Domestic Club Rugby preview Sat 20th September 2014. By George Millar.

Domestic Club Rugby preview Sat 20th September 2014. By George Millar.

Club competition in Ulster gathers momentum this weekend with the eleven Ulster Senior clubs in action, competing in the four Ulster Bank All Ireland leagues. In the Qualifying leagues we have eight games down for decision in Q 1 and 2 with the outcomes of these fixtures determining the clubs competing for promotion and relegation. Cup competition returns with the Q 3 and 4 clubs competing for the Gordon West Cup. Can current holders Larne retain this Cup.
With the IRFU confirming the new All Ireland league structures for 2015/16 the competiton for the new five ten team league placings at the end of this season will focus the minds of the 52 clubs. Nowhere will the competition be as competitive with the teams fighting it out to retain their place in Div 2A and 2B. Ten teams will battle it out for the top ten placings in 2A. The bottom six teams in Div 2A along with the top four teams in Div 2B will make up the new Div 2B. With two Senior league teams being relegated from Div 2B and the third place team facing a playoff with the Round Robin winners for a place in Div 2B next season every point will count towards clubs retaining their Senior status. Last weekend we witnessed ten home wins for the clubs in Div 1A and 1B. Once again the Leinster clubs look as if they will dominate Div 1A with newly promoted Galwegians and Ballymena confirming their favourites tag for promotion to Div 1A with opening day wins in Div 1B.
In Div 1A Ulster representatives Ballynahinch lost their opening match at Lakelands Park to Terenure College 32 – 20. Coach Derek Suffern will be disappointed his team were over whelmed in the final twenty minutes of this game. His task does not get any easier as they face last seasons runners up Old Belvedere at Ballymacarn Park. With a new look 1st xv, the players will have little time to gel in this competitive league. Captain Harry McAleese knows league points have to be picked up if they are to make the playoffs in their 60th Anniversary season.
Division 1A. Kick off 2.30pm
Ballynahinch v Old Belvedere
Cork Constitution v Landsdowne
Dolphin v Clontarf
St Marys College v Terenure College
Young Munster v UCD
In Div 1B Ulster representatives Ballymena and Malone opened their season with impressive home wins. Belfast Harlequins were unlucky to lose their match at UL Bohemians 22 – 19 to a last minute score. This weekend we have an Ulster derby at Deramore Park with Quins hosting Ballymena. Quins coach Adam Larkin will be looking a win despite the loss of winger Rory Scholes to injury. Ulster players Frank Taggart, Mike McComish and Clive Ross will ensure the breakdown area is keenly contested by both sides. Spectators are sure to witness a highly entertaining fixture with two talented backlines opposing each other. Ballymena coach Andy Graham will want nothing less than a win from his talented squad. Malone make the long journey to Galway to play Corinthians. Two try full back Andy Bryans will be unavailable this weekend.
Div 1B. Kick off 2.30pm
Belfast Harlequins v Ballymena
Buccaneers v Garryowen
Corinthians v Malone
Dublin Uni v UL Bohemians
Shannon v Galwegians
In Div 2A the five Ulster sides Banbridge, Dungannon, Rainey OB, City of Derry and Queens will be targeting promotion along with retaining their place in Div 2A next season. Bann welcome Cashel to Rifle Park for a difficult opening fixture. Coach Daniel Soper picks from a full squad with some difficult selections to be made. Dungannon open their campaign when they welcome Div 2B champions Nenagh Ormond to Stevenson Park. The battle of the forwards will decide the outcome of this match with number 8 James McMahon and scrum half James Bates key players for the County Tyrone side. Rainey OB and City of Derry clash at Hatrick Park in another Ulster derby. The experienced North West side narrowly missed out on promotion last season and with the return of out half Richard McCarter they are expected to be contesting again this season. Rainey Head coach Richard Boyd has been busy bolstering his playing squad in the off season by adding several youngsters including Ross McCloskey and Mark Gordon. The Mid – Ulster side now provide some of the best training and playing facilities in Ireland with new floodlights due to be switched on shortly. With the additional car parking – expect a large crowd to visit the Magherfelt venue on Sat. The students have new coach Bob Young in charge and have considerably strengthened their playing pool for the new season with several members of the Ulster Academy in their squad. Back row Ryan Clarke has been appointed Captain with the Upper Malone road side looking for more consistency this season. They face a difficult opening game away to newly promoted Thomond in Limerick.
Div 2A Kick off 2.30pm
Skerries v Old Wesley Played Friday 19.9.2014 with a 7.30pm kick off.
Banbridge v Cashel RFC
Bective Rangersv Seapoint
Dungannon v Nenagh Ormond
Naas v UCC
NUIM Barnhall v Blackrock College
Rainey OB v City of Derry
Thomond v Queens Uni
In Div 2B Ulster teams Armagh and Ards will have different ambitions this season. Andy Hughes and his squad has been strengthened by the addition of several experienced AIL players. The Armagh side were disappointed to miss out on promotion last season and are expected to be amongst the challengers this season. Again they face a diffcult away match in Limerick against Old Crescent.Ards are struggling with injuries and an inexperienced playing squad. The challenge for Coach Stewart Porter and the County Down side will be to retain their Senior status. They face a trip to play Sligo who like Ards struggled last season in the AIL.
Div 2B Kick off 2.30pm
Boyne v Greystones
Bruff v Highfield
Navan RFC v Kanturk
Old Crescent v Armagh
Richmond v Midleton
Sligo v Ards
Tullamore v DLSP
Wanderers v Sundays Well
In Qualifying League One after the opening two weekends we see the top six sides Instonians, Clogher Valley, Ballyclare, Dromore, Portadown and CIYMS facing each other in three highly entertaining games. Bangor, Donaghadee, Ballymoney and Cooke are still looking for their first wins and meet this weekend. The meeting of Clogher Valley and Portadown at the Cran will attract another large crowd to the County Tyrone venue. Despite missing several players through injury the Fivemiletown side will be looking another win against their nemisis in recent seasons Portadown. At Belmont CIYMS coach Gareth Fry will learn alot about the character of his players when they meet newly promoted Ballyclare. Clare coach Chris Campbell must be pleased with the impact his players have made in Q1. Wilbur Leacock and his Instonians team have inflicted two defeats on fellow promotion challengers Portadown and Bangor in their opening games. Can Graham Cloke and his Dromore side stall their progress. A late sin binning cost his side dearly in their narrow defeat at Ballyclare. With the real possibility of two teams being relegated from Q 1 Donaghadee entertain Cooke at Donaldson Park knowing nothing less than a win will do. They will be missing their two experienced backs, player coach Paul Mckenzie and Captain Nigel Barker. Cooke coach Colin Atkinson also knows what is at stake in this match. Much to the surprise of the other teams in Q 1 Bangor remain without a win and travel to Kilraughts Road to play Ballymoney looking a win to get their season back on track. These two games are potential ten pointers at this stage of the season.
Q 1. Kick off 2.30pm
Ballymoney v Bangor
CIYMS v Ballyclare
Clogher Valley v Portadown
Donaghadee v Cooke
Instonians v Dromore
In Qualifying Two there are three games this weekend with several of the sides harbouring promotion ambitions. Relegated Coleraine open their campaign with a difficult home match against Carrickfergus. The return of several experienced players to Sandel Lodge along with a new coaching team should ensure that Coleraine are competing with Omagh for promotion. Carrick are celebrating their 150th anniversary in 2015 and would like to return to Q1. Promotion favourites Omagh opened their league programme with an emphatic 51 – 12 win at Holywood. They slipped up in their opening game against Grosvenor last season that ultimately cost them promotion. Don’t expect the County Tyrone side to make the same mistake at Mellon Park this weekend. Randalstown will look to bounce back from their narrow 21 – 15 defeat at Academy when they welcome the resurgent Enniskillen side to Nelisbrook. Their Captain Dan Wilson is in his tenth season Captaining the County Antrim team that includes nine players who have come through their successful Youth structure.
Q 2. Kick off 2.30pm
Coleraine v Carrickfergus
Omagh v Grosvenor
Randalstown v Enniskillen

Gordon West Cup. Kick off 2.30pm

Group A
Larne v Ophir
Limavady v BHSFP

Group B
Letterkenny v Strabane
Londonderry YMCA v Donegal Town

Group C
Lurgan v PSNI
Newry v Civil Service

Group D
Virginia v Monaghan
Cavan – no match
Cheers
George