All-Ireland League uncovered
Clontarf must shackle free-scoring Lansdowne to maintain title momentum
Clontarf v Lansdowne, Castle Avenue, 2.30
The All-Ireland league makes a welcome return today and the games don't come much bigger than a top-of-the-table Dublin derby. Third-placed Lansdowne travel to Castle Avenue to take on league leaders Clontarf, who have won their last seven games.
Lansdowne's defence of their league title got off to a poor start as they lost their opening two games, but, since then, they've rediscovered the consistency that saw them finish deserved winners last season.
It remains to be seen how the Christmas break will have affected both teams and given that Lansdowne put 61 points (including eight tries) on Dolphin last time out, they will be eager to take that kind of form into today's encounter.
A hat-trick from Ron Boucher and 16 points from the boot of former Munster fly-half Scott Deasy set Lansdowne on their way to a resounding victory and 'Tarf will have to keep a close eye on both in-form players.
Clontarf are unbeaten at home this season, but in welcoming the league's top points scorers, they know that this will be their toughest test yet. The hosts will be looking for winger Michael McGrath to continue his impressive try-scoring form.
It may just be that home advantage will tip the balance of the clash in Clontarf's favour.
CORK CON AIMING TO PUSH ON
Cork Con returned to winning ways in their last league game away to St Mary's and given that at one stage in the game they were 15-3 down, the 22-18 victory was made all the sweeter.
Con continued their good form in claiming the Munster Senior Cup against Garryowen during the festive break, albeit in controversial circumstances. Tom Mulcahy's side will not have been happy with the first half of their season as they only managed to pick up four wins from eight games.
They need to build on their good run of late and push on up the table.
TIME FOR GARRYOWEN TO START WINNING
Few would have predicted Garryowen entering 2014 without a single league win to their name. The Limerick side are rooted to the foot of the table with just two losing bonus-points claimed from their eight games played.
Garryowen have been playing very poorly for the majority of the season, but they will have to take hope from their recent narrow defeats to Cork Con in the Munster Cup final and against Old Belvedere in the league. St Mary's are the visitors to Dooradoyle today and they themselves are just two places off bottom spot. If Garryowen are to have any hope of avoiding relegation, they must make their home games count -- starting today.
NUMBER OF THE DAY
10 The league's top two scoring sides meet at Castle Avenue today with only 10 points between the totals that Clontarf (212) and Lansdowne (222) have racked up.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE FIXTURES
(2.30 unless stated)
Clontarf v Lansdowne, Castle Avenue; Cork Constitution v Young Munster, Temple Hill; Dolphin v Old Belvedere, Musgrave Park; Garryowen v St Mary's College, Dooradoyle; UCD v Ballynahinch, Belfield.
Blackrock College RFC v UL Bohemians, Stadbrook; Corinthians v Malone, Corinthian Park; Dungannon v Belfast Harlequins, Stevenson Park.
Banbridge v Galwegians.