All-Ireland League preview: Relegation scramble adds to pressure of Colours clash

Leinster’s ‘A’s visit to London Irish deprives Trinity of three players for annual showdown with UCD

Dan Barron: Trinity are looking for their fourth consecutive Colours match victory this evening. Photograph: Evan Treacy/Inpho

Plenty of issues remain unresolved as the Energia All-Ireland League faces into its penultimate round of regular season matches this weekend, not least with the annual Colours Match in the UCD Bowl this evening (kick-off 8pm).

This has been one of the standout AIL fixtures in recent times, and last season was attended by 3,500-4,000 at College Park as Trinity beat UCD to win the Colours match for the third year running.

Alas, Leinster have arranged an ‘A’ game away to London Irish this evening, something which has caused deep disquiet among some clubs in the province, not least as there’s no AIL games next weekend before the final round of matches in a fortnight.

This ‘A’ game will deny Trinity the services of Thomas Clarkson, Max O’Reilly and Liam Moloney, as well as Lee Barron, Liam Turner and Rob Russell, given their inclusion in Leinster’s wider squad against Ulster.


While Leinster’s ‘A’ game is in part designed to keep some of the Irish Under-20s ticking over for their World Cup campaign, Clarkson would be better served playing in a full-on Colours Match than a meaningless ‘A’ game.

By contrast, curiously, Leinster have made Chris Cosgrave, the Connacht-bound Sean O’Brien and Jack Boyle available for UCD.

Trinity were in play-off contention before Christmas, whereupon injuries, call-ups and Harry Sheridan becoming an Ulster regular has coincided with a 10-game winless run. UCD have lost their last two.

With Garryowen already doomed, the two universities are involved in a four-way fight to avoid the promotion/relegation play-offs with the second to fourth place finishers in 1B.

Ulster need to defy the odds against Leinster to sustain their Heineken Champions Cup ambitionsOpens in new window ]

Shannon, who host a Ballynahinch side out of the play-off picture at Thomond Park tomorrow, sit ninth on 29 points, with UCD on 33, Trinity on 36 and Lansdowne on 37 after a run of four wins in seven games under Declan Fassbender, who recently coached Gonzaga to their first Schools Senior Cup.

Lansdowne entertain champions and leaders Clontarf in their final 1A home game of their 150th season on the Aviva back pitch this evening, but Leinster’s ‘A’ fixture will deny them Temi Lasisi, Tadgh McElroy, Sam Prendergast, Charlie Tector and Jack Doyle, while of their more regular AIL starters, Clontarf’s Aitzol King and Alex Soroka will be playing for Leinster ‘A’.

A win will secure Clontarf a coveted home semi-final, and ditto last season’s beaten finalists Terenure in Cork tomorrow, although Constitution sit six points behind them and will remember trailing 47-0 at half-time in Lakelands Park before losing 47-12 last October.

A win against Lansdowne will secure a coveted home semi-final for reigning champions Clontarf. Photograph: Ben Brady/Inpho

City of Armagh can take a significant step toward automatic promotion from 1B at home to UCC with second-placed Old Belvedere five points adrift and entertaining Banbridge in Ollie Campbell Park.

After missing out on promotion last season, Old Wesley are in must-win territory at home to Buccaneers regarding the play-offs.

Queen’s University can maintain pole position in the three-way fight with Blackrock and Nenagh for the automatic promotion spot from 2A at home to Old Crescent.

Meanwhile in Corinthian Park tonight, Corinthians are already consigned to second place behind promoted Greystones whereas local rivals Galwegians sit a point adrift of Enniscorthy (who entertain Wanderers tomorrow) in last place and in desperate need of points to avoid relegation.

Also tonight in Musgrave Park, Sunday’s Well must beat Midleton to avoid relegation into the junior ranks.

Interestingly, having won promotion last season, Instonians have breezed through 2C by winning all 16 matches to date, and the qualifying round robin begins tomorrow with one caveat – it’s not actually a round robin.

Rather, the stronger provincial league winners, Clogher Valley (unbeaten this season and All-Ireland Junior Cup winners) and Bective Rangers will meet in the first semi-final at 1pm, before Richmond meet Creggs at 3pm in a double header at Coolmine.

The winners of the final will gain promotion, while the beaten finalists will enter a play-off with the seventh, eighth and ninth placed finishers in 1C.


All-Ireland League Division 1A: Lansdowne v Clontarf, Aviva Stadium back pitch, (8pm); UCD v Dublin University, Belfield, (8pm).

Division 2B: Corinthians v Galwegians, Corinthian Park (7.30).

Division 2C: Sunday’s Well v Midleton, Musgrave Park, (8pm).


All-Ireland League (2.30 unless stated), Division 1A: Cork Constitution v Terenure College, Temple Hill; Shannon v Ballynahinch, Thomond Park; Garryowen v Young Munster, Dooradoyle (3.30).

Division 1B: Old Belvedere v Banbridge, Ollie Campbell Park (2.00); City of Armagh v UCC, Palace Grounds; Highfield v Naas, Woodleigh Park; Malone v St Marys College, Gibson Park; Old Wesley v Buccaneers, Energia Park.

Division 2A: Blackrock College v Dolphin, Stradbrook; MU Barnhall v Nenagh Ormond, Parsonstown; Navan v Ballymena, Balreask Old; Queens University v Old Crescent, Dub Lane; UL Bohemian v Cashel, Annacotty.

Division 2B: Belfast Harlequins v Rainey OB, Deramore Park; Dungannon v Greystones, Stevenson Park; Enniscorthy v Wanderers, Alcast Park; Malahide v Sligo, Malahide.

Division 2C: Ballina v Bangor, Ballina; Bruff v Tullamore, Kilballyowen Park; Clonmel v Omagh, Ardgaoithe, Instonians v Skerries, Shaws Bridge.

All-Ireland League Qualifying Round Robin: Clogher Valley v Bective Rangers, Coolmine (1.00); Richmond v Creggs, Coolmine (3.00).

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times