League can be path to greater things
Carbery shining light as clubs return to action
The Ulster Bank League will kick off in two weeks - and it can still be a stepping stone to the professional game.
The form of Lansdowne flanker Jack O'Sullivan was impressive enough to earn Irish Universities honours last season.
This led to a conversation between IU coach Dave O'Mahony and O'Sullivan, which led to a 20-minute chat with Declan Kidney, which led to a two-week trial at London Irish in the summer.
Ultimately, O'Sullivan opted for completing his degree over a long-shot at making rugby his career. For the moment.
There have been many examples of players, who used the AIL as a springboard.
1. JOEY CARBERY
CLUBS: UCD (2014-2015), Clontarf (2015-18)
In what later turned out to be history repeating itself, Carbery started out as a full-back in behind Ross Byrne at UCD.
He made the move across the Liffey to pursue his personal preference to play at out-half.
This all came to fruition in the 2016 All-Ireland League final when it didn't take a rugby anorak to see how Carbery was a class above as the standout in overcoming Cork Constitution. Just two years later, the mercurial talent must have felt a sense of déjà vu when Byrne blocked his game time at out-half for Leinster.
A protracted and painful saga ensued which eventually concluded with Carbery's move to Munster, where he intends to realise his potential in his preferred position.
2. NEIL CRONIN
CLUB: Garryowen (2011-present)
The scrum-half made his Munster debut as far back as December 2014 with four caps from the bench.
Cronin was not in the right place mentally to take advantage of his opportunity and returned to work on his game in the AIL.
The growth in maturity led to the Garryowen captaincy, the confirmation of a one-year contract at Munster last April and the AIL Player of the Year last May.
He looked the part against the Cheetahs in the first round of the PRO14 League before a shoulder injury against Glasgow Warriors put him on the sidelines.
3. NIYI ADEOLOKUN
CLUB: Dublin University (2009-2014)
Trinity College's Director of Rugby Tony Smeeth saw something special in the lean speedster.
There were four years spent in the AIL until Connacht Academy Manager Nigel Carolan called him into the professional arena.
It didn't take long to become a near permanent fixture on the wing, the crowning glory of which was the 2016 PRO12 League Grand Final win over Leinster in Murrayfield.
Later that year, Adeolokun was called into the Ireland squad and made his international debut as a replacement against Canada in November.
4. PAUL BOYLE
CLUB: Lansdowne (2016-2018)
The loose-forward came to attention with a Man of the Match performance against Zebre on top of impressing against Glasgow Warriors on the opening day of the season.
He had been honing his game for Lansdowne in the AIL.
When the Leinster Academy decision didn't go the way he wanted, Connacht were there with an offer good enough to move out W est.
And he is on his way.