All-Ireland League enters final round of regular season with plenty to be resolved

The 25 games down for decision on Saturday involve a host of relegation, promotion and playoff issues

Clontarf need just a point from their home game against UCD to ensure they finish in first place in the Division 1A table having already secured a home semi-final. Photograph: Evan Treacy/Inpho

It’s a day of reckoning in the Energia All-Ireland League on Saturday as the competition’s final regular season round of 25 games decide the finishing positions in five divisions.

While the top four qualifiers in Division 1A has been resolved, home advantage in one of the semi-finals is still to be decided, and although three of the other four divisions have also been won, there are 18 clubs who are still seeking to avoid or earn places in the promotion/relegation playoffs.

They will take place tomorrow week, as will the semi-finals in 1A, the final of which will be at the Aviva Stadium on Sunday, May 7th.

Also on Saturday, Clogher Valley will go into the junior playoff final as favourites to secure automatic promotion by beating Richmond in Ashbourne RFC. The runners-up will face a playoff against the ninth-placed team in Division 2C.

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After some wrangling, the Fraser McMullen (All-Ireland Under-20) Cup final between Lansdowne and Dublin University has been rescheduled for Lakelands Park on Sunday (kick-off 4pm).

Division 1A

Already assured of a home semi-final, reigning champions Clontarf need just a point from their home game against UCD to ensure they finish in first place, and so host Young Munster at Castle Avenue on Saturday week.

Terenure require a home win against Shannon to ensure a home semi-final, almost certainly against Cork Constitution; a result which would also be welcomed by UCD and Trinity.

Shannon need a win to avoid the promotion/relegation playoffs and were they to do so, Trinity and UCD would need results against relegated Garryowen and Clontarf respectively.

A Shannon win would also create an opening for Cork Con to earn a home semi-final should they win away against Young Munster.

Fixtures (2.30): Ballynahinch v Lansdowne, Ballymacarn Park; Clontarf v UCD, Castle Avenue; Dublin University v Garryowen, College Park; Terenure College v Shannon, Lakelands Park; Young Munster v Cork Constitution, Tom Clifford Park.

Division 1B

City Of Armagh, a junior club 12 years ago and a bottom tier club for the ensuing four seasons, have continued their remarkable rise to next season’s top flight by securing the 1B title to earn their third promotion six campaigns.

Old Belvedere need to win at St Mary’s to ensure a home semi-final in the playoffs. The Eddie O’Sullivan-coached Buccaneers need to beat Armagh to hold on to a playoff place ahead of Old Wesley, who are away to Naas.

UCC, Banbridge and Malone are involved in a three-way relegation battle, with the students hosting the bottom-placed Malone (who are in must-win territory) at the Mardyke, while Banbridge – sandwiched between them in the playoff spot – host third placed Highfield.

Fixtures (2.30): Banbridge v Highfield, Rifle Park; Buccaneers v City of Armagh, Dubarry Park; Naas v Old Wesley, Forenaughts; St Mary’s College v Old Belvedere, Templeville Road; UCC v Malone, The Mardyke.

Division 2A

Queen’s University will gain the sole automatic promotion place should they win in Nenagh who, like MU Barnhall, are consigned to away playoff semi-finals. Blackrock, two points adrift of Queen’s, need to win away to Ballymena and hope the students slip up, although at least they are guaranteed a home semi-final.

Dolphin are already relegated and UL Bohemians are consigned to the playoffs.

Fixtures (2.30): Ballymena v Blackrock College, Eaton Park; Cashel v Navan, Spafield; Nenagh Ormond v UL Bohemian, New Ormond Park; Old Crescent v MU Barnhall, Rosbrien; Dolphin v Queen’s University, Musgrave Park (4.0).

Division 2B

Greystones are promoted and will lift the 2B trophy after their game against an Enniscorthy side trying to avoid automatic relegation. The latter are a point behind Galwegians in ninth, who host Dungannon (third) in Crowley Park.

Free-scoring Corinthians and Dungannon have secured promotion playoff places, while Sligo hold on to the last of those in fourth place just one point ahead of Wanderers, Belfast Harlequins and Rainey Old Boys, all on 42 points. Sligo host Belfast Harlequins with Wanderers away to Malahide, and Rainey at home to Corinthians.

Fixtures: Galwegians v Dungannon, Crowley Park; Greystones v Enniscorthy, Dr Hickey Park; Rainey Old Boys v Galway Corinthians, Hatrick Park; Sligo v Belfast Harlequins, Hamilton Park; Wanderers v Malahide, Merrion Road.

Division 2C

Having regained their senior status via the junior playoffs last season, Instonians have cut a swathe through the fifth tier and can complete a perfect season of 90 points from a possible 90 with a bonus-point win in Tullamore.

Tullamore, in second, need a win for a home semi-final in the playoffs, with Skerries a point behind and at home to Ballina. Clonmel, three points ahead of Bruff, look favoured to earn the last playoff spot. They face a Midleton side who require a win to drag Omagh, Ballina and Bangor into a playoff to avoid relegation, a fate that has already befallen Sunday’s Well.

Fixtures: Sunday’s Well v Bangor, Musgrave Park (1pm); Midleton v Clonmel, Towns Park; Omagh Academicals v Bruff, Thomas Mellon Playing Fields; Skerries v Ballina, Holmpatrick; Tullamore v Instonians, Spollanstown.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times