By Conor Kelly, Date:1/5/13
The 2013 season gets underway this Saturday with four games being played in the Leinster and Ulster Leagues while the Munster League kicks off a week later on the 11th of May.
In total fifteen sides will compete in the league this time around with five sides in each region. With the best side from each section advancing to the All-Ireland Finals this year is set to be as competitive as ever.
In Ulster the Ballynahinch Rabbitohs will be looking to continue their dominance as they eye up a fourth Ulster title in a row. However, with sides like the Fermanagh Redskins and Antrim Eels always improving and with the merging of the Strangford Sharks and Belfast Bulldogs the Bunnies title reign may be facing its biggest threat to date.
The action starts in Ulster when the Eels welcome the Rabbitohs to their new home in Randalstown while the Belfast Bullsharks get their life in the league started when the Redskins come to town.
The Portadown Pumas will have an extra weekâ€™s preparation as they make the most of a bye week and will be hoping to lift themselves off the bottom of the table.
Leinster is expected to be even more competitive this year as the Athboy Longhorns will be looking to retain their league title. But with Ashbourne and the Dublin City Exiles breathing down their necks they will need to put up a stiff fight.
The Ballyfermot Bears and Tallaght Tigers will be looking to close the gap on the others and with both signing talented players in the off season that is a distinct possibility.
It will be the Bears and Tigers who kick off the action in Leinster when the two meet in Markievicz Park. A win for either would be a perfect start to the season.
The other fixture is probably the game of the week when we see a repeat of last year’s Leinster Final between Athboy and Ashbourne. This game takes place in Navan which is the new base for the Longhorns.
With the action still over a week away in Munster all five sides will be getting themselves prepped for the opening weekend.
With their first All-Ireland Title in the bag the Country Cowboys will be looking to add to their silverware collection but the most successful side ever to compete in the Irish competition will have a different plan as the Treaty City Titans look to get their hands on the Munster and All Ireland Trophies once more.
However, these sides are set to come under pressure from the Cork Bulls, West Coast Warriors and Galway Tribesmen who wonâ€™t let either side run away with the title.
Week 1 Fixtures: (Kick Off 2pm Unless Stated)
Antrim Eels â€“v- Ballynahinch Rabbitohs, Randalstown
Belfast Bullsharks â€“v- Fermanagh Redksins, Cherryvale, Belfast
Portadown Pumas â€“ Bye Week
Ballyfermot Bears â€“v- Tallaght Tigers, Markievicz Park, Ballyfermot
Athboy Longhorns â€“v- Ashbourne Stags, Old Belreask, Navan
Dublin City Exiles â€“ Bye Week