The stage is set for two supercharged Division 1A semi-finals, with 2019 champions Cork Constitution traveling to table-top runners-up Clontarf and Terenure College at home to Lansdowne.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE – DIVISION 1A MEN:
Saturday April 23
Kick-off 2:30 p.m. unless otherwise stated –
CLONTARF (1st) against CORK CONSTITUTION (4th), Castle Avenue
Energia All-Ireland League Season Form: Clontarf: WWWWLWWWWWWWWWWWW ; Composition of cork: LLLWWWWLLWWDWLLWW
Energia All-Ireland league top scorers – Clontarf: Points: Dylan Donnellan 85; Try: Dylan Donnellan 17; Constitution of the cork: Points: Aidan Moynihan 137; Try: Greg Higgins 6
Insight: David Hawkshaw and Alex Sorok are among their absentees from Leinster, but Clontarf can still field a formidable squad as they seek to reach their fifth Energia All-Ireland League final since 2015.
Michael Courtney, Mick Kearney and Adrian D’Arcy are the only changes to the Clontarf side which won 24-12 at Cork Constitution last month. Hooker Dylan Donnellan finished the regular season with an incredible 17 tries.
Con may have needed last-round heroics to qualify, but the defending champions are still a threat in the play-offs. Indeed, they won away semi-finals in 2017 and 2018 and were unbeaten in 2020 when Covid-19 struck.
Their best try scorer, Greg Higgins (six trials), and Rob Jermyn are set to return to the baseline tomorrow, with the former Munster scrum-half Duncan Williams. The peloton is unchanged, while the Munster duo Jack Crowley and Alex McHenry are lined up for bench roles.
Recent league meetings – Saturday 16 October 2021: Clontarf 31 Cork Constitution 24, Castle Avenue; Saturday 26 March 2022: Cork Constitution 12 Clontarf 24, Temple Hill
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Victory of Clontarf
TERENURE COLLEGE (2nd) vs. LANSDOWNE (3rd), Lakelands Park
Energia All-Ireland League Season Form: Terenure College: WLLLLWWWWWWWWWLWWW ; Lansdowne: WWWLWLWWWWLWWLLWLL
Energia All-Ireland league top scorers – Terenure College: Points: Jake Swain 74; Try: Craig Adams 14; Lansdowne: Points: Charlie Tector 79; Try: Sean Galvin, Peter Sullivan, Eamonn Mills 6 each
Insight: Will this be the third lucky time for Terenure College? Having lost semi-finals at home in 2015 (Clontarf) and 2018 (Cork Constitution), they will be hoping for a change of fortune as they pursue their first-ever Division 1A final appearance.
It is Sean Skehan’s first crack in the play-offs with ‘Nure, his well-established side securing second place and a home advantage against Lansdowne. Former professionals Cathal Marsh and Jordan Coghlan start at halftime and number 8 respectively, in their only two changes.
Lansdowne, the Energia Cup champions Bateman, are well used to rugby in the semi-finals, but of the team chosen to play Terenure, only Eamonn Mills, Jack Dwan and Jack O’Sullivan started their victory in the 2018 league final. Captain O’Sullivan returns after missing the recent defeat at Con.
Sean Galvin and Connacht Peter Sullivan fill wing berths and other changes see Luke Thompson, Ben PopplewellIrish star son pseudoand Dwan added to the tight five. by Mark McHugh the men won 39-26 at Lakelands in October when Ireland U-20 finished in the semis Charlie Tector threw 14 points.
Recent league meetings – Saturday 9 October 2021: Terenure College 26 Lansdowne 39, Lakelands Park; Saturday April 2, 2022: Lansdowne 30 Terenure College 42, Aviva Stadium Back Ground
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College Victory
RELEGATION PLAY-OFF GO:
UCC (10th) against BALLYNAHINCH (9th), the Mardyke
Energia All-Ireland League Season Form: UDC: LLLLLWLLLLLLLLLLLL; Ballynahinch: LLLLLLLLLLLLLLWLLLLW
Energia All-Ireland league top scorers – CCU: Dots: Daniel Squires 36; Try: Matthew Bowen 7; Ballynahinch: Points: Greg Huley 74; Try: Kyle McCall, Greg Hutley 4 each
Insight: Coach’s Assistant Cian Bohane is about to put his boots back on, positioning himself at half-time as the UCC try to fight relegation. They have the home advantage against Ballynahinch, who won 19-9 at the Mardyke in February thanks to a Kyle McCall spacer.
UCC, who beat ‘Hinch earlier in the season (10-6), are also bringing in a player from Munster Development French Darragh in the outer center. Jack Kelleherrestored to number 8, leads a solid third line combination.
Cork students were promoted via the play-offs in 2019, the same year Ballynahinch became Division 1B champions. Unsurprisingly, ‘Hinch’s head coach Adam Craig largely retained confidence with the side that beat Young Munster 17-10.
Center George Pringle and number 8 callum irvine are their only changes. The inclusion of Irvine sees Bradley Luney passing on the blind flank – captain of Ireland Under-20 Ruben Crothers is at openside – and the captain Thomas Donnan returns to the second line.
Recent league meetings – Saturday 20 November 2021: Ballynahinch 6 UCC 10, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday 19 February 2022: UCC 9 Ballynahinch 19, the Mardyke
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch victory