Limerick clubs making return to Ulster Bank League action

It’s the return of club action as the Ulster Bank League gets up and running for the new season.

The first game across all divisions is between Malahide and Bective Ranger in division 2C on Friday night in Estuary Road with all other fixtures commencing the following Saturday with half 2 kick off’s.

Young Munster, who finished highest out of all the Limerick clubs last season, kick off their campaign against UCD at Tom Clifford park. After finishing in third place last year, only losing out on top spot by points difference, they will be hoping for a repeat of  last years league form where they won 11 games out of 18 which culminated in a disappointing semi-final loss to Clontarf on the same weekend as many of their young academy stars were lining out for Munster A’ in the B&I Cup final win over Jersey Reds.

Gearoid Prendergast’s side will be hoping to have Munster academy players such as Gavin Coombes, Calvin Nash and Fineen Wycherly at their disposal for their opening round tie with the Dublin college seeing as Munster will be in Wales to face the Ospreys the same day. A top four finish is what the Greenfield’s side would be hoping for again this yea. With their mix of youth and experience in a squad that has reached the semi-finals for the last three years, it is very much within their capability.

The only other Limerick side in division 1A this year is Garryowen, who just about kept up their 1A status last season after two hard fought play off wins against Old Wesley and UL Bohs respectively. The light blues first game of the season is an away trip up to Dublin to face St. Mary’s this Saturday September 16th where they will be hoping to continue their early pre season form winning games two from two in the Charity Cup earning a final spot against Nenagh.

The Dooradoyle side will be hoping to push on this weekend after high scoring victories over local rivals young Munster and Old Crescent already and will be gunning for a top four spot for the first time in the last few seasons. If early season form is anything to go by, the light bues could be dark horses this season but first and foremost they will be looking to ensure they don’t suffer the same relegation troubles as last year.

UL Bohemians came so close to securing promotion to 1A last season but came up just short at the final hurdle against Garryowen. This season the Annacotty side will be looking to go that step further and make it back to the top division, a place they haven’t been since the 2012/13 season.

Third in last year’s division 1B the University of Limerick side have had a mixed start to their season so far with a Charity cup loss to Nenagh but a win against the same opponent in the Senior cup a couple of weeks later. Bohs’ host Banbridge in their first game of the season on Saturday at Thomond park and Christy Neilan’s side should be looking at the game to put down a marker early on, seeing as Banbridge finished third in 2A last and gained promotion through the play off’s.

The Robins had very good home record last year on the 4g at UL with the fast surface suiting their attacking running game. A repeat of last year’s home form coupled with a squad that will have learned a lot from the last campaign should mean Bohs will be threatening for the top spots again this year and another crack at promotion to 1a.

Shannon RFC, who have such a rich history in the All Ireland Leagues, winning the first division a record nine times, have struggled in recent times in both division 1A and 1B. After a poor start to last year’s campaign, head coach at the time Marcus Horan was let go and former player Tom Hayes joined the backroom team. It seemed to do the trick with the side winning important games in the second half of the season meaning they didn’t have to worry about relegation.

A poor start to this season for Hayes’ men with two losses from two against Nenagh and Cork Constitution, but they can take a lot of solace from the fact they led for most of the game against the Cork side seeing as they are AIL champions and going for an incredible 6th Senior Cup in a row.

Shannon play another Cork side, U.C.C at the Mardyke in their first game of the League and will be hoping to get off to a bright start. A push from promotion in this season’s competition having been out of Irelands top division for the last 5 years is not beyond their reach if they can get off to a solid start and build confidence.

Old Crescent are the next Local side in action this coming weekend when they make the trip up north to face Rainey Old Boys in Derry on Saturday. The Rosbrien side have had a good beginning to their season with an emphatic win over Bruff in the Charity Cup and then followed that up with another impressive victory over Midleton last weekend in the Senior Cup.

Even though they were defeated by a strong Garryowen side in between those two games, their early season form will defitely give Darragh O’Brien and his team huge confidence as they push for a second promotion in three years.

County Limerick outfit, Bruff, have been between division’s 1B and 2C over the last decade but in more recent times have survived in 2C comfortably. A respectable fifth place finish last time round suggests the only Limerick side not from in and around the city could maybe push on this season and go for promotion back to 2A for the first time since the 2013/14 season.

After a poor start to their season against Old Crescent, Bruff made a mends for it when they defeated Sundays Well 24-0 comfortably at Kilballyowen park last weekend in their opening game of the Munster Senior Cup. They play host to Omagh in their first game of the UBL season on Saturday and will be looking for four points against a side who have only just been promoted back to top division rugby after a few years playing as a junior club.

Finally, Thomond take on Sligo at Liam Fitzgerald park on Saturday afternoon in what will be the start of a very important season for James Hickey’s men. After promotion two years ago to division 2A, the Thomondgate side only won one game last season and returning straight back to 2C.

A close 19-15 loss to Bohs in the Charity cup will give the blues some much needed encouragement going into their first weekend of action but they will need to vastly improve on last season’s perfromances if they want to compete in the All Ireland League again next year.

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