Limerick clubs do battle for prized place in AIL Division 1A

Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent

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Colm Kinsella, Rugby Correspondent

Limerick clubs do battle for prized place in AIL Division 1A

Three Limerick clubs are in Ulster Bank League play-off action this Saturday, including a big local derby

LIMERICK rivals Garryowen and UL-Bohemian will go head-to-head in a battle to secure Division 1A status in the Ulster Bank League for next season at Dooradoyle on Saturday, 2.30pm.

Both sides advanced to Saturday's winner-take-all clash thanks to impressive play-off semi-final wins on Sunday last.

Garryowen, who ended up in the relegation play-offs after finishing ninth in Division 1B, scored an impressive 41-19 play-off semi-final win over Old Wesley, fourth in Division 1B at the end of the regular season, in Dooradoyle.

Conan Doyle's 'Light Blues' scored five tries in all from Neil Cronin, Bailey Faloon, Sean O'Connor, Hugh O'Brien Cunningham and Steven McMahon. Scrum-half Cronin also kicked five conversions and two penalty goals.

Garryowen produced a storming second half display after the home side lead by a single point, 10-9, at half-time. Garryowen were relegated from 1A in 2014, but managed to bounce straight back up when gaining promotion the following season.

Garryowen were minus the services of Munster A players Alex Wootton, Conor Oliver, Sam Arnold and David Johnston for last weekend's game. A number of those players might be available to play for the Dooradoyle side this Saturday, depending on the make-up of Munster's squad to face Treviso in the Pro12 in Italy.

UL-Bohs' have enjoyed an excellent season in 1B, securing a third placed finish in the regular season. However, the Annacotty outfit did not let the disappointment of missing out on home advantage in the semi-final play-offs upset them unduly as they downed Johne Murphy's second-placed Naas side 19-17 last weekend.

Rick McKenna kicked 14 points for the Red, Red Robins, while Noel Kinane crossed for a precious try for Christy Neilan's side.

UL-Bohs coach Christy Neilan said: “Gaining promotion to 1A would be an unbelievable achievement for the club. You have to take it in the context of where the team was this time last season.

“It is pretty much the same squad and they were fighting relegation last season. Now we are battling for promotion. It is small margins. It would be super to do it. Garryowen are going to be fighting to maintain their position. It is going to be a cracker of a game, I would think.”

Garryowen head coach, Conan Doyle says it is 'massively important' that the club retain their top flight Ulster Bank League status.

“We would have had a big turnaround in players from last season to this. The last day against Old Wesley we had one player in the pack who was playing the year before, so seven new guys into the pack and three new guys in the backline, so 10 overall,” Doyle explained.

“We have had a big turnover. Everyone is agreeing that they want to make sure that the club stays in 1A to give the squad for the following year the chance to compete for that title.

“As a club, it is just massively important. Garryowen is a well established club in Irish rugby and we want to be in the highest division competing with the best teams and best players all the time. It is the most important thing for us to make sure we stay there.”

Meanwhile, Old Crescent will be looking to secure promotion in the Ulster Bank League for a second successive season when travelling to Armagh for a crucial Division 2B play-off fixture at the Palace Grounds on Saturday.

Old Crescent were promoted from Division 2C to 2B at the end of last season. Crescent scored an impressive 46-21 away win over Sunday's Well in their semi-final tie.

The Rosbrien side led Sunday’s Well 22-13 at half-time. Crescent had tries from Sean Monaghan, Val McDermott 2, Cathal Monaghan, Paul McNamara and Liam McMahon, while Shane O’Brien also enjoyed a profitable afternoon with the boot.