The 2006/07 edition of the AIB Cup gets underway next Saturday with the mouth-watering preliminary round clash of Division One's Cork Constitution and Lansdowne.
Con are the cup holders having secured the inaugural AIB Cup title last April thanks to a 37-12 victory over St. Mary's College at Lansdowne Road. Flying winger Cronan Healy grabbed top billing that day, scoring a staggering four tries at headquarters.
It was not only an historic win - the Cork club adding the inaugural AIB Cup to the inaugural All-Ireland League crown they won in 1991 - but also a poignant win, dedicated to the late Conrad O'Sullivan, the team's centre, a former captain of UCC, who had sadly passed away on March 22 of this year.
"It was a particular satisfying day out for Cronan as he had missed out on selection for the AIB Club International team that played Scotland (in March)," says Constitution coach Brian 'Squeaky' Walsh.
"We had discussed that beforehand and agreed we'd try and make some kind of statement by playing well at Lansdowne - I didn't expect an astonishing four tries!"
Healy and former Munster full-back Walsh will be looking for a chance to complete an AIB Cup double this season, opening their campaign at home (Temple Hill) to Lansdowne next weekend.
Following that though, a win would take them across St. Mary's path, a first round game in January and a chance for the Dubliners to reset the chess board. The AIB Cup's first round fixtures will be played over the weekend of January 12/13.
...The scene at Temple Hill on Monday as Cork Constitution's Frank Cogan, David Lavin of Lansdowne and John Daly from AIB Cork line up with the AIB Cup...
There will be new winners of the AIB Junior Cup this season as the 2005/06 winners Rainey Old Boys are now in the senior ranks of AIB League Division Three. The south Derry outfit, who have acquitted themselves very well so far with three wins from four league games, beat Youghal 22-5 in last season's Junior Cup final at Lansdowne.
First hal tries from Neil Seffin and Nathan Amos (2) teed up the win. Player/coach John Andrews, a former Ireland Schools international, crossed for a fourth try in the second period.
In this season's AIB Junior Cup, the sixteen teams - comprising of four teams nominated by each Branch - are sure to serve up some thrillers from the start. For instance, witness the last tie in the first round - pre-tournament favourites Seapoint squaring off against near neighbours Monkstown. A pre-Christmas cracker is sure to be served up when the south Dublin duo meet on Saturday, December 16!
IrishRugby.ie will be providing extensive coverage of both the AIB Cup and AIB Junior Cup competitions, including interviews with players, coaches and club personalities from this week onwards!
**This article, written by the Irish Daily Star's Derek Foley, featured in the Ireland v Australia Match Programme. To purchase copies of the match programme please contact the publishers:
New Century Publishing on tel: +353 1 8398008**