The first two matches in the 2007 AIB League Round Robin series will be played this Saturday – Galway side Monivea venture to Armagh while Crosshaven will entertain Kildare outfit Naas in Cork.
Four junior clubs will attempt to take their first steps towards entry into next season’s AIB League this weekend when the league’s Round Robin series gets underway. The competing clubs who won their province’s Qualifying League this season are – Monivea (Connacht), Naas (Leinster), Crosshaven (Munster) and Armagh (Ulster).
The fixtures are as follows:
Saturday, March 24 – Armagh v Monivea, Crosshaven v Naas
Saturday, March 31 – Naas v Armagh, Monivea v Crosshaven
Saturday, April 7 – Crosshaven v Armagh, Naas v Monivea
Saturday, April 21 – Play-off between second-from-bottom team in Division Three and second-placed team in Round Robin series
The competition will be run off over three consecutive weekends. The winners will automatically secure a place in next season’s Division Three, at the expense of Portadown.
While the team that finishes second in the series will play-off against the side that finishes second-from-bottom in the current Division Three.
Leinster’s representatives Naas were in the Round Robin series two years ago but lost out to Tipperary’s Nenagh Ormond who are currently gunning for a place in the forthcoming Division Three semi-finals.
Naas RFC President Tony Lawlor feels his club has the quality to progess through this year’s series and gain that coveted senior status.
“Naas have the talent and depth to mount a successful challenge in Division Three of the AIB League, but will have to get promoted first,” he said.
“Although we had a brilliant team from one to 15 back then (in 2000 when the team was promoted to the AIL), we didn’t have a whole lot coming through behind them, and that cost us as over our time in the league, in retrospect, we were an ageing side – a lot of players retired from that team at the same time, big players who were difficult to replace,” he told the Kildare Nationalist newspaper.
“Now I feel we’ve further improved on our structures, particularly at Under-20 and Youth level and you only have to look at the success of our Under-18 who won the All-Ireland just recently – don’t forget too that we fielded two Under-20 teams on the same day this year in both the Gale Cup and the JP Fanagan, that is a massive achievement for any club.”
Armagh, who face Connacht champions Monivea in the other tie, will be tough nuts to crack at the Palace Grounds but they do have trips to Naas and Crosshaven to contend with.
The Ulster side, who played briefly in the All-Ireland League between 1994 and 1997, are giving free admission to any child wearing a rugby jersey at the Palace Grounds on Saturday – an idea that has to be commended.
– Log onto IrishRugby.ie on Monday for a full round-up of the first weekend’s action in the Round Robin series –