AIL DIVISION 1A: Saturday, December 15
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (4th) v LANSDOWNE (2nd), College Park
The big tests continue to come thick and fast for Dublin University who, just a week on from claiming the scalp of Clontarf, host defending champions Lansdowne tomorrow. These are two of the division’s form teams with ten wins between them in the last six rounds.
Lansdowne crushed Trinity twice last season, winning by 40 and 50 points respectively, but the margin should be a lot closer this time given the students’ current run. Tony Smeeth is able to bring Michael Silvester back in at full-back, with Jack Kelly switching to midfield, and Donnacha Mescal is the other change at loosehead prop.
Their maul defence is sure to be thoroughly tested by Lansdowne’s well-oiled lineout. Leinster Academy hooker Ronan Kelleher helped himself to a hat-trick of tries against UCC last week. Willie Fay, an Under-20 player last season, will start at number 8 for the visitors, who also bring in Tom Roche and Peter Sullivan in the backs.
TERENURE COLLEGE (10th) v CORK CONSTITUTION (1st), Lakelands Park
A full 28 points separate these sides in the table currently, with Terenure desperately scrapping for an elusive win ahead of the Christmas break. This is their first meeting with Cork Constitution since losing last April’s semi-final 22-15 at Lakelands Park.
James Blaney’s charges won last year’s corresponding fixture 39-35, but a repeat result looks very unlikely given Cork Con’s table-topping form and excellent recent defensive performances – they kept both UCD and Young Munster to just three points, the same tally ‘Nure managed at Belfield last Saturday.
Prop Patrick Casey’s try-scoring and scrummaging impact off the Con bench against Munsters was yet more evidence of their strength in depth. Flanker Joe McSwiney, who touched down twice in the last fortnight, and full-back Shane Daly, with two tries in three games, have been popping up with regular scores.
UCC (9th) v GARRYOWEN (5th), the Mardyke
A huge encounter for these Munster rivals with second-from-bottom UCC chasing their second win, while Garryowen, fresh from their late derby heroics against Shannon, looking to finish off the first half of the season with a fourth successive victory.
UCC boss Brian Walsh had an obvious eye on this game with his selection against Lansdowne last week. Tomorrow’s team line-up includes eight changes as Murray Linn, Cian Bohane, John Poland, Travis Coomey, Rob O’Donovan, Darragh Moloney, John Hodnett and Ryan Murphy all return.
The students’ talismanic number 8 Murphy will be a marked man with three tries in the last three rounds, a feat matched by Garryowen winger Cian O’Shea. The outcome could hinge on the battle of young out-halves James Taylor and Ben Healy, two of the most promising number 10s in the league.
YOUNG MUNSTER (8th) v CLONTARF (3rd), Tom Clifford Park
Both Young Munster and Clontarf went without a win in the last two rounds, so they won’t lack for motivation as they look to sign off before Christmas in winning fashion. A first victory since October 19 would give the Cookies a much-needed lift.
Last season’s two meetings ended in away wins, ‘Tarf triumphing 22-23 at Greenfields thanks to replacement Conor Kelly’s last-minute penalty and January’s return fixture finishing 25-16 in Munsters’ favour with provincial players Gavin Coombes and Dan Goggin getting among the tries.
Former Munster Academy colleague Alan Tynan and Jack Power are set to oppose each other at full-back tomorrow afternoon, but with heavy rain and wind expected, the packs will have the biggest say with a big onus on the set-piece platform.
SHANNON (7th) v UCD (6th), Thomond Park main pitch, 4 pm
UCD’s Leinster players made their mark last weekend, helping the students carve out a 31-3 bonus point win over Terenure. But the likes of Hugo Keenan and Jimmy O’Brien miss tomorrow’s trip to Shannon with head coach Andy Skehan making seven changes in personnel.
Ian O’Kelly and Nick Peters slot in at half-back, with Conall Doherty and Gavin Mullin, a try scorer against ‘Nure, also starting in the back-line, while former captain Emmet MacMahon, Leinster Academy prop Michael Milne and Bobby Sheehan swap in up front.
This will be Shannon’s second outing of the campaign on Thomond Park’s main pitch, following on from their 23-10 second round success against Young Munster. Their talented young out-half Jake Flannery picked up his fourth league try against Garryowen, taking his overall tally to 60 points as the division’s second top scorer.