The 52 participating clubs are entering the second half of the Ulster Bank League season, with Clontarf, Terenure College, Galwegians and Nenagh Ormond leading their respective divisions at the halfway point. In this article we take a look at Divisions 2A and 2B.
Cory Brown’s Galwegians side are the pacesetters in Division 2A, embarking on a seven-match winning streak since losing away to Ballymena on the opening day.
‘Wegians are also the top scorers in the division with 230 points – 61 of those coming from out-half Ross Shaughnessy (including two tries) – and Brian Murphy, Jerome Harrimate and Caolin Blade are all one try shy of joining back-three stalwart John Cleary on four tries.
In a nod to assistant coach John Muldoon, ten of the Galway club’s league tries have come from their forwards, reflecting the potency of both their scrum and lineout maul.
A nine-point spread covers the top six teams in the division, with Queen’s University, City of Derry and Ballymena – in places 2 to 4 – leading the contenders from the north.
The Stuart McIlwaine-captained Queen’s outfit also won the Ulster Senior last month and have been wintering well as evidenced by their comprehensive league wins over Bective Rangers, Derry and Seapoint.
There are a number of teams on two and three victories currently who will be aiming to push on in the coming rounds, including Cashel and Banbridge who have four losing bonus points each.
It has been a difficult season so far for bottom side Bruff who have yet to taste victory. Upcoming fixtures against fellow strugglers Bann and Highfield are simply ‘must win’ games for the Limerick club, who have young scrum half Jack Cullen in the Ireland Under-20s’ Six Nations squad.
Unbeaten Nenagh Ormond are out in front in Division 2B, having chalked up eight wins on the trot with second-placed Greystones – another side that have recovered well from an opening round loss – just four points behind them.
Nenagh looked rusty against Sligo last time out, but a late Dan Fogarty penalty closed out a 24-20 success as they came back from a five-week break from league action.
The Tipperary club take pride in the fact that coaching duo Derek Corcoran and Trevor Hogan, the former Munster, Leinster and Ireland lock, are two locals. Player-coach Corcoran recently scored his 50th All-Ireland League try.
Nenagh joined the ‘Friday Night Lights’ brigade last month by hosting Richmond in a floodlit tie at New Ormond Park, and the Friday night fixtures have proven popular in this division with games at Suttonians, Navan, Skerries, Tullamore, Instonians, Nenagh and Midleton so far.
Greystones captain Ben Armstrong described the 2012/13 campaign as ‘a season of near misses’, but it is a case of so far, so good for Reggie Corrigan’s charges this term. Their trip to Nenagh on March 15 could have a crucial bearing on the title race and promotion.
That is not to discount the tightly-packed bunch behind the top two. Back-to-back triumphs have moved Armagh into third place, and Thomond and Skerries behind them both boast talented and durable squads.
There is little to choose between the mid-table sides, although eighth-placed Sunday’s Well deserve a mention for their current four-match winning streak – reliable goal-kicker Shane O’Riordan has been influential for Aaron Jones’ side along with industrious back rower Paul Giraudet.
Bottom side Suttonians, who remain without a win, desperately need a lift after being pipped at home by Boyne last time out. The mid-season addition of performance director Stephen McIvor, the former Ireland international, could be a timely appointment for them.
With just five points separating second-from-bottom Instonians from the ‘Well in eighth place, bonus points could yet prove decisive in the battle to avoid relegation from the senior ranks.