Preview of this weekend’s action in the All Ireland League and Kukri Ulster Rugby Championship…
ALL IRELAND LEAGUE ROUND 18
Dublin University (4) v Garryowen (5)
Lansdowne (2) v Clontarf (3)
Shannon (10) v Cork Constitution (1)
Terenure College (9) v Young Munster (6)
UCC (8) v UCD (7)
Ballynahinch (1) v St Mary’s College (5)
Banbridge (7) v Old Belvedere (6)
Malone (4) v Ballymena (10)
Naas (3) v Buccaneers (9)
Old Wesley (2) v City of Armagh (8)
Ballynahinch v St Mary’s College
Tom Rock, Ballynahinch coach: The coaching team were delighted with a good victory over City of Armagh at the weekend. The result was very pleasing along with the performance as the team know a win against St Mary’s College will see them win the Div 1B title. The focus is totally on this weekend and the ramifications for the Club and team if they win. Saturday is a huge game. It is all about the team looking after themselves. Illness ruled out influential number 8 Conall Boomer with Zac Ward available to step in as his replacement against City of Armagh. David Busby was another player to make a long awaited return from a long term injury after he replaced Rory Butler. His contribution was outstanding during his time on the pitch. Back row forward Ollie Loughead missed the match after picking up an injury in the Old Belvedere game in Round 16.
Pleasing aspects for the coaches are the performances of young front row props Ben Cullen and Jonny Blair who have progressed from being squad players to regular starters on the 1st xv this season. With Ulster prop Tommy O’Hagan available again – Conor Piper was unlucky to miss out at the weekend. Scrum half Rhys O’Donnell had a difficult first season at Ballynahinch but has bounced back this season to score seven tries and make the number 9 jersey his own. He has also formed a strong partnership with young out half Ryan Wilson who has had to contend with the release of Ulster players Johnny McPhillips and Peter Nelson throughout the season. As Tom Rock put it, Ballynahinch rugby club is all about developing players and building strength in depth in the playing squad. Young back George Pringle is another example of a player pushing hard for a regular starting place on the 1st xv. In the threequarters Ballynahinch have been able to utilise the experience of full back Ross Adair and wingers Richard Reaney and Captain Aaron Cairns. Ross Adair has scored five tries in his last five games with Richard Reaney proving how prolific he is with his kicking along with Aaron Cairns scoring tries. With injuries ruling out centres Stuart Morrow and Callum McLaughlin, Robin Harte has returned to the club to form a strong centre partnership with Rory Butler. The Ballynahinch pack has a lot of experience with Zack McCall at hooker along with Jack Regan returning to partner John Donnan in the engine room. There is so much talent available in the back row with number 8 Conall Boomer a key player alongside Keith Dickson, Bradley Luney and Ollie Loughead.
Expect one of the biggest crowds of the season to be present at Ballymacarn Park to see Brian McLaughlin hopefully steer his Ballynahinch team to the Div 1B title and promotion to Div 1A after being relegated in 2015/16. It was interesting to note that when Ballynahinch won the Div 1B title in 2012/13 the following Ulster teams were playing in this league – Malone (5), Belfast Harlequins (6), Dungannon (8) and Ballymena (9).
Ulster releases are expected to include: Zack McCall, Tommy O’Hagan, Jack Regan, Bradley Luney, David Busby and Peter Nelson.
Banbridge v Old Belvedere
Simon McKinstry, Banbridge Head coach: He was delighted with the way the team responded against a very strong Buccaneers side at Dubarry Park last Saturday to win 24 – 20. After taking the lead the team had to dig deep to hold on for their win. The 41 – 21 defeat at home to Naas in round 16 was not a true reflection of how well the team played in that match. Only two teams have completed the double over Banbridge this season, namely Ballynahinch and Old Wesley, and their league positions at the top of the table reflect their performances.
This weekend the coaches are looking the team to win the return match at Rifle Park after Old Belvedere inflicted a 42 – 28 defeat in Round One. The one pleasing aspect from this match was the resilience of the team to stage a comeback to score four converted tries to pick up a valuable league point. This weekend is all about finishing the season with a win. The coach is expecting a similar squad to be available with both Matthew Laird and Hugo Harbinson expected to come into contention. In his first season as Head coach Simon McKinstry has reflected on the small margins that determine how successful your season will be. Last season Banbridge won three games by one point including completing the double over Ballynahinch. This season they have lost three games by one point including two defeats against Ballynahinch. Inconsistency has been an issue for the team this season. What you notice about the teams at the top of the league . They are nothing spectacular. But they have no weaknesses. They do everything well. Confidence is everything. Winning builds confidence and momentum.
Ulster releases are expected to include Greg Jones, Caleb Montgomery and Jonathan Stewart.
City of Armagh v Old Wesley
Chris Parker, City of Armagh Assistant coach: This season has been a learning curve for the City of Armagh squad in Div 1B. This was emphasised in the defeat at home to Ballynahinch last Saturday. Three errors were ruthlessly punished by the Ballynahinch team to score three tries. The defeat showed why Ballynahinch are at the top of the table. It was the same in the defeat at Malone. Again two errors were punished by Malone to score tries. The City of Armagh team is creating plenty of opportunities but are failing to finish them off. One thing the players have learned is that when you are creating opportunities you have to take them. Ballynahinch were more clinical in finishing their opportunities. That is the difference between the teams at the top and the rest. Another thing the players have learned this season is that the ‘skill sets’ are much better the higher you play in the AIL.
The defeat at Malone set back the ambitions of the team to finish in the top four. In the teams first season playing in Section 1 they have learned that when opportunities arise you have got to take them. After losing their last two AIL matches the team are looking to bounce back and win the game at Donnybrook against Old Wesley before they return to Dublin on the 20th April to play Garryowen in the Final of the All Ireland Bateman Cup.
This weekend is all about providing opportunities for players to make the matchday 22 for the Bateman Cup Final. Back row forward James Morton picked up a knee injury against Ballynahinch and is a doubt for this weekend. Captain Chris Colvin will not be risked before the Cup Final with back row Nigel Simpson expected to come into contention for a starting place after missing the match with Ballynahinch. The team are looking forward to playing Old Wesley on the 3G pitch at Donnybrook with the Dublin side still very much in contention for the league title and automatic promotion. The coaches are expected to make a number of changes with players such as Daryl Morton and Barry Finn coming into consideration for game time. Daryl Morton scored four tries for the 2nd xv against Ballynahinch seconds last Saturday. Second rows Peter Starrett and Josh McKinley have been ever present in the 1st xv and may be considered for a rest in advance of the Bateman Cup Final. The success of the 2nd xv is driving competition for starting places with players knowing they have to perform. The focus for the playing squad is to win at Old Wesley to carry forward momentum into the Bateman Cup. The coaches knew that the final three AIL fixtures against top four sides Ballynahinch, Old Wesley and Malone were going to be difficult. In the games against Banbridge and Ballynahinch the presence of players like Rob Lyttle and David Busby had a big impact in the outcome of these matches. These players were able to bring that extra quality by their presence in the team.
Malone v Ballymena
Malone’s Ulster releases are expected to include: Jack Owens, Ross Kane, Adam McBurney, Joe Dunleavy, Graham Curtis and Stewart Moore.
Andy Graham, Ballymena Head coach: Injuries and unavailability continue to impact on selection this week for the match at Malone. From the game with Naas last Saturday Rodger McBurney and James Taggart are ruled out. Darrell Montgomery remains on the injured list with options to replace Rodger McBurney including moving Matthew Norris to full back and bringing Sam Millar into the centre. Eoin Ritson is another option to bring in. In the forwards Connor Smyth remains a doubt due to work commitments. Injury has already ruled out second rows Jonny Browne, Donovan Woulahan, Mark Foster, JJ McKee and David Whann. Veteran Ian Caldwell has stepped in to play in the second row from playing for the 4th xv to play at 40 years to help the team out. In the forwards James Taggart is not available this week and will likely be replaced by Scott Agnew or Josh Bill on the bench. Phil Campbell is expected to be available after training with the Irish under 18 squad last weekend. He was joined by club Youth player Ben Moxen who is 17 years at the training camp. Backs Jonny McMullan and Dean Reynolds remain on the injured list with a neck injury continuing to rule out front row forward Andrew Ferguson. Otherwise the squad is expected to be similar to the one that played against Naas.
The second half of the season has been a tough slog for the Ballymena coaches and their 1st xv squad. Saturday at Malone is all about getting something out of the match. It is also all about getting a bit of pride back into the team after recent results.
Ulster releases include Marcus Rea and Bruce Houston with the release of Clive Ross TBC.
Dolphin (7) v Cashel RFC (2)
Galwegians (10) v Blackrock College (9)
Highfield (1) v UL Bohemians (5)
Nenagh Ormond (8) v Navan RFC (3)
Old Crescent (6) v Queens University (4)
Queens University v Old Crescent
Ian McAvoy President/1st xv Manager, Queens RFC: Coaches Derek Suffern and DJ Creighton are going to make changes for the final AIL game at Old Crescent this weekend. There is an outside chance that if Queens beat Old Crescent and Dolphin defeat Navan Queens would finish in 3rd place.
For the match on Saturday Queens are resting Alexander Clarke, Mattie Millar, Matthew Keane, Rory Bell and Richie McMaster. David Swann will come in at hooker alongside Andrew Weir at tight head. In the second row James Longwell will partner Ali Burke. Captain David Whitten moves into the back row alongside James Catterson. Curtis Pollock who has been on the bench is expected to get some game time. Conor McAuley will return from injury to partner Robbie Johnston at 9 and 10. Conor Shiels will come in alongside Conor McKee to create a new centre pairing. The back three is expected to be similar to the Highfield match.
Queens want to win this match and maintain their momentum going forward into the playoff match against Buccaneers on the 20th April.
Belfast Harlequins (6) Galway Corinthians (9)
Greystones (2) Wanderers (5)
Rainey OB (3) MU Barnhall (1)
Skerries (7) Dungannon (8)
Sligo (4) Sunday’s Well (10)
Rainey OB v MU Barnhall
John Andrews, Rainey OB Head coach: They have a full squad available with 39 players at training last Thursday night. With the playoff match coming up against Greystones on the 20th April a lot of players are putting their hands up for selection. A number of the squad players will get their chance this week against league winners MU Barnhall. The coaches are resting players including Paddy Magowan, Damien McMurray, Brad Roberts, Michael O’Neill, Andrew Magrath, Jason Bloomfield, Captain Paul Pritchard and Timmy Barker. With the second xv finishing in 3rd place in Provincial 1 and the Under 18 side playing City of Armagh under 18s in the Final of the Nutty Krust Cup on Wednesday the 10th April the development structures have been put in place to sustain the ambitions of the club.
The team this weekend: 1. Aidan McSwiggan, 2. Daniel O’Neill, 3. Fintan Quinn, 4. John McCusker, 5. Timmy Woods, 6. Andy Harbinson, 7. Mattie Millar, 8. Charlie Clarke (Capt), 9. Lorcan Quinn, 10. Martin Connolly (Dual status Randalstown), 11. Andrew Donaghy, 12. Oisin Quinn, 13. Conor Fitzsimons, 14. From Caolan Moran, Andrew Browne and Mark Mulholland, 15. Scott McLean, 16. Jack McIntosh, 17. Kieran Donaghy, 18. Calvin Smyth, 19. Regan Sanderson, 20. From Caolan Moran/Andrew Brown and Mark Mulholland.
South African hooker George Fritz has returned home to South Africa. Second row Michael McCusker picked up a knee injury in the match against Sunday’s Well after Christmas and on medical advice is being rested for the remainder of the season.
What has pleased John Andrews is the work the volunteers are doing within Rainey OB RFC. It is people like Peter Boyle and Damien Campbell who have been instrumental in signing up players from the Grammar School to play at the club including picking up young players who have maybe drifted away from playing rugby. Several of the Rainey Endowed 1st xv have already signed for the club including Jack Breslin, Brian Hall and Harry Evans. Damien Campbell has also played a key role in turning the Rainey OB 1st xv pack into a very competitive and formidable forward unit this season. You can see with the addition of Terry McMaster to the coaching team how well resourced this club are to continue building for the future.
MU Barnhall have been the benchmark for all the other teams in Div 2B this season with the Rainey team looking forward to playing them at Hatrick Park on Saturday. Like last season Rainey clapped Old Crescent on to the pitch to receive the Div 2B title. This weekend they will do the same for MU Barnhall. Can this Rainey team go one step further and secure a place in Div 2A through the playoffs after losing to Navan RFC in the playoff final last season.
Dungannon v Skerries
Andy Hughes, Dungannon Head coach: Two narrow defeats against Belfast Harlequins 10 – 8 and Sligo 25 – 22 have his Dungannon team fighting for their lives to avoid finishing in 9th place and the playoffs. With 10th place Sunday’s Well relegated it is between five teams to avoid finishing in 9th place. What has frustrated the coach is the small things that are letting the team down. Mistakes have been their undoing in these recent defeats. On Saturday the team went into an early 10 – 0 lead only to make two bad errors to allow Sligo to score two converted tries. It is that bit of luck the team need. Decisions on the field of play can lead to frustration. Despite the score line Andy Hughes always felt his team were capable of winning the match against Sligo. It was giving Sligo the soft scores that kept them in the match. When the team put 4/5 phases they looked very threatening. Examples of decisions that went against them included number 8 James McMahon making a break to off load to the supporting Paul Armstrong to touch down with the referee denying the try due to a forward pass. Centre Mervyn Brown had the ball slapped out of his hands as he went to touch down. Mis communication at an attacking lineout saw the ball overthrown that cost the team a good opportunity to score. When the game was balanced at 22 – 22 all for the 6thtime this season one of his players was penalised for kicking a ball out of ruck. The resulting penalty won the game for Sligo at the death.
For the game at Skerries the coach is not envisaging too many changes. Lucca Avelli returns from following return to play protocols to start at out half. There is a doubt over the availability of full back Andrew McGregor due to work commitments with either John Buckley or Jordan McIIwaine stepping in. Conor McGeough remains on the injured list after he did his ankle in the match against Wanderers. Prop Ross Stewart has left to play rugby in Australia for the summer. Jordan McIIwaine remains a doubt after picking up a calf injury in training on Tuesday night. Otherwise the squad is expected to be on similar lines to the one that played against Sligo. One of the frustrating things for the coach has been to see several players drift away from the playing side of the club this season. These players could have played a key role in helping the club to keep their place in Div 2B.
Behind the scenes much work has been ongoing at Dungannon. Long standing 1stxv Manager Brian ‘Maxi’ McGowan is standing down at the end of the season after performing this role for 24 years. He will be replaced by Timmy Smith who has been coaching the second xv. The club is also looking closely at player development in the Dungannon area and how this can be improved for the benefit of the club.
Belfast Harlequins v Galway Corinthians
Neal Wilson, Belfast Harlequins 1st xv Manager: Quins Head coach Nicky Wells makes four changes to his match day 20 for the crucial home match with Galway Corinthians. Centre Mark Kettyle is unavailable and is replaced by Paul Kerr who is promoted from the bench. Danny Annett returns to replace the unavailable Callum Leckey in the second row. The places of Thomas Gallagher and Paul Kerr on the bench are filled by Daryl Marshall and Christian Bennison.
Belfast Harlequins team: 1. Toby Mannus (Capt), 2. Rory Winters, 3. James Harrison, 4. Troy Webber, 5. Danny Annett, 6. Jaz Andress, 7. Jona Siri, 8. Ben Alexander, 9. Connor Young, 10. Timmy Emerson, 11. Peter Dunlop, 12. Paul Kerr, 13. Kyle Adams. 14. James McConnell, 15. Mark Glover, 16. Matthew Borne, 17. Mark McGrath, 18. Daryl Marshall, 19. Christian Bennison, 20. Jordan McIlwrath.
After their win in Cork on Saturday the Quins players are determined to end their season with a win to avoid the playoffs. Another match that is sure to attract a large crowd to Deramore Park.
Bangor (9) Malahide (3)
Bruff (4) Midleton (2)
Omagh (5) Ballina (1)
Seapoint (7) Thomond (10)
Tullamore (8) City of Derry (6)
Bangor v Malahide
Jonny Watson, Bangor Chairman: It is backs to the wall for the Bangor 1st xv when they play Malahide at Upritchard Park this week. Nothing less than a win is needed to keep the team in the AIL. The squad had a difficult trip away to play Thomond in Limerick at the weekend losing 21 – 10. In these games you need that bit of luck with decisions going against the team. They were dealt a major blow early in the game when centre Lewis Sampson suffered a serious leg injury. Injuries continue to be a concern for Head coach Michael Ferguson with former Ulster second row Lewis Stevenson undergoing surgery on a bicep tear he picked up in the match at City of Derry. Captain David Bradford who has scored three tries in his last four matches is a major doubt with a hamstring injury. Jonny Watson was delighted to see James Henley return from injury and put in a very strong performance at Thomond. Second row James Carson who played against Midleton is expected to come into contention this week with Oscar Yandall another player expected to be available for selection. In the absence of Lewis Stevenson his second partner Dave Caughey has been one of their consistent ball carriers.
Ulster winger Craig Gilroy has been ever present in helping out the playing squad this season. He travelled with the players on the team bus to Limerick on Saturday and helped in the pre match warm up. Craig is determined to play his part this week in helping to keep Bangor in the AIL with a win over Malahide. Can Bangor end their 10 match losing run in the AIL with a win this weekend. Expect another big crowd at Upritchard Park for this crucial must win game.
Danny Curran, Director of Rugby Bangor RFC: Saturday is all about the team winning their match at home to Malahide. Injuries have been a big problem this season with both Lewis Sampson and Liam Preston picking up injuries that will rule them out of the match this week. Captain David Bradford will undergo a late fitness test on a hamstring injury. Oscar Yandell will replace Liam Preston at out half. Centre Adam Alexander will undergo a late fitness test to replace Lewis Sampson. Winger Desi Fusco is a doubt with his wife expecting this weekend. Both back row forwards James Henley and Mikey Weir put in big performances in the defeat at Thomond and will need to do the same this week. Lewis Brett picked up a groin injury at beginning of the week and is another doubt. Work has taken Phil Broderick to Scotland that has ruled out his availability to play. James Carson will partner Dave Caughey in the second row. Matt Nesbitt is another option to come into the squad depending on late fitness tests. Selection to be finalised on Thursday night. Numbers at training have been good. Everybody at the club is behind the players who have worked really hard over the last 5/6 games with results not going the teams way. No one can fault the effort of the players who have put their heart and soul into their games to reverse results. The players deserve something from the game against Malahide.
Omagh v Ballina
Philip Marshall, Omagh Head coach: It has been a difficult second half to the season for the Omagh Head coach and his 1st xv as they challenged for a top four finish and the playoffs. Four away defeats including losses to Tullamore and Seapoint have dented their ambitions. Unforced errors and the attitude of the players allowed opposition teams to build up leads that proved difficult to turn around. Saturday was another example at Malahide with a late rally enabling the team to pick up a valuable league point for scoring four tries. Again this demonstrated that if the team had been focused from the kick off the result could have been different. To make the playoffs on Saturday the team need to defeat Ballina and hope Midleton win at Bruff to finish in 4th place. As Philip Marshall put it to me you cannot give teams a lead and expect to claw that back. That has been a downfall of Omagh this season. This weekend the coaches are missing Ricky Hemphill, Kaine Holden, Ali Beckett and Dean Kane who are all unavailable. Centre Luke Hanson is following return to play protocols after picking up a head injury.
Omagh team: 1. Peter Todd, 2. Phil Ewing, 3. Mark Smyth, 4. James Sproule, 5. Jonny Sproule, 6. Mervyn Edgar, 7. Adam Longwell, 8. Matthew Clyde, 9. Stewart McCain, 10. Scott Elliott, 11. Matthew Eccles, 12. Peter Scott, 13. Scott Barr, 14. Ryan Mitchell, 15. Neil Brown, 16. Richard Smyth, 17. Kyle Alexander, 18. Jake McCay, 19. Michael Gibson, 20. Eoin Murnaghan.
What has pleased Phil Marshall is the performance of the second xv this season to finish mid table in the second xv league. When the club returned to the AIL it was always his desire to have his second xv competing in the Conference league and the second xv league against the Championship 1st xv sides and teams like City of Armagh seconds and Ballynahinch seconds. When you are looking players to step up to play on the 1st xv you want them coming from a level where the game is played with an intensity and pace they would not experience playing in the Provincial leagues. This is so important when you are looking to develop strength in depth in your playing squad.
Saturday will be a big day for Omagh Rugby Club at the Thomas Mellon Playing Fields. The Youth teams play in the morning followed by a Memorial match for Former Omagh player Kenny McEwan between Omagh seconds and the Northern Ireland Fire Service. Kick off in this match is at 11.30AM. The 1st xv play Ballina with a 2.30PM kick off. There is also a local derby involving Omagh thirds and Clogher Valley seconds with 2.30PM kick off.
City of Derry v Tullamore
Paul O’Kane, Director of Rugby at City of Derry RFC: Any thoughts that City of Derry will not be going to Tullamore to win can be dispelled by Paul O’Kane. The coaches and the players want to back up the result against Bruff at home last Saturday with a win to end their season. The win over Bruff left City of Derry six points ahead of 9th place Bangor with one round of matches left to play in the AIL. It was a terrific day for all at City of Derry RFC. Not only did the 1st xv secure their place in the AIL. The second xv won Provincial 3 and the 3rd xv won the Butler Shield. What a turnaround for a club that we questioned its future. The appointment of Paul O’Kane as Director of Rugby instilled a new belief with key personnel coming in to fill positions within the playing side of the club. You only have to look down through the club from the Men’s teams, Ladies through to the Youth and the Minis to see how hard work and a commitment from the volunteers dedicated to this club have turned this proud club around. Well done to everybody involved.
For the match at Tullamore the coaches make a number of changes. Centre Keelan Coyle is unavailable due to work commitments along with forwards Adam Bratton and Tiernan Thornton. Ulster under age second row Conor McMenamin who missed the game with Bruff returns to replace Adam Bratton. Denis Posternik replaces Keelan Coyle at 12. Former Coleraine Grammar backrow and Ulster under 18/19 back row forward David Brown comes on to the bench to replace Tiernan Thornton. Jack Townley comes into replace Barry Laverty and Davy Jackson to replace Denis Posternik on the bench. What has been impressive this season for the coaches is the performances of the young players. Rory MacGinty at scrum half is one of the most exciting prospects we have watched in the club game who has formed a talented half back partnership with Alex McDonnell. Players such as Conor McMenamin, Rory MacGinty, Keelan Coyle, David Brown and Thomas Cole are only 18/19 years old and have made a real impact at the club. Alex McDonnell at 21 years and David Lapsley at 24 years are players who have a long term future at the club along with 27 year old backs David Graham and Simon Logue. Keelan Coyle has benefitted from working alongside Backs coach Richard McCarter this season. He provided a second kicking option for out half Alex McDonnell as both played a key role in the win over Bruff. Has to be noted that winger Thomas Cole scored two tries and scrum half Rory MacGinty one last Saturday in their win.
City of Derry team: 1. Jimmy Hamilton, 2. David Ferguson, 3. Sam Duffy, 4. Gareth Duffy. 5. Conor McMenamin, 6. Stephen Corr (Captain), 7. Chris Lamberton, 8. Craig Huey. 9. Rory MacGinty, 10. Alex McDonnell, 11. Thomas Cole. 12. Denis Posternik, 13. David Lapsley, 14. David Graham, 15. Simon Logue, 16. Ross Harkin, 17. Jack Townley, 18. David Brown, 19. David Jackson, 20. James Perry.
Paul O’Kane and his players are expecting a very physical game away to Tullamore. The players are looking forward to the weekend and the challenge Tullamore will present. For the players it is all about their personal pride. Saturday will be a big personality test for each of the players. Tullamore play a direct game that is low risk. City of Derry are going to play rugby. It will be a test for the young players with the forwards having to put in a big shift. It is a challenge the team have talked about this week and how they want to back up the win over Bruff. It is all about ending the season on a positive note. Last Thursday the coaches had 63 players at training. Paul O’Kane set his team a target at the beginning of the season to win eight matches to keep their place in the AIL. They have won seven. Can they make it eight at Tullamore.
ALL IRELAND PROVINCIAL LEAGUE CHAMPIONSHIP – ROUND ROBIN QUALIFIERS – ROUND 3
Connemara (4) Enniscorthy RFC (1)
Instonians (2) Clonmel RFC (3)
Instonians Head coach John Andress was concerned his team let slip a 26 – 6 halftime lead at Clifden to allow Connemara back into the match last Saturday. Having secured the bonus point the team allowed silly errors to creep into their game. Two late penalties from Richard McCarthy helped to close out the game in favour of the Belfast side 32 – 25. Injury ruled out NZ forward Cameron Barr for the Connemara game after picking up a head injury in the match against Enniscorthy. He will miss the remaining Round Robin matches as he follows the return to play protocols. Mark Mairs and Neil Saulters are two players who will be added to the squad for selection this week after missing the Round 2 match. Paddy Bell made a long awaited return to playing after injury to put in a very good performance in the back row alongside Massimo Kiri and James Martin. Winger David McGovern was part of the 1st xv team during the Clem Boyd era. After taking a sabbatical due to work and family commitments he has returned to take his place on the 1st xv. With a strong squad available for the match with Clonmel the coaching team will have several difficult selection calls to make this week. A win will see the team finish second unless favourites Enniscorthy trip up at Connemara. Instonians will then enter the Division 2C / Round Robin Playoff for a place in the AIL next season with this fixture to be played on Saturday the 27th April with a distinct possibility of Instonians travelling to play Bangor at Upritchard Park.
The coach is delighted his team have something to play for going into the match with Clonmel this weekend. A lot will be riding on the result with both teams having recorded wins over Connemara. The key for his Instonians team is to make sure they turn up in the first half. A sloppy performance in the first half of the Round 1 match with Enniscorthy allowed the visitors to build up a 24 – 0 halftime lead. Instonians did respond in the second half to end up losing 27 – 12. The coach is not anticipating too many changes to the matchday 20 this week.
ULSTER PREMIERSHIP 2ND XV LEAGUE
Malone seconds (6) v Ballymena seconds (4)
Ballynahinch seconds (2) v Banbridge seconds (5)
KUKRI ULSTER RUGBY CHAMPIONSHIP
BHSFP (10) v Cavan (11)
Letterkenny (6) v PSNI (4)
Monaghan (2) v Holywood (3)
Newry (7) v Civil Service (9)
Strabane (8) v Ophir (12)
Virginia (5) v Donaghadee (1)
Preview compiled by George Millar.