Adams, Adam La Grue 6 each; Dublin University: Points: Aran Egan 94; Tries: Ronan Quinn 5

Preview: Leinster’s Lee Barron and Thomas Clarkson give Dublin University a front row boost, coming in as starters for their visit to leaders Terenure College. John Francis Campbell gets an opportunity impress on the right wing.

Exciting youngster Henry McErlean is handed the reins at out-half for unbeaten Terenure. Peter Sylvester’s absence is covered by Caolan Dooley’s move to inside centre. Craig Adams, the division’s joint-top try scorer with six tries, features on the left wing.

Dooley was ‘Nure’s match winner when these sides met 13 months ago, landing a monster late penalty to take a one-point verdict. Trinity are smarting from two defeats in the last three rounds and will need a big performance to upset ‘Nure, on current form.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 6, 2021: Dublin University 15 Terenure College 16, College Park; Saturday, February 26, 2022: Terenure College 36 Dublin University 15, Lakelands Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College to win

UCD (9th) v LANSDOWNE (7th), UCD Bowl

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCD: LLLLLWL; Lansdowne: LLLWLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: Tim Corkery 31; Tries: Sean O’Brien, Mark Fleming, Ross Deegan 3 each; Lansdowne: Points: Peter Hastie 36; Tries: Clive Ross, Michael Silvester 4 each

Preview: UCD welcome back Leinster Academy duo Chris Cosgrave and Sean O’Brien for their Belfield clash with an unchanged Lansdowne. Cosgrave, who starts on the left wing, played for the province against Glasgow Warriors last Saturday.

Another of their Academy talents, flanker Diarmuid Mangan, is back from injury for his first start of the campaign. UCD and Lansdowne have had some high-scoring encounters, including last January’s 32-27 win for the students which produced seven tries.

The Sutherland Cup will be awarded to the winners, and Lansdowne have strengthened their starting XV with the addition of Leinster scrum half Cormac Foley. Ruairi Clarke and Conor McMenamin are reintroduced into the pack, meaning positional switches for James Doyle and captain Clive Ross.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 4, 2021: Lansdowne 48 UCD 15, Aviva Stadium back pitch; Saturday, January 22, 2022: UCD 32 Lansdowne 27, UCD Bowl

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCD to win

SHANNON (8th) v YOUNG MUNSTER (5th), Thomond Park main pitch, 5pm

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Shannon: LLLLWLW; Young Munster: LWWLLWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Shannon: Points: Mike Cooke 49; Tries: Ethan Coughlan, Jordan Prenderville, Aran Hehir 2 each; Young Munster: Points: Evan Cusack 40; Tries: Dan Walsh 3

Preview: Shannon and Young Munster are both enjoying some resurgent form of late, with four wins between them in the last three rounds. Praising the entertainment value on offer, Shannon head coach Pat O’Connor is hoping for a big home turnout.

“I’m sure both sides will really enjoy playing on the main pitch at Thomond Park,” he said. “Hopefully there’ll be a big crowd and a big occasion. You look across this league, most sides score four tries every week which is exciting rugby.”

O’Connor has both of his Munster Academy props, Kieran Ryan and Darragh McSweeney, starting for what will be a battle royal up front. Shay McCarthy switches to full-back for the Cookies, who are without Patrick Campbell but are able to bring Munster’s Dan Goggin into midfield.

Recent League Meetings – Friday, October 12, 2018: Shannon 23 Young Munster 10, Thomond Park main pitch; Friday, April 5, 2022: Young Munster 33 Shannon 7, Tom Clifford Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Young Munster to win