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Dublin: 12 °C Tuesday 13 November, 2018
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The cream of Ireland's domestic rugby talent back in action this weekend

Here are the fixtures across the divisions today in the Ulster Bank League.

IRELAND’S DOMESTIC RUGBY leagues swing back into life this weekend with the return of the Ulster Bank League.

Ben Reilly lifts the Ulster Bank League trophy as his team celebrate winning Clontarf are the defending 1A champions. Source: Colm O'Neill/INPHO

Andy Wood’s Clontarf are out to defend their Division 1A title this season, starting today against UCD, while each of the five tiers of the competition promise to be fiercely contested.

The action got underway last night as Terenure were beaten by Trinity in Division 1A.

Below are all of today’s fixtures across the five divisions.

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Division 1A:

Garryowen v Lansdowne

Dooradoyle, Saturday, 2.30pm

Lansdowne ended last season with three defeats on the bounce, falling to seventh in the table. But recent Leinster Senior League Cup wins over Trinity, Clontarf and St. Mary’s suggest they are hitting form.

Winning in Limerick on the opening day would be a serious statement from Mike Ruddock’s men, who are now led by Ireland Club international prop Ian Prendiville.

Mike Ruddock Ruddock will look to mastermind another league success.

Former Ireland star Denis Leamy is Garryowen’s new forwards coach. He will have to quickly plug the back row gaps left by departing captain Josh Hrstich (Japan), Dave Sherry (Old Belvedere) and Nottingham recruits Jordan Coghlan and Shane Buckley.

On the positive side, Munster’s Sam Arnold could be a valuable asset on his comeback from injury.

St. Mary’s College v Cork Constitution

Templeville Road, Saturday, 2.30pm

The murmurs about St. Mary’s have been particularly positive of late, with the Dubliners recruiting very well on their return to Division 1A.

Trinity duo Paddy Lavelle and Nick McCarthy, along with Lansdowne scrum half Paddy O’Driscoll and Cork Con’s own Cathal O’Flaherty, have all made the move to the Templeville Road club.

Paddy Lavelle on the attack Paddy Lavelle has joined St. Mary's. Source: Donall Farmer/INPHO

Constitution, who ran Clontarf close in last May’s memorable final, look in good fettle after a pre-season tour of Canada and local cup wins over UCC [34-3] and UL Bohemians [31-6].

UCD v Clontarf

Belfield Bowl, Saturday, 2.30pm

Clontarf begin their title defence with a repeat of their 2015/16 opener which ended in a 24-16 victory for them at Belfield. They do so without two star names – Mick McGrath, who is currently on trial with Leicester Tigers, and Joey Carbery, who is making waves with Leinster.

Two more defeats followed for UCD last term against ‘Tarf, including April’s semi-final loss, so they certainly owe the north Dubliners one.

James Ryan dejected James Ryan has joined UCD. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

Andy Skehan heads up the students’ newly-appointed coaching team, who oversaw a galvanising tour of South Africa and an unsuccessful Leinster Senior League Cup defence. Ireland U20 captain James Ryan is a fine recruit from Lansdowne.

Young Munster v Old Belvedere

Tom Clifford Park, Saturday, 2.30pm

Beaten semi-finalists last April, Young Munster have a new head coach in Gearoid Prendergast. Talented second row Sean Duggan captains a side missing the newly England-based Gearoid Lyons and Ben Betts.

Gavin Coombes Young Munster back row Gavin Coombes is one to watch out for. Source: Ryan Byrne/INPHO

The Cookies’ summer recruits include Munster’s Cian Bohane, recent Ireland U20 cap Dan Walsh and Shannon’s Shane Airey, while Garryowen pair Dave Sherry and James McInerney have left Limerick for Old Belvedere.

‘Belvo went unbeaten through their Leinster Senior League Cup pool, with out-half Willie Staunton and their scrum showing well. Blackrock back Sean Coughlan is another notable newcomer.

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Division 1B:

Ballynahinch v Buccaneers

Ballymacarn Park, Saturday, 2.30pm

Buccaneers return to the scene of their Division 1A relegation/promotion play-off defeat last April. They will look to right the wrongs of that 41-19 reversal, marshalled by captain Kolo Kiripati, who helped them recently retain their Connacht Senior League crown.

Stevie Mullholand in action with Kolo Kiripati Buccs' captain Kolo Kiripati. Source: Presseye/Matt Mackey/INPHO

Ballynahinch were on the lookout for a new head coach, but Derek Suffern remains in place as they bid to bounce straight back to the top flight.

Steve Macauley and Jerry Cronin return to the club, while Paul Pritchard, last year’s captain who has moved to Old Belvedere, David McGuigan [knee reconstruction] and the retired Adam Craig head up ‘Hinch’s list of absentees.

Dolphin v UL Bohemians

Irish Independent Park, Saturday, 2.30pm

New Dolphin head coach David Corkery, aided by Denis Hurley, is aiming to put in improved structures and ‘consolidate’ the club’s position in Division 1B this season.

George Murray Munster performance analyst George Murray is part of the Bohs coaching ticket. Source: Cathal Noonan/INPHO

Equally, there is a fresh look to UL Bohemians. Former forwards coach Christy Neilan is now head coach and the squad, bolstered by returning ex-captain Ed Kelly, have moved base into the University campus. “The facilities are second to none and it’s very exciting for the club going forward,” said Neilan.

Dolphin and Bohs were both knocked out of the Munster Senior Cup last week, losing to Highfield and Cork Con respectively, so this league opener could be a real dogfight.

Naas v Galwegians

Forenaughts, Saturday, 2.30pm

A huge day for Naas as they entertain Galwegians in their opening Division 1B fixture, and a moment to savour for their player-coach Johne Murphy.

Murphy, who has recruited his old school friend Fionn Carr fresh from the professional ranks, said: “It’s a balancing act for us, now that we are up among the top 20 teams in the country. We want to do as well as possible but we must continue to have that club/community feel about it.”

Fionn Carr gets past Peter Kimlin Fionn Carr is now with Naas. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Former second row Brian McClearn has taken up the coaching reins at Galwegians, who fielded a tasty half-back pairing of Rory Parata and Conor Lowndes against Buccs recently.

Shannon v Ballymena

Thomond Park back pitch, Saturday, 2.30pm

Entering his second season in charge of Shannon, Marcus Horan now has former captain Tom Hayes involved as lineout/defence coach. Another familiar face, ex-international prop Tony Buckley, is part of the wider squad, while new lock Riley Winter, who played for Australia Under-20s in 2015, could make a big impact.

Tony Buckley Tony Buckley is part of Shannon's squad. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO

Andy Graham’s Ballymena finished third last season, well behind the leading two, but they have enough squad depth to push again for promotion.

Among their Ulster allocation are promising young forwards Matthew Rea, Michael Lagan and Adam McBurney, with Graham stating: “On paper we’ve a very strong squad – not many guys that are over the age of 25 – and if we can get it together, it will be an exciting season. The players are hungry to do well.”

UCC v Old Wesley

The Mardyke, Saturday, 2.30pm

UCC warmed up for their first league tie by beating Bruff 42-24 in the Munster Senior Cup, with full-back Chris McAuliffe scoring two of their six tries.

Rising up from Division 2A, the Cork youngsters won seven of their nine home games in 2015/16. Their form at the Mardyke could be vital as the year progresses.

Adam Griggs Adam Griggs will tog out for Old Wesley this season. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Lansdowne scrum half Adam Griggs has joined Old Wesley as backs coach, and new captain Darren Horan wants the Donnybrook dwellers to use the ‘invaluable experience’ of missing out on the play-offs last season to drive them on.

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 Divison 2A:

Banbridge v Sundays Well

Rifle Park, Saturday, 2.30pm

Belfast Harlequins v Nenagh Ormond

Deramore Park, Saturday, 2.30pm

Blackrock College v Galway Corinthians

Stradbrook, Saturday, 2.30pm

Cashel v Malone

Spafield, Saturday, 2.30pm

Highfield v Queen’s University

Woodleigh Park, Saturday, 2.30pm

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 Divison 2B:

Bective Rangers v Armagh

Donnybrook, Saturday, 2.30pm

City of Derry v Skerries

Judge’s Road, Saturday, 2.30pm

Dungannon v MU Barnhall

Stevenson Park, Saturday, 2.30pm

Old Crescent v Greystones

Rosbrien, Saturday, 2.30pm

Wanderers v Thomond

Aviva Stadium, Saturday, 2.30pm

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 Divison 2C:

Bangor v Rainey

Upritchard Park, Saturday, 2.30pm

Boyne v Bruff

Shamrock Lodge, Saturday, 2.30pm

Midleton v Kanturk

Towns Park, Saturday, 2.30pm

Seapoint v Tullamore

Kilbogget Park, Saturday, 2.30pm

Sligo v Navan

Hamilton Park, Saturday, 2.30pm

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