Forward to fourth: Garryowen's Darren Ryan is caught by the Dublin University defenders during his side's 52-20 home win on Saturday. The bonus point win takes Conan Doyle's side into the top four
WITH just five rounds of regular season fixtures to go in the Ulster Bank League, Limerick’s seven senior clubs will be desperately scrapping for points this Friday and Saturday.
A crucial weekend of All-Ireland League action for local clubs kicks-off at Thomond Park on Friday night when Shannon and UL-Bohemian go head-to-head in a critical derby fixture, 7.30pm.
Both clubs will be anxious to pick up the four precious points of offer, but for very different reasons.
Second-placed Shannon are looking for their first win in three games after a defeat and draw in their two most recent outings.
Tom Hayes’ charges are currently two points behind table toppers Ballynahinch ahead of this week’s big Limerick derby.
Shannon are also four points ahead of third-placed Banbridge in their bid to gain promotion back to the top flight.
Rejuvenated UL-Bohemian will be looking to make it four wins on the bounce in Division 1B.
A hat-trick of wins have taken eighth-placed UL-Bohs out of the relegation zone in 1B, but only just.
The Annacotty side enjoy an eight-placed lead over basement side Dolphin who occupy the automatic relegation position in Division 1B, while Christy Neilan’s charges are just two points ahead of eighth-placed Ballymena.
Meanwhile, top four play-off chasing Garryowen and Young Munster facing crucial fixtures in Divsion 1A on Saturday afternoon, 2.30pm.
Fourth-placed Garryowen, who are seeking a hat-trick of Ulster Bank League wins, travel to Belfield to face seventh-placed UCD.
Impressive back-to-back wins over leaders Lansdowne and struggling Dublin University have seen Garryowen move into the last of the play-off places, but just one point ahead of fifth-placed Clontarf and four points ahead of local rivals Young Munster.
Garryowen thumped Dublin University 52-20 in their rescheduled fixture at Dooradoyle on Saturday last when Conan Doyle’s side ran in seven tries. Dave Johnston bagged two tries for the ‘Light Blues’, while the in-form Liam Coombes also touched down along with Darren Ryan, James McInerney, Robert Meyers and Neil Cronin.
Saturday’s opponents UCD are currently in seventh place in the top flight table, with four wins from 13 league fixtures. UCD are a dozen points adrift of the Limerick side ahead of Saturday’s game in Belfield.
After suffering heavy defeats away to Young Munster and Cork Constitution either side of the Christmas and New Year’s break, Garryowen have hit a hot streak of form, including a deserved Munster Senior Cup final victory over local rivals UL-Bohemian at the Markets Field.
Meanwhile, another Limerick side Young Munster on the back of an impressive 38-26 bonus point win over St Mary’s College last time out, host fellow play-off chasers Cork Constitution at Tom Clifford Park.
Munsters’ have now won their last four Ulster Bank League fixtures and currently lie four points off the last of the play-off spots with now just four series of games to go.
Saturday’s visitors to Greenfields, Cork Con, currently sit in second place in the Division 1A table, eight points ahead of Munsters.
This is a key fixture for Gearoid Prendergast’s side in their bid to get back into the top four positions, particularly as it is a home fixture.
Meanwhile, in Division 2B, table toppers Old Crescent host basement side City of Derry at Rosbrien.
Old Crescent, who have won each of their 13 league fixtures this season, currently enjoy a seven-point lead over second-placed Rainey Old Boys.
Crescent are a whopping 60 points clear of their visitors on Saturday who, after being deducted five points for giving a walkover to Dungannon earlier in the season, currently have zero points at the foot of the table.
Free-scoring Old Crescent have averaged 31 points per game this season as the Limerick side has maintained a strong promotion push
Crescent have picked up a highly impressive eight try bonus points in their 13 wins this season.
The two Limerick clubs in Division 2C also face crucial games.
Second-placed Thomond host Munster rivals Midleton at Liam Fitzgerald Park on Saturday afternoon, while fifth-placed Bruff travel to Kilbogget to take on eighth-placed Seapoint.
Thomond trail leaders Malahide by a single point in the promotion battle. Thomond had to make-do with taking a losing bonus point from a 15-8 defeat away to leaders Malahide last time out.
The ‘Royal Blues’ picked up five try bonus points as well as five losing bonus points this term.
Fifth-placed Bruff remain strongly in the hunt to secure a promotion play-off position at the end of the regular season as they are edged out of fourth place at present on mere points difference by fourth-placed Bangor.