The Ulster Bank All Ireland League returns this Saturday, with our 1st XV making the short trip to Trinity College for the first game of their league campaign.
A much changed 1st squad had a productive Leinster League campaign, with big wins over DUFC and Naas, and a narrow loss at home to a strong Clontarf side. These games were as much about gelling our squad together, with many new and returning faces from last season. Our front row has been bolstered by the addition of Schalk Jooste from South Africa and Giorgi Turabeldidze from Portugal via Georgia, while the second row welcomes back Michael Melia after a year in Spain, and a new face in Alexander Thompson from Queens.
In the backs, Tim Schmidt is also back after a year’s Erasmus in Toulouse, while Kalei Konrad joins us from across the pond to boost our midfield options. Along with this, after our injury crisis of last year, we have a largely fit and healthy (touch wood here please) bunch of players. With the new lads gelling well already under the captaincy of Robbie Smyth, things are looking rosy ahead of the new season.
With all those positives, we should apply a little bit of Terenure realism, and remember how devilishly competitive the AIL is, each and every year. Our opponents on Saturday got the better of us twice last season, so our 42-10 win in August will mean a lot less this week. Both games last season were thrilling affairs, with the final game of the season in College Park particularly memorable. An incredible attacking contest was eventually settled by Trinity with a remarkable length of the field score in the last play, but both sides showed enough attacking endeavour to suggest that this season opener should be another high scoring affair.
As always, the lads need the rest of us to do our bit by cheering them on. While we were enjoying ourselves in the sun all summer, they were slaving away in the gym and on hard pitches, and would greatly appreciate a loud roar when they take to the field on Saturday. And they’ll get it – the sense of excitement around the club for the new season has been palpable for weeks.
New players, returning heroes, injuries healed, players and supporters smiling – who doesn’t love the start of a new season?