Shannon and Clontarf battle for precious points

THE AIB All-Ireland League moves closer to a conclusion but the main battles are still not over.

The biggest skirmish could take place at Thomond Park this afternoon when Shannon take on Clontarf with more than bragging rights at stake.

The sides are locked on 37 points, with Shannon heading up the table by virtue of their superior points difference. But Mick Galwey’s side will not take any chances against a Clontarf side that has been equally productive with eight wins from ten.

Third-placed Garryowen take on Cork Constitution at Dooradoyle. Con may have a game in hand over their rivals but their record suggests they will have it all to do. While Garryowen are on 35 points, with eight wins, the Cork side have had mixed returns this season, four wins, a draw and four defeats.

Constitution will view this as a must-win game if they are to have any hope of catching fourth placed Belfast Harlequins to claim a top four spot. In reality, they don’t have much chance, more particularly because Harlequins take on UCD, who lie fifth, today and a home win should secure a place in the elite group of four.

At the other end of the table, these are worrying times for Lansdowne and County Carlow. Carlow are at home to Blackrock, while Lansdowne take on Buccaneers on Sunday.

Division Two leaders travel to Dublin to take on lowly Old Belvedere and that should give them an opportunity to keep ahead of challenging St. Mary’s who have a tricky assignment at DLSP.

UCC have made a big impact this season and third play fourth (Bective Rangers) at Donnybrook today. It could be the most important match of the campaign for both teams.

Highfield prop up the table with just one win and a draw from 11 matches. They will hope things get better when they travel to Towns Park to play Midleton.

Martin McPhail has been named in the UL Bohemian team to play Thomond tomorrow but there are doubts as to whether he will start. McPhail’s flights from Hong Kong, where he lined out with the Irish Sevens team, was delayed yesterday.

In division three, Greystones are coasting to the championship with an eight-point advantage over Clonakilty. But that might change somewhat this afternoon when Sunday’s Well have a chance to take a scalp and push their own claims for promotion. The ‘Well are in third place, a further seven points adrift of the west Cork side.

Bottom placed Ballina are away to Suttonians and unlikely to make any impact there which would suit Old Wesley. The Dublin club have a five-point buffer and a couple of games in hand over Portadown who lie just above them. Wesley play Corinthians tomorrow.

UL BOHEMIANS: C. Garvey, I. Hanly, C. Finn, M. McPhail, B. O’Donnell, B. Martin, C. O’Boyle/A. Rees, A. O’Gormon, J. E. O’Connor, P. Van Esbeck, A. Hartigan, B. Madigan, K. Flanagan, G. Ryan, M. Harty.

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