Sport Rugby

Saturday 24 February 2018

Game of the Day

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

THE bookies have selected these two teams as their favourites to take the Division 1A crown, which is some statement about the talent available to UCD after their promotion last season.

THE bookies have selected these two teams as their favourites to take the Division 1A crown, which is some statement about the talent available to UCD after their promotion last season.

Champions Lansdowne are in a strong position to mount a defence of their crown, even if they have lost Craig Ronaldson to Connacht and have a number of key stars out through injury. The addition of former Munster and Cork Constitution back Scott Deasy (pictured) should help plug that gap, but no club has done two- in-a-row since Shannon in 2006 and it won't be easy.

The slot of second favourites won't sit well on UCD director of rugby Bobby Byrne so soon after promotion, but he has kept the majority of the young and talented squad who finished second in Division 1B last season and hammered Shannon away in the play-offs.

Danny Kenny and Brian Byrne have left, but with the likes of Leinster academy starlets Conor Gilsenan, Luke McGrath and Sam Coghlan-Murray on board as well as flying winger Barry Daly, they have plenty of talent.

These teams met in the Leinster Senior League two weeks ago and it was the students who came out on top as they reached the final.

They'll need to move Lansdowne's big pack around the park and play a quick game on the 3G surface under the shadow of the East Stand and that should provide plenty of entertainment against a similarly talented home backline. This should be a cracking opener to the league season.

Verdict: Home win

SHANNON'S ROAD TO REDEMPTION STARTS HERE

FOR the first time in their history, Shannon begin an All-Ireland League season in the second tier and today they begin their journey back to Division 1A at home to Blackrock.

Relegation at the hands of UCD in Coonagh last season was a black day for Ireland's most successful club, but the writing was on the wall for some time as they had struggled to sustain their form since winning the league in 2009 and had finished in the bottom half for four successive seasons.

The club are hoping that the addition of Munster Academy and former Crescent out-half Gearoid Lyons (pictured) can push Tadhg Bennett at No 10, while other youngsters like Lee Nicholas and Greg O'Shea are expected to help push the side on.

With Terenure and Trinity both expected to challenge, it won't be easy, but the Limerick side will be hoping to bounce right back.

Ulster Bank All Ireland League fixtures

(2.30 UNLESS STATED)

Division 1A

Ballynahinch v Cork Constitution, Ballymacarn Park; Garryowen v Dolphin, Dooradoyle; Lansdowne v UCD, Aviva Stadium; Old Belvedere v Clontarf, Anglesea Road; St Mary's College v Young Munster, Templeville Road.

Division 1B

Belfast Harlequins v Buccaneers, Deramore Park; Dublin University v Corinthians, Sydney Parade; Malone v Dungannon, Gibson Park; Shannon v Blackrock College, Thomond Park; Terenure v UL Bohemians, Lakelands.

Division 2A

Queen's University v Highfield (2.0), Ballymena v Galwegians, Eaton Park; Bruff v NUIM Barnhall, Kilballyowen Park; Cashel v Banbridge, Spafield; City of Derry v Rainey OB, Judge's Road; Old Wesley v Old Crescent, Donnybrook; Seapoint v Bective, Kilgobbet Park; UCC v Naas, Mardyke.

Division 2B

Ards v Suttonians, Hamilton Park; Armagh v DLSP, Palace Grounds; Boyne v Richmond, Shamrock Lodge; Greystones v Tullamore, Dr Hickey Park; Navan v Sligo, Balreask Old; Nenagh Ormond v Midleton, New Ormond Park; Skerries v Instonians, Holmpatrick; Thomond v Sunday's Well, Liam Fitzgerald Park.

NUMBER OF

THE WEEK

5 Of the 10 teams in Division 1A, half are from the capital as the Dublin and Leinster dominance of the AIL looks set to continue in 2013.

OUTRIGHT BETTING

Lansdowne 2/1

UCD 7/2

Clontarf 9/2

Garryowen 5/1

Dolphin, Cork Constitution 10/1

St Mary's 12/1

Ballynahinch 16/1

Young Munster 25/1

Old Belvedere 100/1

Irish Independent

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