Irish rugby statistician Des Daly discusses how the AIB League Round Robin series came about and its history over the years, with a nod to the AIB Junior Cup which starts this weekend.
Irish rugby statistician Des Daly reviews how the AlB League Round Robin series came about and its history over the years, with a nod to the AIB Junior Cup which starts this weekend.
The AIB League began in the 1990/91 season with 19 senior clubs invited to compete. Nine clubs were placed in Division One and ten in Division Two. For 1993/94, the league was extended to four divisions which included all 46 senior clubs in the country.
At the end of the 1995/96 season, there was a one-off agreement to admit the four provincial Junior League winners into Division Four, starting the following season. Suttonians (Leinster), Ballynahinch (Ulster), Richmond (Munster) and Creggs (Connacht) were the four lucky clubs to be promoted to the senior ranks.
Creggs lasted two seasons in Division Four while Richmond, hailing from Limerick, remained for six seasons, including a stint of four seasons in Division Three.
At the end of the 1996/97 campaign, the four provincial league winners were asked to play a Round Robin series from which only the top two finishers were promoted. County Carlow and Omagh A. were duly elevated. Omagh re-entered the junior ranks after three seasons.
The end-of-season Junior interprovincial Round Robin series has now taken place on ten occasions. Some years two junior clubs have been promoted into the following season's AIB League and some years - five in all - only one club. Here is a synopsis of what has happened to the provincial junior champions when they played in the Round Robin series over the past ten seasons.
CONNACHT - Connemara had to compete in four Round Robin series before they eventually made it into Division Three for the 2001/02 season. The Blacks actually went on to win the Division Three championship in their first season in senior ranks, but were not promoted into the second tier.
Monivea have also participated in four Round Robin series, finishing runners-up to Bruff in 2003/04 when unfortunately for them only one club was promoted. Creggs had been promoted automatically at the end of the 1995/96 season, but the County Roscommon club lasted for only two seasons at senior level.
Westport, initally a senior club until they dropped out, unsuccessfully contested two Round Robin series after their demotion.
ULSTER - Eight different Ulster clubs have made it to the Round Robin fixtures. Omagh and Banbridge qualified for the AIB League at the first attempt while Rainey Old Boys made it last season at the second time of asking. Dromore and Lisburn have both been found wanting in the Round Robin whereas Coleraine have faltered on the two occasions that they have competed.
Queen's University and Ards were both relegated to the junior ranks in recent times but within two seasons, they were both back into the AIB League, compliments of a Round Robin success.
MUNSTER - Seven different Munster clubs have competed in the Round Robins. The Munster junior clubs have been the most successful with six of them achieving senior status. Three junior clubs from the province - Thomond, Clonakilty and Nenagh - were each successful in their first Round Robin appearances, while it took Midleton two attempts and Bruff three bites at the cherry.
Youghal failed to make it up from the Round Robin series last season. Highfield, who had been relegated at the end of 2000/01, returned to the league via the end-of-season Round Robin, after one campaign down amongst the juniors.
LEINSTER - Leinster clubs have a poor record in the Round Robins. Kilkenny (twice), Navan and Seapoint have all tried unsuccessfully to achieve promotion. Barnhall and County Carlow were each promoted after their first Round Robin outings with the latter going all the way to Division One in five seasons. Naas made it at the end of 1999/2000 but have since been relegated - they then proceeded to lose out to Nenagh in 2004/05.
In all, 19 junior clubs have made it into the AIB League over the last eleven seasons, fifteen of them through ten seasons of Round Robin series. All except four - Richmond, Creggs, Omagh and Naas - are still there.
The six former junior clubs in AIB League Division Two this season are Clonakilty, Barnhall, Thomond, Suttonians, Midleton and County Carlow, while the six competing in Division Three are Ballynahinch, Rainey Old Boys, Banbridge, Bruff, Nenagh and Connemara.
At the end of this season, the junior club winning the Round Robin series will be automatically promoted into Division Three for 2007/08 run. The Round Robin runner-up will play-off with the club finishing second last in Division Three, the winner of which is to be placed in next season's Division Three.
This Saturday, the first round of the 2006/07 AIB Junior Cup takes place. Sixteen junior clubs, double the 2005/06 number, have qualified for the exciting competition with four clubs representing each province.
Ten of Ireland's 32 rugby playing counties are represented in these matches. Some of these clubs will participate in the Round Robin at the end of the season and will have the opportunity of attaining senior status like 19 junior clubs before them.
- Good luck to all of the sixteen teams competing this weekend in the AIB Junior Cup from IrishRugby.ie! -