Colm Kinsella looks at the strange fixture schedule in the AIL in his weekly online column
THE second round of Ulster Bank All-Ireland League games take place this weekend, but you would be forgiven if you didn’t notice.
Such is the hype around Ireland reaching the quarter-final of the Rugby World Cup in New Zealand and with Munster facing the Ospreys in a top-of-the-table RaboDirect PRO12 tie at Thomond Park, also on Saturday, the domestic game will take a back seat this weekend.
The fixture makers - in their wisdom - opted to have all three Limerick sides competing in Division 1A of the AIL play at home last weekend. And, as a result, Garryowen, Shannon and Young Munster, are all on the road this this Saturday.
There was a time when the meeting of fierce Munster rivals Cork Constitution and Shannon in the AIL would capture all the rugby headlines on a weekend, but not this time. Garryowen travel to Anglesea Road to face AIL champions Old Belvedere, while Young Munster are also in Dublin to take on Clontarf at Castle Avenue.
Had even one of the top flight Limerick sides been drawn at home, then there was an opportunity for rugby fans to attend a top Division AIL match before heading to Thomond Park to watch Munster later in the evening. The domestic club games needs all the support it can get at a time when many clubs are struggling financially. The advent of the British and Irish Cup in recent seasons has also taken a degree of the limelight away from the AIL with the province’s top young players all aspiring to play for their ‘A’ side. Before that competition starts for the Irish province’s later in the autumn, it would be good to think that the AIL would be able to enjoy its time in the shop window. But that is not the case at present.
Hopefully, the remaining four Limerick sides competing in the AIL - who are all playing at home on Saturday - might welcome a few more extra bodies through their gates as a result of the three Division 1A sides playing away.
In 1B, UL-Bohemian host Dungannon at Annacotty, while Bruff face Galwegians at Kilballyowen Park. In Division 2A, Old Crescent, boosted by their encouraging draw away to Old Wesley, take on Midleton at Rosbrien, while Thomond will be hoping that home advantage can again propel them to victory over Old Wesley at Liam Fitzgerald Park.
Away from home
Talented Limerick flanker Barry O’Mahony, who previously played with Dolphin, made a successful start to his AIL career with Clontarf at the weekend when bagging a crucial try in the Dubliners 30-6 victory over Blackrock College. O’Mahony’s Clontarf face Young Munster on Saturday in a fascinating round two clash. Barry’s younger brother Ronan will also be playing in the AIL in Dublin this weekend as Garryowen lock horns with holders Old Belvedere at Anglesea Road.
Conor Murray played a number of games for Garryowen in the AIL and Munster Senior Cup last season and this Saturday he lines out at scrum-half when Ireland face Wales in the quarter-finals of the World Cup in Wellington. Meteoric doesn’t even do justice to his rise through the ranks. How many players competing in the AIL this weekend will be involved in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, I wonder?
It will be interesting to see how clubs deal with the advent of rolling substitutions in the Ulster Bank All-Ireland League this season. Coaches will be faced with trying to perform a fine balancing act between introducing fresh legs when required and making sure that those changes don’t unduly disrupt the side’s performance.