Game of the Weekend: Lansdowne v Cork Con, (Lansdowne Road, 2.30)
Lansdowne v Cork Con, (Lansdowne Road, 2.30)
LANSDOWNE have established themselves as the team to beat early this campaign and topped the table coming into the weekend's action.
Their schedule looked tough at the outset, but they go into today's meeting with Cork Constitution having won two away Dublin derbies and after putting 48 points on the board against Shannon. Last week's victory under lights at Templeville Road may have been against an under-strength St Mary's, but the champions will not lose many on home turf this year.
So, after Old Belvedere and Mary's claimed the trophy for the capital, are Mike Ruddock's team next on the list?
The investment they received as a result of the redevelopment of Lansdowne Road certainly has paid dividends, with their complex in the foothills of the Dublin mountains and clubhouse and pitches at their Dublin 4 base extremely impressive. They now have a squad to match their facilities after working their way back to the top division.
Today, they welcome that true test of any aspiring champion: Cork Con. The Leesiders are in a rebuilding phase after so many of the stars that drove them to successive titles moved on to Munster, but they are still more than competitive, as last weekend's narrow win over title-hunting Young Munster showed.
The late rally that clinched victory will have done plenty for Con's confidence, but their ambitions will be tested in Dublin this afternoon. A bonus point in defeat would represent a good return.
Denis Leamy (Young Munster)
He has retired from the professional game, but now Denis Leamy is learning his trade on the sidelines as assistant forwards coach at Tom Clifford Park.
The former Munster and Ireland back-row was forced to retire at the end of last season but gave his old team-mate Mike Prendergast a call and he was brought in to work under Paco Fitzgerald.
Having coached at Cashel, the experience is nothing new for the 30-year-old, who won 57 caps for Ireland, but as he combines it with some farming he is still adjusting to life after rugby.
The Cookies certainly seem to be benefiting from the experience, despite last week's narrow defeat to Cork Con, and they'll fancy getting back to winning ways against Clontarf today.
While it's a little early to talk about relegation, there is a proverbial huge game at Anglesea Road today, where winless pair Old Belvedere and Shannon go head-to-head. The Dubliners have picked up two losing bonus points and look in better shape. After conceding 115 points in their first three games, Stephen Keogh's Shannon need something from the trip.
Dolphin v St Mary's College, Musgrave Park; Lansdowne v Cork Constitution, Aviva Stadium; Old Belvedere v Shannon, Anglesea Road; Young Munster v Clontarf, Clifford Park.
Ballymena v Buccaneers, Eaton Park; Blackrock v Ballynahinch, Stradbrook; Bruff v Dublin University, Kilballyowen Park; Dungannon v Belfast Harlequins, Stevenson Park; Malone v UCD, Gibson Park.
Cashel v Greystones, Cashel; City of Derry v Corinthians, Judges Road; DLSP v Highfield, Kirwan Park; Midleton v Old Crescent, Towns Park; Old Wesley v Galwegians, Donnybrook; QUB v Banbridge, Dub Lane; UCC v Bective Rangers, Mardyke.
Ards v Connemara, Hamilton Park; Boyne v Suttonians, Drogheda; City of Armagh v Instonians, Palace Grounds; Clonakilty v Sunday's Well, The Vale; Nenagh Ormond v Sligo, Nenagh; Rainey Old Boys v NUIM Barnhall, Hatrick Park; Thomond v Skerries, Fitzgerlad Park.