AIL preview: Champions Cork Con feel the pressure after three losses

Mark Woods looks at all the weekend rugby action featuring Cork clubs
AIL preview: Champions Cork Con feel the pressure after three losses

Cork Constitution captain Aidan Moynihan, seen here in action against Lansdowne, will be looking for a first win against Trinity College. Picture: Ramsey Cardy/Sportsfile

CORK CONSTITUTION find themselves in unfamiliar territory ahead of the fourth round of games in energia All-Ireland League Division 1A.

They’ve yet to taste victory and occupy seventh position in the table, two places and five points worse off than Trinity College, who visit Temple Hill today.

Con managed to pick up losing bonus points and they’ve endured a very tough start after facing fellow heavyweights Lansdowne, Young Munster and Clontarf.

The Students won their last two games against UCD and Ballynahinch, but are pitched against a Con side anxious to return to winning ways.

The reigning champions don’t want the gap between themselves and the leaders to stretch to a chasm so early in the campaign, currently 12 points adrift of Garryowen, 11 behind Lansdowne with Munsters and Tarf 10 clear.

Con completed the double over the Dublin students in the last season which ended abruptly due to Covid, winning 25-22 at home with Jack Crowley at out-half.

They collected maximum points from a 27-0 triumph in the capital with JJ O’Neill crossing twice in a game, which proved the last before lockdown.

Now, new skipper Aidan Moynihan, who has 23 points to his name, is hoping for a repeat to kick-start their title bid.

The other student sides in the section, UCD and UCC, collide at Belfield in a battle of the basement clubs who have yet to collect a point from their outings.

Both are struggling to cope with the power and experience of the other teams in the top tier, the pair losing to Garryowen by 12 and 13 points respectively, suggesting this is going to be close.

The Cork students welcomed back Alex Kendellen, captain of the Ireland U20s during the summer, and he marked the occasion with a try.

Highfield, who lead the division 1B table by a point from Old Wesley and City of Armagh, make the long journey north to play eighth-placed Malone in Belfast.

Field are three from three and have passed 100 points already though all their opponents have been from the bottom half of the standings.

Coach Conor Quaid will run the rule over the fitness of out-half James Taylor and second-row Eoin Keating before deciding on a team to face a Malone outfit, which has conceded 30 points per game on average.

The Cork side have been slow starters, but once they get into their stride are very difficult to stop, particularly, when ball carriers like Miah Cronin, James Rochford, and Fintan O’Sullivan generate a head of steam.

Field also know where the try line is having scored 15 to date with wing Paul Stack leading the way with three and play-maker Taylor accumulating 23 points.

In Division 2A, Dolphin went from putting 56 points on Rainey Old Boys one week to leaking 60 to impressive pace-setters Queens University the next in a fluctuating set of results.

Mind you, the northern students have been chalking up big scores in their three wins, totalling a whopping 140 points, but are still only ahead of MU Barnhall on scoring difference.

Dolphin, who sit fifth in the table, have almost an identical record to fourth-placed Ballymena, who visit Musgrave Park, the hosts one point worse after both won twice and lost once, but the visitors collected one more try bonus point.

Ballymena also faced Queens on opening day, losing 40-24 and more recently pipped Old Crescent by four points at home.

Dolphin coach Peter Scott will clearly look for a big improvement, especially in defence, but scoring seven tries on their last appearance at home shows the potential in the side.

In Division 2C, the clubs in the bottom four slots battle it out for important points as Midleton, in seventh, host Bruff, in eighth, at Towns Park and Sunday’s Well, who are ninth, visit basement side Omagh Academicals.

And with only four points separating the Ulster club from Midleton, it makes the destination of the spoils even more important for the quartet.

Midleton are looking to back up their home win over the Well last time out, while the city club are still searching for that first victory, having drawn with Clonmel on opening day.

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