independent

Tuesday 18 December 2018

AIL moves into critical phase

Rugby

Paul Byrne

Both Malahide and Skerries face pivotal games this weekend which could have a huge bearing on their respective campaigns in the All-Ireland League.

Malahide endured a torrid start to the season when losing all three of their opening matches in Division 2C but have bounced back impressively in recent weeks with three consecutive victories which have reignited promotion talk around the club.

Those victories over Thomond, Midleton and City of Derry have moved the Fingal outfit up to sixth and they have an ideal opportunity to get even closer to the top four when they face bottom side Tullamore this coming Saturday.

The Offaly men have left the pitch victorious just once all season and represent a good opportunity for Malahide to enhance their promotion prospects. Defeat in Tullamore on Saturday, however, would severely damage their promotion hopes and have them looking over their shoulders towards the relegation scrap down at the bottom of the table.

Marcus McAllister in particular has been showing great form in recent weeks and Malahide will be looking towards their flying winger to find some gaps in a defence which conceded 55 points against Omagh last time out.

A bonus-point victory for Malahide, coupled with losses for Bangor and Omagh loss, could potentially see the Fingal outfit gatecrash the top four, but with three games in three weeks on the horizon Brendan Guilfoyle's side would take any sort of a victory with no fresh injuries.

Skerries also face a huge match this Saturday (kick-off 2.30pm) as they host bottom side Sligo in a match that could be crucial to the Fingal side's hopes of remaining in Division 2B.

Skerries are second from bottom and remain win-less after six matches, but that doesn't tell the whole story as luck hasn't really followed the Holmpatrick side. Five of their six defeats have been very close affairs, with Skerries losing by seven or fewer points in all those encounters. The one bad beating they took was against title-chasing Greystones who romped to a 55-19 victory.

Skerries have been dangerous going forward, with an impressive 153 points scored which is only bettered by the top two in the division. However, defence has been a major issue and the 205 points conceded is comfortably the worst in the division and an area they must improve on.

Sligo have tasted success just once this season in gameweek two against Dungannon but prop up the division due to a lack of bonus points.

A victory for Skerries on Saturday could be huge and potentially move them up as high as sixth if results go their way. Defeat, however, would see the Holmpatrick side rooted to the bottom and favourites for relegation.

Fingal Independent

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