THE action resumes in the top two divisions of the Ulster Bank All-Ireland League after the Christmas break this Saturday with three local sides facing crucial fixtures.
In Division 1A, fifth-placed Young Munster travel to Temple Hill to take on sixth-placed Cork Constitution at 2.30pm, while basement side Garryowen do battle with St Mary’s College at Dooradoyle.
Fourth-placed UL-Bohemian return to action in Division 1B with an away fixture against Blackrock College at Stradbrook.
Fifth-placed Shannon have a ‘free’ weekend as the fixture they were scheduled to play this weekend against Dublin University was brought forward to before Christmas when the Parish side claimed a 20-5 success at Coonagh.
Young Munster will be determined to remain on the coat tails of top flight pacesetters Clontarf by securing a precious victory over Cork Con. Two members of the Young Munster squad, Alan Cotter and Ger Slattery, made their senior debuts for Munster on Friday night when introduced as substitutes in the RaboDirect PRO12 win over Connacht at Thomond Park.
Munsters’ head coach, John Staunton said the win over UCD in their final fixture before Christmas was crucial to their hopes of remaining in the title race.
“Saturday’s game with Cork Con is a massive match,” Staunton said.
“If we can go there and win, then we are back in the hunt again.
Relegation-threatened Garryowen will be desperate to record their first win of the campaign as the ‘light blues’ host eighth-placed St Mary’s at Dooradoyle.
Garryowen lost the ODM Munster Senior Cup final in agonising fashion after extra time to Cork Con’ at Thomond Park before Christmas.
In the wake of their heart-breaking Munster Senior Cup final defeat, Garrowen head coach Tom Tierney described this Saturday’s clash with third-from-bottom St Mary’s College as a ‘relegation eight-pointer.’
Tierney said: “We have the bread-and-butter of the League to focus on. We will try and turn this huge disappointment of losing the Munster Senior Cup final in the manner we did into a positive for the St Mary’s match which is a relegation eight-pointer.”
Garryowen have just two points to show from their opening eight League fixtures this season.
However, with a further ten rounds of games to go in the coming months, the ‘light blues; do still have an opportunity to maintain their unbroken run in the AIL’s top flight.
The significance of this Saturday’s game is highlighted by the fact that the Dooradoyle side trail second-from-bottom Ballynahinch by eight points and third-from-bottom St Mary’s College by 11 points.
The bottom side will face automatic relegation to Division 1B for next season, while the club finishing second from bottom in 1A can ensure their top flight survival by beating the side finishing second in 1B in a play-off.
Given Garryowen’s inferior points difference to the sides above them in the table, the Dooradoyle side are effectively 12 points of safety as the season reaches the mid-point this weekend. Action resumes in AIL 2A and 2B on Saturday week, January 11.