Jump to main content



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

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

Skerries had their moments against Wanderers last Saturday, but ended up losing 40-0 to their Dublin rivals at Holmpatrick ©Gerry Weldon

Bottom side Dolphin enter the lion’s den as their first away trip of 2024 brings them to table toppers Instonians, who have already hit the 50-point mark. With teams gathering behind them, fourth-placed Sligo chase an important win at home to Skerries.


Saturday, January 20

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

INSTONIANS (1st) v DOLPHIN (10th), Shaw’s Bridge

Another maximum haul looks the likely result for ever-impressive leaders Instonians. These teams are separated by nine places and 35 points in the current standings, although Dolphin do make the trip north on the back of a brilliant 29-19 bonus point dismissal of Malahide.

The Cork side showed huge character to win despite being without red-carded duo Craig O’Connell and Diarmuid Keogh for the final 35 minutes of the game. They can ill-afford any cards against Inst, who ran in 11 tries to post a 69-21 win when the teams met on Leeside.

Inst’s incredible run of successive bonus point victories now stands at 28. Mark Keane returns to captain them from the right wing, in the only personnel change. Hooker Oli Clark scored four tries during their derby double over Belfast Harlequins, three of them from lineout mauls.

MALAHIDE (7th) v DUNGANNON (5th), Estuary Road

Malahide were left kicking themselves after failing to make it two wins on the trot against 13-man Dolphin. They are now only a point off the bottom of the table, but conversely, two quick-fire victories could put them right back in contention for a fourth place finish.

Despite the division’s leading trio breaking clear, Sligo, who currently occupy fourth spot, remain the target for teams like Malahide and Dungannon. The Tyrone men kicked off 2024 with a 21-8 triumph over Rainey, as James Gamble, Jacob Clarke, and Andrew McGregor shared out the tries.

AIL centurion Matthew Montgomery slots back into ‘Gannon’s midfield in their only change in personnel. Alex Kennedy reverts to the left wing. Clarke, their goal-kicking full-back, was the match winner last month with 10 points from the tee in a 20-5 home defeat of the Dubliners.

RAINEY (6th) v GALWAY CORINTHIANS (2nd), Hatrick Park

A tough assignment for Rainey given they have had mixed results at home, allied to the fact that Galway Corinthians have won their last eight matches. The Magherafelt men swapped places in the table with Dungannon following last week’s 13-point reversal at Stevenson Park.

In response to that Ulster derby loss, Damien McMurray, Mickey O’Neill, and scrum half Andrew Donaghy have been added to Rainey’s starting back-line. Tommy O’Hagan, the Ulster-capped prop, and Ben Brown also bolster the tight five.

Corinthians came through their two tussles with Sligo with eight hard-earned points. Manuel Garcia and Darragh Fitzpatrick join captain Mark Boyle in the back row, while Rory Glynn switches to lock, and Dylan Keane replaces Ireland Under-20 squad member Sean Naughton at out-half.

SLIGO (4th) v SKERRIES (8th), Hamilton Park

Sligo’s promotion push has taken a hit in the last three rounds with two defeats and a draw. They renew rivalries with Skerries this weekend, having shared the spoils when a strong wind impacted their closely-fought encounter at Holmpatrick last month.

Paddy Pearson’s charges have been boosted by the return of talented young back Hubert Gilvarry, who spent part of last year playing in Australia. Skerries found Wanderers in a merciless mood last week, as they fell to a deflating 40-0 defeat at home.

Conceding six tries without reply tells its own tale. Skerries captain Kevin McGrath and Paul O’Loghlen have to find a way to get more out of their attack. The Goats are only scoring an average of 17.3 points per game, the lowest in the division currently.

WANDERERS (3rd) v BELFAST HARLEQUINS (9th), Merrion Road

Apart from a one-point loss to Instonians, Wanderers are unbeaten at home so far this season. They continue to show a clinical edge in attack, scoring an average of 41.75 points per match in the last four rounds.

Behind a workhorse Chaps pack, the strong-running centre partnership of Mick McGrath and Martin O’Neill is growing in influence, along with the finishing skills of Val McDermott and Eoin O’Shaughnessy out wide.

Against Instonians last week, Belfast Harlequins did not play like a team that is second-from-bottom in the table. They picked up two bonus points against the leaders, something only Wanderers had achieved this season. Johnny McCracken switches to out-half with Ollie Smyth joining him at half-back.