Four high stakes play-off finals take place in Limerick and Dublin today, as some of the Energia All-Ireland League’s best known clubs bid for promotion or battle to avoid relegation.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – MEN’S DIVISIONS PLAY-OFF FINALS:
Saturday, May 6
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
DIVISION 1A PROMOTION/RELEGATION PLAY-OFF FINAL:
SHANNON (9th, Div 1A) v HIGHFIELD (3rd, Div 1B), Thomond Park back pitch
A massive Munster derby will decide who takes the final place in Division 1A for next season. Shannon pulled it out of the bag against Naas last year to earn promotion, and now Stephen Keogh’s young side need some more play-off heroics.
Experienced flanker Kelvin Brown returns as the only change to the Shannon team that ended Old Wesley’s hopes last time out. Thomond Park’s back pitch will hold no fear for Highfield who won at Old Belvedere a fortnight ago.
The Corkmen, eyeing up a historic top flight berth, lost 25-19 to Shannon in the Division 1B play-offs last season. Sean Quaid slots in at full-back, meaning a return to midfield for ex-Munster player Cian Bohane, their top try scorer with eight.
DIVISION 1B PROMOTION PLAY-OFF FINAL:
BLACKROCK COLLEGE (2nd, Div 2A) v MU BARNHALL (4th, Div 2A), Stradbrook
After each winning their respective semi-final clashes by two points, Blackrock College and MU Barnhall are primed to go the distance in this season finale. ‘Rock won both of their Division 2A meetings, including a 44-29 home victory in February.
James Blaney’s men are chasing back-to-back promotions, with ‘Rock last involved in the league’s second tier in 2016. Barnhall were on track for automatic promotion to Division 1B in 2020, but Covid-19 scuppered their chances.
Adrian Flavin’s Blue Bulls make one personnel change, bringing in athletic South African lock Anre O’Neill. Scrum half Mark Edwards and forwards Niall Hardiman, Joe Byrne and James Burke all come into the Blackrock line-up.
DIVISION 2A PROMOTION/RELEGATION PLAY-OFF FINAL:
UL BOHEMIAN (9th, Div 2A) v DUNGANNON (3rd, Div 2B), Annacotty
Having been a Division 2A club since 2018, UL Bohemian are determined to avoid the drop. Out-half Harry Byrne’s accurate goal-kicking proved crucial against Sligo in the semi-final, and they will field an unchanged matchday squad.
Ireland underage internationals Evan O’Connell and Ihechi Oji, who scored a try for Munster ‘A’ last week, are notable inclusions for the Red Robins. Their final opponents, Dungannon, have been in Division 2B since 2015.
Moving up a tier would be a huge boost for ‘Gannon, especially given this is Jonny Gillespie’s first season in charge. Ever-influential back rower James McMahon is restored to number 8 for the decider, with Stephen Todd reverting to lock.
DIVISION 2B PROMOTION PLAY-OFF FINAL:
SKERRIES (2nd, Div 2C) v BRUFF (4th, Div 2C), Holmpatrick
Bruff relegated Galwegians with a double-scores win out west and are now hoping to upset the odds against Skerries, who finished two places and a whopping 24 points above them in the Division 2C table.
Of course, those league positions count for nothing in such a one-off fixture. Skerries, who beat Bruff 15-7 and 30-17 during the regular season, will field an unchanged side that features captain Kevin McGrath and Mikey Sherlock in the centre.
Bruff’s strong lineout maul laid the platform for three of their tries against ‘Wegians, so that is sure to be a keenly-contested area of the game. Their squad includes some talented youngsters like Ireland Under-19 scrum half Jake O’Riordan and captain Pa Maher.
DIVISION 2C PROMOTION/RELEGATION PLAY-OFF FINAL:
MIDLETON 29 RICHMOND 17, Towns Park (played last Saturday)
Scorers: Midleton: Tries: Stuart Lee, Mark Stanton, Mark Corby, Ryan Lehane; Cons: Stuart Lee 3; Pen: Stuart Lee
Richmond: Tries: Brian Mullins, Shane Halpin; Cons: Tadhg Bennett 2; Pen: Tadhg Bennett
HT: Midleton 14 Richmond 3