Shannon bid to start where they left off

FIVE short months after Shannon’s AIB League victory, it all starts again at Thomond Park on Sunday.

The timing of the opening fixture allows the champions avoid a clash with Munster’s Celtic League game tomorrow and gives them an opportunity to play their first game against Blackrock College on home ground.

This weekend sees the start of the 15th season of the All-Ireland League and with a new format agreed for 2005/06, it makes for an interesting campaign.

Shannon take on the new campaign with enthusiasm and look forward to rekindling public interest in the League. Certainly, their achievements on the pitch suggest they are capable of doing so.

It could be a difficult opener for the champions, based on the historical rivalry between the teams. Blackrock are always a side which have caused them problems and despite winning seven out of their 10 meetings, Shannon will have to be in top form if they are to begin their campaign on a positive note.

Last season in Stradbrook, Shannon etched out a 32-25 win in an exciting encounter. Steve McIvor’s side finished a creditable sixth in the table, winning nine of their 14 games, and causing a lot of teams problems.

Elsewhere, the Division One clash between Buccaneers and Cork Con takes place in Athlone with a 7pm kick-off to allow Connacht fans to take in the Celtic League game against Edinburgh in Galway. It should attract a crowd because Constitution are always popular visitors to this venue.

Meanwhile, fresh from a bonus points victory over champions Llanelli, Connacht return to the Sportsground tomorrow eager to account for Edinburgh and consolidate fourth place in the Celtic League.

Connacht have a real opportunity to extend their winning sequence to three, and a victory against Edinburgh would be a “serious return” for the league’s first quarter, believes coach Michael Bradley.

However Bradley is mindful of their looming European clash with Narbonne, and won’t take risks with key players carrying niggling injuries.

As a result, Conor McPhillips, John O’Sullivan and David Slemen are out, while Darren Yapp and Matt Mostyn return to the starting line-up.

Yapp, in his first start of the season, partners Mark McHugh in the centre, while Mostyn reverts to his favoured full-back position. Niall O’Brien takes over from the injured McPhillips.

“As a result of the continuing injuries we don’t want to put some players in danger ahead of the Narbonne match, while others need the match practice,” Bradley says.

“However it is good to have two good players like Darren and Mostyn coming back into a side that has been playing well.”

Connacht have lost only one of their past five matches against Scottish sides. However, Edinburgh last year took the points at the Sportsground by 26-25, although Connacht exacted revenge with a 32-17 win at Meadowbank.

And who can forget Edinburgh’s narrow victory at the Sportsground in December’s Celtic Cup semi-final? In the four matches played between the two teams so far in Celtic League and Celtic Cup, the home side has won just once, Connacht 11-3 in Galway in September of last year.

CONNACHT (v Edinburgh): M. Mostyn; T. Robinson, D. Yapp, M. McHugh, N. O’Brien; P. Warwick, C. O’Loughlin; R. Hogan, J. Fogarty, S. Knoop, A. Farley, P. Myburgh, M. Swift, M. Lacey, M. Carroll. Replacements: B. Jackman, A. Clarke, C. Short, J. Muldoon, M. Walls, E. Elwood, J. Downey.

CARDIFF (v Munster): C. Morgan; J. Vaughton, R. Williams, T. Shanklin, F. Tuilagi, L. Thomas, D. Dewdney; G. Jenkins, G. Williams, M. Jones, C. Quinnell, R. Sidoli, N. Thomas, K. Schubert, M. Williams (captain).

Replacements: A. Lewis, R. Thomas, D. Jones, N.Budgett, R. Smith, N. Macleod, S. James.

CORK CON (v Buccaneers, Athlone, 7pm): C. O’Sullivan, N. Kenneally, C. Mahony (capt), J. V. Igarza, C. Healy, B. Keeshan, P. McCarthy; T. Ryan, D. Murray, M. Ross, S. O’Connor, J. Maloney, S. Buckley, B. O’Connor, B. Cutris.

DLSP (v Midleton): P. de Barra, C. Hickey, S. Gormley, D. McCabe, F. Cooney, S. Broughton, B. Hogan; C. McCabe, A. Davis, K. Taite, P. Lennon (Capt), S. Kavanagh, C. Power, K. Sharkey, J. Whitaniley.

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CourtsRugbyAIB LeaguePlace: Thomond ParkPlace: AthlonePlace: EdinburghPlace: GalwayPlace: NarbonnePlace: SportsgroundPlace: MeadowbankPerson: ShannonPerson: Steve McIvorPerson: Michael BradleyPerson: BradleyPerson: Conor McPhillipsPerson: John O’SullivanPerson: David SlemenPerson: Darren YappPerson: Matt MostynPerson: YappPerson: Mark McHughPerson: MostynPerson: Niall O’BrienPerson: McPhillipsPerson: DarrenPerson: M. MostynPerson: T. RobinsonPerson: D. YappPerson: M. McHughPerson: N. O’BrienPerson: P. WarwickPerson: O’LoughlinPerson: R. HoganPerson: J. FogartyPerson: S. KnoopPerson: A. FarleyPerson: P. MyburghPerson: M. SwiftPerson: M. LaceyPerson: M. CarrollPerson: B. JackmanPerson: C. ShortPerson: J. MuldoonPerson: E. ElwoodPerson: DowneyPerson: C. MorganPerson: J. VaughtonPerson: R. WilliamsPerson: T. ShanklinPerson: F. TuilagiPerson: L. ThomasPerson: D. DewdneyPerson: G. JenkinsPerson: G. WilliamsPerson: M. JonesPerson: C. QuinnellPerson: R. SidoliPerson: N. ThomasPerson: K. SchubertPerson: M. WilliamsPerson: A. LewisPerson: R. ThomasPerson: D. JonesPerson: R. SmithPerson: MacleodPerson: JamesPerson: C. O’SullivanPerson: KenneallyPerson: J. V. IgarzaPerson: C. HealyPerson: B. KeeshanPerson: P. McCarthyPerson: T. RyanPerson: D. MurrayPerson: M. RossPerson: S. O’ConnorPerson: J. MaloneyPerson: S. BuckleyPerson: B. O’ConnorPerson: B. CutrisPerson: P. de BarraPerson: D. McCabePerson: F. CooneyPerson: S. BroughtonPerson: B. HoganPerson: C. McCabePerson: A. DavisPerson: K. TaitePerson: P. LennonPerson: S. KavanaghPerson: C. PowerPerson: K. SharkeyPerson: J. WhitanileyEvent: AIB LeagueEvent: Celtic LeagueEvent: All-Ireland LeagueEvent: Celtic CupOrganisation: MunsterOrganisation: Blackrock CollegeOrganisation: BlackrockOrganisation: BuccaneersOrganisation: Cork ConOrganisation: ConnachtOrganisation: LlanelliOrganisation: EdinburghOrganisation: NarbonneOrganisation: CardiffOrganisation: AthloneOrganisation: Midleton
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