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Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 2A: Round 11 Previews

Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 2A: Round 11 Previews

MU Barnhall flanker Abdul Olaosebikan is pictured on the attack against Leinster rivals Navan at Parsonstown last month ©Stella Fleming

Hosting Old Crescent on Saturday, Cashel hold the New Year momentum in Division 2A after ending Nenagh Ormond’s winning streak. Meanwhile, a repeat win over Ulster rivals Banbridge could see Malone climb off the bottom of the table.


Saturday, January 20

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

UL BOHEMIANS (4th) v NAVAN (9th), Annacotty, 2pm

This is fourth plays ninth but Navan have been putting it up to the teams above them, picking up four bonus points in the last three rounds. They are certainly battle-hardened after running MU Barnhall close in two fiercely-contested games.

Hooker Jamie Kavanagh has scored three tries in the last two rounds, showing the threat Navan pose from mauls. It was a tight affair when they hosted UL Bohemians last month, with the Red Robins prevailing 17-10 despite playing into a powerful second half wind.

Bohs took great pride in Evan O’Connell, the newly-announced Ireland Under-20 captain, and Jake O’Riordan both making the national squad. The pair were involved in last week’s 34-7 derby loss to Old Crescent, during which captain Liam Neilan scored their only try from a quick tap.

CASHEL (2nd) v OLD CRESCENT (5th), Spafield

Cashel enjoyed an ideal start to the New Year by ending local rivals Nenagh Ormond’s nine-match unbeaten run. Last Saturday’s 20-13 win has drawn them back within five points of the summit, and was just reward for an excellent scrummaging display that earned them four penalties.

Try-scoring scrum half Kevin O’Connor also impressed for the west Tipperary outfit, and they will need more of the same if they are to repeat their recent 20-6 victory over Old Crescent. Jack Evenden, Brendan Ryan, and Kieran Ryan were the lone try scorers that day.

Cashel and Nenagh have been the only teams to hold Crescent try-less so far this season. Buoyed by their derby success against UL, Shane Mullally’s side will need a big effort from their pack at Spafield. Their Munster Under-19 winger, Daithi Byrnes, is chasing his third try in as many games.

MU BARNHALL (3rd) v BALLYMENA (8th), Parsonstown

MU Barnhall made it two bonus point wins on the trot against Navan, and now have an opportunity to avenge last month’s 14-12 defeat to Ballymena. That was one to forget for the Blue Bulls, who failed to build on two first-half tries and lost out to a brilliantly-struck penalty from Pierce Crowe.

As the division’s top points scorers, Barnhall will be hoping for better conditions to allow their attack get into full flow. They have some fine finishers in Sean Sexton, Conor Duggan, and Nick Doggett. They won 31-14 when they hosted the Braidmen last February.

Ballymena ended up seventh last season, and are currently eighth. Andy Hughes’ men went into Christmas on the back of two victories, but lost last Saturday to Malone (9-8). Pushing clear of the bottom two could be reliant on the form of the likes of Crowe, Adam Lamont, and Callum Patterson.

MALONE (10th) v BANBRIDGE (6th), Gibson Park

Malone have found some resurgent form at just the right time. They have registered 11 of their 16 league points in the last three rounds. It all started with a 31-17 triumph at Banbridge, sealed by second half tries from Stuart Dodington, Mark Galvin, and Daryl Maxwell.

Malone head coach Josh Pentland described that Rifle Park result as ‘a brilliant win’, but Banbridge will definitely be redoubling their efforts for this weekend’s revenge mission. Bann won at Greystones before losing the return fixture by a single point in frustrating fashion.

Bann’s industrious number 8 Robin Sinton has joined the AIL’s 100-cap club, with head coach Rob Logan warning: “Malone adapted much better to the conditions the last day. Hopefully we’ve learnt from that, as we’re likely to face the same underfoot and overhead conditions at Gibson Park.”

GREYSTONES (7th) v NENAGH ORMOND (1st), Dr Hickey Park

Table toppers Nenagh Ormond will be determined to right the wrongs of last week’s performance after tasting defeat for the first time in the current campaign. They were sharp at the breakdown during their first outing of 2024, but endured some set-piece struggles.

String-pulling scrum half Nicky Irwin starred when Nenagh beat Greystones 38-5 last month, scoring two of their six tries. ‘Stones struggled that day, but did kick off the New Year with a 20-19 success at Banbridge where Andrew Lynch and Conor McAleer returned to action.

Italian Simone Ragusi, more known as a full-back, will continue at out-half for the Wicklow men this week, with Killian Marmion still sidelined through injury. Young hooker Flyn Pyper is their only change in personnel, while player coach Danny Kenny will pack down again at number 8.