AT the end of the current Ulster Bank League season, the competition will undergo significant restructuring with the existing four divisions being remodelled into five divisions of 10 clubs each for 2015/2016.
Instead of the current structure where Divisions 1A and 1B consists of 10 teams each and Divisions 2A and 2B both have 16 teams, for the 2015/16 season there will be five Ulster Bank League divisions of 10 teams.
Divisions 1A and 1B will also consists of 10 clubs, while Divisions 2A and 2B, together with a new division,2C will also consists of 10 sides. Below is an outline of just how that new structure will be achieved.
THE top four clubs in Division 1A following the completion of the 2014/15 regular league season will qualify for play-offs with the play-off winners contesting the Division 1A final at the Aviva Stadium on Saturday, May 9.
The bottom club at the end of the regular league season will be relegated to Division 1B. The second bottom club will play off against the second-placed club in Division 1B.
The top club in Division 1B following the completion of the regular league season will be promoted to 1A. The second-placed club will play off against the second bottom club from Division 1A.
The top two clubs from 2A will be promoted to 1B with the bottom two clubs from Division 1B relegated to Division 2A.
THE top two clubs in Division 2A following the completion of the regular league season will be promoted to 1B. The clubs ranked 3-10 at the end of the regular league season will form 2A along with the two clubs relegated from 1B. Clubs placed 11-16 in Division 2A at the end of the regular league season will form Division 2B for the 2015/16 season with the top four ranked clubs in Division 2B at the end of the 2014/15 regular league season.
The top four ranked clubs in Division 2B following the completion of the 2014/15 regular league season will form Division 2B for the 2015/16 season with the clubs placed 11-16 in Division 2A at the end of the 2014/15 regular league season.
The clubs ranked 5-13 in Division 2B at the end of the 2014/15 regular league season will form Division 2C with the winners of the play-off game between the 14th-ranked club in Division 2B and the winners of the Provincial Qualifying League Championship. The bottom two clubs in Division 2B will be relegated from the Ulster Bank League.
WITH five rounds of regular season fixtures to come, Limerick’s eight All-Ireland League sides have much to play for when the competition resumes on the weekend of Saturday, February 21.
Last five games: Cork Con (home), Dolphin (home), UCD (away), St Mary’s College (home), Lansdowne (home)
Story so Far: Made a fine start and looked a good bet to secure a top four play-off spot. However, a disappointing run of just one win in their last seven outings has seen Munsters’ drop to eighth-place in the table, hovering just above the drop zone.
Prospects: Munsters’ season can still go in one of two very different directions over the final third. The Greenfields side is just two points above St Mary’s, who occupy the relegation play-off spot and eight points ahead of Dolphin who are bottom in 1A.
Despite their disappointing recent run, Munsters’ are seven points off the semi-final play-off positions, the last one of which is occupied by Cork Con who are Munsters’ next opponents.
With four of their five remaining fixtures at home, Munsters’ look well-placed to avoid getting caught up in the relegation battle. But they are also more likely than not to miss out on the top four.
Last five games: Dublin University (away), UL-Bohemian (home), Ballymena (away), Malone (home), Galwegians (away)
Story so Far: Have won an impressive 10 of their 13 league fixtures to date in a fiercely competitive division. Garryowen are one point off leaders Galwegians and two ahead of the joint third-placed teams in 1B.
Prospects: The ‘light blues’ are well-placed to maintain their strong promotion push through the final third of the season. However, they face a number of tricky fixtures, including their next outing away to Dublin University on February 21. Their last fixture is away to table toppers ‘Wegians. The top side is promoted automatically with the second placed team playing off against the second from bottom side in 1A.
Last five games: Belfast Harlequins (away), Dublin University (home), UL-Bohemian (away), Ballymena (home), Malone (away)
Story so Far: Shannon have won five times in the AIL this season and currently lie in sixth place in the table. Last weekend’s win over Corinthians saw the Parish side move six points clear of bottom place and five points clear of second from bottom. The bottom two sides face automatic relegation to 2A next season.
Prospects:The importance of last weekend’s win over Corinthians in terms of Shannon’s survival hopes cannot be overstated. Having won just one of their opening six fixtures, Ian Sherwin’s side have come back strongly to win three of their last five fixtures. Shannon are not safe yet in 1B, but they look to be getting there.
Last five games: Malone (home), Garryowen (away), Shannon (home), Buccaneers (away), Corinthians (home).
Story so Far: Few would have envisaged UL-Bohs being bottom of the table at this stage after the Annacotty side won their opening two fixtures in 1B. UL-Bohs have just won three of their 13 fixtures and are lying bottom of the table. However, the Rede, Red Robins sit just one point off second-from-bottom Corinthians who they face on the last day of the regular season and are just two points behind eighth-placed Malone. If UL-Bohs’ finish ahead of these sides they will be safe.
Prospects: Their remaining local derbies against Garryowen on February 27 and Shannon seven days later could well hold the key to UL-Bohs survival hopes. Three of their remaining five fixtures are at home. Colm Tucker’s side desperately need to get back to winning ways next time out against Malone.
Last five games: UCC (home), NUIM Barnhall (away), Rainey OB (home), Bective Rangers )away), Naas (home).
Story so Far: Thomond made a fine start to life in 2A following their promotion from 2B at the end of last season. The ‘royal blues’ won three of their opening five fixtures and lost those other two games by two points or less. Since then, the Fitzgerald Park side has struggled to find consistency and currently sit in eighth place in the table with five wins and five defeats.
Prospects: Thomond’s ambition now will be to remain in Division 2A in the restructured AIL for next season. Clubs placed between third and tenth in 2A at the end of the season will form 2A along with the two clubs relegated from 1B. Thomond look a good bet to retain their 2A status.
Last five games: Midleton (home), Armagh (away), Kanturk (home), Greystones (away), Boyne (home)
Story so Far: Relegated from 2A at the end of last season, Bruff have performed well in 2B, losing just three of their 10 fixtures to date. The Kilballyowen side currently lie in a comfortable seventh place in the table, third points behind fourth-placed Sunday’s Well.
Prospects: The top four The top four ranked clubs in 2B after the regular league season will be part of Division 2B for next season. Clubs ranked 5-13 in Division 2B will be part of a new Division 2C. Bruff are three points off fourth, so a lot to play for in their remaining games if they hope to remain in 2B
Last five games: Ards (home), Kanturk (away), Greystones (home), Boyne (away), Navan (home)
sTORY SO FAR: After a slow start to the campaign, Old Crescent have won three of their last four fixtures and currently sit in eighth place in the table. Picked up a losing bonus point last time out against Bruff.
Prospects: Old Crescent’s ambitions for the rest of the season will be similar to Bruff’s - finish in the top four to ensure their place in 2A next season. The Rosbrien side currently sit six points off fourth spot. A tall order to make up the ground, but possible.
Last five games: Sunday’s Well (home), Ards (away), Highfield (home), Armagh (away), Kanturk (home)
Story so Far: Richmond have found life in Division 2B tough going this season. The side has recorded just one win and one draw in their 10 League fixtures to date. Last weekend’s defeat to 14th-placed Boyne was a major blow to their AIL survival hopes.
Prospects: The bottom two clubs in Division 2B will be relegated from the Ulster Bank League at the end of the regular season. Richmond are currently six points off safety - effectively seven when points difference is taken into account. It will take a huge effort to turn things round.