Friday 9 December 2016

AIL sides enjoy mixed start to new campaign

Published 11/11/2016 | 02:30

With seven of Division 1A's ten teams from Leinster, it looks likely that we'll have another winner from the province this year again. Photo: PA
With seven of Division 1A's ten teams from Leinster, it looks likely that we'll have another winner from the province this year again. Photo: PA

It's been a mixed start to the season for Leinster's AIL top-flight clubs as they look to ensure that the trophy remains in the province.

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It's been six years since a club from outside of Leinster were crowned Division 1A champions and with seven of the league's ten teams from the province, the odds are firmly stacked in favour of that trend continuing.

Trinity have been the league's biggest surprise package thus far but they were handed a stern lesson by a more experienced Lansdowne outfit as the students fell from top spot.

In Scott Deasy, Lansdowne have one of the most reliable players in the league and the former Munster out-half has been crucial in recent weeks.

The resurgence of Old Belvedere has been pleasing and Paul Cunningham's side's win away to the defending champions Clontarf last weekend signalled their intent.

Munster recently signed Steve Crosbie and although the out-half has yet to play for them, he continues to impress for Belvo and will be crucial to their hopes of sealing a play-off spot.

If Trinity have been the positive surprise package, then champions 'Tarf have been the opposite. Andy Wood's charges have struggled and find themselves languishing in eighth place. There is still plenty of time for Clontarf to turn their season around but even at this early stage, it is clear that they are missing Joey Carbery's important influence.

It was just six months ago that Carbery (pictured) so brilliantly pulled the strings for 'Tarf in the AIL final and last Saturday he found himself playing against the All Blacks.

It was another reminder of the importance of the AIL and the likes of UCD's towering second-row James Ryan is also thriving on the domestic front.

As has been the case in recent seasons, UCD have struggled to play the majority of their exciting young talents as plenty of them are needed by Leinster. Indeed it is a sign of the strength of the club but how frustrating it must be to regularly be without what would be considered their first-choice players. With three wins and three defeats to their name, St Mary's lie in sixth place but they will be desperate to find some consistency in order to avoid being sucked into a relegation dogfight.

Terenure just about avoided the drop last season but the league's basement side have struggled badly this year. With just one win to their name, it already looks like a tall order to survive the drop. The league continues this evening with a mouthwatering Dublin derby between Lansdowne and UCD while another between Old Belvedere and Trinity takes place tomorrow.

Irish Independent

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