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AIB League: Focus on Ulster

AIB League: Focus on Ulster

As the AIB League gets down to the crunch games, Irish Rugby statistician Des Daly takes a look at the Ulster clubs and in particular the “Ulster Division”.

In 1993 / 94, when the AIB League was extended to include all 46 senior clubs on the island, thirteen Ulster clubs were included, one – Dungannon – in Division One, and four each in Divisions Two, Three and Four. 

From that time to the present the number of Ulster clubs in AIB League 1 has increased to three, in AIB League 2 the number has decreased to one while in AIB League 3 it has risen to eight.  All told, the twelve Ulster clubs competing in the current AIB League make up exactly 25 % of the total clubs in all three divisions.


In 2001 / 02 there were five Ulster clubs in Division Two and only three in Division Three.  Since then, Belfast Harlequins have climbed into Division One while Ballynahinch, Portadown and City of Derry have all descended into Division Three leaving Malone as the only Ulster flag-bearer in AIBL – 2.


There are 16 clubs in this season’s third division and eight of them hail from the province of Ulster.  That is why Division Three this season is often referred to as ‘The Ulster Division’.  The table below indicates the pedigree of the eight Ulster clubs involved.


 




































































2006 / 07


DIV. THREE


ULSTER CLUBS


TOTAL


SEASONS


IN  AIBL


SEASONS


IN


DIV. ONE


SEASONS


IN


DIV. TWO


SEASONS


IN


DIV.THREE


SEASONS


IN 


DIV. FOUR


Ballynahinch


11


 


7


3


1


Instonians


17


5


3


9


 


Banbridge


9


 


 


7


2


Ards


12


 


 


5


7


Rainey OB


1


 


 


1


 


QU-Belfast


12


 


 


7


5


City of Derry


14


 


6


8


 


Portadown


14


 


5


7


2


Instonians, the only club ever to drop down two AIBL divisions in successive seasons, first appeared in Division Three in 1998 / 99 and have spent the last nine seasons at that level.  If ‘Inst’ make the Division Three play-offs in the coming weeks it will be the third time that they have managed to do so.


Banbridge won the 1997 / 98 junior clubs inter-provincial Round Robin ahead of Midleton and have competed in the AIB League ever since.  A seventh place in the 2000 / 01 and the 2002 / 03 Division Three final tables have been the best that the Co. Down club has mustered over the past nine seasons. 


Queens and Ards both competed in Division Four back in 1993 / 94 and both also had the bad luck to be demoted to junior ranks for two seasons around the turn of the century.  However, Queens first and then Ards bounced back to win subsequent junior clubs Round Robins and regain their senior status.  The same good fortune did not apply to City of Armagh, Omagh, CIYMS or Bangor who have all remained in junior ranks since they were demoted.


Portadown look set to be demoted in the next month or so after fourteen long seasons playing AIB League rugby.  City of Derry, over 125 years in existence, could well join the Co. Armagh club  in next season’s Ulster Qualifying League if current results continue to go against them.


Rainey Old Boys have had a successful first season in senior ranks and have enjoyed some fine successes on the road outside the Ulster province.  The initial fears that the Magherafelt pack might not produce the goods far away from home proved to be wide of the mark.





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