Dungannon Rugby Club

Dungannon Rugby Club title=

Domestic Rugby Review


Domestic Rugby Review

Buccaneers v Lansdowne
Cork Constitution v Clontarf
Dublin Uni v Terenure College
St Mary’s College v Garryowen
Young Munster v UCD

Dolphin v Naas
Old Belvedere v Ballynahinch
Old Wesley v Ballymena
UCC v Shannon
UL Bohemians v Banbridge

Ballynahinch v Old Belvedere
Two teams with two new Head coaches in Brian McLaughlin (Rugby Consultant) at Ballynahinch and former Irish Head coach Eddie O’Sullivan taking charge at Old Belvedere. Brian worked as Skills coach under Ireland Head coach Eddie O’Sullivan between 2005 – 8. Both teams are in transition with Eddie O’Sullivan looking to revive the fortunes of Old Belvedere after they were relegated from Div 1A in 2016/17 with Ballynahinch relegated from Div 1A in 2015/16. It was a nervy finish to last season for Ballynahinch as they held on to their league place in Div 1B by three points from 9th place Dolphin.

Brian Mclaughlin loves a challenge and he has demonstrated what can be achieved by turning around the fortunes of City of Armagh RFC in two seasons. What can he achieve in his first season at Ballynahinch. Priority has been to strengthen the playing squad with a number of new players coming into the club this season. Early season results would show there is much work to be done. Neighbours Banbridge have joined Ballynahinch and Ballymena in DIV 1A this season. Can anyone of these three clubs take the next step and move up to Div 1A next season.

Talking to Ballynahinch Club Chairman Phillip Gregg there has been a new focus from everybody within the club to re establish Ballynahinch 1st xv as the number one team in Ulster. 34 new players have joined the club in the close season. He regards this season as a building year for the club. There are areas of the 1st xv squad the club needs to strengthen to compete at the highest level in Irish club rugby. The goal for Ballynahinch is to have a stronger squad in place than the squad that was relegated from Div 1A.

In Backs coach Tom Rock they have a level 4/5 coach who has played and coached at national level in the club game in England. His experience will be invaluable as a player coach in the centre for the 1st xv. We may ask where his NI connection comes from. His wife is from Groomsport and played rugby for the Ulster Ladies.

Former 1st xv player Harry McAleese has taken over as Director of Rugby at the club. He has been very proactive in ensuring that all sections of the club meet monthly from Mini, Youth, Adult including ladies to keep progressing the aims of the club. Former 1st xv Director of Rugby Ronnie Duncan has taken on a management role with the 1st xv assisted by Michael Preston in looking after logistics.

The 1st xv coaching team for 2017/18 includes Brian McLaughlin (Rugby Consultant), Tom Rock (Backs coach), Glen Kyle (Strengthening and Conditioning coach) along with former Ulster Hooker Nigel Brady who will work with the clubs front five forwards. Chairman Gregg is complimentary about the work done by Glen Kyle in improving the players fitness levels in preparation for the new season.

This will be a particularly emotional weekend for all members at Ballynahinch Rugby Club with it being five years from the death of popular club player Nevin Spence on the 15th September 2012 who died so tragically in a farm accident alongside his brother Graham and father Noel. The club has and continues to maintain its strong family ties with the Spence family. I always find the interview conducted by Ivan Little with sister Emma who survived this tragedy in the Belfast Telegraph on April 1st 2016 so moving. It is heart wrenching to read and the strength she has gained from her passion for Art to support her family. Ulster Rugby in memory of Nevin have published a very moving tribute to Nevin Spence on the Ulster Rugby website to mark the 5th Annivesary of his untimely passing. My memories of Nevin are that wonderful photograph of him scoring that try against Bath in the snow at the Rec in the European Cup on the 18.12.2010.

For the opening AIL match in Dublin at Anglesa Road the Ballynahinch coaches have still to finalise their squad. Incoming club Captain James Simpson has picked up a long term knee injury which is a big early season blow to the team. Ulster player releases include Peter Browne, Jack Regan, Aaron Cairns, David Busby, Zac McCall and Johnny ‘Mo’ Simpson that will strengthen the 1st xv this week. Ulster under 20 star Aaron Hall has not been released as he is in camp with the Ireland under 20 squad this week. John Donnan is expected to start in the second row with Pete Brown. ‘Mo’ Simpson and Zac McCall will start in the front row with new additions Campbell Classons and Zac Cinnamond coming into consideration. New signings Ollie Loughead, Matthew McKelvey and Zac Ward have impressed in their pursuit of a starting place during the pre season. With out half Jonny McPhillips not available New Zealand out half Tim Cousins from Dunedin will take his place with Aaron Cairns at scrum half. Players in contention for a starting place in the centre include Callum McLaughlin, Rory Butler and Stuart Morrow. One welcome return to the squad is Richard Reaney who missed last season through injury. He has performed well on the wing and is expected to be joined by David Busby and Conor Kelly in the back three. Scrum half Rhys O’Donnell who scored two crucial late tries for Ballynahinch seconds in their narrow 32 – 28 at Larne in the Junior Cup is another player expected to come into consideration for this weekend.

Ballymena v Old Wesley
Head coach Andy Graham was disappointed with the performance of his team in the first half of their Ulster Premiership match against Armagh at Eaton Park last Saturday. The team allowed the visitors to build up a substantial halftime lead before the players responded in losing 38 – 27. The coach was particularly annoyed by the mistakes made in the 1st half that allowed Armagh into the game. In the second half the players got to grips with the Armagh team and restricted them to one score. For the coaches games like this are all about trying out different combinations and plays.
What was pleasing for the coach was the opportunity for young players like Dean Reynolds, Michael Stronge, Joe Thompson, Josh Bill, Tim Savoury and Ulster Academy player Matty Agnew to experience rugby at this level. With experienced players like Stephen Mulholland, Adrian Hamilton and Rodger McBurney unavailable this was a window for young players to push for a place in the teams AIL squad.. The experienced Alan Smyth and David O’Hara are two players the coach has welcomed back into his 1st xv squad. I now understand that Michael Stronge and Matty Agnew will not be released this week as they are in Camp with the Ireland under 20 squad.

Five players have been released by Ulster including Callum Patterson, Brett Herron, David Shanahan, Clive Ross and Adam McBurney for this weekend.

For the opening AIL match against Old Wesley at Donnybrook the Head coach is hoping to select the following squad subject to a number of late fitness tests on Callum Patterson, Stephen Mulholland, David Whann and Connor Smyth: 1. Ingnatio Crespo, 2. Adam McBurney, 3.Chris Cundell, 4. Connor Smyth, 5. David Whann, 6. Stephen Mulholland, 7. Clive Ross, 8. Adrian Hamilton, 9. David Shanahan, 10. Brett Herron, 11. Jonny Rossborough, 12. Glenn Baillie, 13. Callum Patterson, 14. Matthew Norris, 15. Rodger McBurney. 16. Josh Bill, 17. Tim Savoury, 18. Matty Agnew, 19. Mark Foster, 20. Michael Stronge.

Players including Dean Reynolds, Willy McKay, Joe Thompson, Alan Smyth, James Gallagher and Andrew Cundell are on standby. Both James Beattie and Matthew Harkness remain long term injuries.

Both Matty Agnew and Michael Stronge have been in camp this week training with the Irish Under 20 squad.
The coach wants his players to start off the game against Old Wesley in the way they played the second half against Armagh. It is all about the team playing tight and imposing themselves on their opponents.. Both teams have a dynamic pack of forwards with the artificial pitch lending itself to an open game. The first match is always tough as both teams look for a win.

Banbridge v UL Bohemians
Head coach Daniel Soper viewed the narrow Ulster premiership defeat Banbridge suffered at Ballynahinch last Sat as a good test and a measure of where his squad are in preparation for their opening AIL game in Limerick this week. The match highlighted areas in which the team were good and must ensure these remain dominant.

The team have got into Div 1B of the All Ireland League on the back of a small squad without any Ulster players and it will be how these players step up which will dictate their success. In saying that the coaches and players have been very keen to include the players they have in the squad. We are delighted the players who have chosen to join Banbridge are excellent players and have been great to have at training. Selection wise Eric O’Sullivan, Nick Timoney and Tom Ceasar will make their first starts.

Unfortunately Captain Adam Ervine is ruled out for a number of weeks after breaking a bone in his hand in only his second game back following breaking his thumb on the same hand in the final game last season. Injuries rule out Kallan Martin, Josh Cromie, John Porter and Conor Field.

Other Ulster and Academy options should include Rob Lyttle, Caleb Montgomery, Tom O’Toole and Greg Jones being available to strengthen the Banbridge squad during the season.

Cashel RFC v Galwegians
City of Armagh v Greystones
Galway Corinthians v Queens Uni
Highfield v Blackrock College
Nenagh Ormond v Malone

City of Armagh v Greystones
Clash of the top two teams who secured promotion to Div 2A last season. What an opening day treat for the supporters of both clubs at the Palace grounds. Talking to Armagh Assistant coach Chris Parker he and Willy Faloon are looking forward to this match. The team has prepared well after they won two tough physical and really competitive Ulster premiership matches against Ballynahinch and Ballymena in their pursuit of retaining the Stevenson Shield.

Armagh have strengthened their playing squad with Robert Whitten (Instonians), Peter Starratt ( St Mary’s), Misi Bogniti (Instonians, Chris Cousens (Portadown), Josh Kennedy (Dungannon). Other players available include Chris Colvin returning from England in addition to three players Cormac Fox, Barry Finn and Paul Mullan stepping up from the successful Knutty Krust winning under 18 team. Chris Cousens got 80 mins with the third xv in their last minute win against Enniskillen seconds.

Scrum half Harry Doyle has been unavailable due to cricket commitments with the successful Armagh promotion winning team.
After the 38 – 27 win at Ballymena players including Captain Ali Birch will be available this week. Both Andrew Willis and Josh McKinley are also available after holidays. Matthew Steenson remains unavailable at the minute.

For Chris Parker he is looking forward to the new challenges coaching will bring at Armagh after several successful seasons at Ballynahinch. He is looking forward to a change of scene and working with new faces in a great environment where the players work really hard.
In the game against Ballymena the players starved their opponents off possession in the first half to build a substantial lead. In the second half the players mentally switched off and couldn’t get the ball off the Ballymena players to allow them back into the match.

Greystones and Armagh know each other so well. The advantage is that Armagh are at home and have an early opportunity to put league points on the board and force Greystones to chase the game. Armagh know that playing in Div 2A is a big step up from playing in Div 2B last season. The teams are really competitive in this tough league with teams likely to take points off each other. For the Armagh squad it is a big step up from last season.

Queens Uni v Galway Corinthians
Last season the students made the trip down to Galway and came away with a win. Can they do the same this weekend. Changes a plenty have taken place in the coaching staff with former Ulster rugby coach Neil Doak coming in as a Rugby consultant along with former Ballynahinch Head coach Derek Suffern and BRA coach DJ Creighton to push on the ambitions of this talented squad they have assembled this season. As with the students there is always an influx of players in and out each season. The focus for the students has been assembling a squad that will not be impacted by representative selections during their AIL season.

Players moved out of Queens include Zac McCall, Rory Butler ( Ballynahinch), Saul Herdman, Zac Jordan (Belfast Harlequins), Ryan Clarke, Scott Finlay, Jonny Craig (Malone), Marcus Rea (Ballymena), Joel McBride (Ballyclare), Connor Young (Trinity), Craig Devlin (CIYMS), Mark Foster (Grosvenor), Norman Sinclair (Academy), Hugh Sloan (England), Alex Thompson (Terenure), Brian Cunningham (Taking a year out).

Ulster players allocated to Queens include : Jonny Stewart, Josh Jordan, Alexander Clarke, Angus Curtis, Anton Lupari and Mark Keane.

Players in include : John Creighton, Richie McMaster (Ballymena), David Swann (Armagh), Curtis Stewart (Bangor), Jonny Lees (Rainey OB),Gerard Treanor (Dungannon), Daniel Dass (Cambridge University), Gary Dillon, Nicky Woods, Matthew Pentland (Wallace High School), Chris Jennings (Armagh RS), Andy Robinson, Jake McVicker, Jonny Black (Ballyclare High School), Mark Keane (Instonians). James Longwell (Omagh Academy). Prop Jordan Southway has also made himself available this season.

For the new coaching team it has been an encouraging start to their season with the players getting a proper pre season with Queens winning 4/5 matches. It is several seasons since Queens have been in this position for the start of the AIL. Injury rules out winger Mark Gordon for a lengthy spell. David Marshall is in America with another student Jonny Harris who signed from Ards making progress. He picked up several stitches from a pre season match for the 1st xv.

There is considerable experience in the team with Nigel Simpson taking over the captaincy this season alongside John Creighton, Richie McMaster, Jonny Milliken, Conor Shiels, Conor McKee, Jonny Lees, Andrew Clingan and Marc Campbell.. Two former Wallace players number 8 Gary Dillon and prop Nicky Woods have both staked early season claims for a starting place on the 1st xv with their strong performances.
The experienced Paddy Farrell remains on the Queens books.

With the coaching team having strong links to Wallace high School, Ballyclare High School and BRA there is an air of anticipation that player numbers will increase when the Freshers start. For the first time in years there appears to be a strong rugby link developing between the schools and Queens Uni for prospective students wanting to further their rugby skills in an University environment.

For the game in Galway this weekend, Queens have a number of injury doubts over David Whitten, Jack Milligan, Connor McKee, and Jonny Lees who will face late fitness tests.

Malone v Nenagh Ormond
Two teams who are very familiar with each other after three meetings in the AIL last season. Malone got the better of Nenagh in the play off semi final only to lose out to Dolphin in the play off final for a place in Div 1B this season. Malone have added to their playing squad this season and have impressed in their early season Ulster league and Cup games. Two Ulster players Jack Owens and Callum Smith impressed in the 10 and 15 jerseys for the team last season. It is expected that other Ulster Academy players Peter Cooper, Matthew Dalton and Joe Dunleavy will give Malone Head coach Paddy Armstrong other options in finalising his squad for Saturday.

Injury rules out James McAllister, Phil Lucas and ben Halliday.

The coach understands the challenge ahead with Nenagh.. It will be a very tough indeed. He also has some very difficult selections calls to make.
Players have trained really well and are looking forward to the challenge ahead.

Malone team: 1. Chris Griffith, 2. Dave Cave, 3.. Peter Cooper, 4. Josh Davidson, 5. Michael Shiels, 6. Max Porter, 7. Ross Todd (Capt) 8. Ryan Clarke,
10.Callum Smith, 11. David McMaster,12. Nathan Brown, 13. Michael Cartmill, 14. Rory Campbell, 15. Jack Owens, 16. Danny Kerr, 17, Phil Eadie, 18. Lee Barlow, 19. Connor Spence, Josh Pentland.

Belfast Harlequins v Navan RFC
Dungannnon v Skerries
MU Barnhall v Sunday’s Well
Rainey OB v Old Crescent
Wanderers v City of Derry

Belfast Harlequins v Navan RFC
Relegated from Div 1B to Div 2B in consecutive seasons. For new Quins Head coach Nicky Wells it has required considerable work by himself and club members to impress on players that Belfast Harlequins has a future. Despite player movement in and out of the club early season performances in the league and Cup give one hope that the Deramore Park side can reverse their slide of recent seasons.

Talking to Nicky Wells he was used to working with large playing squads at Ballymena and his school Methody College. Now he is having to get used to working with a smaller playing squad at Quins. What has impressed the coach is the players who have worked hard in pre season. The focus has been on tightening things up on the pitch and doing the basics right with the players. Nicky Wells spent four seasons working with Andy Graham at Eaton Park and is very familiar with the effort required to be successful in the AIL. Second row Danny Annett has taken over the captaincy and will also coach the forwards.

The Quins coach has talked about the need to retain players. The game has got to stop this ‘club hopping’. Players have to buy into a club as a player through the good and bad times. If you play in a clubs mini system you should stay with that club. It will be interesting to see how strong the links Nicky Wells can forge between Belfast Harlequins and Methodist College. It is promising to see that Quins will have an under 18 team up and running this season. Welcome news as the club looks to put its own youth development structure in place.

For the players it has not been an easy start to the season that has included games against Ballynahinch and Queens Uni in the Ulster league and Cup.

Players coming into Quins include Matthew McClelland from Rainey, Connor McAuley from BRA. This young scrum half has impressed early season scoring two tries against Queens last Sat. Saul Herdman, Zac Jordan ( Queens Uni), Rory Winters (Rainey OB),Lewis Loane (Bangor).Toby Mannus (Cooke). David Devine (City of Derry). Matthew Bourne (BRA). Mark Gribben (Blackrock College).

Other players joining the squad include the returning Timothy Emmerson after time out in the Far East, Dan Bingham, Conor Fletcher, Jonny Jordan, James McConnell (Methody). Andrew Duncan who played for Instonians Under 20’s.

Players on the injury list include Christian Bennison and Jordan McIIrath

Players out include Ben Alexander (Instonians), Adam Macklin (USA), Mark Wylie (Academy). Adam White (Carrickfergus). Ian Anderson, Andrew Pollock (Cooke). Mark McKelvey, Ollie Loughead (Ballynahinch). Peter Cooper (Malone). David McMaster (Malone), Matthew Pollock (Ballymoney).

For the opening AIL match with Navan. Nicky Wells: The talking is over for the players. The team has got to hit the ground running with a win. He felt the team were flat in the opening half against Queens last week and need to be mentally stronger this week.

Dungannon v Skerries
Always interesting talking to Dungannon Head coach Andy Hughes and his analysis of the game. Changes to the laws of rugby during the summer have impacted on the scrum and breakdown area. Most notably with officials clamping down on the front row and players clearing out at the ruck. As Andy said it is his players adjusting to these new interpretations and the impact it can have on players and teams during a match. How will match officials interpret the new laws in the All Ireland league. Coaches don’t want their players giving away needless penalties and free kicks in games.

Dungannon have had a good pre season with the new faces settling in very well. So much so that the coaches will have a few diffciult selection calls to make for the home match with Skerries. There is a belief at Stevenson Park this season that this Dungannon squad can be amongst the top four teams chasing promotion.

Dungannon got a good work out against the Bangor pack with the coach using the opportunity to build strength in depth in the front row. Players including Sean O’Hagan, Daniel Maxwell, Rodney Bennett, Jonny Black and Malcolm Allister will support the Sinnamon brothers this season. In the end the 45 – 12 score line reflected the dominance of the County Tyrone side as they ran in seven tries.

The key for Dungannon this weekend is to play a bit of rugby and not to go into themselves. Pre season has allowed the squad to develop their combinations and processes. The coach wants his players to make a statement this week in the opening match.

Players that will come into consideration this week include Mark Riddell, Matthew Montgomery, Glen Sinnamon and Mervyn Brown with backs coach Seamus Mallon and second row Willy Graham facing late fitness tests. Another new face Jordan McIIwaine from Lurgan impressed off the bench last week as the coach continues to add to the playing resources at Stevenson Park.

City of Derry v Wanderers
The Aviva stadium pitch beckons for City of Derry as they make the journey to the home of Irish rugby this weekend. In a difficult opening pre season there is work for new NZ head coach Trevor Will has he attempts to keep the North West club in Div 2B. Early season heavy defeats against Ballymena and Malone twice have resulted in the team conceding 150 points.

New NZ scrum half Tyler Rogers – Holden arrives this week and not soon enough.

With experienced forwards like Chris Cooper, Sam Duffy and Richard Baird retiring along with Steohen Corr and Simon Logue being unavailable the onus will be placed on a very young inexperienced squad this season. The coach will have been delighted to welcome back Neil Burns and Tiernan Thorton last week. Experienced players have moved on including Jason Bloomfield (RaineyOB), Matthew Kilgore (City of Derry), David Devine (Belfast Harlequins). Stuart Simpson, William McCleery (Limavady). Joe Dunleavy (Malone).

Three of Limavady’s under 20 group Jim McCartney, Ryan Magee and David Townley have appeared in the opening pre season games of the season for the 1st xv.

Where are the players who were involved last season with 1st xv including David Graham, Richard McCarter, Jack Beattie, Ben Barbour, James Fawcett, David Funston, Ian Britton, Eoin Ferry, Andrew Semple, Chris Shields and Corey Logan.

It is important in Ulster we have a team representing the North West in the All Ireland league. Last season was a struggle for the club and the fact the club could only find 12 players for their seconds to play Omagh thirds is disappointing news.

Rainey OB v Old Crescent
After securing promotion last season there is a feeling that this young Rainey squad can finish in the top four this season. Head coach John Andrew’s and his backroom team have been pro active in adding experience to their squad in the off season. Quality players such as Ireland Club xv player Paul Pritchard, Josh McIIroy and Andrew McGrath will add a greater attacking threat to this team. Once again the presence of the four McCusker brothers along with Tommy O’Hagan and the experienced Timothy Barker will give considerable muscle to the forwards.

For the game with Old Crescent at Hatrick Park Rainey will be missing Ronan McCusker and Nicholas Stirling through injury with Michael O’Neill and Jack McIntosh involved with the Ulster under 19 squad.

Malahide RFC v Bective Rangers
Bangor v Tullamore
Bruff v Omagh
Midleton v Seapoint
Thomond v Sligo

Bangor v Tullamore
Manager Ricky Armstrong was disappointed with the performance of the team at Dungannon after an impressive opening day win against Rainey OB.
Crucial scores either side of halftime allowed Dungannon to take the game away from Bangor. Despite this result the players are really looking forward to getting stuck into the AIL again.

Bangor make a few changes for the visit of County Offaly side Tullamore who missed out on promotion again after finishing in the top four. Hooker Andrew Shaw returns from injury along with Jamie Clegg and Dave Caughey in the forwards. Shaun Fair replaces Gareth Wright at scrum half after impressing in training. Ali Lockhart has not recovered from a groin injury. These three scrum halves will be battling it out for the 9 jersey on the 1st xv this season. David Charles is rested after suffering a knock against Dungannon.

Team to play Tullamore 1. Philip Whyte, 2. Andrew Shaw, James Leary, 4.dave Caughey, 5. Lewis Stevenson, 6. Jamie Clegg, 7. James Henley, 8. David Bradford, 9. Shaun fair, 10. Gareth Millar, 11. Chris Jordan, 12. Mike Weir, 13. Ross McCloskey, 14. Rob Gamble, 15. Phil Broderick, 16. Charlie Clegg, 17. Thomas Boyd, 18. James Stewart, 19.Gareth Wright, 20. Lewis Bret.

Omagh v Bruff
Welcome back to the All Ireland League for Omagh RFC. A trip down to John Hayes country to play his home club Bruff outside Limerick. As Omagh Head Head coach Phil Marshall put it: this weekend will tell Club Officials, Coaches and Players about the demands and commitment needed to compete in the All Ireland League. The coach is not under estimating the challenges that lie ahead for his players. They have watched how Bangor have taken time to adjust to the AIL with the goal of the County Tyrone club is to keep their place in the league this season.

The coach was pleased with the performance of his young squad against a strong Rainey pack last week with several 18/19 year old players gaining valuable experience. It is now about the players having the mental fortitude to man up against the stronger teams in the AIL. He sees the Bruff game as an ideal introduction to the AIL and how the match officials from Leinster and Munster referee games.

Injuries and unavailability to travel rule out several players including Jonny Sproule, Yonga Taleni, Stephen Maclaine, James Rutledge, Richard Hemphill, Ali Beckett, Alan Heaney, David Thompson, John Blair, Kyle Alexander, Simon McCarroll and Peter Eves.

Omagh squad for Bruff: 1. Matthew Sproule, 2. Adam Pollock, 3. Richard Smyth, 4. Jamie Sproule, 5. Mervyn Edgar, 6. Matthew Clyde, 7. Adam Longwell, 8. James Catterson, 9. Stewart McCain, 10. Scott Elliott, 11. Ryan Mitchell, 12. Luke Hanson, 13. Scott Barr, 14. Neil Brown, 15. Lee Murphy, 16. Peter Todd, 17. Phil Ewing, 18. Richard Harpur, 19. Dean Kane, 20 Lee Warnock.

Two of the young Omagh pack include former Omagh Academy players Matthew Sproule and Matthew Clyde with the coach predicting a big future for the intelligent back rower Matthew Clyde.

The coaching team at Omagh includes 1st xv Phil Marshall and Ashley Blair, 2nd xv James Kane and Sam Warnock with Adrian Hamilton looking after the thirds.
We wish them well on their travels and hope they can open their campaign with a win.

Ballyclare (1) v Cooke (5)
Carrickfergus (9) v Enniskillen (6)
Instonians (2) v Clogher Valley (8)
Portadown (7) v CIYMS (10)

Ballyclare v Cooke
The Antrim side along with Shawsbridge rivals Instonians are very much the favourites to win Div 1 this season. Both missed out to Omagh last season. Once again Ballyclare coach Mike McKeever has quietly went about his business in preparing his side for their league campaign. Two wins with maximum points has enabled them to open up a two point advantage on 2nd place Instonians. In this league every point is valuable come the end of the season.

What is pleasing to see in this Ballyclare side is the experienced Wiilly Logan belying his years along with dynamic back row forward Gary Weatherup continuing to turn out for the 1st xv each week. This season former Ulster prop Ricky Lutton has added his considerable experience to the front row with another former Queens player Joel McBride partnering up with fellow former student Robbie Reid in the centre. The style of rugby has not changed at the Cloughan with wins over Dromore 48 – 32 and CIYMS 37 – 19. Not only that the team have scored 12 tries in the process with their talented outhalf Robert Smith contributing 35 points from the first two games.

Cooke are the visitors to the Cloughan this week and always provide a high scoring contest when these two teams meet.

The Ballyclare coach is unlikely to make too many changes with Gary Weatherup unavailable due to his brother Mark’s wedding this weekend. Opportunities are afforded to others with Ballyclare High School players Matthew Playfair and Matthew Robson in contention to replace Weatherup. Playfair has come off the bench in the first two games to score two tries. There is an injury concern over winger Gareth Byers who faces a late fitness test on Thursday night. One piece of good news for the coach is the return of second row Rab Boyd from injury this week.

Mike McKeever will be assisted by Forwards coach Darren Best and backs coach Kris James this season with Stephen Crawford continuing as 1st Manager.

Talking to Cooke backs coach Philip Cartmill there is disappointment they have lost number 8 and Ulster Junior Toby Mannus to Belfast Harlequins this season. On a positive note they welcome back flying winger Andy Pollock and centre Ian Anderson from Belfast Harlequins. In the off season the Shaws bridge club have continued their close relationship at Wellington College to channel 6th formers to the club through Head coach Colin Atkinson. Players who have successfully stepped up to 1st xv rugby from the College include Andy Hanna, Matthew Elliott and Karl Sloan.

The coach has been pleased with their start to the season. Winning 23 – 17 at Clogher Valley and losing a high scoring Conference league game against Hinch seconds 36 – 20 after being outscored by 5/4. The Hinch kicker kicked everything. This was followed up by a convincing 58 – 14 win over Omagh seconds in the Junior Cup.
Cooke don’t have the biggest squad but they are very competitive in Div 1. Talented full back Alex Gourley takes over the captaincy this season of the 1st xv. Numbers have been encouraging at training. With depth in the squad this season there will be a few difficult selection calls in the backs for the game at Ballyclare.
Cooke have always had a great Mini rugby tradition. The difficulty was putting in place a Youth structure. Over the last two seasons Noel Brown has worked hard to revive the clubs under 14/16 teams with the players getting regular fixtures. Well done Noel.

For the game at Ballyclare the home side will start as firm favourites. Cooke will go there to win and give a good account of themselves. Selection will be finalised on Thursday night.

Carrickfergus v Enniskillen
Two teams who have established themselves in Div 1 after securing promotion. Enniskillen made successive Towns Cup Finals and have secured a place in the All Ireland Junior Cup Finals this season. Carrick were unlucky last season losing several matches by one score in their first seaon back in Div 1. They have been unlucky in their opening games losing 31 – 28 against Armagh seconds and 15 – 7 at home against Insotnians. Games they could and should have won. Carrick did open their season with a win at Lisburn in the Junior Cup last week. This week they welcome a Skins side to the Tom Simms Memorial Grounds for what is always a physical contest between the two teams.

Talking to Carrick forwards coach Davy Scott he has adjusted quickly to taking the reins at the club with Mickey Rainey. He believes the league is much tougher this season with the addition of Coleraine and CIYMS.

The playing squad has been strengthened by the addition of Ulster juniors hooker Alan Whitley from CIYMS and the experienced out half Adam White from Belfast Harlequins. He also welcomes back a number of players who were unavailable last season due to injuries and work commitments including Ulster junior back rower Ross Marsden, Second row Curtis Rea, Jonny Sherriff and full back Michael Black. There is also two exciting young talents in Bradley Lunney from BRA and Simon White from BHSFP’s. He is the younger brother of Adam White.

In the league game against Instonians, Carrick were missing their regular front row of Paul Greenaway, Alan Whitley and David McKeen with Adam Gibney having to play out of position at tight head. For the game against Lisburn the coach made six changes with Chris Rodgers returning to the second row. The windy conditions at Blaris contributed to an error strewn match with Carrick progressing to the 2nd round of the Junior Cup.

Carrick are renowned for playing a hard uncompromising physical game of rugby with their big pack.. Players don’t like losing and this was epitomised in their defeat against Instonians when they were deflated by the loss. There is a strong desire in the squad with the players wanting to win every match they play.

Carrick club are in a good place. The players enjoyed a pre season fixture at West of Scotland. It was a typical old fashion opportunity for the squad to get their season off on a positive note. Consistency in the team and performance will be an area the team focus on this season.

Carrick continue to field four adult teams with a strong Youth and mini structure in place. Recent seasons have witnessed a steady flow of young players from the Youth section and the Grammar School into the adult teams.

Enniskillen Head coach Willy Gibson is very much aware of the expectations on his team this season. Injuries and unavailability will deny him the services of Ireland Sevens star Robert Balacoune, Last seasons Captain Davy Buchanan, James Carleton (NZ), Gareth Beatty, Paddy McCleeery and Connor Keys. Opportunities in their absence are also presented for young aspiring players to start in the 1st xv.

Enniskillen opened their season with a 20 – 19 win at Portadown in the league. They were brought down to earth when Armagh seconds visited Mullaghmeen in the Conference league losing 33 – 7.. Now they face a difficult trip to East Antrim to claim further league points. The core of the team is intact with new faces including Matthew Dane impressing at scrum half. The coach has been pleased by the young props coming through including Jamie McKane, Sam Park, Marcus Crawford with Alan Ferguson turning out for the Ulster Juniors.

Another player to make an impact is former Under 18 winger Tyler Millar who has scored several tries in pre season games for the 1st xv. Experienced Portadown back row forward Gareth McCoy has joined Enniskillen with Skins hoping to add a NZ second row to their squad in the coming weeks.

Adam Lendrum may be the tallest out half in Ulster rugby but the former Portora pupil continues to develop and impress the coach with his work rate and commitment as becomes a key player within the 1st xv.

Willy Gibson is expecting a tough game at Carrick. His only change to the side will see Ricky Lee returning to the backrow along side the impressive Kaine Holden.

The goal for the coach at Mullaghmeen is to continue developing young coaches and players at the club.

Instonians v Clogher Valley
Two league wins against Coleraine and Carrick have positioned Instonians two points behind early pace setters Ballyclare. For Director of Rugby Wilbur Leacock the off season has brought changes in the coaching staff at Shawsbridge with two former professional players Roger Wilson and John Andress joining the coaching staff as player coaches. Unfortunately Roger Wilson fractured his thumb ten minutes into a pre season friendly at Dungannon in August. Despite this setback Wilbur Leacock has been pleased by a number of players who could not commit to training last season are making themselves available for selection including Paddy Bell, Richard Fegan, Gareth Burns – Delaney and Cameron Black who have all played key roles in the early success of the team. With additional playing resources available the coach is confident the 2nd xv will be much more competitive this season.
Players in this season include: Ben Alexander (Belfast Harlequins), Josh Atkinson (England), Fraser Wright, Wayne Kelly, Daryl Smyth, Jonny Mooney (Carrickfergus). Joe Murphy, Jack McGrath (Belfast Met), Jonny Harding (UUC) along with a number of Schoolboys.

Players out include Robert Whitten, Misi Bogitni (Armagh).

The coach also welcomes back Andrew Keane, Jamsie Campbell and Jordan McMullan after playing rugby in Sweden.
What has helped Instonians this season is the number of players that have returned from University and wanting to play with their friends at the club. The coach has been able to integrate 10/12 players into the 1st xv squad. The challenge for the coaches is integrating the new players into the new systems and developing that togetherness. With the new coaches there has been a positive atmosphere in the club.

Wilbur Leacock has also observed that clubs are getting back to being rugby clubs as we knew them.

Clogher Valley forwards coach Davy Black has been looking after the coaching side at Clogher Valley pending the arrival of new Head coach Hemi Taukiri this weekend. In his absence Davy Black has steered the team through their opening league games and into the second round of the Junior Cup with a 19 -18 win at Dromore last week. Apart form the opening 20 mins against Cooke in their first league game when the team conceded three tries he has been pleased by the performance of several debutants in the absence of more senior players.

The coach suffered a blow at the weekend when he learned that experienced forward David Sharkey will be ruled out for a period of time with knee ligament injury. His attitude is the players have to get on with it. For the match at Instonians he is going with a new second row of Tom Mills and Ian Mulligan, with Hooker Kyle Cobane returning to take his place in the front row alongside Neil Henderson and Mark Rutledge. Rutledge is another new face that has been added to the Clogher forwards this season and continues to impress with his ability in the front row. Centre Toby McAlpine heads of to Uni in England and will be replaced by Allister Trenier.

Portadown v CIYMS
Two teams still searching for their first win of the season. Portadown lost their opening league games to Enniskillen and Dromore with CIYMS losing against Ballynahinch seconds, Ballyclare and Grosvenor in the Junior Cup. It could not have been a more difficult opening block of games for CI coaches Gareth Fry and Darren Barbour.

At Portadown we have witnessed a number of significant changes in coaching and playing personnel. Richard Hedley remains as Head coach with Mark ‘Chunka’ Neilly taking over as forwards coach from Ciaran O’Kane. Experienced back row forwards Gareth McCoy moved to Enniskillen with Diarmuid O’Kane dropping down to the thirds to play with his brother Ciaran.

Other players leaving Portadown include Hooker Malcolm Allister (Dungannon) and out half Chris Cousens joining (Armagh).
1st xv captain Craig Woods remains on the injured list along with centre partner Jonny Holden and Luke Ashton for several weeks.

The positive news is that Stuart Douglas makes a welcome return to the Portadown back row with hooker Peter Lamb joining from Armagh/Dungannon.

Talking to Mark he is confident Portadown will turn the corner very quickly after two disappointing league defeats. Ciaran O’Kane had done a good job with the forwards working on the lineouts and scrums. Mark’s job is to address the strengths and weaknesses in the forwards to turn them into a more dynamic forward unit. There is a spine of experience in the team with a lot of young talent coming through. At the minute he has 10 players unavailable due to injury. His view is that the team can only get stronger with the players commitment. The defeat at Dromore was down to the players not mentally right for the game. This has to change. Having the right mentality is crucial before taking the pitch.

He watched CIYMS in their defeat against Grosvenor. He is expecting a physical contest in the set piece and with home advantage his players have to focus on themselves. One of the key elements is getting the teams defensive system in place to combat the threat from the CI backline. We know what is at stake in this match. The key to Sat is starting the stronger and putting points on the board to force our opponents to chase the game.

The Portadown is expected to be along the lines 1. Matt Wilson, 2. Peter Lamb.3. Matthew Davison, 4. Willy Graham, 5. Rodney Blair, 6. James Wright, 7. Stuart Douglas, 8. Gary Hall. 9. Brian Forrestal, 10. Michael Orr, 11. Andrew Chambers, 12. Niall Davison, 13. Arron Morton, 14. Conor Magarrity, 15 Jack Orr.

Replacements bench will be from RJ Greenlee, Mark Henderson, Aaron McMaster. Willy Graham has taken over as Captain in the absence of Craig Woods.

CI Head coach Gareth Fry makes one change to his team from last week with Cory Tipping replacing Chris Davidson in the second row.. Stuart Ferguson also returns to the squad. Few of the backs are carrying knocks from the Grosvenor game and will face late fitness tests.

Ballynahinch seconds (1) v Coleraine (5)
City of Armagh seconds (3) v Dromore (6)

Ards (8) v Lisburn (5)
Ballymoney (3) v Larne (7)
Grosvenor (1) v UUC (6)
PSNI (10) v Academy (4)

Ards v Lisburn
Crucial game for both teams. Ards have recorded wins over Banbridge seconds and Ballymena seconds in the Conference league and Junior Cup. They suffered a narrow defeat away to Malone seconds in the Conference league. This is their first league game and the faithful at Hamilton Park will be looking a win to start their campaign. For Lisburn they have suffered three defeats two against undefeated Randalstown and Ballymoney in the league and a strong Carrick side in the Junior Cup.

Ards Head coach John West keeps the same team that defeated Ballymena seconds in the Junior Cup with Tom Arthur Donnan expected to take his place at hooker. His team have had a decent start to their season.. The Lisburn game will tell him where his team are.

For the new coaching team at Lisburn Andrew Posthethwaite and Scott Maunders the opening fixtures have not been easy. They will target the Ards game as a fixture their side can win. Phil Jefferson takes over the captaincy with several new faces joining the club.

Peter Ireland ((Malone), Matthew Miller (Wallace High School), Paddy Anderson (RBAI), Falemaka Vave returning from University.
Players out include: Jonny Davis (Cork Constitution), Matt Edgar (UNI in England).

Ballymoney v Larne
On paper you would say Ballymoney should win this game. Last Saturday Larne should have defeated Junior Cup Holders Ballynahinch seconds before going down 32 – 28 at the Glynn. Larne led for large parts of the game before two late Rhys O’Donnell tries secured the win for the County Down side. Promoted Ballymoney have impressed with two league wins against Academy and Lisburn before despatching Academy comfortably in the Junior Cup at Kilraughts Road last week.

Former 1st xv captain and Ulster Junior Jonny Hanna is in charge of the coaching team at Ballymoney assisted by James Cleland, Martin Irwin and past 1st xv coach Jason Taggart. Despite successive relegations from Div 1 to Div 3 the new coaching structure at Ballymoney has witnessed a revival that saw the team comfortably win Div 3 last season and return to Div 2 this season.

Several new additions to the playing squad have arrived in the form of Daniel Ramage, Rory Strang, Chris Hughes and Willy Hunt from Coleraine. Former Ballymena 1st xv captain Martin Irwin and Matthew Pollock returning from Belfast Harlequins. Youth players from the club academy and players who have signed from Dalriada, Coleraine Grammar School and Cambridge House. A number of former players who were unable to commit inrecent years are now back training and challenging for places on the 1st and 2nd xv.

The club fielded an under 20 team that defeated Rainey under 20s 31 – 24. On the same night the club still had 48 players at training. Ballymoney are a vibrant club fielding four adult teams along side its recognised Youth and mini structures that cater for both male and female rugby.

Larne have made changes to their coaching set up with the experienced Graham Cloke overseeing the development of new coaches in Stevie McReynolds and Gary Dowey. Stevie McReynolds has a lot of club experience having played under Graham Cloke at CIYMS for five seasons. Gary has coached from the Minis in the club. He is a former 1st xv captain and has obtained his coaching badges as he looks to coach adult rugby. In his playing days Gary was known as a uncompromising player in the 1st xv.

Larne under former coach Lawrence Kelly were recognised as a team with a lot of talent in the playing squad that had come through from a very successful under 18 teams. Several of these players have become key members of the 1st xv team. Consistency and fitness have been an area that has let them down in recent seasons. This squad has yet to fulfil its potential. Current scrum half Ryan Garrett has been a member of the Ulster Juniors squad for several seasons.

The teams that played against each other in the Junior Cup last week were as follows:
Larne 1. Luke Burfoot,2. Chris Rea, 3. Ryan McAllister, 4. Mark Campsey, 5.Jonny Cole, 6. Charlie Cloke, 7. Gareth Jamison, 8. Eddie Hunter (Captain), 9. Ryan Garrett, 10. Philip Andrews, 11. Aaron Carter, 12, Matthew Agnew,13. Jordan Burns, 14. Stuart Andrews, 15. Aaron McBride. 16. Derek Lough. 17. Stevie McReynolds.

Ballynahinch seconds: 1. Stuart Orr, 2. Graeme Mckitterick, 3. Allister Gordon, 4. Andrew Simpson, 5. Stuart Evans, 6. Conal Boomer, 7. Brian Howard, 8. Gareth Gill, 9. Rhys O’Donnell, 10. James McBriar, 11. Joe Bingham, 12. David Harris, 13. Paddy Wright.14. Aaron Ferris, 15.Justin Rea.

It shows the quality within this Larne squad when you look at the team Ballynahinch fielded.

Talking to former Larne President Phil McMurtry it has always been an issue for Larne to build strength in depth within their squad. He felt better game management in the latter stages of the Ballynahinch game would have seen Larne win the match. Larne would be more effective in the league if they could get greater numbers out to training.

The squad having been missing a few backs through injury including Reece Thomas and Scott Montgomery. The team should welcome the strong running Colin McKinty to their back row this week at Ballymoney. The coaches have moved Ryan McAllister from the back row into hooker with considerable success. This allows McKinty to play in the back row. Current hooker Craig Gibson has been plagued by injuries and is two months away from playing.

Larne are fielding three adult sides with Gary McFarland looking after the Youth. The club has a new ladies section that caters for under 12/15/ 18 under Ulster ladies player Teah Maguire.

Head coach Graham Cloke is expecting a very tough match up at Ballymoney on Saturday. They along with Grosvenor are the early pace setters in the league. He has a few selection calls to make in front row. His son Charlie played for the winning RBAI team in the Schools Cup Final and will start at 7 with Captain Eddie Hunter at 8. Both Ryan Garrett at 9 and Jordan Burns at 13 will provide the attacking threats from this Larne team this season.

Grosvenor v UUC
Head coach Robert Ford has watched his team make up for the slow start last season that cost them promotion. Two league wins along with a significant scalp of CIYMS in the Junior Cup will place Grosvenor as firm favourites to win this league. Can Ballymoney and Randalstown challenge Grosvenor.

Grosvenor second row Paddy Hamill is ruled out of this match with an injury. Pearce Jamison returns to the squad. Former Queens player Stuart McIIwaine will make his competitive debut for 1st xv.. The coach is also awaiting fitness tests on a few players.

Talking to Brett Campbell Director of Rugby at Ulster University Coleraine. This is a big season for the students with the club entering its 50th year of playing rugby on the Coleraine campus. Jonny Black will again take charge of coaching assisted by Adam Jamieson a former captain of the club who the club are supporting in his desire to move into coaching. Former Ballymena and Armagh player Ollie Millar is also assisting with the coaching.
Player movement in and out of the University is a 4 year career so the club wish all the players well as they move on.

Players out: Martin O’Neill (Randalstown), Steve McCleery (BHSFP). James Perry (Strabane), Jonny Harding (Instonians), Lewis McCrabbe (Dungannon), Mitch Lucas returning to club rugby in NZ.

On Players coming in it is still pre term so the fresher intake has still to be identified with the club having a lot of faith in last years intake who played a lot of Colleges rugby with players such as Michael Smith and Hayden Maxwell stepping up. Talent in the backline coming in include Adam Johnston (Randalstown), Cameron McAteer (Lisburn). In the forwards Ollie Millar from (Armagh) and Joe McKinney doing a post grad. Both with British Lions blood that will offer the back row a physical presence and guile.

The University is delighted that many clubs release their players to enjoy the University experience in full and represent UUC through the rugby.
Grosvenor will be a challenge this weekend with 6/7 1st xv players unavailable due to work placements and holidays. It will be a big ask but the students will attempt to make a game off it against Grosvenor.

PSNI V Academy
Have yet to catch up with respective coaches. Both teams have lost their opening three matches in the league, Conference league and the Junior Cup. Saturday will be all about getting that first win. PSNI are having to adapt very quickly to playing at higher level after securing promotion last season. I have to say I am surprised to see Academy struggle with the playing talent with in their playing squad. Big game at Newforge on Saturday for both teams.


Next Match

No fixtures are currently scheduled

Ulster Bank All Ireland League Div 2B

Team P W D L B PTS
  • Greystones
  • GREY
11 10 0 1 7 47
  • Galway Corinthians RFC
11 8 0 3 7 39
  • Blackrock College
  • BRK
11 6 2 3 7 35
  • Wanderers
  • WAN
11 6 0 5 10 34
  • Sligo
  • SLI
11 7 1 3 3 33
  • Belfast Harlequins
11 6 1 4 5 31
  • Dungannon
  • DUN
11 3 2 6 7 23
  • Ballina
  • BAL
11 1 3 7 7 17
  • Malahide
  • MAL
11 2 1 8 5 15
  • Galwegians
  • GALW
11 1 0 10 1 5