Saturday 16 December 2017

Club Scene - All-Ireland League uncovered

Clontarf's Michael McGrath - the Ulster Bank League's top try scorer - has proven he is a deadly finisher
Clontarf's Michael McGrath - the Ulster Bank League's top try scorer - has proven he is a deadly finisher
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Game of the weekend - Clontarf v Old Belvedere, Castle Avenue, 7.30pm

A win for Clontarf tonight against league leaders Old Belvedere would put them a massive step closer to claiming their first ever All-Ireland League Division 1A title.

Second-placed Clontarf have a game in hand on Belvo, and they will be fully aware that a win at Castle Avenue would leave their destiny in their own hands.

Belvo have lost just one game all season – that came in the the second weekend of fixtures back in October. Since that defeat to UCD, they have gone on a 12-game unbeaten run – a remarkable level of consistency that has seen them overtake Clontarf at the top of the table.

The visitors are sweating over the fitness of their talismanic captain Danny Riordan. The full-back was forced off early in last weekend's win over UCD, but head coach Paul Cunningham is hopeful that Riordan will be fit to return for the title decider.

Jack Conan has been one of the stars of the league this season and the back-rower has featured in Leinster's Pro12 campaign. Conan is central to Belvo's attacking platform.

Clontarf come into the game on the back of three straight wins– they have amassed 116 points in those games. In Michael McGrath, they have the league's top try scorer who has proven on countless occasions that he is a deadly finisher.

Belvo will be hoping for a repeat of their three-point win over Clontarf on the opening day of the season, but the hosts have improved immeasurably since then.

In front of what promises to be a large home support at Castle Avenue this evening, it may just be home advantage that tilts the title back into Clontarf's favour.

Verdict: Clontarf


Ballynahinch's possible great escape

Last weekend's hugely impressive 36-3 bonus-point win over Young Munster, coupled with Garryowen's heavy defeat at home to Clontarf, means that Ballynahinch have opened a five-point gap between themselves and the Sky Blues, who are bottom of the table.

They are also within just five points of Dolphin, and a win tomorrow against Cork Con would give them another massive boost in their bid to avoid the drop.


Cork Con flying the flag for Munster clubs

It hasn't been a great season for the four Munster- based Division 1A clubs, but Cork Con have been by some distance the most impressive side.

Sitting in third place in the table – 16 points off Clontarf – Con are the only side in the top six who aren't from Dublin. It's not difficult to see in what part of the country the strength of the league currently lies.


Number of the weekend


3 - Years since Old Belvedere won their only Division 1A league title.


Ulster Bank League fixtures

(Tomorrow, 2.30pm unless stated)

Division 1A

Clontarf v Old Belvedere, Castle Avenue, today, 7.30pm; UCD v Lansdowne, Belfield, today, 7.30pm; Cork Con v Ballynahinch, Temple Hill; Dolphin v Garryowen, Musgrave Park; Young Munster v St Mary's College, Tom Clifford Park.

Division 1B

Belfast Harlequins v Shannon, Deramore Park; Buccaneers v Blackrock College, Dubarry Park; Malone v Dublin University; UL Bohs v Dungannon, Thomond Park; Terenure v Corinthians, Lakelands Park, 4.00pm.

Division 2A

UCC v Ballymena, The Mardyke.

Division 2B

Richmond v Instonians, Richmond Park.

Irish Independent

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