AIL Preview: Division 1B

Out of all the 5 divisions across the AIL, 1B is arguably the hardest to call and very unpredictable on a weekly basis. Buccaneers will hope to survive having made the step up this year.

Old Wesley V Naas, Saturday October 1st, Energia Park, 2:30pm.

Old Wesley’s last league game was in the semi-final against an inspired Naas who pulled off a major upset to beat them 37-36 in a game that went right down to the wire.

Johnne Murphy will be hoping for a similar result on Saturday. The former Leicester Tigers and Munster player has built a squad full of belief, with a perfect blend of youth and experience. They’ll be a tough challenge for anyone this season.

Old Wesley was the dominant force in the competition last season, rarely putting a foot wrong, however, things didn’t work out as planned. They’ve had a few departures in the summer including scrum half Ben Murphy and second row JJ O’Dea who won the player of the year award last season.

This will be a close contest and both these teams will be aiming to finish at the top end of the table.

Old Belvedere V St Mary’s, Saturday October 1st, Ollie Campbell Park, 2:30pm

This is always an intriguing fixture. There’s never much to separate the sides and we shouldn’t expect anything different this weekend.

St Mary’s narrowly missed out on the playoffs last season, finishing 5th. Former Leinster player and Irish International Sean Cronin is their new Head Coach and he’ll be hoping he can make the difference for them this season.

Old Belvedere would have probably been disappointed by only finishing 7th, but at times they played a brilliant brand of rugby. Their u20’s team has had great success in recent years and they’ll be hoping they can do better this season. They definitely have a capable squad.

Home advantage tends to play a role in this fixture, with the last away win coming back in 2014.

City of Armagh V Buccaneers, Saturday October 1st, Palace Grounds, 2:30pm.

City of Armagh could be potential dark horses in 1B this season. They’ve been improving every season and they could produce some big performances.

Former Irish Head Coach, Eddie O’Sullivan is the new man at the helm for newly promoted Buccaneers. They just edged Queens in an extremely tight 2A final back at the end of April. They’ll be relishing the challenge of being back in 1B this season.

Highfield V Banbridge, Saturday October 1st, Woodleigh Park, 2:30pm.

Highfield welcome Banbridge to Woodleigh Park on Saturday.

Highfield like Old Wesley have been a standout team in 1B for quite some time and they would’ve been disappointed not to secure promotion last season. But you can be sure that they will be there or thereabouts again this season.

For Banbridge, they avoided relegation thanks to beating Navan in the relegation playoff. They won’t want to be in that position again.

Malone V University College Cork, Saturday October 1st, Gibson Park, 2:30pm.

UCC are coming down from 1A. They have strong intentions of heading straight back up. Their first challenge against Malone.

Malone will be looking for more consistency this season and a win on Saturday would give them a massive boost for the other fixtures.