Monday 26 June 2017

Peter Bracken (Connemara, 33)

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

MATCH OF THE DAY

Clontarf v Young Munster, Castle Ave, 2.30

YOUNG Munster's defeat of champions Old Belvedere was possibly the most eye-catching result of the opening weekend, but this week they take on a Clontarf side with the look of real challengers about them.

Andy Wood (below), the New Zealander, who led them to within inches of the title they crave three years ago, is back in situ at Castle Avenue and the odds of them winning the league this season have been slashed after they destroyed Blackrock last weekend.

There is a real Cork influence in the north Dublin air this season, with no fewer than five of last week's starting team hailing from the Rebel county.

Richie Lane, Frank Cogan and Evan Ryan bring the successful mentality from Cork Constitution, while Sam Cronin adds menace from half-back and Barry O'Mahony's impressive back-row work yielded a try last weekend.

Both of these sides reached the semi-finals last season and will be looking for improvement, but the Cookies have lost the prolific Alan Kingsley, who has headed to Australia.

A last-minute try bought their win last weekend and they can expect an even tougher afternoon this time round.

Willie Staunton has taken over the kicking duties and looked good last time, but a bonus point might be all that Mike Prendergast can ask for on their trip to the capital.

Verdict: Home win.

COACHES CORNER

THE AIL is packed full of young, former professionals looking to kick-start their careers and former Wasps prop Bracken has gone as far west as you could wish to go to enhance his credentials.

The Heineken Cup winner inherited a squad who won no games last season. The statistic looked stark, but was the result of a strategic decision made at the outset to take advantage of the rules. With no relegation from Division 2, the club decided to blood a host of young players and the experiment appears to have paid off with an opening-day victory over Naas.

The Tullamore man finished his playing career in Carcassonne last year and he also runs a scrum-coach consultancy business. His side should be adept at the 'dark arts' up front, but he wants an expansive game and will fancy his chances against new boys Boyne today.

This year the bottom side in Division 2B will be relegated, with the second-from-bottom team playing off against a junior side for their senior status.

Clubs will not be able to draw on contracted players as before. IRFU contracted players must receive a special dispensation to play in the AIL, while foreign IRFU players cannot play in the club game. Irish-qualified contracted players can only play in Division 1, with only two allowed in any match-day squad of 20.

FAMILY TIES

After watching Ireland v Wales with mixed emotions at 6.0, there will be more family strife for the Ruddocks as St Mary's man Ciaran takes on his dad, Lansdowne coach Mike, at Templeville Road this afternoon.

Ulster Bank all-ireland League fixtures

(2.30 unless stated)

Division 1A

Clontarf v Young Munster, Castle Avenue; Cork Constitution v Shannon, Temple Hill; Dolphin v Blackrock, Musgrave Park; Old Belvedere v Garryowen, Anglesea Road; St Mary's v Lansdowne, Templeville Road.

Division 1B

Ballymena v Buccaneers, Eaton Park; Ballynahinch v Belfast Harlequins, Ballymacarn Park; Bruff v Galwegians, Kilballyowen Park; UCD v UCC UCD Bowl; UL Bohemian v Dungannon, Annacotty.

Division 2A

Clonakilty v Queens University, The Vale; Corinthians v City of Derry, Corinthian Park; Greystones v Malone, Dr. Hickey Park; Instonians v DLSP, Shaws Bridge; Old Crescent v Midleton Rosbrien; Terenure v Seapoint, Lakelands; Thomond v Old Wesley, Fitzgerald Park.

Division 2B

Ards v Suttonians, Hamilton Park; Boyne v Connemara, Drogheda; Cashel v Banbridge, Cashel; City of Armagh v Wanderers, Palace Grounds; Highfield v Sunday's Well, Woodleigh Park; Navan v Sligo, Balreask; Nenagh Ormond v Rainey Old Boys, Nenagh.

Irish Independent

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