Title is up for grabs as big two lock horns

WHAT looks set to be the biggest game of the season on the Munster junior rugby scene is down for decision this weekend as Cashel travel to Canal Bank to face Richmond in what is effectively a league decider.

No matter what happens, Richmond have made a strong defence of their title and with the added incentive of guaranteed rugby in the AIL, they will be fired up for this clash. They go into the game on the back of a narrow defeat to Cork Constitution in the cup, but saved a couple of key players for this week’s decider.

However, Michael Kelleher did pick up a knock and his fitness could be crucial to their hopes. However. they have other star men such as Ian Madden and Finbar Hogan in their side, who they hope will have a major say on the outcome of the game.

Having dominated the scene for three seasons, Cashel will view last year as a bit of a blip. They have some key players back and the O’Connors have been magnificent, while the likes of Phil Silke and Kevin Leamy have helped set a strong platform up front.

It should be a thrilling contest. Cashel currently lead the table by two points with only one more game left for each side after Sunday’s encounter. A win should see them effectively claim the league but if Richmond can win in front of their home support it would put them in the driving seat.

Crosshaven look the side most likely to finish the best of the rest in third place. Most of their focus will be on the All Ireland Cup final but they will be keen to keep their winning run going. They make the short trip to local rivals Cobh Pirates, who would love to cause an upset, but the Myrtleville side should have too much strength in depth.

Both Old Christians and Tipperary’s Clanwilliam have established themselves as very tough opponents in the top flight following promotion last season. They are both aiming for a top five finish that would see them in the All Ireland Cup next season. The Cork side will enjoy home advantage when they face each other this Saturday.

Kilfeacle and Skibbereen always provide a good game but with home advantage the Tipperary side would be favoured here. Tralee should prove too strong for a Thurles side struggling with injuries, while Clonmel should get the better of St Senan’s. Ballincollig will need a miracle to avoid relegation and despite being at home to Waterpark, the Waterford side should emerge with the points.

It certainly looks like things will go down to the wire at both ends of the table in Division Two. Galbally are in a very strong position to claim the league title and look too good to slip up at home to Ennis.

Things are very tight in the battle for the second promotion spot, with Kanturk currently holding a four-point advantage over main rivals Mallow and Newcastle West. The north Cork side will be expecting to maintain their lead against a Newport side who will want one more win to secure their status in this division.

Mallow will face a tough test as they host Killarney but will hope that their dynamic pack can set up a win. Newcastle West are on the road to a Muskerry side who will battle for every point.

Castleisland are also still in the hunt but won’t relish the challenge of taking on a resurgent Youghal who have had a huge upturn in form recently. With a game in hand, the east Cork side can’t be ruled out of the promotion hunt either.

Charleville will be aiming for a big performance to pull them away from the bottom as they host inconsistent Kinsale, while fellow relegation candidates Bandon must target maximum points at home to St Mary’s.

In Division Three, Scariff and Presentation should maintain their promotion push against Douglas and Kilrush respectively. Abbeyfeale, Waterford City and Fermoy will also be expected to pick up wins.

There is one game in the Junior Cup as Garryowen host Thomond in a big Limerick derby. The Light Blues ran up a big score against Thurles last week but after Thomond knocked out holders UL Bohs they won’t fear anyone and will start this game as slight favourites.

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