RugbyEnergia All-Ireland League

All eyes on clash between Lansdowne and Cork Con in ultra-competitive Division 1A

Just five points cover the leading quartet of Clontarf, Cork Constitution, Terenure and Lansdowne, with just four rounds remaining

Rarely have the top four been so tightly bunched in an ultra-competitive Division 1A of the Energia All-Ireland League, and, with four rounds remaining, none can be quite sure of a playoff place, much less a coveted home semi-final.

Five points cover the leading quartet of Clontarf (56 points), Cork Constitution (55), Terenure (52) and Lansdowne (51), and with Ballynahinch just seven points further back, it is still conceivable that one of the four could yet slip out of the playoffs.

The clash of an intriguing day looks to be between Lansdowne and Cork Con on the Aviva back pitch. Lansdowne have picked up at least one bonus point in each of their 14 games to date and, somewhat typical of the clashes between the leading sides, each of their five meetings against fellow members of the top four have been one-score affairs.

This includes Con’s 23-17 win over Lansdowne in Temple Hill back in November, when the Cork side prevailed despite losing three players – centre Daniel Hurley, flanker Ronan O’Sullivan and full-back Rob Hedderman – to the sin bin in the first half and O’Sullivan from the 65th minute onwards following a second yellow card. That trio all start today.


Last time out against Shannon, Jonny Holland’s well-rounded side offset the loss through injury of influential outhalf James Taylor (who would otherwise have probably started for the Ireland Club XV against Portugal A in Lisbon next Friday) thanks in the main to a hat-trick of tries by recalled left-winger Matthew Bowen. Te Atawhai Mason continues at outhalf.

Lansdowne’s Irish Under-20s tight-head George Morris and backrower Liam Forster replace the injured Temi Lasisi and Barry Fitzpatrick. Lock Stephen Walsh is recalled, with Jack Cooke moving to the backrow, while Tom Roche replaces Sean Galvin on the wing and, unsurprisingly, club captain Cillian Redmond starts after an eye-catching cameo off the bench against Terenure.

In the week when club legend Bosco Morrissey passed away, Terenure College honoured his 60 years’ service by unveiling their team on their social media platforms “in memory of Bosco”.

Terenure host UCD at Lakelands Park for the Eddie Thornton trophy when the champions will be seeking a ninth win in succession in advance of a tough post-Six Nations run-in following a fortnight’s break against Cork Con, Clontarf and Ballynahinch.

The Irish Under-20s centre Sam Berman makes a timely return after Colm de Buitléar suffered a torn Achilles tendon in the win over Lansdowne while the return of another Irish Under-20s player, Michael O’Reilly, means captain Harrison Brewer shifts to the backrow for the first time this season.

The UCD pack features last season’s Irish Under-20s lock Conor O’Tighearnaigh and this season’s Irish Under-20s lock Alan Spicer, who stand at 6ft 10in and 6ft 7in respectively. Two more Under-20 Grand Slam winners feature in last season’s captain and hooker Gus McCarthy, and tight-head Rory Maguire, from the 2022 team, which also featured centre Andrew Osborne.

Terenure beat UCD in the Bowl last November by 45-28 and, in general, those round reverse fixtures were high-scoring encounters. For example, Clontarf and Young Munster met in three one-score affairs, completed by Tarf’s hard-earned 13-12 win at Castle Avenue in the semi-finals. In contrast, when Tarf went to Tom Clifford Park last November, they won a thriller by 44-39, but the home side look to have much more to play for today.

Last but not least in the top flight, Dublin University host City of Armagh at College Park in what is simply a must-win for the students if they are to avoid relegation.

St Mary’s having secured the automatic promotion spot from 1B, the in-form second and third placed sides, Old Wesley and Garryowen, meet in Energia Park.

Nenagh Ormond can take a significant step toward winning promotion from 2A at home to fourth-placed Old Crescent. The same applies to Instonians, unbeaten in 32 games, away to Sligo in 2B, while Bruff (in fourth) host Galwegians (second) in 2C.

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley

Gerry Thornley is Rugby Correspondent of The Irish Times