The Munster Junior Leagues get back under way this weekend and it should prove to be a captivating opening programme.
Clonmel were deserving league winners and will aim to make a strong defence of their title but will face a stiff challenge, particularly from some new teams in the division such as Richmond and Bandon.
But with home advantage against Galbally, the champions will expect to get off to a winning start. It is a tough opening for the visitors but a strong performance would build up confidence.
Having been relegated from the Ulster Bank League, Richmond will be eager to make a strong impression back in the Junior League, which they won three seasons ago.
They still possess plenty of talent and had a number of impressive performances despite the drop-down from a very competitive Division 2B. They will look to their strong pack to dominate opponents. But the Limerick side will need to be sharp from the off, as they take on one of last season’s surprise packages, Muskerry. The mid-Cork side have a great work ethic and the longer they can stay in the game, the more they will fancy their chances.
The sides promoted from Division 2 will also be confident of making an impression. Bandon impressively won that division last season with a young, talented, dynamic team. They face a mouth-watering opener as they host local rivals Skibbereen. It is a game which should have Skibb fully focused and they will hope that some of their more experienced players can impose themselves.
Clanwilliam went up with Bandon and will also feel capable of making an impact at a higher level. They will relish facing some old rivals but first up is a home game against Waterpark.
The Waterford side are erratic but possess some talented players. However, the Tipperary side will be aiming to carry through the momentum from last season.
One of the other big games is at Grove Island, as St Mary’s host Newcastle West, two sides that have been very competitive in recent seasons.
Old Christians will seek to make home advantage count against a St Senan’s side who often impressed last season while Kilfeacle host Clonakilty in the other Division 1 opener.
Division 2 should be open as ever. One of the stand-out opening games is the local derby as Castleisland host Abbeyfeale. The Kerry side will be one of those aiming for promotion but can’t take anything for granted.
Tralee and Cobh Pirates will need to adapt quickly to dropping a division and both have tricky openers. Tralee start off on the road as they face Ballincollig while Cobh Pirates will enjoy home advantage but face tough opponents in Thurles.
Kinsale made a quick return to this level and will hope that their open attacking rugby can reap more rewards. They will be hopeful of getting a winning start on the road at Dungarvan.
The other games should be tight, with Charleville hosting Ennis. Mallow travelling to Presentation and Newport facing Waterford City.
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