Tuesday 19 September 2017

Shannon looking to bounce straight back to top flight

Declan Rooney

Sixteen clubs from Munster will begin the quest tomorrow for Ulster Bank League glory across the four divisions.

But for some clubs it will be a trip into the unknown after relegation last season.

Top of that list is Division 1B side Shannon – the record winners of Division 1A – who will compete in their first campaign outside the top flight after last year's relegation.

James Hickey's side get their campaign up and running at Thomond Park against Blackrock College, while fellow Limerick side UL Bohemians – who also dropped from the top flight last season – get their season started with a trip to Lakelands Park to face Terenure College.

But most attention will be on the fight for Division 1A supremacy, with Garryowen hoping to build on last year's second-place finish, while big seasons are expected from both Cork Constitution and Dolphin.

We will see immediately how the teams rate against each other as Garryowen host Dolphin tomorrow in the pick of the first-round ties at Dooradoyle, while Con will clock up some early miles with their visit to Co Down side, Ballynahinch.

Elsewhere, Young Munster's head coach John Staunton will have been pleased with his side's pre-season form, with winger Derry O'Connor – also a Limerick inter-county footballer – and Ben Sargent both showing glimpses of their class en route to the Charity Cup final.

But the Cookies have a sticky opener to contend with and will be delighted to escape Templeville Road will a win against 2012 champions St Mary's College.

Division 2A has five teams from Munster seeking promotion to the second tier.

After their 22-18 win over Highfield in last week's Munster Senior Cup, Old Crescent will be hopeful of getting their season off to a winning start when they travel to take on Old Wesley.

FANCIED

Highfield are also on the road this weekend with a trip to Belfast to challenge Queens, while Bruff will be confident of more than holding their own after relegation last year, and will be fancied to get off to a good start at home to NUIM Barnhall.

Little separated UCC and Cashel RFC in the standings last season, but both are well capable of first-day wins against Naas and Banbridge respectively.

And in Division 2B Limerick's Richmond RFC start off with an away fixture against Boyne, while two Munster derbies pit Nenagh Ormond against Midleton and Thomond host Sunday's Well at Liam Fitzgerald Park.

Irish Independent

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