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

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

Old Wesley full-back Alex Molloy ran in a brace of tries during their bonus point win at Banbridge last Saturday ©Deryck Vincent

Four clubs in the top half of Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1B have home advantage as the back-to-back duels ensure a busy start to the New Year.


Saturday, January 14

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

BUCCANEERS (1st) v NAAS (8th), Dubarry Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Buccaneers: LWWWWWWWL; Naas: LLLWWLLLW
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Buccaneers: Points: Michael Hanley 68; Tries: Josh O’Connor 8; Naas: Points: Bryan Croke 37; Tries: Andrew Osborne 7

Preview: Craig Ronaldson’s 81st-minute penalty, which went over off a post, was the difference between the teams when they met in a frosty Tullow last month. His kick halted Buccaneers’ winning streak at seven matches.

Nonetheless, Eddie O’Sullivan’s men are still nicely positioned at the top of the table, sitting a point clear of City of Armagh and seven ahead of St. Mary’s College. Their young winger Josh O’Connor is the division’s joint-top try scorer with eight.

Player coach Ronaldson and Mark McDermott are the two changes behind the Naas scrum, which is freshened up for their opening 2023 fixture with the inclusion of Stephen Lackey, Peter King, David Benn, Cillian Dempsey and Ryan Casey.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 13, 2019: Naas 33 Buccaneers 19, Forenaughts; Saturday, December 10, 2021: Naas 24 Buccaneers 21, Tullow RFC

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win

CITY OF ARMAGH (2nd) v MALONE (10th), Palace Grounds

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: City of Armagh: WLWLWWWWW; Malone: LLWLLLWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – City of Armagh: Points: Kyle Faloon 45; Tries: James McCormick 5; Malone: Points: Rory Campbell 66; Tries: Dan Kerr 3

Preview: City of Armagh left it late to win last week’s Ulster derby, needing a last-gasp try from Evin Crummie to prevail 13-11 at Gibson Park. The losing bonus point kept Malone just a point behind Banbridge at the foot of the table.

The Cregagh Red Sox have Ulster’s Declan Moore available again, the New Zealand-born, Irish-qualified hooker having scored their only try last Saturday. Shea O’Brien and Frank Bradshaw Ryan, two of Armagh’s provincial contingent, return to the starting line-up.

Admitting that his side ‘got out of jail’ in the rescheduled game, Armagh head coach Chris Parker said: “Our set-piece was poor and we’ll be looking for a dramatic improvement. Standards at training this week have been excellent and hopefully we can implement our plan a wee bit better.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 29, 2022: Malone 0 City of Armagh 0, Gibson Park (Covid-19-affected match cancelled – 0-0. Both teams awarded two points); Saturday, January 7, 2023: Malone 11 City of Armagh 13, Gibson Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: City of Armagh to win

HIGHFIELD (4th) v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (3rd), Woodleigh Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Highfield: WWLLLWLWW; St. Mary’s College: LWLWWWLWL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Highfield: Points: Cian Bohane 38; Tries: Cian Bohane 6; St. Mary’s College: Points: Mick O’Gara 84; Tries: Hugo Conway 8

Preview: Prop Ian McCarthy and winger Colin O’Neill are promoted from the bench for Highfield’s home date with St. Mary’s College. Dave O’Connell resumes the captaincy following her recent wedding, no doubt buoyed by last week’s 34-14 triumph in Dublin.

Conor Quaid’s side will have to go some to repeat that result, especially with Mary’s, who have in-form winger Hugo Conway on eight tries, boasting a stronger selection for the rematch.

Vice-captain Conor Dean and Conor Hickey bolster the Dubliners’ back-line, with Mark Fogarty reverting to the left wing. Richie Halpin, Tom O’Reilly (both captains in recent years) and Liam Corcoran are the changes up front.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 9, 2022: St. Mary’s College 24 Highfield 28, Templeville Road; Saturday, January 7, 2023: St. Mary’s College 14 Highfield 34, Templeville Road

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win

OLD BELVEDERE (5th) v UCC (7th), Ollie Campbell Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: WLWLWLLWW; UCC: WWWWLLLLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Belvedere: Points: Kale Thatcher 25; Tries: Kale Thatcher 5; UCC: Points: Daniel Squires 49; Tries: Sean Condon 6

Preview: Old Belvedere ran riot last month against UCC, racking up 61 points and nine tries in a game that was moved to Musgrave Park. The result consigned the students to their fifth straight defeat after beginning the season with four wins.

As they try to recapture that consistent form, UCC head coach Michael Bradley has brought Tom McCarthy and Under-20 scrum half Ignasi Rodriguez into the back-line. Cousins Jacob and Danny Sheahan are both in the squad, along with Sean Edogbo, younger brother of Munster’s Edwin.

Briain Leonard slots in at scrum half for Old Belvedere, who have also made changes to their back row with the reintroduction of Darragh O’Callaghan and Tom Mulcair. Ireland Under-20 hopeful Ronan Foxe starts at tighthead prop.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 24, 2018: Old Belvedere 22 UCC 26, Anglesea Road; Saturday, December 17, 2022: UCC 19 Old Belvedere 61, Musgrave Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win

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

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WLLWLWWLW; Banbridge: LWLLLLWLL
Energia All-Ireland League Top Scorers – Old Wesley: Points: Ian Cassidy 60; Tries: Alex Molloy 5; Banbridge: Points: James Humphreys 41; Tries: Robin Sinton, Peter Cromie 4 each

Preview: Eoin Deegan and David Motyer are the only changes to the Old Wesley team that triumphed by 10 points at Rifle Park last Saturday. Wesley dominated the first half with a run of five unanswered tries, two from full-back Alex Molloy.

Banbridge head coach Rob Logan is able to bring in both James Humphreys, their club’s leading points scorer in the league, and prop Callum Reid as starters following their involvement with Ulster ‘A’ last week.

Keen to build on Bann’s four-try second half comeback in the home game, Logan said: “Having worked on a few things in training, the lads can take confidence from that last 40 minutes, knowing that they are well capable of reversing last Saturday’s result.”

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 22, 2022: Banbridge 16 Old Wesley 21, Rifle Park; Saturday, January 7, 2022: Banbridge 26 Old Wesley 36, Rifle Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win