Jump to main content



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

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

Sean O'Brien will be back in Naas colours this afternoon as he makes his second appearance for Johne Murphy's Cobras ©INPHO/Bryan Keane

Former Ireland back rowers Sean O’Brien and Chris Henry are both set for some game-time with Naas and Malone respectively, as Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B cranks up for a big finish to the regular season.

#AnswerTheCall: Click Here To Complete The IRFU State Of The Game Survey


Saturday, March 25

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

BANBRIDGE (9th) v MALONE (10th), Rifle Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Banbridge: LWLLLLWLLLWLLLL; Malone: LLWLLLWLLLLLDLW

Preview: Only a point separates these Ulster rivals at the foot of the table. Banbridge had seven points to spare when hosting Malone in February of last year, while the Cregagh Red Sox emerged as 27-24 winners of October’s clash.

Bann will have Ulster pair Rob Lyttle and Greg Jones available for this must-win encounter. Their provincial colleagues, Aaron Sexton and Angus Curtis, are set to line out at full-back and out-half in the Malone back-line.

The division’s bottom club have also drafted in former Ulster and Ireland flanker Chris Henry, who had a stint as Malone’s head coach in 2019/20. The 38-year-old is on bench duty as they chase a season’s double over Rob Logan’s side.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, February 19, 2022: Banbridge 22 Malone 15, Rifle Park; Saturday, October 15, 2022: Malone 27 Banbridge 24, Gibson Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Banbridge to win

BUCCANEERS (3rd) v HIGHFIELD (4th), Dubarry Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Buccaneers: LWWWWWWWLWLWWWL; Highfield: WWLLLWLWWWWWLLW

Preview: All four of Buccaneers’ defeats in the league this season have been on the road, so Eddie O’Sullivan’s men will be looking to maintain their impressive home form today when facing fellow promotion contenders Highfield.

The race for automatic promotion is likely to go right down to the wire – and Buccs’ final round meeting with current leaders City of Armagh – so they will be encouraged to have Frankie Hopkins and Danny Qualter back in the starting XV this week.

Highfield’s three changes are Luke Kingston, Travis Coomey and Sean Garrett, with the latter’s inclusion allowing captain Dave O’Connell to revert to the back row. Former Munster centre Cian Bohane remains a key figure behind the scrum.

Recent League Meeting – Saturday, October 15, 2022: Highfield 14 Buccaneers 17, Woodleigh Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win

NAAS (7th) v OLD BELVEDERE (2nd), Forenaughts

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Naas: LLLWWLLLWLLWWWL; Old Belvedere: WLWLWLLWWWWWWWW

Preview: Sean O’Brien’s debut for Naas was marred by a hamstring injury last October, but he is back to face the same opponents, Old Belvedere, in what is shaping up to be a cracking encounter. The Tullow man will pack down at number 8.

Belvedere have been going great guns of late, stringing together eight successive wins to move up to second. Head coach Ben Manion has unsurprisingly kept faith with the team that beat Buccaneers 34-7, the only change on the bench seeing Justin Leonard return.

Naas, who lost 25-22 when the sides met in the third round, swap in Matt Stapleton and Connor Halpenny for Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam winners Andrew Osborne and Oscar Cawley. O’Brien, Peter King and captain Paul Monahan are the other changes.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 9, 2022: Naas 53 Old Belvedere 7, Forenaughts; Saturday, October 15, 2022: Old Belvedere 25 Naas 22, Ollie Campbell Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win

OLD WESLEY (5th) v CITY OF ARMAGH (1st), Energia Park

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: Old Wesley: WLLWLWWLWWWLDLL; City of Armagh: WLWLWWWWWWWLWWW

Preview: City of Armagh are coming around the season’s final bend with a four-point lead at the top of the table. That is just reward for three wins on the bounce, and head coach Chris Parker wants them to keep their foot down in pursuit of automatic promotion.

With Ulster’s Shea O’Brien, Michael McDonald and Frank Bradshaw Ryan all set to start, Parker said: “It is on us now to make sure we turn up and deliver for three more Saturdays, and that has got to start this weekend at a place we have never been able to win before.”

Old Wesley’s form has taken a dip with three defeats and a draw, but they are notoriously difficult to beat in Donnybrook. Ian Cassidy and Gary Bradley, son of former Ireland scrum half Michael, team up at half-back and Dom Maclean fills the openside flanker role.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, January 15, 2022: Old Wesley 26 City of Armagh 8, Energia Park; Saturday, October 15, 2022: City of Armagh 24 Old Wesley 21, Palace Grounds

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: City of Armagh to win

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE (6th) v UCC (8th), Templeville Road

Energia All-Ireland League Season’s Form: St. Mary’s College: LWLWWWLWLLLLLWL; UCC: WWWWLLLLLLLWLLW

Preview: Sean Cronin comes up against his former coach at Connacht, Michael Bradley, as his St. Mary’s College team look to stay in contention for a play-off spot. They trail fourth-placed Highfield by nine points after losing in Armagh.

Playmakers Mick O’Gara and Conor Dean bolster the Mary’s back-line, with their unchanged pack marshalled by captain Ronan Watters from number 8. UCC skipper Louis Bruce switches to out-half for their latest trip to Dublin.

The Cork students’ strong finish earned them a much-needed five points against Banbridge. Billy Kiernan, Johnny Murphy, Luke McAuliffe and Conor Booth are their four personnel changes, with Murphy taking the wing berth vacated by Ireland Under-19 call-up Sean Condon.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 21, 2018: Promotion/Relegation Play-Off Semi-Final – St. Mary’s College 24 UCC 36, Templeville Road; Saturday, October 15, 2022: UCC 25 St. Mary’s College 20, the Mardyke

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