Final preparations are completed this weekend for Senior and Qualifying one clubs with the commencement of the Ulster Senior league and Qualifying One league programmes on Sat 30th August. Clubs have been engaged in friendlies over the last two weeks to prepare their 1st xv squads for a long and arduous season. Changes are being proposed to the present AIL structure for the season 2015/16 with a working party in Ulster consisting of Senior and Qualifying clubs reviewing the present league and Cup competitions in the province. It is anticipated their recommendations will be published in October. Having watched several friendlies in recent weeks the support for club rugby is very much in an upward trend with encouraging crowds in attendance. This weekend the action continues at Mullaghmeen with a local derby between Enniskillen and Clogher Valley on Friday evening with a 7.30pm ko. Both sides were in action last weekend with Enniskillen recording a 29 – 21 win over Ballymoney and Clogher losing 15-10 at Rainey.
On Sat the matches continue with CIYMS travelling to Ballymacarn Park to take on Ballynahinch seconds with a 1pm ko. The Belmont side have introduced several new players to their playing squad and were unlucky to lose at Hamilton Park against Ards 12 – 7 last Friday night. Malone seconds entertain Dundalk firsts at Gibson Park. ko 1pm. Academy welcome neighbours Ophir to Roughfort Park with both sides building for a strong showing in Q 2 and Q 3 this season. Ards continue their busy pre season programme, when they play Cooke at Hamilton Park with a 2.30pm ko. Both club 1st xv sides will require strong starts to their league campaigns in AIL Div 2B and Q 1 such is the level of competition in their leagues. Ballymena welcome well known Scottish club side Hawick to Eaton Park for a 2.30pm ko. After their 25 – 18 win over City of Derry last Sat, coach Andy Graham will welcome this competitive match as his team open their Ulster Senior league programme at Ballynahinch the following weekend. Dungannon continue their preparations with an intriguing game at Stevenson Park against the much fancied Bangor team with a 2.30pm ko. Carrick welcome Donaghadee with a 2.30pm ko. In their last outing Carrick recorded a 21 – 21 draw against a strong CIYMS squad. Donaghadee lost 28 – 10 at Queens on wednesday night with the outcome in doubt until the final quarter. Instonians coach Wilbur Leacock will look for a confidence boosting performance from his squad after they conceded eight tries in their heavy defeat at home to Banbridge last Friday night. They entertain high flying Grosvenor who have strengthened their playing squad over the summer under the guidance of new coach Alaistair McKee. Kick off at Shawsbridge is 2.30pm. There is an Orchard County derby at Chambers Park with Portadown playing Armagh. ko 2.30pm. The Armagh side have returned from a successful two match trip to France. New coach Chris Campbell will have the opportunity to see his Ballyclare charges perform when they take on relegated Coleraine at Cloughan. ko 3pm. With a new coaching team in place at Sandel both sets of coaches will look a strong performance from their squads. The big match of the day is the contest between Banbridge and Ballynahinch at Rifle Park with a 4pm ko. This derby will see the official opening of the Bann’s new 1st xv pitch. IRFU president Mr Louis Magee will be in attendance along with local hero Ulster, Ireland and British Lions star Rory Best. Both clubs will bring out their supporters in numbers to mark this special occasion.
Limavady rugby club host their successful 15 x side tournament at the John Hunter Memorial grounds with the action kicking off at 12 noon. Teams taking part are Limavady, Omagh, Civil Service, UUC, Ballymena seconds and visitors Castlebar.
By George Millar