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

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

Jack Treanor of City of Armagh is tackled by Malone's Michael Crothers during the sides' recent Division 1B encounter at the Palace Grounds ©INPHO/Leah Scholes

It is tight at both ends of Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1B, with five points separating the top four and a dozen points covering the bottom four.


Saturday, February 18

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

CITY OF ARMAGH (2nd) v BANBRIDGE (9th), Palace Grounds

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: City of Armagh: WLWLWWWWWWWL; Banbridge: LWLLLLWLLLWL

Preview: A first defeat in eight league matches saw City of Armagh edged off Division 1B’s summit. Chris Parker’s men were also held scoreless by Old Belvedere, so they have a few things they want to put right, particularly in attack.

“We had seven entries into the opposition 22 and failed to score a point,” said Parker, who has Dylan Poyntz and Neil Faloon topping and tailing the pack. Andrew Willis returns on the right wing and Ulster’s Michael McDonald starts at scrum half.

Banbridge fought hard to pick up a bonus point at Naas and will be targeting a much stronger start. Ulster’s Callum Reid and David McCann are set to feature up front for Rob Logan’s charges, with Academy youngster James Humphreys retaining the number 10 jersey.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 9, 2022: City of Armagh 18 Banbridge 28, Palace Grounds; Saturday, November 12, 2022: Banbridge 7 City of Armagh 10, Rifle Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: City of Armagh to win

MALONE (10th) v OLD WESLEY (5th), Gibson Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Malone: LLWLLLWLLLLL; Old Wesley: WLLWLWWLWWWL

Preview: With five defeats on the bounce, Malone need to turn things around quickly and close up the seven-point gap between themselves and second-from-bottom Bann. They are boosted by the availability of a number of Ulster players.

Angus Curtis and David Shanahan combine at half-back, Aaron Sexton returns from injury at full-back, and Declan Moore and Gareth Milasinovich are part of the Cregagh Red Sox’s starting front row.

Old Wesley have had to wait a few weeks to right the wrongs of their one-point defeat to UCC. A reshuffled back-line includes Ian Cassidy, who missed a late penalty against the students, Eoin Monahan and Andrew Vincent. The pack is unchanged.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 26, 2022: Malone 29 Old Wesley 34, Gibson Park; Saturday, November 12, 2022: Old Wesley 31 Malone 18, Energia Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win

OLD BELVEDERE (4th) v HIGHFIELD (3rd), Ollie Campbell Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Belvedere: WLWLWLLWWWWW; Highfield: WWLLLWLWWWWW

Preview: Old Belvedere have emerged as one of the division’s form teams, picking up five straight victories either side of Christmas. If they can reverse November’s result against Highfield, then Ben Manion’s men could close in on the top two.

Flanker Tom Mulcair and centre Jed Tormey, who captained the Belvedere College senior team in 2022, are their only two changes. Cian Bohane reverts to full-back for third-placed Highfield, with Mark Dorgan at inside centre.

The Cork outfit’s pack is unchanged as they look to chalk up a sixth win on the trot. They were 21-10 winners when they hosted ‘Belvo, their tries coming from Richard Cassidy, Bohane and rock-solid number 8 Miah Cronin, who also bagged a brace at Ollie Campbell Park last season.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 26, 2022: Highfield 22 Old Belvedere 20, Woodleigh Park; Saturday, November 12, 2022: Highfield 21 Old Belvedere 10, Woodleigh Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (6th) v NAAS (7th), Templeville Road

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: LWLWWWLWLLLL; Naas: LLLWWLLLWLLW

Preview: A crucial Leinster derby for these sides, with St. Mary’s College itching to start over after beginning 2023 with four straight losses. Naas, meanwhile, recovered from a fifth defeat in six games to beat Bann 47-34 last time out.

Young centre Charlie Sheridan starred with four tries for the Cobras, and it is no surprise to see Johne Murphy sticking with a winning formula. The only change comes in the front row where Leinster-capped prop Adam Coyle starts.

Ruairi Shields, Adam McEvoy, Conor Hickey and Max Svejdar, Mary’s Under-20 Player of the Year last season, are added to a much-changed back-line selected by Sean Cronin. It also contains Mick O’Gara who kicked 12 points during November’s 32-30 triumph over Naas.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 22, 2022: St. Mary’s College 27 Naas 17, Templeville Road; Saturday, November 12, 2022: Naas 30 St. Mary’s College 32, Forenaughts

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

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

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: UCC: WWWWLLLLLLLW; Buccaneers: LWWWWWWWLWLW

Preview: Michael Bradley and Eddie O’Sullivan put their coaching wits to the test again, with O’Sullivan’s Buccs, who recently qualified for the Energia Bateman Cup final, chasing a season’s double against Bradley’s eighth-placed students.

It was a top of the table clash when these sides met in November, but UCC have slid down the table before picking up a much-needed win over Wesley. Munster’s Scott Buckley is one of three changes up front, including Ireland Under-20 back rower Jacob Sheahan.

James Kelly replaces Matthew Burke at loosehead prop in the Pirates’ only change. Shane Jennings, Josh O’Connor, Will Reilly, Oisin McCormack and Ciaran Booth are the Connacht contingent in the table toppers’ starting XV.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 11, 2017: UCC 13 Buccaneers 12, the Mardyke; Saturday, November 12, 2022: Buccaneers 29 UCC 0, Dubarry Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win