For the first time in many years Bangor does not have a team in Division 1 of the UCU Belfast & District Leagues with three of its players - Steve Scannell, David Grzymek and Damien Lavery - defecting to the newly promoted QUB squad. The latter pulled a surprise in week one with star Leinster player Karl McPhillips featuring on board 1 and Ulster champion Scannell only on board 2. However a default on Board 5 by Grzymek, due to a misunderstanding over dates, saw them lose 3-2 to defending champions Clifton House.
Perennial contenders Fisherwick withdrew at the last moment from last season's top division, but are back this year and have started strongly. A number of former Civil Service players have formed a new club called Lagan, playing out of Belfast Boat Club. News reaches me that it's a tight squeeze to fit everyone into their matchroom, so those players who like to get up and wander about will either just have to sit where they are or risk causing chaos.
Concerns about numbers led to a decision by the UCU to amalgamate Divisions 2 and 3, but in the end 10 teams have entered the second tier leaving the overall number of teams only one down on last season. Fears that Portadown might not enter turned out to be unfounded and they have returned to their old venue at the Town Hall after a season at the local Rugby Club. Considering the size of its membership it was surprising that RVH only fielded one team last season, but I'm pleased to report they have entered 2 teams in Division 2 this time. With so many teams it will be a long, hard battle to come out on top. Because of their strength in depth, the probable favourites are Fisherwick B.