The new Ulster Bank League season launches tonight with the visit of newly-promoted Dublin University to Terenure College, while Saturday’s fare includes a repeat of one of last April’s semi-finals – UCD v Clontarf.
ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1A: Saturday, September 17
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
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TERENURE COLLEGE v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY, Lakelands Park, Friday, September 16, 7.30pm
Preview: Terenure College entertain the newly-promoted students who lost by five points on their last league visit to Lakelands two-and-a-half years ago.
Survival in the top flight is the main aim for Tony Smeeth’s much-changed Trinity side, with the Englishman admitting: “All the Dublin teams we know so well. We’ve got rivalry with all of them. It’s just exciting, it’s why you do it.”
Terenure, whose summer recruits include Sam Coghlan Murray, will want a successful start to their first full season with their 4G pitch and floodlights, especially with new club President Paddy ‘Rala’ O’Reilly proudly watching on!
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 9, 2013: Dublin University 17 Terenure College 26, Sydney Parade; Saturday, March 15, 2014: Terenure College 22 Dublin University 17, Lakelands Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College to win
GARRYOWEN v LANSDOWNE, Dooradoyle
Preview: Lansdowne ended last season with three defeats on the bounce, falling to seventh in the table. But recent Leinster Senior League Cup wins over Trinity, Clontarf and St. Mary’s suggest they are hitting form.
Winning in Limerick on the opening day would be a serious statement from Mike Ruddock’s men, who are now led by Ireland Club international prop Ian Prendiville.
Former Ireland star Denis Leamy is Garryowen’s new forwards coach. He will have to quickly plug the back row gaps left by departing captain Josh Hrstich (Japan), Dave Sherry (Old Belvedere) and Nottingham recruits Jordan Coghlan and Shane Buckley. On the positive side, Munster’s Sam Arnold could be a valuable asset on his comeback from injury.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 31, 2015: Lansdowne 17 Garryowen 10, Aviva Stadium main pitch; Saturday, February 6, 2016: Garryowen 16 Lansdowne 16, Dooradoyle
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win
ST. MARY’S COLLEGE v CORK CONSTITUTION, Templeville Road
Preview: The murmurs about St. Mary’s have been particularly positive of late, with the Dubliners recruiting very well on their return to Division 1A.
Trinity duo Paddy Lavelle and Nick McCarthy, along with Lansdowne scrum half Paddy O’Driscoll and Cork Con’s own Cathal O’Flaherty, have all made the move to the Templeville Road club.
Constitution, who ran Clontarf close in last May’s memorable final, look in good fettle after a pre-season tour of Canada and local cup wins over UCC (34-3) and UL Bohemians (31-6).
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 4, 2014: St. Mary’s College 15 Cork Constitution 26, Templeville Road; Saturday, January 31, 2015: Cork Constitution 13 St. Mary’s College 15, Temple Hill
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win
UCD v CLONTARF, Belfield Bowl
Preview: Clontarf begin their title defence with a repeat of their 2015/16 opener which ended in a 24-16 victory for them at Belfield. They do so without two star names – Mick McGrath, who is currently on trial with Leicester Tigers, and Joey Carbery who is making waves with Leinster.
Two more defeats followed for UCD last term against ‘Tarf, including April’s semi-final loss, so they certainly owe the north Dubliners one.
Andy Skehan heads up the students’ newly-appointed coaching team, who oversaw a galvanising tour of South Africa and an unsuccessful Leinster Senior League Cup defence. Ireland Under-20 captain James Ryan boosts their second row options.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 16, 2016: Clontarf 25 UCD 12, Castle Avenue; Semi-final – Saturday, April 23, 2016: Clontarf 24 UCD 10, Castle Avenue
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win
YOUNG MUNSTER v OLD BELVEDERE, Tom Clifford Park
Preview: Beaten semi-finalists last April, Young Munster have a new head coach in Gearoid Prendergast. Talented second row Sean Duggan captains a side missing the newly England-based Gearoid Lyons and Ben Betts.
The Cookies’ summer recruits include Munster’s Cian Bohane, recent Ireland Under-20 cap Dan Walsh and Shannon’s Shane Airey, while Garryowen pair Dave Sherry and James McInerney have left Limerick for Old Belvedere.
‘Belvo went unbeaten through their Leinster Senior League Cup pool, with out-half Willie Staunton and their scrum showing well. Blackrock back Sean Coughlan is another notable newcomer.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 31, 2015: Young Munster 20 Old Belvedere 18, Tom Clifford Park; Saturday, February 6, 2016: Old Belvedere 11 Young Munster 14, Anglesea Road
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win