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Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1A: Round 1 Previews

Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1A: Round 1 Previews

Winger Craig Adams dives over to score a try during Terenure College's clash with Ballynahinch in the top flight of the Energia All-Ireland League last February ©INPHO/Ben Brady

The Irish Rugby TV cameras will be at Temple Hill to capture City of Armagh’s debut in Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 1A. Elsewhere, Terenure College launch their title defence at home to Ballynahinch.


Saturday, October 7

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –


Preview: Last season’s two league meetings produced 19 tries and 130 points between them, so supporters should be in for a treat in the heart of the city centre. Prolific hooker Dylan Donnellan scored four of those tries and he is Clontarf’s new captain for 2023/24.

Josh Murphy starts at lock for ‘Tarf and could turn out to be the signing of the season, as the versatile Connacht forward, now based in the capital, takes a break from professional rugby to focus on his medical studies. Blindside flanker Ruadhan Byron faces his former club.

Diarmuid McCormack skippers Dublin University from the back row, alongside Liam Molony who comes up against three of his Leinster Academy colleagues in Ben Murphy, Aitzol King and Hugh Cooney. Ireland Under-19 international Jules Fenelon partners Louis McDonough in the students’ midfield.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 5, 2022: Clontarf 38 Dublin University 33, Castle Avenue; Saturday, February 25, 2023: Dublin University 21 Clontarf 38, College Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clontarf to win

LANSDOWNE v YOUNG MUNSTER, Aviva Stadium back pitch

Preview: Lansdowne fell well short of their usual high standards last season, finishing seventh in the table. A strong pre-season has already seen them win the Leinster Senior Cup, and Declan Fassbender’s side will be looking to avenge last March’s home defeat when Young Munster pay them a visit.

21-year-old Leinster Academy out-half Charlie Tector and Rory Parata, the former Connacht and Zebre centre, feature in the Lansdowne back-line. Recent Under-20 Grand Slam winner George Morris and new signings Jack Cooke, Hardus van Eeden and George Kenny all start in the pack.

Last week’s Energia Bateman Cup semi-final win at Ballynahinch was a timely boost for Munsters. Ger Slattery is now in charge, and his first AIL selection includes Munster’s Chris Moore, Keynan Knox and Fionn Gibbons, as well as Ireland U-20 ace Ruadhan Quinn at number 8.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, October 29, 2022: Young Munster 13 Lansdowne 20, Tom Clifford Park; Saturday, March 4, 2023: Lansdowne 10 Young Munster 15, Aviva Stadium back pitch

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Lansdowne to win

SHANNON v UCD, Thomond Park back pitch

Preview: Munster Academy duo Kieran Ryan and Daniel Okeke bookend the Shannon pack that will aim to force the issue against UCD, their first round visitors. Matt Brown is now part of Shannon’s coaching ticket as assistant coach, and he has brought Stephen Kiely with him from Old Crescent.

Kiely, who starts for the Parish side at full-back, recently scored a try on his debut for Munster. The teenager faces a testing Division 1A bow as UCD travel with the Leinster Academy’s Chris Cosgrave and Andrew Osborne, a new signing for the students, in their starting back-line.

UCD’s new director of rugby and head coach Emmet MacMahon also reunites the 2022 Ireland Under-20 lock pairing of Conor O’Tighearnaigh and Mark Morrissey. “Every club at this time of year is aiming to finish in the top half of the table, we’ll be no different,” said MacMahon.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 26, 2022: Shannon 36 UCD 24, Thomond Park back pitch; Saturday, January 28, 2023: UCD 22 Shannon 19, UCD Bowl

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Shannon to win


Preview: Terenure’s bid to become back-to-back champions begins at their Lakelands fortress. Ireland U-20 starlet Fintan Gunne makes his first AIL start, while their starting XV also contains new signings Aran Egan, Conor Phillips and Conan O’Donnell, the well-travelled loosehead prop.

“Retaining the AIL trophy this season is our sole focus and to achieve it with players from all four provinces would be amazing,” said Terenure captain Harrison Brewer. “We have some outstanding talent in the squad, which has been supplemented by our exciting new additions.”

Paul Kerr, who has made the switch from Belfast Harlequins, will partner Mark Best in a new midfield combination for Ballynahinch. Kyle McCall replaces Claytan Milligan at hooker, and Jack Milligan gets the nod at out-half. Ulster Academy youngster Ethan Graham starts on the right wing.

Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 12, 2022: Terenure College 38 Ballynahinch 21, Lakelands Park; Saturday, February 18, 2023: Ballynahinch 10 Terenure College 8, Ballymacarn Park

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College to win

CORK CONSTITUTION v CITY OF ARMAGH, Temple Hill, 4.45pm (live on Irish Rugby TV)

Preview: City of Armagh head coach Chris Parker says his side will ‘enjoy every moment’ of finally being a top flight club, but they are straight in at the deep end against perennial title contenders Cork Constitution. They did host Con in a 2018 Bateman Cup semi-final, only losing 20-13.

New Zealander Brayden Laing will make his AIL debut for Armagh at out-half. Hooker Jack Treanor commented: “We just need to keep getting better and better every week, just building as much as we can. I think almost everyone in the squad has some sort of connection to Armagh.”

The highly-rated James Taylor has left Highfield to be Cork Con’s new out-half, replacing former captain Aidan Moynihan who has moved to Australia. Flying winger Matthew Bowen is also one to watch, while ex-Young Munster back rower Ronan O’Sullivan will provide impact off the bench.

Recent League Meetings – N/A

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Cork Constitution to win

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