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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

With St. Mary’s and Dolphin dropping down from the top flight and Old Wesley and Blackrock coming up as the promoted sides, Division 1B of the Ulster Bank League promises to be fiercely competitive this season. The campaign begins tonight with Blackrock hosting Dublin University at Stradbrook.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, September 12

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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BLACKROCK COLLEGE v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY, Stradbrook, Friday, September 11, 7.30pm

Preview: Blackrock’s new floodlights at Stradbrook will be in use as they make the step up to Division 1B. Leinster senior performance analyst Emmet Farrell is entering his second season as ‘Rock’s head coach.

Farrell’s side earned promotion with a second place finish in Division 2A last term, with young centre/winger Sean Coughlan starring as their Senior Player of the Year and earning Ireland Club international honours.

However, Trinity’s Leinster Senior League Cup victory at St. Mary’s last week suggests they are fine early season fettle. The addition of Max McFarland boosts their options out wide.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 7, 2013: Dublin University 20 Blackrock College 13, Sydney Parade; Saturday, April 12, 2014: Blackrock College 12 Dublin University 26, Stradbrook

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dublin University to win

BALLYMENA v BELFAST HARLEQUINS, Eaton Park

Preview: Nothing like a super-charged Ulster derby to give some early season pointers. Ballymena and Belfast Harlequins both come in on the back of provincial victories, against Queen’s (48-7) and Dungannon (35-20) respectively.

Ulster prospects Jacob Stockdale and Frankie Taggart could have big says in Harlequins’ campaign along with club captain Neil McComb, while ex-Malone scrum half John Creighton has already impressed in his first few weeks with the Braidmen.

Andy Graham’s Ballymena side triumphed 22-14 and 17-13 when these Ulster rivals met last term, and they should make home advantage count on Saturday afternoon.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 20, 2014: Belfast Harlequins 14 Ballymena 22, Deramore Park; Saturday, January 3, 2015: Ballymena 17 Belfast Harlequins 13, Eaton Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win

BUCCANEERS v SHANNON, Dubarry Park

Preview: A cracking tie for two fledgling coaches to get their teeth into, as Brett Wilkinson’s Buccaneers entertain Shannon who now have former Ireland international Marcus Horan at the helm.

Buccs won the Connacht Senior League last month with captain Martin Staunton leading by example from the front row, while Conor McKeon from Division 1A champions Lansdowne and Conor Lowndes, formerly of Galwegians, are high quality additions to the backs.

This is a difficult first assignment for Horan’s young charges, who include Greg O’Shea and Frank Bradshaw-Ryan, and a repeat of last season’s 25-7 loss at Dubarry Park may be on the cards.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, September 27, 2014: Shannon 17 Buccaneers 27, Coonagh; Saturday, January 10, 2015: Buccaneers 25 Shannon 7, Dubarry Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Buccaneers to win

ST. MARY’S COLLEGE v DOLPHIN, Templeville Road

Preview: A good early examination of Dolphin’s Division 1B credentials with new head coach Feargus O’Donoghue looking to pick the Corkmen up after last season’s relegation. They had six players involved in Munster’s opening PRO12 win over Treviso, including debutant lock John Madigan.

While Peter Smyth remains in charge of St. Mary’s, there is the notable addition of former Ireland international Malcolm O’Kelly as the club’s forwards coach. Tighthead prop Rob Sweeney has been installed as captain.

This is a battle between the bottom two sides from Division 1A last term, and Mary’s, with Sean Kearns continuing his development at out-half, should have the firepower to take the spoils.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 22, 2014: Dolphin 18 St. Mary’s College 27, Irish Independent Park; Saturday, April 11, 2015: St. Mary’s College 45 Dolphin 18, Templeville Road

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: St. Mary’s College to win

UL BOHEMIANS v OLD WESLEY, Thomond Park

Preview: There is a lot of interest in how Old Wesley fare following their Division 2A title success last season. The fast-stepping Billy Ngawini from New Zealand is among their new recruits.

It is 15 years since UL Bohemians and Wesley played each other, and it was back in October 1955 when the Dublin 4 club travelled south to play in a match which marked the opening of Bohs’ new pavilion.

Gearoid Prendergast, the new UL coach, will want a strong first outing from his charges as they look to banish memories of last year’s disappointing campaign where they finished eighth.

Recent League Meetings – N/A

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win