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Energia All-Ireland League: Men’s Divisions 1A/1B Previews

Energia All-Ireland League: Men’s Divisions 1A/1B Previews

The Energia All-Ireland League Men's Divisions are back a week early, with some rescheduled games from before the Christmas break ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

The Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Divisions return for their first 2023 action, with five rescheduled round 9 matches set to take place in the top two tiers.


Saturday, January 7

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

BALLYNAHINCH (6th) v UCD (9th), Ballymacarn Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Ballynahinch: WWLLWLLW; UCD: LLLLLWLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Ballynahinch: Points: Greg Hutley 74; Tries: George Pringle 7; UCD: Points: Tim Corkery 38; Tries: Alex O’Grady 4

Preview: Ballynahinch have returned to winning ways of late, coming away from Garryowen with maximum points and retaining the Ulster Rugby Premiership title. Centre George Pringle chalked up seven tries across the first half of the league season.

UCD won on their most recent visit to Ballymacarn Park, taking a 27-19 verdict last February when Leinster’s Chris Cosgrave kicked 12 points. They have beaten Garryowen and Lansdowne in the last three rounds.

Compared to the side that claimed Lansdowne’s scalp, there are six changes in personnel. Dylan O’Grady returns on the left wing and the five alterations up front include a new back row trio of Joe Cronin, Oisin Spain and Bill Burns.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 6, 2021: UCD 42 Ballynahinch 17, UCD Bowl; Saturday, February 26, 2022: Ballynahinch 19 UCD 27, Ballymacarn Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win


Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Dublin University: WWWWLWLL; Cork Constitution: WLWWWWWL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Dublin University: Points: Aran Egan 100; Tries: Ronan Quinn 6; Cork Constitution: Points: Aidan Moynihan 67; Tries: Alessandro Heaney 4

Preview: Provincial and Ireland Under-20 commitments mean the likes of Harry Sheridan, Max Dunne, Paddy McCarthy and Lee Barron are missing from the Dublin University pack. Jack Kearney and Dan Barron fill the void at lock.

Trinity have lost three of their last four league games, so need a big performance against Cork Constitution, one of their main play-off rivals. They won 32-27 when last hosting Con, an eight-try thriller that they will hope to repeat.

Jonny Holland’s men, who lost 29-22 at home to Clontarf before Christmas, make three changes. Michael Hand comes in on right wing for Daniel Hurley, while forwards Sean Duffy and Mark Stafford are promoted from the bench.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 30, 2021: Cork Constitution 32 Dublin University 13, Temple Hill; Saturday, March 5, 2022: Dublin University 32 Cork Constitution 27, College Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win


Saturday, January 7

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

MALONE (10th) v CITY OF ARMAGH (2nd), Gibson Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Malone: LLWLLLWL; City of Armagh: WLWLWWWW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Malone: Points: Rory Campbell 60; Tries: Dan Kerr 3; City of Armagh: Points: Kyle Faloon 45; Tries: James McCormick 5

Preview: City of Armagh welcome back captain Tim McNiece for this re-fixed Ulster derby. The absence of injured top scorer Kyle Faloon at full-back is covered by Ryan Purvis, while Nigel Simpson, Peter Lamb and Philip Fletcher are all added to the pack.

Shea O’Brien, James McCormick and Frank Bradshaw Ryan are on Ulster ‘A’ duty this week, with Malone also having Declan Moore and Ben Gibson away for that return ‘A’ fixture with Ealing Trailfinders.

Malone boss Josh Pentland, who has Andy Bryans and Shane Kelly at full-back and out-half respectively, commented: “I feel like most games we have been right in it to the end. We picked up a good win against Highfield and this big derby against Armagh is another one we can try to target.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 27, 2021: City of Armagh 20 Malone 14, Palace Grounds; Saturday, January 29, 2022: Malone 0 City of Armagh 0, Gibson Park (Covid-19-affected match cancelled – 0-0. Both teams awarded two points)

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: City of Armagh to win

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (3rd) v HIGHFIELD (5th), Templeville Road

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: LWLWWWLW; Highfield: WWLLLWLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – St. Mary’s College: Points: Mick O’Gara 80; Tries: Hugo Conway 6; Highfield: Points: Cian Bohane 33; Tries: Cian Bohane 5

Preview: Old Belvedere nudged Highfield out of the top four before Christmas, so Conor Quaid’s charges will be doubly determined to put together back-to-back wins for the first time since the opening rounds of the league season.

James Taylor’s return in the number 10 jersey sees Highfield’s top scorer, Cian Bohane, shift to full-back. Miah Cronin captains the visitors from number 8, in the absence of newly-married skipper Dave O’Connell.

St. Mary’s College are out for revenge after losing both of last season’s clashes by four points – 21-17 in Cork and 28-24 in Templeogue. Four of Sean Cronin’s six changes are in the back-line which is led this week by Aaron O’Neill and Andrew Walsh.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 2, 2021: Highfield 21 St. Mary’s College 17, Woodleigh Park; Saturday, April 9, 2022: St. Mary’s College 24 Highfield 28, Templeville Road

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

BANBRIDGE (9th) v OLD WESLEY (6th), Rifle Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Banbridge: LWLLLLWL; Old Wesley: WLLWLWWL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Banbridge: Points: James Humphreys 41; Tries: Ben Carson, Robin Sinton, Peter Cromie 3 each; Old Wesley: Points: Ian Cassidy 60; Tries: David Poff, Alex Molloy 3 each

Preview: This is Rob Logan’s first home AIL match since taking over as Banbridge’s head coach. Despite sitting second-from-bottom and suffering a heavy recent defeat to Buccaneers, he is positive about their prospects for 2023.

“We’re very clear about what we’re trying to do and the way we want to play. The boys were very positive after Buccs,” he said. “There were a few defensive lapses which hurt us. We have to rebuild, it’s just going to take time.”

Bann are missing Rob Lyttle, Greg Jones, David McCann and James Humphreys, so Old Wesley are hoping to repeat last January’s win (21-16) at Rifle Park. Josh O’Hare is restored to Wesley’s back row, with Sam Pim reverting to the number 8 position.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 4, 2021: Old Wesley 24 Banbridge 14, Energia Park; Saturday, January 22, 2022: Banbridge 16 Old Wesley 21, Rifle Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win