Ulster Bank League profiles: Old Belvedere off to flying start

Old Belvedere got their Ulster Bank League season off to a flying start with a hard fought 36-35 win away to Young Munster.

Their captain John Kennedy, who has over 100 AIL appearances, is a key man in the midfield and indeed the club, as he looks to guide his team to a first Ulster Bank League title in five years.

The Dublin 4 outfit outgunned their opponents in Tom Clifford Park and have the necessary firepower upfront that makes them genuine league contenders with brothers Michael Oyuga and Conor Owende joining Jonathan Slattery and Limerick man David Sherry in the backrow. Irish Clubs XV prop Declan Lavery is a solid anchor at tighthead prop and should feature heavily alongside Eddie Rossiter and Adam Howard in the front row.

Along the backline, Willie Staunton is tasked with calling the shots from fly-half (he kicked 16 points against his old club Young Munster at the weekend) and has the likes of former Leinster and Nottingham centre Ben Woods and Irish Clubs XV fullback Danny Riordan outside of him. Sean Coughlan is Cunningham’s latest recruit and the long-standing Belvo coach has the target of a top-four finish locked in.

Coaches: Paul Cunningham, Andrew Dunne

Captain: John Kennedy

Last year’s finish: 6th

Last title: 2011

Betting: 9/1

First four fixtures: Young Munster (A, win) Garryowen (A) Lansdowne (A) Terenure (H)

Players In: Dave Sherry (Garryowen), Paul Fitzgerald (Ballynahinch) Sean Coughlan (Blackrock), Paul O’Keefe (Kanturk), Ben Woods (Nottingham)

Players Out: Kieran O’Gorman

Hopes and Expectations: "Everyone will give the same answer, everyone wants to be the in the top four. You certainly don’t want to be in the bottom two or in the relegation play offs.Everyone has the same chance at the moment so everyone will be looking to finish in the top four."

Player to watch out for: "All of them. It would be hard to pick between them. John Kennedy’s experience is very helpful but they’re all very good, important players."

A word on the club scene: “The B&I Cup. I think if you want to push the AIL on and make it a semi-pro competition, you could get a very good competition. Get rid of the B&I Cup and allow players who aren’t first choice in their Pro12 and Champions Cup team to play in a meaningful competition of 20 games.

"You would be playing against academy and development players who have been there previously. There are plenty of players in the professional ranks who have either missed out on the pro ranks or already been there that would compete against these players."

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