Former leaders Clogher Valley host third-placed Enniscorthy in arguably the match of the round in Division 2C, while there are also crucial points up for grabs in the basement duel between Bangor and Ballina.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE MEN’S DIVISION 2C – ROUND 11:
Saturday, January 20
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
BANGOR (10th) v BALLINA (9th), Upritchard Park
Since beating Omagh Academicals in early December, Bangor have lost three games on the bounce to sit bottom of the table. Their best performances have been coming at home, though, and this is a vital clash ahead of next week’s return match against Omagh.
Blair Morgan and Craig Burton are handed starts up front, Gareth Millar slots back in at out-half for the Seasiders, and Rhys Larmour reverts to the full-back position with Danny Young now stationed on the left wing.
Ballina proved too strong when the teams met last month, running out convincing 47-33 winners. Stand-in captain Gary Kavanagh commented: “I firmly believe these lads will pull through and we’ll have a couple of good years. It’s tough at the minute, but the ingredients are there. The little bits will do it.”
BRUFF (4th) v TULLAMORE (5th), Kilballyowen Park
Currently seven points clear of the midlanders, Bruff could put further distance between themselves and Tullamore by returning to winning ways on home turf. They need to recover quickly from the setback of losing 39-15 to Midleton in their New Year opener.
There are two personnel changes to Bruff’s starting XV, with flanker Declan Moriarty and winger Cal McCarthy both promoted from the replacements bench. Rob Browne’s last-minute try proved decisive in their recent 14-10 away win over Tullamore.
Coached by Darin Claasen, the Offaly men saw off Bangor twice, either side of Christmas, and picked up the full 10 points in the process. Their back row of captain Barry Bracken, Colm Heffernan, and Scott Milne combine as a very effective unit around the pitch.
CLOGHER VALLEY (2nd) v ENNISCORTHY (3rd), the Cran
Clogher Valley and Enniscorthy both avenged pre-Christmas defeats last week, setting up this eagerly-awaited rematch in Fivemiletown. The Valley’s seven-match winning run was ended by ‘Scorthy (20-17) in round 8, thanks to tries from David O’Dwyer, Tomás Stamp, and Tom Ryan.
The Wexford outfit have only won one of their four away games so far this season. O’Dwyer, also a try scorer against Clonmel last Saturday, switches to midfield this weekend, linking up with Nick Doyle, and there are starts on either wing for Adam Gethings and Dominik Morycki.
Clogher Valley looked more like their old selves, from earlier in the season, when winning 17-7 against Omagh. Hooker Kyle Cobane scored a hat-trick of tries – two from lineout mauls and the last one at the end of a set of carries. The forwards battle will be the winning or losing of Saturday’s showdown.
CLONMEL (7th) v MIDLETON (6th), Ardgaoithe
While disappointed to start the New Year on a losing note, Clonmel have still had a productive couple of months with 17 of their 22 league points registered in the last six rounds. That run of results including a battling losing bonus point at Midleton (19-15).
Luke Hogan’s late intercept try saw Clonmel finish strongly that day. For this rematch, Seamus Keating and Aidan Hickey have been added to the back-line, while captain Diarmuid Devaney returns at openside flanker. The versatile Tim Nugent will pack down at loosehead prop.
Another victory could move Midleton up to fifth place. Backs coach and club stalwart Stuart Lee will put the boots back on to join Jack Colbert at half-back. Josh Deady comes in at full-back, and there are also starts in the pack for Evan Lordan Bailey, Ryan Lehane, and Flor McCarthy.
GALWEGIANS (1st) v OMAGH ACADEMICALS (8th), Crowley Park
Ahead of another potential top of the table clash with Clogher Valley next week, Galwegians have important business to take care of at home. Omagh come calling, hoping to produce the same sort of the performance that saw them overcome the Valley before Christmas.
‘Wegians lost 22-19 at home to their chief challengers last month, so they will want to maintain their recent momentum with just eight points currently covering the top four sides. With Ireland Under-20 call-up Finn Treacy absent, Cian Brady moves to midfield to partner Cody Farrell.
Full-back Darragh Kennedy and flanker Dylan Keane also come into the Blues team that won 29-16 at Ballina. Out-half Scott Elliott and forwards Mark Hopton-Brown and Joe Duff are Omagh’s three changes, along with New Zealander Connor Watherston-Spencer’s switch to outside centre.