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Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 2B: Round 1 Previews

Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 2B: Round 1 Previews

Skerries and Instonians were the top two finishers in Division 2C last season, winning promotion through the play-offs and as table toppers respectively ©INPHO/Phil Magowan

Promoted clubs Skerries and Instonians meet in the opening round of Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 2B. Three of Saturday’s matches are in Ulster, as Belfast Harlequins, Dungannon and Rainey Old Boys all start on home soil.


Saturday, October 7

Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –


Hard to judge Belfast Harlequins off their early season results, the highlight of which was a 39-19 Ulster Premiership Division 2 win over Bangor. Anthony McKibbin is their new director of rugby, and there has been a good deal of player turnover at Deramore Park.

New Zealander Cole Blyde is a new addition to ‘Quins back row ranks, while Ulster Development players Conor Neary, Henry Boyle and Ollie Smyth, and Tom McAllister, the province’s Under-19 captain, have also been brought in.

Malahide were unbeaten against ‘Quins last season, drawing 19-all in Belfast and winning their home game, 12-7. Ray Monaghan’s men, led by prop Reece O’Connell, bring momentum into the AIL campaign, having beaten Blackrock College 21-15 in the Leinster Senior League.


This is Dungannon’s 150th season in existence and they will be doing their utmost to mark it with success on the field. Beaten play-off finalists last season, Jonny Gillespie’s charges have solid foundations to build on with most of the squad back for more.

Ben McCaughey, Andrew McGregor, Sean O’Hagan, James McMahon and Stephen Todd will be key players as ‘Gannon look to compete again at the business end of the table. Visitors Dolphin also have promotion on their minds after dropping down from Division 2A.

Brian Scott’s second season at Dolphin’s helm saw them finish bottom of the third tier. Their new coaching team is led by Steve Ford, the director of coaching, and senior coach Eamonn Mills. AIL centurion Daryl Foley makes their attack tick from scrum half.


Galway Corinthians welcome Wanderers to Cloonacauneen, with Connacht Academy duo Sean Naughton and Matthew Devine starting together at half-back. Grellan Murray, John Claffey and Mark Boyle, the reigning Connacht Senior Club Player of the Year, make up a strong back row trio.

Former Ireland Sevens international Mick McGrath, who starts at inside centre, and ex-Old Crescent flyer Val McDermott stand out in Wanderers’ backs division. Kiwi recruit Popoai Finau, a Northland Development player, is an exciting addition, packing down at number 8.

Corinthians will be determined to turn over the Chaps, especially after losing twice to them last season (35-31 at Merrion Road and 20-7 at home). The Galway side have Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam-winning prop Fiachna Barrett to come off the bench tomorrow.


The 2022/23 season was one of ‘what ifs’ for Rainey Old Boys who, with six losing bonus points, finished just a point behind fourth-placed Sligo. Daniel O’Neill captains Rainey from hooker, backed by former Ulster prop Tommy O’Hagan, and brothers Michael and Ronan McCusker.

Having fallen at the semi-final hurdle in April, Sligo are back to mount another bid for promotion. Paddy Pearson’s men recently lifted the Connacht Senior League title for only the second time in the club’s history, and tested themselves against Terenure College in the Energia Bateman Cup.

Their performance in a 33-15 defeat to ‘Nure suggested that Sligo belong at a higher level. This is a significant test first up for young captain Matthew Earley and his team-mates. Promising number 8 Ambrose Bamber, an Ireland Under-18 Clubs international last year, played for Connacht Eagles recently.


A massive day for these two clubs who will be looking to lay down a marker after both coming up from Division 2C. Under director of rugby Derek O’Sullivan, Skerries have appointed Johnny Tyndall as their new head coach, with Marc Hewitt, John Waters and Ross McAuley also involved.

Instonians’ savvy summer recruitment has seen them bring in two more Whitten brothers, former Ulster, Exeter Chiefs and Ireland centre Ian and recent Queen’s University captain David, the 2022/23 Division 2A Player of the Season. Ritchie McMaster has also switched across from the students.

Player coaches Paul Pritchard and Schalk van der Merwe both start up front for Inst, who have all four Whitten brothers in their matchday squad – Rob captains from the second row and Alan is on the bench. The Belfast side won 43-7 on their last visit to Holmpatrick a year ago.

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