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Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

Ulster Bank League: Division 1B Previews

There will be plenty of new coaches, new players and new combinations on show in Division 1B tomorrow, with the meeting of Eddie O’Sullivan’s Old Belvedere and Brian McLaughlin’s Ballynahinch shaping up to be the match of the day.

ULSTER BANK LEAGUE: DIVISION 1B: Saturday, September 16

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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DOLPHIN v NAAS, Irish Independent Park

Preview: Dolphin dug their heels in to hold onto their Division 1B place in April, coming through two tough play-off games against Malone and Nenagh Ormond. Talismanic players-turned-coaches, Chris Rowe and Barry Keeshan, will be relishing their first full season at the helm.

Starting his third year as Naas player-coach, Johne Murphy will play at out-half tomorrow with Donal Droney, an experienced campaigner, and Ross Bailey-Kearney paired together in midfield. The 22-year-old Bailey-Kearney returns from a spell playing in England with Bury St. Edmund’s.

Former Tullamore and Banbridge lock Philip Jordan starts in the second row for the Kildare men, who lost 15-10 to Dolphin in last year’s corresponding fixture before triumphing 30-8 in the return match. A tough one to call but Dolphin should shade it.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 12, 2016: Dolphin 15 Naas 10, Irish Independent Park; Saturday, February 11, 2017: Naas 30 Dolphin 8, Forenaughts

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dolphin to win


Preview: Eddie O’Sullivan and Brian McLaughlin, who operated as skills coach during O’Sullivan’s Ireland tenure, will look to outfox each other when their Old Belvedere and Ballynahinch teams face off at Anglesea Road.

O’Sullivan, who assisted Paul Cunningham for the final three months of last season, has replaced him in ‘Belvo hot-seat. The Dubliners were relegated as Division 1A’s bottom-placed side, so O’Sullivan and fellow coaches Andy Dunne (backs) and Fergal Walsh (forwards) have a lot of rebuilding to do.

McLaughlin worked his magic as a coaching consultant at Armagh. Now returning to ‘Hinch in a similar position, he is aiming to revive the fortunes of a squad that was only three points away from trouble last season. Player/backs coach Tom Rock and Nigel Brady, who will coach the front five forwards, are assisting McLaughlin whose team is strengthened this weekend by Ulster’s Peter Browne, Aaron Cairns, David Busby and Academy newcomer Jack Regan.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 3, 2015: Ballynahinch 24 Old Belvedere 34, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, February 27, 2016: Old Belvedere 19 Ballynahinch 14, Anglesea Road

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win


Preview: Old Wesley did the double on Ballymena last season, running out 30-points winners at their Donnybrook base. Fourth place finishers in 2016/17, Morgan Lennon’s men are more than capable of pushing even harder for promotion in the coming months.

Ballymena centre Callum Patterson will face a late fitness test as he looks to join three of his Ulster colleagues in the visitors’ starting line-up tomorrow – half-backs Brett Herron and David Shanahan and hooker Adam McBurney.

Not much can be read into the clubs’ early season form, Wesley dispatching Wanderers and Navan in the Leinster Senior League as expected, scoring 72 points along the way, while the Braidmen accounted for City of Derry 45-12 but lost to Armagh 38-27 at home last week while experimenting with different combinations.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 5, 2016: Ballymena 25 Old Wesley 27, Eaton Park; Saturday, February 18, 2017: Old Wesley 49 Ballymena 19, Donnybrook

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballymena to win

UCC v SHANNON, the Mardyke

Preview: The Mardyke is where Tom Hayes will begin his first full league season as Shannon head coach. He replaced Marcus Horan in the position last January – duly guiding the Limerick club to safety – and there are more grounds for positivity after last week’s battling performance against Cork Constitution in the Munster Senior Cup.

Eight points was the gap between eighth-placed Shannon and UCC, in fifth, last term. Ireland Under-20 out-half Conor Fitzgerald kicked 10 points in Shannon’s March win (20-14) over the Cork students, who were 17-9 victorious on their own patch five months previously. Centre Kevin Slater’s 72nd-minute try proved decisive that day.

If they can begin to string together results, UCC look well set up to mount a challenge for promotion. Brian Walsh is now their head coach and recently-retired Munster centre Cian Bohane and 20-year-old scrum half John Poland, who won the league’s top prize with Cork Con in May, are two exciting additions to the back-line.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 29, 2016: UCC 17 Shannon 9, the Mardyke; Saturday, March 4, 2017: Shannon 20 UCC 14, Thomond Park back pitch

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCC to win

UL BOHEMIANS v BANBRIDGE, University of Limerick 4G pitch

Preview: Ireland Sevens international and Ulster Academy member Nick Timoney will debut for Banbridge as they make the leap up to Division 1B. There is also a first start for Ireland Club international prop Eric O’Sullivan who has joined from Trinity.

Daniel Soper’s side face a stern test of their second tier credentials when they visit UL Bohemians who finished third in the table in April. However, Bohs struggled for consistency in their two recent outings against Nenagh Ormond. Robbie Bourke played a pivotal role in last week’s Munster Senior Cup at Nenagh, scoring a try, setting one up and kicking two closing penalties.

It will be an occasion to remember for Bann in Limerick tomorrow, but spare a thought for their club captain Adam Ervine who will miss the first few weeks of the campaign after breaking a bone in his hand during his second game back from a similar injury.

Recent League Meetings – N/A

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Banbridge to win

This season sees the introduction of the #UBLTry of the Month award with a prize of 250 euro for each monthly winner and entry into the Try of the Year award.