Tim Ferguson scores a try for Garryowen in their Ulster Bank League game with Lansdowne on the back pitch at the Aviva Stadium earlier this season
GARRYOWEN make their first Division 1 Ulster Bank League semi-final appearance for nine years this Saturday when travelling to the Aviva Stadium to take on Lansdowne, 2.30pm.
Conan Doyle’s Garryowen side finished in fourth place in Division 1A, while Saturday’s opponents Lansdowne finished top of the table, 15 points clear of the ‘Light Blues.’
The sides’ two meetings in the regular season finished with one win each, Garryowen bouncing back from their reverse in Dublin to end Lansdowne’s 12-game winning run when emerging victorious at Dooradoyle in February.
Munster A’s exit from the British and Irish Cup at the quarter-final stage means Garryowen will have a full deck of players to choose from.
Garryowen’s backline is a highly exciting one. Twenty year-old winger Liam Coombes has been in terrific try-scoring form this season, while Dave McCarthy and David Johnston, who swaps Munster for Ealing Trailfinders next season, form a solid midfield partnership.
Captain Neil Cronin is a key figure at scrum-half, while out-half Bill Johnston, who signed a new two-year extension with Munster this week, is an accomplished playmaker.
With the likes of Ireland U-20 hooker Diarmuid Barron, Munster Academy second-row Sean O’Connor, the experienced Dean Moore, who spent time playing in France with Auch, also in the engine room, and the likes of Tim Ferguson and Darren Ryan in the back-row, Garryowen are well placed to compete fiercely with Bateman Cup winners Lansdowne up front.
Garryowen head coach Conan Doyle said: “It is great for the club to be back in an AIL semi-final. I often say it, there is not that much between the teams at the bottom of the table and getting into the top four.
“It takes that extra bit to get there and for us to be there again now is great. We don’t want to rest there, you have to be there to try and win the league and that is what we are striving for now.”
Twelve months ago Garryowen were in a relegation play-off, fighting for their 1A survival.
“When we got relegated four years ago, we were in a rebuilding stage. Last year we just got caught in a position where we had a group of lads moving on and didn’t really have the numbers to replace them.
“As part of our rebuilding we boosted up our numbers. The guys who were involved last year are a big part of what we did this year.
“The semi-final is an exciting one to be going after. They have beaten us, we have beaten them already this season, so there will be no fear from the lads of them and I think there is a lot of excitement going up there.”