Terenure College v Clontarf – Friday, 22 April (Energia Park, KO 7.30pm)

Preparations for the Bank of Ireland Metropolitan Cup final have been hindered by the All-Ireland League semi-finals this weekend.

It says everything you want to know about the health of these clubs that they have both made it to the final four of the AIL.

Better again, Terenure College and Clontarf both enjoy the advantage of playing at home against Lansdowne and Cork Constitution, respectively.

However, for those committed to the J1s, or second team squad, it couldn’t get any murkier for Friday night.

The coaches Michael Mooney, Ian Morgan and Robbie Carroll of Terenure and Ian Smith, Dave Murray and Mark Byrne of Clontarf have to bide their time until Thursday evening.

Only then will they know exactly who they can call on.

The AIL semi-finals tweak the rules for numbers on the bench, rising from six to eight, meaning both clubs will probably lose two of their better players to a place on the bench for Saturday.

Already ‘Nure were shuffling the cards from news their out-half Tiarnan Neville has flown south to play his rugby in Australia.

The coaches will go with either the ‘elder statesman’ Mark O’Neill or the shifty Mark Fabian in Neville’s place.

Even more significantly, they must have been contemplating planning without ace forwards Niall Lalor and captain Adam Melia should they be taken for AIL duty.

The strength of Terenure has been their depth, a core group of 25 turning out each week in their drive to the Metropolitan League final win over Dublin University recently.

In the cup semi-final, Trinity managed to get a lot closer in edging the territory and possession without putting the points on the board in a 10-3 loss.

It was Terenure’s collective effort and discipline in defence that made the difference, refusing to allow Trinity a try in the two matches.

Clontarf have to cope with the selection issues brought on by the AIL and by losing centre Fiachra Smyth and scrum-half Ciaran O’Connor to injury.

Out-half Frankie O’Dea and the Hawkshaw brothers, Daniel and Jimmy, in the centre are fundamental to what they like to do.

Second rows James Horgan and Luke Carton have been the driving force behind a lot of their good moments up front.

There is a reason why Vinnie Gavin captains from No 8, his ball-carrying often used as a rallying point when the going gets tough.

In addition, Alvin Amanianpong and Dominic Damianov have been impactful from the bench.

The perception is there that Clontarf came through the less taxing side of the draw, pipping Suttonians 24-21 at the post in the semi-final.

They could just be the fresher side coming into what is certain to be an all-out battle for supremacy.