Leaders St Mary's have title in their sights


ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE:THE RTÉ television cameras will be at Templeville Road (2.35) in the belief that St Mary’s College will win the Ulster Bank League Division 1A title.

To do so they’ll have to overcome a Young Munster team still smarting from the 36-11 hammering they received at home from the Dublin club. Mary’s coach, Peter Smyth will have emphasised to his charges the importance of repeating against Young Munster the level of intensity and the ruthlessness they displayed in taking chances in last week’s brilliant victory over Clontarf at Castle Avenue.

“Young Munster are a very tough side and they have won 12 games in a very tough league,” he said. He’ll know that Mary’s are unlikely to be able to absorb the same amount of pressure they managed against Clontarf and expect a similar outcome.

Smyth has retained the same team from last week as the club chase a second All-Ireland League title to accompany their triumph in 2000. Coach Smyth was a member of that victorious team under Trevor Brennan’s captaincy. He’ll be looking for the same leadership quality from today’s captain, the Ireland club international number eight Hugh Hogan.

The latter has been outstanding all season and he’s likely to be a key player if they are to prevail. Hogan admitted: “We have a huge mountain to climb but the team spirit and work ethic that we have in this team is immense.”

Should Mary’s slip up then Clontarf, who trail their Dublin rivals by a single point, will be hoping to capitalise. They make the short journey to the Aviva stadium to take on Lansdowne, a match that will be played on the main pitch, not the artificial second surface.

At the other end of the table, Shannon, Old Belvedere and Blackrock College are all vying to avoid both automatic relegation (bottom team) and a play-off (team that finishes second last plays the second placed team in Division 1B). Blackrock are three points adrift at the bottom of the table but they are the only one of the trio at home. They take on a Garryowen side with little for which to play.

Shannon travel to Dolphin knowing a victory will keep them amongst the elite irrespective of what happens elsewhere while Belvedere face a very difficult away trip to Cork Constitution.

In Division Two, UL Bohemian (third) and Belfast Harlequins (first) clash in Limerick while Dungannon (second) can confirm UCD’s (ninth) relegation fate by winning at Belfield. Thomond will be hoping they retain their Division 2A status by beating Highfield (third in Division 2B) while Ards must beat Monivea if they want to retain their senior status in the All Ireland League.