All Ireland League Captains at this season's launch
THE Ulster Bank League recommences this Saturday for Limerick’s seven senior rugby clubs as the final three series of fixtures prior to the Christmas and New Year’s get underway.
In Division 1A, beaten Limerick Charity Cup finalists Garryowen face a trip to College Park to face Dublin University at 2pm.
Garryowen sit in fourth place in the top flight table on the back of a hard-earned 6-3 derby victory over Young Munster in their most recent AIL outing.
Also in the top flight this Saturday, seventh-placed Young Munster host fifth-placed Clontarf at Clifford Park, 2.30pm.
The Greenfields side sit four points off the play-off places with seven series of regular season fixtures now complete.
In Division 1B, leaders Shannon will be anxious to bounce back to winning ways when hosting Ballymena on the back pitch at Thomond Park.
Shannon’s sixth game winning start to the season was abruptly halted by Naas in their most recent league outing.
Tom Hayes’ side enjoy a three point lead over second-placed Ballynahinch, while Shannon are four points clear of Banbridge.
The All-Ireland League’s most successful club have averaged 29 points in each of their seven league fixtures this term, while they have conceded just 13.
Also in Division 1B this Saturday, struggling UL-Bohemian will be desperate to claim just their second win of the campaign when travelling to basement side Dolphin.
UL-Bohs currently sit just four points ahead of their Cork hosts.
Meanwhile, in Division 2B, high-flying Old Crescent, one of only two clubs in the entire five divisions of the Ulster Bank League to have won each of their opening seven AIL fixtures to date, make the long trip to bottom side Belfast Harlequins.
Crescent currently enjoy a three-point lead over second-placed Rainey Old Boys in the Division 2B table.
The Rosbrien side are a whopping 29 point ahead of basement side ‘Quins in the table. Free-scoring Crescent have scored 34 points per outing on average this league season, while they have also picked up four try bonus points.
Meanwhile, in Division 2C, second-placed Thomond host Ulster side Omagh at Liam Fitzgerald Park. Thomond, with five wins from their seven league outings this term, are four points behind pacesetters Sligo.
Thomond are six points clear of third placed Omagh following their hard fought derby victory away to Bruff in their last league outing.
However, with only four points separating the clubs occupying third to sixth places in the 2C table, it remains a fiercely competitive division.
Also in Division 2C on Saturday, fourth-placed Bruff travel to Dublin to face Malahide at 2pm.
Bruff are 10 points behind leaders Sligo in the table.
The South Limerick side boast the meanest defence in 2C this season, conceding the lowest number of points per game ahead of their trip to Estuary Road.
Garryowen, who have won four of their seven games to date this season in Division 1A, lie 11 points behind table toppers Lansdowne.
Following Saturday’s trip to the capital to face Dublin University, the ‘Light Blues’ will take on Cork Con on three successive weekends, in the Ulster Bank League and a Munster Senior Cup semi-final.
Garryowen will look to bounce back from their shock defeat to first-time winners Nenagh in the Limerick Charity Cup final at the Markets Field on Friday night last when locking horns with the Dublin students this weekend.
Garryowen did field a largely experimental side for that final showdown with Nenagh and their line-up is set to be more experienced this weekend as the Ulster Bank League resumes.
Head coach Conan Doyle said: “We have to make sure we learn from the defeat to Nenagh and make sure that we get a better performance when there are different combinations.
”It’s natural that it happens. Over the next few weekends we have Munster A games coming up – two rounds of the British and Irish Cup – exams for guys in college on Saturday as well, we have to deal with all of that.
”It is important that when guys do come in, we are ready for it.
”The Nenagh game was a really good one to have with a view to the games that lie ahead in the coming weeks. It allowed us to give guys runs that we will see now over the next few weeks.
”It is important that we make sure that we get as much out of these games as we can. We are in the top four at the moment and we want to make sure we are there at Christmas.
”We have some tough games coming up. Trinity are on a role at the moment and they are up next for us on Saturday. That is the important one for us and what we are focusing on.”
Garryowen were also in the top four play-off places at Christmas time last season, but ended up getting caught up in the relegation battle.
“I think there is a lot of learning to take out of last season from our point of view.
”We need to make sure that we need to keep our form going the whole way throughout the season and unfortunately last season it was difficult for us at times because we were losing a lot of senior guys to Munster and Irish U-20s around the time of the 6 Nations.
”Our big learning from last year is that we have got a few more senior bodies in our squad and hopefully we won’t be as affected as much during that time.
”But most importantly for now is the game next week. That is what we are doing at the moment, taking it game by game.”
For more see www.limerickleader.ie all weekend.