Published 29/10/2011 | 05:00
MATCH OF THE DAY
Young Munster v Shannon, Clifford Park, 2.30
ALL the indications point to a serious return to form for Shannon this season, but this afternoon is a big test of their mettle.
Stephen Keogh's arrival at Thomond Park seems to have restored the steel to the nine-times champions, who are unbeaten after three games and trail Clontarf on points difference at the top of the table.
Young Munster can leapfrog Shannon with a win after a decent start to the season and Mike Prendergast's charges will want to make a statement at Tom Clifford Park.
The Cookies haven't played at home since their opening day win over champions Old Belvedere and they ran leaders Clontarf close before comfortably beating strugglers Blackrock at Stradbrook a fortnight ago.
Some clubs would struggle to absorb the loss of Alan Kingsley who has moved to Australia, but the arrival of former Garryowen out-half Willie Staunton has eased the impact and he has done well so far in black and amber, while Matthew Costelloe (below) is in try-scoring form in the centre.The back-row is Shannon's power-base where player-coach Keogh, David Quinlan and Paddy Butler have been in strong form so far, while young out-half Gareth Quinn-McDonagh is controlling games well from 10.
They have beaten Dolphin, Cork Constitution and St Mary's, but this is their first Limerick derby this season and will be a true test, one they might struggle to overcome.
Verdict: Young Munster
Famous faces on the touchlines of a club ground near you.
A FORMER Ulster, London Irish, Castres and Ireland prop Justin Fitzpatrick is grooming some of Ulster's best young players in an impressive Dungannon outfit.
He may have been a grizzled scrummaging technician in his day, but the 37-year-old director of rugby has developed a backline full of strong runners and pace with the likes of Conor Gaston, Michael Lawton and Paddy Jackson impressive.
Up front, the coach has assembled a strong pack, with Ali Birch leading from the back-row and while they have struggled at times so far this season, the return of Ulster's frontliners from the World Cup should filter down and help.
It's Jazz Festival weekend in Cork and Temple Hill will be decked out accordingly for Cork Constitution's game against Garryowen. The club have a host of entertainment lined up for the day, which will see the clubs contest the Trevor Barry Memorial Cup.
Ulster Bank All-Ireland League fixtures
(2.30 unless stated)
Cork Constitution v Garryowen, Temple Hill; St Mary's College v Dolphin, Templeville Road; Young Munster v Shannon, Clifford Park.
Ballymena v Galwegians, Eaton Park; Ballynahinch v UCC, Ballymacarn Park; Belfast Harlequins v Dungannon, Deramore Park; UCD v Bruff, Belfield; UL Bohemian v Buccaneers, Thomond Park.
Bective Rangers v QUB, Donnybrook; Clonakilty v Thomond, The Vale; Corinthians v Dublin University, Corinthian Park; Instonians v Old Wesley, Shaws Bridge; Midleton v City of Derry, Towns Park; Old Crescent v Seapoint, Rosbrien; Terenure College v Malone, Lakelands.
Ards v NUIM Barnhall, Hamilton Park; Boyne v Navan, Drogheda; City of Armagh v Sligo, Armagh; Highfield v Banbridge, Woodleigh Park; Naas v Cashel, Fournaughts; Nenagh Ormond v Connemara, Nenagh; Rainey Old Boys v Sunday's Well, Hatrick Park.