League prep for AIL sides
The club rugby season got up and running last weekend with the AIL clubs enjoying early-season action in the revamped Senior League while around the province many Junior clubs were dipping their toes in local Area competitions.
The Senior League and Cup are being revived this year following over a decade when both were combined under the banner of the Senior League Cup with the Senior League Shield being spawned in recent years as a meaningful competition for teams on the lower ladder of the AIL.
The Senior League is being run as an early-season competition for clubs preparing for the Ulster Bank League which commences in a fortnight and it is divided into two divisions based on AIL status, while the Senior Cup will be run as a pure knockout competition for all 19 Senior clubs in the province with the first round due to be played in December.
The top eight clubs in the AIL are playing in Division 1A and 1B of the Senior League where they are split into two four-team leagues with the winners meeting in the Division 1 final in the autumn and the winner qualifying for the Bateman Cup. The remaining 11 teams are in Division 2 where the winners of Divisions 2A, 2B and 2C will advance to the knockout stage.
While it's extremely difficult to gauge early-season form, the four games in Division 1 last weekend were all closely contested which would tend to augur well for a stronger than ever Leinster challenge in Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League where seven of the ten combatants are from the eastern province.
Old Wesley are the only club in Division 1 of the Senior League who will not be in the AIL top flight but in their home opener at Donnybrook against Old Belvedere it took a last-minute penalty goal by the visitors to eke out an 18-16 win.
In the other Division 1A tie last Saturday, hosts Terenure College and UCD played out a 13-13 draw at Lakelands to leave the group wide open with both second series of games having been played last night when UCD hosted Old Wesley at Belfield while Old Belvedere welcomed Terenure College to Anglesea Road.
Dublin University won promotion to Division 1A of the Ulster Bank League last May and will acquit themselves well on the evidence of their 26-17 defeat to Lansdowne at the latter's second home in Ballycorus when the 2014-'15 national champions scored ten late points.
Clontarf also had to come from behind as they edged visitors St Marys College at Castle Avenue; tonight St Mary's College welcome Dublin University to Templeville Road and tomorrow Clontarf are the visitors to Ballycorus to play Lansdowne.
In Division 2A Greystones will hope to have made it two wins on the trot at home to Seapoint last night after their 18-17 away win at Navan, while tomorrow the Meath side make the short trip to Skerries.
- Dermot O'Mahony