Postponements put fixture list at sixes and sevens
THREE matches scheduled this weekend in the Insurance Corporation All-Ireland League have been postponed because of Ireland's involvement in the Hong Kong sevens tournament. Clubs with players in the Ireland squad are entitled to ask for postponements of their league fixtures.
Division One leaders Garryowen were due to meet young Munster, Cork Constitution were scheduled to meet second-placed St Mary's College while Malone were down to play Wanderers in a Division Two tie. All three clubs have opted to exercise the postponement option.
New dates for the matches will however, present a problem to the All-Ireland League sub-committee. That committee will meet tonight to try and rearrange the fixtures. With league ties arranged for every weekend until April 20th, and provincial cup ties scheduled for April 27th, the committee has a difficult task.
The season has already been extended until May 11th to accommodate the cup campaigns, with quarter-finals due on the weekend of April 27th-28th, semifinals the following weekend and the finals on May 11th.
Another issue adds a further complication. Clubs involved in the leagues will not want to give Competitors the advantage of going into postponed matches having themselves completed their league programmes. That would give an advantage to the clubs with outstanding fixtures: they would know exactly what they have to do to win the title. It could mean that the postponed matches might be re-fixed for midweek.
Cork Constitution have two players - Paul Burke and David Corkery - in the Ireland sevens squad and asked for the postponement against St Mary's. The Dublin club also have one player in the squad - Vincent Cunningham. Constitution's request was made when Corkery was chosen for the original sevens squad. Burke and Cunningham were called up late last week after Jonathan Bell and Eric Elwood withdrew.
Garryowen have Richard Wallace in the squad and asked for a postponement yesterday. One of the reasons for the request was that with Wallace unavailable, the man who would have replaced him in the Garryowen side, Neville Furlong, broke a leg last Sunday playing in a Munster Junior Cup tie.
Malone have Denis McBride in the sevens squad and Wanderers have Jonathan Garth. Wanderers were prepared to play the league match next Saturday, but Malone requested the postponement.
Ballymena, Dungannon, Terenure College and Blackrock College also have players in the sevens side - James Topping, Paddy Johns, Niall Hogan and Niall Woods respectively - but have decided not to seek postponements.
League champions Shannon, in third place in Division One, make the journey to Old Wesley on Saturday, and a win by a 12-point margin will put them on top of the table. They are unchanged from the side that defeated Ballymena last week. Old Wesley will be without out-half Adrian Hawe, who injured a calf muscle in the win over Instonians. John Feehan returns at tight-head prop for Richard Jackson, who deputised last week.
Ballymena will wait until later in the week to fill the full back berth occupied last week by Topping for the visit of Blackrock. The visitors are unchanged from last week.
Ireland A international Martin Ridge, a recruit at the start of the season from Blackrock, makes his league debut for Old Belvedere against Instonians. Ridge was ineligible for the first half of the campaign. Willie Norse is preferred to John Philpott at out-half and Stephen Groarke also makes his league debut at tight-head prop. Instonians have Kevin Gartside at out-half in place of Scotland A international Stuart Laing, who is ruled out by injury.
Division Two leaders Old Crescent delay selection of their side to travel to Greystones. Definitely out of the side for the rest of the season is scrum-half Fergal Downes, who has a neck injury.
Team captain Diarmuid Reddan is poised to return. Greystones are unchanged from last week.