AIL previews

Some big knockout action takes place today...

Today’s Ulster Bank League:

Division 1A semi-finals

Clontarf (1st) v UCD (4th), Castle Avenue, 2.30pm

Ulster Bank League season’s form:

Clontarf: WWWDLWWDWLLWWWWWWW; UCD: LWWDLWWWWWWLWLLLLL

Ulster Bank League top scorers:

Clontarf: Points: Joey Carbery 130; Tries: Mick McGrath 13; UCD: Points: Barry Daly 55; Tries: Barry Daly 11

Recent league meetings:

September 11, 2015: UCD 16 Clontarf 24, Belfield; April 16, 2016: Clontarf 25 UCD 12, Castle Avenue

Table toppers Clontarf wrapped up the regular season with a 25-12 win over UCD last week, and the students come calling again at the semi-final stage.

‘Tarf pulled away in the final quarter seven days ago and also won at Belfield in round 1 (24-16), but Clontarf boss Andy Wood expects an even bigger challenge today.

“It’s a semi-final, it’s another step towards what we set out to do at the start of the season,” said the New Zealander. “If we get what we need to get right and a good performance comes off the back of it, the result will follow, hopefully.”

Look out for the wing battle between Mick McGrath, the league’s leading scorer with 13 tries, and his Leinster ‘A’ colleague Adam Byrne, while Barry Daly (11 tries) will be keen to add to his haul from the opposite wing for ‘College.

With back rower Peadar Timmins in inspirational form, UCD’s maul was particularly effective last time out, while some of the province’s brightest front row talents will lock horns again.

Cork Constitution (2nd) v Young Munster (3rd), Temple Hill, 2.30pm

Ulster Bank League season’s form:

Cork Con: LDLDWWLLWWLWLWWWWW; Young Munster: LDLDWWWWLWWWWWLWWW

Ulster Bank League top scorers:

Cork Constitution: Points: Tomas Quinlan 163; Tries: Aaron Spring 5; Young Munster: Points: Gearoid Lyons 119; Tries: Alan Kennedy, Dan Goggin 4 each

Recent league meetings:

November 7, 2015: Young Munster 11 Cork Con 10, Tom Clifford Park; January 30, 2016: Cork Constitution 17 Young Munster 18, Temple Hill Con pipped Young Munster to the post in gaining home advantage, sealing a bonus point against Galwegians with centre Niall Kenneally’s late intercept try. But, with a big travelling support, Munsters captain Ger Slattery does not fear travelling to Temple Hill, admitting: “It’s two evenly-matched teams and I think the venue might even be irrelevant.

“There’s always a great battle between us and Con, there was only a point in it when they played them this year in the league.”

Indeed, Munsters won 11-10 at home in November and repeated the trick (18-17) on their travels in January.

After their semi-final heartbreak against Lansdowne 12 months ago, the Cookies look even stronger under David Corkery this season, winning eight of their last nine matches.

But Constitution, who face Galwegians in next week’s Bateman Cup final, are bidding for an All-Ireland double. Tomas Quinlan, who is seven points short of Scott Deasy (170 points) in the Division 1A scoring charts, and winger Aaron Spring, with five tries in as many games, are two key men who could see Brian Hickey’s side avenge those two earlier defeats.

Ulster Bank League: Division 1A promotion/relegation play-offs

Ballynahinch (9th, Div 1A) v Buccaneers (4th, Div 1B), Ballymacarn Park, 2.30pm

Ulster Bank League season’s form:

Ballynahinch: LLLLLLLLWLWWLLLLWW; Buccaneers: WLWWLLLLLWWWLLWWWL.

Ulster Bank League top scorers:

Ballynahinch: Points: Chris Quinn 133; Tries: Aaron Cairns 5; Buccaneers: Points: Conor McKeon 117; Tries: Rory O’Connor 12

Recent league meetings:

April 20, 2013: Ballynahinch 41 Buccaneers 8, Ballymacarn Park; May 3, 2014: Ballynahinch 35 Buccaneers 13, Ballymacarn Park

Ballynahinch will have to back up last week’s barnstorming 59-5 victory over Garryowen if they want to take the next step towards Division 1A survival.

It has been a tough slog for them in the top flight, and the extended relegation/ promotion play-offs mean they have to beat two eager Division 1B sides.

Buccaneers’ two most recent trips to Co. Down resulted in heavy losses, including a 35-13 reversal in this equivalent fixture two years ago, and this may prove a step beyond the midlanders again.

Dublin University (2nd, Div 1B) v Ballymena (3rd, Div 1B), College Park,2.30pm Ulster Bank League season’s form:

Dublin Uni: LLWWWWWWWWLWWWWWLW; Ballymena: WWWWWLWWWWWLLLWLLL

Ulster Bank League top scorers:

Dublin University: Points: Jack McDermott 180; Tries: Tim Maupin 11; Ballymena: Points: Ritchie McMaster 111; Tries: Rodger McBurney 10

Recent League Meetings:

September 26, 2015: Ballymena 35 Dublin U 24, Eaton Park; March 5, 2016: Dublin U 34 Ballymena 19, College Park

Ballymena may have finished one spot behind second-placed Dublin University in the final Division 1B table, but they were 16 points worse off after losing their last three games.

There is a clean slate now in the play-offs, though, as the Braidmen return to College Park where they were beaten 34-19 at the start of last month.

Trinity, who put 55 points on Blackrock last week, have oozed quality in attack. Another clinical showing here should get them the result, especially if out-half Jack McDermott (180 points/seven tries) continues his free-scoring form.


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