Former Ireland head coach Eddie O’Sullivan and ex-internationals Michael Bradley and Sean Cronin are some of the new coaches hoping to make a splash in Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1B.
ENERGIA ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE MEN’S DIVISION 1B – ROUND 1:
Saturday, October 1
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
CITY OF ARMAGH v BUCCANEERS, Palace Grounds
Preview: Eddie O’Sullivan, who coached Ireland to three Triple Crowns, is back coaching in the All-Ireland League after a four-year gap. He has taken the reins from Kolo Kiripati at Buccaneers, who have already won Connacht Senior League silverware.
City of Armagh will present a much tougher test, especially at home. Their new recruits include Ireland Under-20 hooker James McCormick, and Frank Bradshaw-Ryan and Michael McDonald are also part of their Ulster allocation.
Chris Parker’s men will expect to make a winning start against the promoted side. Buccs were last at the Palace Grounds in February 2019 when Armagh won 32-27 thanks to a late Neil Faloon try.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, December 1, 2018: Buccaneers 24 City of Armagh 17, Dubarry Park; Saturday, February 16, 2019: City of Armagh 32 Buccaneers 27, Palace Grounds
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: City of Armagh to win
HIGHFIELD v BANBRIDGE, Woodleigh Park
Preview: Former Munster centre Cian Bohane made a U-turn on his decision to hang up his boots. He has joined Highfield and is hoping to spearhead their challenge for promotion. He starts tomorrow alongside David O’Sullivan.
Munster prop James French has also moved across from UCC, along with new full-back Mark McLoughlin. Highfield beat Banbridge twice last season, and Bann were winless in their first three Ulster Rugby Premiership games.
Peter Cromie has replaced his brother Michael as Banbridge’s new captain, with head coach Mark McDowell saying: “Anyone who watches us play knows the quality of player that Peter is. He has slowly developed his ability to not only lead by actions but now with his words also.”
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 27, 2021: Banbridge 19 Highfield 26, Rifle Park; Saturday, January 29, 2022: Highfield 19 Banbridge 8, Woodleigh Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Highfield to win
MALONE v UCC, Gibson Park
Preview: A new era dawns for both of these clubs. Former player Josh Pentland is now in charge at Malone and their preparations have included a win over Ballymena, during which Ulster Under-19 talent Ben Gibson claimed a try.
However, they went down 47-7 to Queen’s University last week and face another attack-minded student side tomorrow. UCC launch their 150th season with Michael Bradley newly installed as their director of rugby.
Bradley has assembled a hugely-experienced coaching ticket, and their incoming players include Sean Edogbo, younger brother of Munster’s Edwin, and Danny and Jacob Sheahan, nephews of former Munster and Ireland hooker Frankie.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 3, 2015: UCC 33 Malone 21, the Mardyke; Saturday, February 20, 2016: Malone 13 UCC 16, Gibson Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCC to win
OLD BELVEDERE v ST. MARY’S COLLEGE, Ollie Campbell Park
Preview: There have been coaching changes at both of these clubs in the summer. Fresh from helping Enniscorthy to gain promotion, highly-rated Australian Ben Manion has replaced Ray Monaghan as Old Belvedere’s head coach.
Sean Cronin assisted Steven Hennessy last season and has now taken over the main job at St. Mary’s College. The recently-retired Leinster and Ireland hooker has brought in some notable players to aid their push for promotion.
UCD duo Ronan Foley and Steven Kilgallen have transferred across to Mary’s, along with Old Belvedere’s own Ethan Baxter. Another interesting newcomer is Australian out-half Conor Hickey, who is Irish qualified and was involved with the Ireland Sevens Development squad last season.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 20, 2021: St. Mary’s College 24 Old Belvedere 20, Templeville Road; Saturday, February 19, 2022: Old Belvedere 24 St. Mary’s College 23, Ollie Campbell Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Belvedere to win
OLD WESLEY v NAAS, Energia Park
Preview: The last time these teams faced off in Donnybrook, there was high drama right as the death as a missed conversion denied Old Wesley a comeback win. Naas moved on to the promotion play-off final which they lost to Shannon in Limerick.
Navan pair Ben Daly and Keith Kavanagh are among Old Wesley’s new recruits. Cork Constitution’s Gary Bradley, son of former Ireland scrum half Michael, and Shannon hooker Ty Chan are also now part of the Dubliners’ squad.
Leinster ‘A’ full-back Andrew Osborne, younger brother of Emerging Ireland’s Jamie, starts in the back-three for Naas. Former Leinster U-19 representative Oscar Cawley gets the nod at scrum half, while Mark McDermott (Galway Corinthians) and Henry Smith, who played for Australian club Souths, are listed as replacements.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, March 5, 2022: Old Wesley 29 Naas 19, Energia Park; Saturday, April 23, 2022: Division 1B Promotion Play-Off Semi-Final: Old Wesley 36 Naas 37, Energia Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Old Wesley to win