Ulster A’s schedule for, what I believe is, the third iteration of the Celtic Cup were announced earlier this week.
Thankfully last years rushed iteration 2.0, and its disastrous Irish and Welsh conferences, has been dispensed with and the competition is now a straightforward league with the two highest ranked sides going through to a play off – though the teams only play each other once, either home or away.
With the Irish sides, and Ulster in particular, drawing heavily on AIL players last season, some of the clubs will not be happy that the league fixtures are scheduled to finish on 4th October, the day before the first round of the AIL. The final is scheduled for 12 October, another weekend crammed full of AIL matches.
Ulster A’s schedule is shown below.
|Sat 24 Aug||14:30||Scarlets||Ulster||Llandovery RFC|
|Sat 31 Aug||19:30||Ulster||Cardiff||Malone RFC|
|Fri 06 Sep||16:00||Ulster||Connacht||Ballymena RFC|
|Sat 14 Sep||15:00||Leinster||Ulster||Energia Park|
|Sat 21 Sep||14:30||Dragons||Ulster||TBC|
|Fri 27 Sep||17:00||Ulster||Ospreys||Malone RFC|
|Fri 04 Oct||17:00||Ulster||Munster||Shawsbridge|
Ulster A have come down the right side of the seven match series with four home matches and three away but unless there have been some big changes made to the teams it is likely to be a scramble from the other teams to see who finishes second to Leinster, who went through last seasons competition undefeated.
Ulster A had a reasonable enough competition themselves and if you are a member you can view our Celtic Cup Tournament Wrap here.
If you haven’t joined us yet, the basics are that Ulster A won four from six to finish third in the “Irish Conference”.
- They called upon 44 players over the six games, 34 of whom appeared more than once.
- They scored 165 points which came from 21 tries, 18 conversions, 7 penalties and 1 drop goal.
- They conceded 141 points throughout the tournament.
You can view all the player details in our wrap linked above but the competition was largely memorable for the seven try contribution, in six matches, from schoolboy flyer Aaron Sexton. Ballymena’s Bruce Houston and Ballynahinch’s Johnny McPhillips shared the kicking duties to record 31 and 25 points respectively and they were followed by Peter “FRU Favourite” Cooper who along with James “Heartthrob” Humes and Robert “Wings” Baloucoune all scored two tries apiece. The remaining points came from nine other players.
Ulster will have learned from last season that you can drop out of the running fairly quickly in this competition.
After losing their first two fixtures last season they were subsequently out of the running, with Leinster completely dominating the Irish conference. However, they did win their next four, though in reality only one of those games had any meaningful impact on the tournament placings.
Those first couple of games are all important and with Ulster having two from the first three at home they are well set for extended interest this time round.