ROUND 1 -
City of Derry 9 Seapoint 17, Judge's Road
Richmond 14 Monivea 27, Richmond Park
The Round Robin qualifying campaign got underway on Saturday, with Ulster Qualifying League and AIB Junior Cup champions City of Derry hosting Seapoint at Judge's Road.
The Dubliners were clinical in attack and they took their opportunities well, with Derry, who had to play an Ulster decider against Armagh last Monday, nowhere near their consistent best.
It was the hosts' first defeat since October, but Bevan Lynch's side, roared on by a large home support, were still level at the break - 6-6.
Place-kickers Mark O'Connor and Brian Keegan landed two penalties apiece in the opening period, with Keegan putting his side ahead in the 11th minute.
O'Connor, Derry's last-gasp hero in the AIB Junior Cup final, fired over a terrific 40-metre effort in reply, eight minutes later.
A closer, central effort from O'Connor nudged the Derrymen ahead, as they started to take the game to Seapoint, but the visitors enjoyed a purple patch towards the end of the half, with Keegan slotting his second penalty.
It was Seapoint who foraged ahead in the second half, despite Derry gaining the early initiative. Facing into the wind, Keegan thumped his third successful penalty through the posts.
The home side had engineered a couple of decent try-scoring chances before that, but Richard McCarter and team captain Bob McKillop failed to finish them off.
O'Connor managed to level with his third penalty, but four minutes from the end, Seapoint edged back in front when a quick breakaway led to Chris O'Brien notching a well-taken drop goal from close range.
Worse followed for Derry in injury-time when they lost their grip on the losing bonus point. Former Ireland Under-20 back rower Michael Noone found space down the right wing and raced over unchallenged for an unconverted try, making it 17-9.
It was a terrific victory for Seapoint, who are coached by Nigel Osborne and Declan Keegan. It would be extra special achievement for the men from Kilbogget Park to become an AIB League club in their 75th year, but a lot of hard work lays ahead.
They are at home to Munster champions Richmond in the next round, while Derry will have to beat Monivea at the Castle Grounds in two weeks' time, in order to stay in the play-off hunt.
Connacht champions Monivea carved out a fine 27-14 away victory over Richmond in their first play-off encounter, scoring four tries in the process.
Rory O'Connor scored a hat-trick of tries and Willie Parker claimed the other. Richmond scored two tries, through Pat McNamara and Finbarr Hogan, as they fell to only their fourth defeat of the season.
Indeed, Richmond led 14-5 after having a wind advantage in the first half. But they conceded three tries in the second period as the Galway men pulled through.
After Darragh Clancy missed a penalty for the home side, Monivea took the lead when their pack powered forward off a close-in lineout and lock Parker got the touchdown, with Seamus Fahy's conversion attempt bouncing back off the left upright.
Richmond hit back and took the lead when their forwards trucked it up and prop McNamara plunged over close to the posts, with Clancy adding the extras.
Clancy was off target with his second penalty attempt, but coming up to half-time, Richmond picked up their second converted try.
Lock Mikey Gallaghan made the initial incision in the Monivea defence, carrying the ball 20-plus metres, and when the ball was whipped across to the right, winger Hogan had the pace to outdo the cover on an angled run to the corner.
Clancy's excellent conversion gave Richmond further confidence as they took a nine-point lead into the second half.
But Monivea went up through the gears after the break and although they lost lock Shane McHugh, they roared back with a vital try.
They used quick ball off a lineout and centre Dave Prior, who carried and distributed well throughout, passed for winger O'Connor to take the ball on through the middle and score under the posts. Fahy landed the simple conversion.
Richmond maintained a high standard of play but errors were beginning to creep into their game as the pressure came on from Monivea.
The visitors took the lead again when the pacy O'Connor grabbed his second try in the 66th minute. Mike Kelliher missed a penalty as Richmond tried to level, and Monivea wrapped up the win in the closing stages when Fahy clipped over a penalty and O'Connor scored his third try in a memorable 30-minute spell.
Saturday, April 10 -
Monivea v City of Derry, Castle Grounds
Seapoint v Richmond, Kilbogget Park
Saturday, April 17 -
Monivea v Seapoint, Castle Grounds
City of Derry v Richmond, Judge's Road