Blue Bulls on the march

by Stephen Findlater

MU BARNHALL are looking forward to the Ulster Bank League Division 2B’s opening game against City of Derry at Parsonstown with a number of major changes to their set-up both on the field and off it.
Maynooth University, the college which the Blue Bulls have a strategic alliance with, have rebranded from NUIM to MU which means the club changes along with it.
Beyond that name change, though, Barnhall welcome a new head coach in Dean Hakaraia who has come in to the Senior team over the summer after a very good start to his MU Barnhall RFC career, starting with the second team last year.
With Dennis Bowes stepping down to concentrate on the University scholarship program, Hakaraia has really put down his mark.
He has put together a strong coaching staff with some former Blue Bull greats like new forwards coach Jim Nolan and former captain and specialist backs coach Eoin Burke on board.
They join other senior coaches John Sweeney and new defence coach Len Ethell who hails from New Zealand.
Tom McKeown goes into his second year as club captain and will lead the Blue Bulls onto the park this Saturday against City Derry at 2.30pm.
The league has also, once again, changed format with the side aiming to go straight back up to Division 2A.
Indeed, it will be an even longer season this year with the addition of an extra division to the All-Ireland League structure, making five in total, enabling teams to play each opposing team home and away for a total of 18 games per season.
With new promotion and relegation play offs taking place in each division, it really is gearing up to be a tightly fought league going forward.
To pursue their targets, the Blue Bulls have had a couple of new signings this season with the likes of Michael Russell, a fantastic scrum half coming in from west Dublin outfit Clondalkin RFC, joining the club and second row juggernaut Conor McDermott coming back from a year out with a long-term injury.
They join homegrown talent like prop Peter Courtney and Gareth Murray leading the pack, making for a hungry and revitalised Barnhall side this season.
Last season, the side narrowly defeated Saturday’s opponents 29-22 at the same venue but ultimately both sides were relegated amid the realignment of the divisions for this season.

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