GARRYOWEN head coach, Tom Tierney believes Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash with Lansdowne will reveal whether the ‘light blues’ are genuine Ulster Bank All-Ireland league title contenders this season.
Lansdowne, who visit Dooradoyle this Saturday (2.30pm), currently edge Garryowen for top spot in the 1A table on mere points difference.
The two clubs are five points clear of third placed Young Munster ahead of this weekend’s series of fixtures which mark the half-way point in the League season.
Saturday’s fixture is the start of a huge three-game period for Garryowen who face fellow title contenders Cork Con’ at Dooradoyle on Saturday week, before renewing rivalry with Lansdowne at the Aviva Stadium’s back pitch on February 16.
Tom Tierney said: “The fact we have begun double fixtures with Cork Con and Lansdowne on going at present may not decided the League winners, but they will have a big bearing on which side moves into pole position through the start of the second half of the season.
“Lansdowne have a very strong squad. It will be a difficult game for us on Saturday, but also a brilliant opportunity to see where we are in terms of our challenge.
“The players are chomping at the bit to get back into AIL action since the win over Con earlier in the month, wanting to pit themselves against another top side. We have home advantage on Saturday and want to keep our good home record in tact beyond this weekend.”
Tierney insists the stop-start nature of League fixtures has not impacted negatively on the team.
Former Ireland scrum-half Tierney said: “We know at the start of the season when we are due to play games.
“We are able to work out a schedule of activity which suits us.”
Garryowen are hoping that Munster A centre, Corey Hircock will be available for selection this Saturday having come through 40 minutes of game time in the province’s British and Irish Cup win over Plymouth Albion last week, while the in-form Ronan O’Mahony and Connacht players Matt Jarvis, TJ Anderson and JP Cooney are also expected to be included in Garryowen’s match day squad.
Jarvis lined out at out-half for Connacht in their recent Heineken Cup Round 5 defeat to Harlequins in London.
Coach Tierney is hopeful that exciting young out-half Jamie Gavin will have recovered from the leg muscle injury picked up in the pre-match warm-up which ruled him out of the recent victory over Cork Con at Temple Hill.
Garryowen are also hoping to have recent recruit Dave Connellan available to them in the coming weeks.
A former Irish schools international, Connellan, who can play at scrum-half or out-half, previously played with Buccaneers as well as spending time in France where he played with CS VilleFranche. Former Clongowes Wood star, Connellan is currently studying at UL.