AIL: Saturday, December 8
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
GARRYOWEN (5th) v SHANNON (6th), Dooradoyle, tonight, 8 pm
Contrasting fortunes for these great Limerick rivals in the last two rounds, with Garryowen, in fifth, claiming wins over Young Munster and Terenure College while sixth-placed Shannon have gone down to Dublin University and Lansdowne, conceding 63 points in the process.
Ben Healy has swiftly made his mark in Garryowen’s number 10 jersey, kicking 34 points in their last two games. His direct opponent tonight will be fellow teenager Jake Flannery, deputising for Connacht’s Conor Fitzgerald and looking to guide Shannon to their first league win over the Light Blues since March 2013.
Garryowen won the sides’ Munster Senior Cup semi-final clash, 27-9, earlier in the season, with centre Peadar Collins contributing 22 points. A much tighter contest is expected here with both targeting their second top-flight Limerick derby victory of the campaign after overcoming Munsters at home.
CLONTARF (2nd) v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY (4th), Castle Avenue
This All-Ireland League encounter doubles up as a Leinster Senior Cup quarter-final, and Dublin University boss Tony Smeeth has strengthened his line-up with the return of recent Leinster debutant Jack Kelly and fit-again captain Colm Hogan in the back-three.
Both Clontarf and Trinity are looking to rebound from losses last weekend, ‘Tarf losing their unbeaten record with a lacklustre finish against Cork Constitution. The north Dublin club are hosting a Family Fun Day tomorrow and will want a result to match the off-field entertainment.
The students will see plenty of familiar faces in the Clontarf line-up, including Angus Lloyd, Michael Courtney, their captain last season, and Paddy Finlay, with the latter two starting for Trinity in their 29-24 loss at the same venue a year ago.
CORK CONSTITUTION (1st) v YOUNG MUNSTER (8th), Temple Hill
Cork Constitution are back home for the first time in three rounds, having ousted Clontarf as league leaders. Out-half Aidan Moynihan played a pivotal role in their terrific comeback win at ‘Tarf, kicking 11 points to take his season’s haul to 52.
Young Munster’s discipline let them down against UCD and they cannot afford a repeat performance. The 34-all draw did at least put a stop to their three-match losing run, and winger Darragh O’Neill again showed his poaching skills with a fine chip-and-chase try – his fifth of the league season.
Munsters certainly reserve some of their best performances for Cork Con, who have lost their last four league meetings with the Cookies, including a dramatic 20-19 result at Temple Hill last year. They outscored Con by three tries to one that day and had a decisive last-gasp penalty from out-half Shane Airey.
LANSDOWNE (3rd) v UCC (9th), Aviva Stadium back pitch
This rare match-up brings back memories of Lansdowne’s first ever league outing on the Aviva Stadium’s back pitch, a 61-13 demolition of UCC back in October 2010. Current stalwart Willie Earle got amongst the tries along with future Ireland internationals John Cooney, Dave Kearney and Matt Healy.
Another of Lansdowne’s long-serving players, prop Ian Prendiville, made his 100th league appearance in their 32-15 win at Shannon last Saturday. Their enviable strength in depth sees Tom Daly, Mark O’Keeffe, Scott Deasy, Oisin Dowling and Joe O’Brien come in as starters tomorrow.
Ending their losing run in their Colours match against Trinity was a huge boost for UCC, and Brian Walsh rotates his squad this week to give opportunities to Adam O’Connor, Michael Clune and Colin Sisk behind the scrum. Paidi McCarthy, Brian O’Mahony, Lee McSherry and Fergus Hennessy also come into the pack.
UCD (7th) v TERENURE COLLEGE (10th), Belfield Bowl
UCD are set to be bolstered by the availability of Hugo Keenan and Jimmy O’Brien. The pair are poised to start at full-back and outside centre, fresh from scoring three of Leinster’s tries against the Dragons last Saturday.
Academy scrum half Paddy Patterson, who made his provincial debut in Newport, is another one of the five personnel changes to the UCD side that drew with Young Munster. Andy Skehan’s youngsters are hoping to pull off their first win in four rounds.
Bottom-placed Terenure are even more in need of a victory, succumbing to their second one-point defeat of the season last week against Garryowen. Jamie Glynn and James Thornton will be looking to triumph against their former club, while ‘Nure full-back Matthew Byrne – Keenan and O’Brien’s former Ireland Under-20 team-mate – has a sixth league try in his sights.