Just five short months since Clontarf lifted the trophy, Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1A explodes back into life with an exciting set of first round fixtures.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE MEN’S DIVISION 1A – ROUND 1:
Saturday, October 1
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
CORK CONSTITUTION v YOUNG MUNSTER, Temple Hill
Preview: There was an away win apiece in this match-up last season, Cork Constitution, who have Jonny Holland stepping up as head coach, edging their way into the play-offs but a seventh All-Ireland League crown remained out of reach.
Former UCC duo George Coomber and Jack Kelleher top and tail the Cork Con team to host Young Munster. Munster Development winger Daniel Hurley starts, while ex-Cookies hooker Billy Scannell features after a loan spell at French club Stade Lagonnais.
Ireland Under-20 flanker Ronan O’Sullivan makes his top flight debut for Munsters. Tom Goggin and Sean Rigney provide plenty of grunt in the engine room, and powerful tighthead Paulo Leleisiuao, who is on the bench, has made the move from Australian club Randwick.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 9, 2021: Cork Constitution 17 Young Munster 24, Temple Hill; Saturday, April 2, 2022: Young Munster 19 Cork Constitution 27, Tom Clifford Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win
GARRYOWEN v DUBLIN UNIVERSITY, Dooradoyle
Preview: Tony Butler and Cian Hurley will both start for Garryowen in their league opener against Dublin University. Fellow Munster Academy player Jack Oliver is on the bench, with talented teenager Brian Gleeson at number 8.
Former Cork Con regular JJ O’Neill is a notable inclusion on the left wing for the Light Blues. They began last season with a Liam Coombes-inspired 35-10 victory at Dublin University.
Trinity gained revenge in April and look to have retained an experienced group of players, including the Ulster Academy’s Harry Sheridan and Leinster ‘A’ prop Thomas Connolly. American hooker Jack Manzo will make his debut in Limerick.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 2, 2021: Dublin University 10 Garryowen 35, College Park; Saturday, April 9, 2022: Garryowen 12 Dublin University 34, Dooradoyle
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win
LANSDOWNE v BALLYNAHINCH, Aviva Stadium back pitch
Preview: Ireland Sevens international Mark Roche returns to the 15s game in Lansdowne’s midfield. An AIL medal winner back in 2015, he pairs up with Kyle Dixon a week on from the headquarters club’s Leinster Senior League final defeat.
Leinster Academy prop Temi Lasisi is on the bench, with Mark McHugh’s men aiming for a big performance to kick off Lansdowne’s 150th season. Unbeaten after four rounds of the Ulster Rugby Premiership, Ballynahinch are hoping to spoil the party.
New signing Mark Best brings his skills to the ‘Hinch midfield, while Pierce Crowe has joined from Ballymena and Ulster Academy scrum half Conor McKee has switched from Queen’s. Ireland Sevens internationals Zac Ward and Fergus Jemphrey, a recent addition, are also part of the squad.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 11, 2021: Ballynahinch 10 Lansdowne 24, Ballymacarn Park; Saturday, January 15, 2022: Lansdowne 47 Ballynahinch 17, Aviva Stadium back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win
SHANNON v TERENURE COLLEGE, Thomond Park
Preview: A huge occasion for Shannon as they mark their return to the top flight by hosting Terenure College, last season’s beaten finalists. While Ealing Trailfinders Academy out-half Mike Cooke leads the new recruits, Shannon rely mostly on homegrown talent.
Their new captain Ronan Coffey commented: “There’s plenty of Under-20 lads who are after coming up. They will be pushing for places. We’ve put in a really big pre-season, so facing Terenure first up will be a good gauge for us to see where we’re at.”
Terenure lifted the Leinster Senior League Division 1 trophy last week, after beaten Lansdowne 17-15. Leinster Academy prop Marcus Hanan, out-half Callum Smith and Matthew Bowen, the former UCC flyer, come into a mostly settled ‘Nure side.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 20, 2018: Terenure College 14 Shannon 41, Lakelands Park; Saturday, March 23, 2019: Shannon 12 Terenure College 18, Thomond Park back pitch
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College to win
UCD v CLONTARF, UCD Bowl
Preview: Leinster Academy centre Ben Brownlee will line out for UCD who have drawn the short straw in facing reigning champions Clontarf on the opening weekend. They ended last season with a 35-17 home defeat to ‘Tarf.
UCD received a timely boost with news that EY Ireland will sponsor the club for the next five years. Visitors ‘Tarf will give a Division 1A debut to flanker JJ O’Dea who has transferred across from Old Wesley.
Hugh Cooney, a Leinster Schools Senior Cup winner with Blackrock College this year, starts for Andy Wood’s charges on the right wing. “The squad has stayed much the same. We’re looking to improve match-on-match, as we did last year,” said ‘Tarf captain Matt D’Arcy.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 2, 2021: Clontarf 29 UCD 12, Castle Avenue; Saturday, April 9, 2022: UCD 17 Clontarf 35, UCD Bowl
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win