THE mid-point in the All-Ireland League season for Divisions 1A and 1B arrives this Saturday, while there is also a full programme of fixtures in Divisions 2A and 2B
(Games Saturday, 2pm
unless stated otherwise)
Young Munster (6th)
V Clontarf (3rd)
Clifford Park, 2.30pm
A HUGE fixture in the context of Young Munster’s top four ambitions. The Greenfields side has lost ground in the battle for play-off places with back-to-back defeats in Dublin in their two most recent outings.
Munsters’ will be desperate to get back to winning ways in front of the Clifford Park faithful. Sixth-placed Munsters booked their semi-final place in the Munster Senior Cup with a convincing 30-3 win over Thomond last weekend.
Munster head coach John Staunton said: “We have three games to play before Christmas, Clontarf next weekend followed by Cork Con in the semi-final of the Munster Senior Cup and then Ballynahinch in the AIL. They are all Cup finals.
“The squad came into play for the Thomond game. We had Martin Kelly, Tom Goggin, Alan Cotter, Diarmuid Dee out today. Willie (Staunton) and Shane (O’Leary) didn’t start. Neither did Dan Goggin. It was great to see the guys coming and stepping up.
“All the guys who came off the bench stepped up as well. This League is so intense. If you don’t have depth you are in big trouble.
“If we were back 12 months ago playing Thomond in the Cup we would have struggled. It’s the youth and depth we could bring off the bench that made a huge difference.”
Prediction: Young Munster
V UL-Bohs (8th)
BOOSTED by their excellent Munster Senior Cup quarter-final win over Dolphin last weekend, UL-Bohs will travel to Galway desperate to pick up their third win of the campaign.
After winning their opening two AIL fixtures, UL-Bohs have lost their last six fixtures, five of which were by one score or less.
That disappointing run of results has left the Annacotty side eighth in the table, on 13 points, just one ahead of Shannon and four in front of bottom-placed Quins.
Head coach Colm Tucker will be encouraged by the way his charges responded having fallen 15-6 in arrears in the opening half against Dolphin.
Bohs are set to be without their Munster ‘A’ players Kevin O’Byrne and Jack O’Donoghue once again. However, Corinthians, who are just two points ahead of UL-Bohs in the table, are set to have squad members involved with Connacht A in the B&I Cup. This is a great opportunity for UL-Bohs to re-ignite their AIL season. Expect the Red, Red Robins to take it.
V Galwegians (1st)
THIS is the stand-out tie in the round nine fixtures in this weekend’s 1B action.
Garryowen sit in third place with six wins from their eight AIL fixtures, while Galwegians lead the way in 1B with seven wins from eight. ‘Wegians are eight points to the good over Garryowen with Ballymena second in the table one point ahead of the ‘light blues.’
Both sides will be short their share of contracted players owing to B&I Cup fixtures. Garryowen go into the game on the back of a Munster Senior Cup quarter-final win over Cashel. The Dooradoyle side who will be anxious to eat into ‘Wegians lead at the top of the table. Home advantage can swing it the way of Conan Doyle’s charges.
V Malone (6th)
SHANNON come into this Saturday’s clash with the Ulster side on the back of a ‘free’ weekend owing to their earlier exit from the Munster Senior Cup.
The AIL’s most successful club will be desperate to pick up just their third win of the campaign. Shannon currently sit second-from-bottom in 1B, three points above bottom-placed Belfast Harlequins.
Malone are sixth in the table, with three wins from eight AIL fixtures. This is Shannon’s second last AIL fixture before the Christmas break. Their final fixture will be against Garryowen on December 19. The Parish side can boost their survival hopes with a win.
Blackrock College (2nd)
V Thomond (4th)
THOMOND will learn a great deal more about how genuine their promotion challenge actually is when they lock horns with second-placed Blackrock College at Stradbrook.
Thomond will look to bounce back from their heavy Munster Senior Cup defeat to Young Munster. ‘Rock currently enjoy a one-point lead over Thomond in the table, while the Limerick side trail leaders Old Wesley by six.
Prediction: Blackrock College
V Wanderers (9th)
BRUFF exited the Munster Senior Cup on Saturday night, but turned in a gritty display in their loss to Cork Con at Temple Hill.
Bruff will be encouraged by their start to the AIL, but Saturday’s fixture against ninth-placed Wanderers is crucial if they wish to maintain their promotion push. The South Limerick side are eight points behind leaders Highfield. A home win is the most likely outcome.
V Richmond (15th)
RICHMOND are yet to win a game in 2B this season, with a draw being their most positive result in six outings. As a result, Richmond lie second-from-bottom in the table with three points, two more than bottom-placed Ards. Navan are eighth in the table and can make home advantage count here.
Old Crescent (13th)
V Sligo (2nd)
OLD CRESCENT will be desperate to record their third win in 2B when they host high-flying Sligo at Rosbrien this weekend.
Crescent, in 13th place have collected 10 points to dare, 11 less than second-placed Sligo. Home advantage is an obvious plus for Crescent but Sligo are fancied.