Lansdowne out for revenge as they face Clontarf in semi-finals
Home side will have to decide whether to play the match on grass or artificial pitch
Clontarf’s Michael Courtney is set to line out on the wing for their AIL semi-final clash with Lansdowne. Photo: Oisin Keniry/Inpho
AIL Division 1A semi-final: Clontarf v Lansdowne
Kick-off: Saturday, 2.30pm. Venue: Castle Avenue.
Lansdowne make the short trip across the Liffey for an All Ireland League Division 1A semi-final against a club that beat them on the Aviva stadium back pitch a fortnight ago. Clontarf’s comprehensive 36-8 victory in the final game of the league stage of the tournament guaranteed Andy Wood’s team home advantage for this match.
It’ll be interesting to see what surface Clontarf elect to play on, grass or artificial; the expectation is that with the slightly bigger, heavier pack and the fact that Lansdowne play their home games on a 4G surface they may opt for the grass.
The versatility in the Clontarf backline is illustrated by the fact that Michael Courtney, normally a centre, is down to play on the wing where he is equally adept, while Seán O’Brien, a younger brother of Leinster’s Conor, switches to the number 13 jersey from wing.
Matt D’Arcy has been one of the outstanding club players for some time, Mick McGrath, 13th man with the Ireland squad that triumphed in the Hong Kong Sevens recently, is a real handful while the presence of Connacht bound Angus Lloyd is a huge fillip; he’s such a classy scrumhalf.
The Clontarf pack is capably led by Michael Noone and contains both experience and in young secondrow and underage international Cormac Daly, a player of rich promise. Brian Deeny, who has played for Ireland Under-19s and the Grand Slam winning Ireland Under-20 team this season, is included among the replacements.
Defending champions Lansdowne are led by their excellent fullback Eamon Mills and possess a three quarter-line that includes former Ireland U-20 international Peter Sullivan, who has already broken the club record this season with 15 tries.
Another player from the winning Ireland Sevens side in Hong Kong, the effervescent Foster Horan wears the number 13 jersey. Harry Brennan was sidelined with mumps recently and is named among the replacements. Tom Roche and Daniel McEvoy complete a freewheeling three quarter line while Scott Deasy’s experience and big match temperament, quite apart from his ability, will be hugely important.
Ian Prendiville, Jack O’Sullivan and Willie Earle are lightning rods in a Lansdowne pack that’s going to have to provide some platform if they’re backs are to thrive. The set piece, scrum and lineout, and the breakdown are key collision points. Mike Ruddock’s side may look to play a wider game with a higher tempo rather than get bogged down in an arm wrestle.
Clontarf, the 2016 champions, won both league matches against Lansdowne this season and are favourites to make it a hat-trick; deservedly so.
CLONTARF: J Power; M Courtney, S O’Brien, M D’Arcy, M McGrath; D Joyce, A Lloyd; I Soroka, P Finlay, R Burke-Flynn; C Daly, B Reilly; Tony Ryan, A D’Arcy, M Noone (capt).
Replacements: D Adamson, Tom Ryan, N Carson, A Feeney, C Kelly, C O’Donoghue, B Deeny.
LANSDOWNE: E Mills (capt); P Sullivan, F Horan, T Roche, D McEvoy; S Deasy, Tim Murphy; M Mulhall, J Dineen, I Prendiville; D O’Connor, J Dwan; J O’Sullivan, Tom Murphy, W Earle.
Replacements: J Rael, N Mpiko, G McGrath, J O’Brien, A Conneely, J Kenny, H Brennan.