Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated -
Clogher Valley v Kanturk, the Cran
The beaten semi finalists from last season meet just outside Fivemiletown on Saturday. Both sides would have targeted further progress in the competition this season but for Kanturk, the draw has been unkind.
Clogher Valley won’t feel they have it easy though and will be fully aware that they carried the favourites tag into their semi final at the Cran last year but lost out to Enniscorthy that day in a gripping contest. This season’s league form has been good overall despite two unexpected defeats at CIYMS and Bangor.
Kanturk have started the Munster league season with two wins from three outings. A one point loss on day one away to Clonakility was put to one side and bonus point wins against Kilfeacle and Old Christians at home have got them back on track. John O’Sullivan is top scorer with three tries while backs Dave Fitzgerald and Peter Earlie are scoring threats.
Kanturk have hit form in the past two games and seem to be ready for a big push heading towards Christmas but the four and half hour journey north adds to the challenge here. Clogher are playing superbly well at the moment and they’ve absorbed two set backs without losing form averaging 32 points per game. They look the better placed here.
Coolmine v Westport, Ashbrook
At first glance this looks like a straight forward call, Westport didn’t offer too much resistance away to Kanturk in last year’s first round and Coolmine at home will be in the mood to cut loose and play some open rugby. They did that away to Clogher last year and lost out by two in a 70 point thriller.
The Mayo side are sitting fifth in the Connacht table with two wins and one draw from their five league games so far. They’ve managed ten tries in those games, spread between nine different players. Centre Kevin Corcoran is the only player to have managed a brace of five pointers.
The boot of Donal Crotty is key to the limited success Coolmine have have had, he is the Leinster League’s top scorer with 45 points including eleven penalties in four games. They’ve won just once in four outings but lock forward Geoff Mullan and winger Gavin McIntyre are top try scorers for the club with two apiece.
A good run in this competition would provide a much needed early season lift for a Coolmine side that have dropped short of pre season expectations so far. Westport will come with a young side that would benefit hugely from an upset win but the form guide points to a home win.
Donaghadee v Dundalk, Donaldson Park
An east coast battle here, as an unbeaten Dundalk head north to take on a Donaghadee side hoping that this competition can see a marked upturn in their fortunes after a slow start to the Kukri Ulster Qualifying League.
Dundalk have won four from four in Leinster this year and seem like the only side capable of mounting a challenge to league leaders Wanderers for the league crown. They have failed to make their mark on this competition in the past, exiting tamely in the first round in 2011 and 2012 but there is a suspicion that this season might be different.
The home side will look to get a foothold up front to start with and their back row options include the talented trio of Max Montgomery, David Murray and Chris Hamilton. Any go forward ball they provide will be used well by player coach and form Ulster centre Paul McKenzie who plays nine and club captain Ally Lockhart at out half.
Dundalk are no slouches in the scoring department, they’ve notched 17 tries in four league games including five from kiwi centre Isaia Patelo and four from scrum half Thomas Campbell who are first and second respectively in the league’s try scoring charts. The winner of this tie will be a contender and the visitors might have the edge.
Enniscorthy v CIYMS, Ross Road
Very hard tie to call in Wexford this weekend. Declan O’Brien’s Wexford side are rebuilding and in need of a positive distraction from a difficult league campaign that has seen them rally against adversity. CIYMS Head Coach Graham Cloke has openly said he is targeting this competition as the former Ulster Bank League club enter it for the first time.
Prop forward and captain Stuart Ferguson is unavailable to CIYMS this weekend but otherwise they should be close to full strength, with 20 year old fly half Matthew McGuiggan a key man so far this year since he joined from Instonains, helping them to four wins from five.
The young ‘Scorthy side bares little resemblance to the side that reached the final last February. Ross Barbour remains as does Ivan Poole although he is a major injury doubt. This is only their second season competing in the competition and their one defeat so far was in a final to Tullamore.
CIYMS have maintained their form from last season which got them to this competition and they arguably have strengthened. Enniscorhty have lost key men from the panel that got them here and slipped back a little as they try to rebuild. For that reason, an away win could be on cards.
Monivea v Portadown, Castle Grounds
The Connacht champions are another club in rebuilding mode. They embark on a record eighth All Ireland Junior Cup campaign with a young panel playing open rugby and getting stung for it on occasions.
Portadown won at the Galway venue last spring in the qualifiers but defeats to Richmond and Tullamroe put paid to their hopes. They have lost just once in the league so far and are into the last eight of the Junior Cup. That one defeat was against Clogher Valley at the Cran so hardly a reason to panic.
Monivea’s management team of Sean Duignan,Pat Devane and Cahtal Divilly are looking to build a young squad and have been giving many of their up and coming under 21s league experience. While they have lost their last three, they are picking up the bonus points at will and looking like they are not far off finding the formula.
This is another tight call, the visitors have the better league form, stronger pedigree overall and a good record at the Castle Grounds including that win last April, yet Monivea have nothing to lose and the potential to score from anywhere in the field and in any manner. This could be the game of the weekend.
OLBC v Kilfeacle & District, the Sportsground
A big day at the Sportsground as Our Lady’s Boys Club from Galway take on Tipperary side Kilfeacle in a clash between two potential giant killers in this competition. Both sides are chasing their first ever All Ireland Cup win.
In the Connacht League, OLBC are joint first after having lost just once in five games. They come into this competition in much better form than last year and with the league’s Top try scorer in Conor Mulligan they have the fire power.
Kilfeacle stated their season with a comprehensive win over Old Christians on day one but failed to build on that losing heavily at Kanturk and then going down 19-7 at home to Clonmel. Neither result reflected their efforts in the game but the momentum has been lost.
Ambrose Conboy’s side have enough in the back line to win this game if they can compete with Kilfeacle up front but the Tipperary side have no reason to fear their Galway opponents and will look upon this as a chance to really kick start their season. It will be a one score game.
Skibbereen v Ballina, the Showgrounds
The odds seem a little against Ballina as they travel south to take on Cork side Skibbereen without their trio of dual status players who will be in league action elsewhere, Michael Murphy and Tom Toolan will be with Corinthians, Richard Morrow will be involved with Old Wesley.
Skibbereen started slowly in Munster losing to a last minute try at home to Tralee in Round 1 and then suffering a heavy 31-3 loss away to one of the league’s strongest sides this season, St Mary’s of Limerick. Last weekend however, they scored two tries in a 15-13 win over Mallow to get their season up and running.
The boot of Jer Hurley at ten is a key part of the Skibbereen game plan. They have been a top four side in Munster for the past two seasons and made the 2012 Junior Cup final in the province. Ballina out half Jesse Pitman has been in strong form of late also and the kicking contest could be very important.
There is something about this competition and Ballina and it is not a good something. This is their seventh time competing and they are yet to get past the first round. Their current form combined with Skibbereen’s strong cup pedigree points to a home win.
Tralee v Wanderers, O’Dowd Park
There can be only one winner here you would think but cliche or not, cup rugby is cup rugby and Wanderers leaving Kerry with their name in the hat for the quarter finals is not guaranteed just yet.
First of all, Tralee have kicked on from last season it seems, they started slowly in the 2012/13 campaign but finished well to get back into this competition for a third time in the club’s history. They have started the season with two wins from three but are coming off a narrow loss to Muskerry last week which was a set back.
Winger Eoin O’Carroll has three tries in as many games, goal kicker Garrett Walsh has 21 points, they both will need to be on form because Wanderers are averaging six tries per game after four rounds of rugby in Leinster.
The Lansdowne Road based club have divided 24 tries among no less than 14 players in four games this year. Winger Bryan Buckley top scores with four and centre Caibhe Doherty has three. They have been tested away to Enniscorthy and at Coolmine and come through strongly in the end.
All that form adds up to an away win but it should be much closer than anything the Dubliners have experienced thus far. Will they rotate the squad? Could that effect momentum? Can Tralee raise their game? Lots of questions.
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