Ulster Bank AIL Divi­sion 1A/1B pre­views

Irish Examiner - Sport - - RUGBY -

(2.30pm un­less stated) TO­DAY

DIVI­SION 1A CLON­TARF (6th) v BUC­CA­NEERS (9th), Cas­tle Av­enue: Clon­tarf se­verely un­der­per­formed in last week’s 51-17 trounc­ing by Gar­ry­owen. A dose of home com­forts should get them back on track this af­ter­noon, but Buc­ca­neers are no pushovers. The Pi­rates lost their grip on a 24-13 lead against Young Mun­ster, their luck­less three­match run not even net­ting them a bonus point. Flanker Dan Law is their main in­jury con­cern this week. Two of the top-flight’s lead­ing try scor­ers will be on show at Cas­tle Av­enue — Matt D’arcy and Rory O’con­nor (three each) — and you would have to back rangy cen­tre D’arcy to drive ’Tarf back to win­ning ways.

TERENURE COL­LEGE (1st) v GAR­RY­OWEN (3rd), Lake­lands Park: A new sea­son and it is very much a ‘new’ Terenure. Three straight wins, in­clud­ing last week’s derby vic­tory over St Mary’s, has them al­ready half­way to match­ing their 2016/17 to­tal. James Blaney will have their feet firmly planted on the ground, though, as Gar­ry­owen are also in fly­ing form. They put a com­bined 80 points on Buccs and Clon­tarf at home, but their task now is to win on their trav­els. Two play­ers who have been cru­cial to these clubs’ strong starts are half-backs Mark O’neill, who has kicked 25 points for ’Nure and or­ches­trated some telling moves, and Neil Cronin whose 26-point haul for the Light Blues last Satur­day gave a re­minder of his ver­sa­tile ta­lent. YOUNG MUN­STER (7th) v DUBLIN UNIVER­SITY (10th), Tom Clif­ford Park: Buoyed by their sec­ond-half fight­back against Buc­ca­neers, which was crowned by a Gavin Coombes try, Young Mun­ster will have re­venge on their minds against Dublin Univer­sity. Trin­ity were the only club to do the dou­ble over Mun­sters last year, but a com­bi­na­tion of in­juries and play­ers mov­ing on means their direc­tor of rugby Tony Smeeth is with­out a large chunk of that win­ning squad. The stu­dents are still ca­pa­ble of mo­ments of magic — wit­ness Michael Sil­vester’s 80-me­tre won­der try against Lans­downe last week — but the Cook­ies should have too much for them as they look to make it two wins from four. DIVI­SION 1B. BAL­LY­NAHINCH (4th) v UL BO­HEMI­ANS (6th), Bal­ly­macarn Park: Ulster U19 cap­tain Clay­tan Mil­li­gan, who made his se­nior de­but for Bal­ly­nahinch last week, is to con­tinue at hooker for the visit of UL Bo­hemi­ans to Bal­ly­macarn Park to­day. Tight­head Jonny Simp­son, 27, is the elder states­man in a ’Hinch front five which also in­cludes Camp­bell Clas­son, last year’s Wes­ley Col­lege skip­per, and Ire­land U20­capped duo John Donnan and Jack Re­gan. Mun­ster half-back James Hart made an im­me­di­ate im­pact on his UL Bo­hemi­ans de­but last week and his avail­abil­ity could make or break Bohs’ bid for a third win over ’Hinch in the space of 12 months.

NAAS (2nd) v UCC (7th), Fore­naughts: The ever-ver­sa­tile Fionn Carr and Ross Bailey-kear­ney, who touched down twice against Ban­bridge, are set to pair up at cen­tre for Naas’s round-4 match against UCC this af­ter­noon. Fol­low­ing last week’s 42-35 loss at Bann, Naas player-coach Johne Mur­phy re­turns at out-half and Connacht prop Do­minic Robert­son-mccoy is set for some ga­me­time off the bench. Win­less UCC could do with a change of luck af­ter be­ing pipped by ’Belvo in the pre­vi­ous round. They will need a big shift from young half-backs James Tay­lor and John Poland, who come up against the wily Mur­phy and Max Whit­ting­ham. SHAN­NON (1st) v DOL­PHIN (9th), Thomond Park: A sec­ond Mun­ster derby for Shan­non to fin­ish off the league’s first block of fix­tures, and with home ad­van­tage, they should make it four wins from four. Hav­ing won re­cently in Bal­ly­mena, Thomond Park will hold no fear for sec­ond­from-bot­tom Dol­phin, who are al­ways ca­pa­ble of negat­ing home ad­van­tage, es­pe­cially with Barry Kee­shan and Mun­ster prop Brian Scott in the team. None­the­less, Tom Hayes’ ta­ble-top­ping Shan­non side are a tough nut to crack when their con­fi­dence is up. Mun­ster Academy scrum-half Jack Stafford and sub-academy lock Ro­nan Cof­fey are grow­ing in in­flu­ence.

TO­MOR­ROW. LANS­DOWNE (2nd) v CORK CON­STI­TU­TION (4th), Aviva Sta­dium back pitch: Divi­sion 1A’s third Le­in­ster v Mun­ster club clash of the week­end has been moved to to­mor­row af­ter­noon to ac­com­mo­date to­day’s big Guin­ness PRO14 derby at head­quar­ters. Cork Con­sti­tu­tion have de­vel­oped a fond­ness for the Aviva Sta­dium’s all-weather back pitch, hav­ing won twice there last sea­son, in­clud­ing the semi-fi­nal, on the way to be­com­ing cham­pi­ons in May. Lans­downe will cer­tainly feel that they owe Con one. They put eight tries on Trin­ity last time out and have the fire­power, in­clud­ing the in­au­gu­ral UBL try-of-the-month win­ner Daniel Mcevoy, to put an early dent in the Leesiders’ ti­tle de­fence.

Dave Mervyn

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