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AIB All Ireland League Returns
10 October 2007, 8:54 am
By Des Daly
The AIB All Ireland League kicks off this weekend with all clubs in action. We also take a look at the progress of Thomond as a promoted Junior club in the AIB All Ireland League.
SATURDAY 27th OCTOBER
AIB League Division 1:
Ballymena v Garryowen, Eaton Park, 2.30
Cork Constitution v Blackrock College, Temple Hill, 2.30
Dolphin v Greystones, Musgrave Park, 2.30
Dungannon v Terenure College, Stevenson Park, 2.30
Galwegians v St. Mary's College, Crowley Park, 2.30
Lansdowne v Clontarf, RDS Ballsbridge, 2.30
Old Belvedere v Shannon,Anglesea Road, 2.30
U.L. Bohemian v U.C.D., Annacotty, 2.30

Division 2:
Ballynahinch v U.C.C., Ballymacarn Park, 2.30
Barnhall v Thomond, Parsonstown, 2.30
Bective Rangers v Dublin University, Donnybrook, 3.30
Buccaneers v Clonakilty, Dubarry Park, 2.30
Highfield v Old Crescent, Woodleigh Park, 2.30
Suttonians v D.L.S.P., Station Road, 2.30
Wanderers v Belfast Harlequins, Merrion Road, 2.30
Young Munster v Malone, Clifford Park, 2.30

Division 3:
Ards v Midleton, Hamilton Park, 2.30
City of Derry v Bruff, Judges Road, 2.30
Nenagh Ormond v Corinthians, New Ormond Park, 2.30
Old Wesley v Instonians, Donnybrook, 1.30
Queens University v Naas, Dub Lane, 2.30
Rainey Old Boys v Banbridge, Hatrick Park, 2.30
Waterpark v Co. Carlow, Ballinakill, 2.30

PROMOTED CLUBS CHART A PARALLEL COURSE

Since the All-Ireland League came into existence in the 1990 / 91 Season, sixteen pre-1990 junior clubs, exactly one third of the current complement of 48 AIB League clubs, have been promoted to play in the competition. Five of these former junior clubs, Clonakilty, Barnhall, Thomond, Suttonians and Ballynahinch, are this season playing in Division Two. Eight of these clubs, Co. Carlow, Midleton, Banbridge, Bruff, Nenagh Ormond, Connemara, Naas and Rainey Old Boys, are playing in the third division. Three clubs, Richmond, Creggs and Omagh A, have since reverted back to junior ranks.

At the end of March in 1999 two junior clubs introduced themselves to each other for the first time when they met in the champion junior clubs inter-provincial round robin at Liam Fitzgerald Park in Limerick. Thomond drew 13-13 with Barnhall on that day. A few weeks later both clubs were promoted senior to appear in Division Three of the AIBL the following season.

Thomond, founded in 1944, hail from the Thomondgate parish just south of the river Shannon in Limerick and can be found a few hundred metres north of the hallowed turf that is Thomond Park. They are very much a community-based club and are most active in the youth's sector. Prior to going senior, quite a few of their better players saw service at senior level with the Young Munster club on the northside of Limerick city. Today that bond still exists to some degree even though both clubs are operating in AIB League Division 2.

Barnhall are everything that Thomond are. Founded in 1969, as the Irish Meat Packers, the club is located in north Kildare at Parsonstown, half way between Leixlip and Celbridge. Founder member Eddie Fitzgerald has been Director of Rugby at the club for many years and he, among others, took great pride in winning the Leinster U 20 A League and Cup competitions last season. The on-going youth policy at the club is reflected in the fact that a few of the recent presidents have been of the same age (if not younger) as the club captain of the same year. Looking to the future, Barnhall have recently established rugby links with NUI Maynooth a few miles over the road west.

Since the two clubs were elevated into senior ranks together they have had an uncanny record of tracking each others progress through the seasons. Both clubs have been three times promoted together in as many seasons. Each club has spent one season in Division Four followed by a season in Division Three and then six seasons in Division Two. Barnhall have reached the AIB Division Two Championship semi-finals on one occasion (2001/02) and have also had to endure a relegation play-off with Clonakilty at the end of 2004/05.

Thomond have finished mid-table on most occasions during their time in AIB League Division 2. Seventh place (2002/03) has been the best finish for the Limerick club. Barnhall have a slightly better AIB League record and are ranked 30th on the all-time AIB League list whereas Thomond can be found nearby in 33rd position.

Since that round robin encounter in 1999 the two clubs have faced each other eight times in the AIB League. Thomond shade the honours here with five wins to Barnhall's three and in fact have been successful in the last three games between the two clubs. It is interesting to note that in the six AIB League Division games between the clubs the margin of victory has been less than three points on four occasions. Barnhall (The Blue Bulls) and Thomond (The Soda Cakes), after entering senior ranks together and being promoted twice since in each others company, meet for the tenth time this coming Saturday on the opening weekend of the 2007 / 08 AIB League. The AIB League Division 2 fixture goes ahead at Parsonstown, kick-off 2.30pm.

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