The AIB Cup final on Saturday will see Belfast Harlequins take on Garryowen. IrishRugby.ie takes a closer look at the Ulster club ahead of the big day.
Belfast Harlequins will have revenge on their minds on Saturday when they play Garryowen in the AIB Cup final at Dubarry Park in Athlone.
The last time they met, in December in the AIB League, the Limerick club beat them 17-0.
Despite a poor start to the season, the club’s fortunes seemed to have turned of late and their form under new coaching consultant Alan Solomons has seen them win seven out of their last eight games in the AIB League and AIB Cup.
They have yet to secure their Division One status for next season – they face UCD in a must-win game on Saturday week, and they could still round out the season by winning two cup titles with the AIB Cup final and the First Trust Ulster Senior Cup final (against Dungannon) still to come.
This is the eighth season that Belfast Harlequins have been involved in AIB League or Cup competitions, having started out in 1999/2000 as a result of the amalgamation of NIFC and Collegians.
They were crowned Division Two champions in the 2001/02 season and reached the Division One play-offs in 2003/04. Then in 2005 they lost in the play-off final to Shannon.
There are two members of the Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam squad currently at Belfast Harlequins – Darren Cave and Niall O’Connor.
They will be joined at Dubarry Park by their international team-mate Felix Jones who lines out for Seapoint in the AIB Junior Cup final on the same day.
Cave, pictured right in action for his club, scored tries against Scotland and Italy as part of the Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam success and has scored two tries for his club so far this season, including one in the cup semi-final against Shannon.
Road To The Final –
First Round, Saturday, January 13, 2007
Home to Nenagh Ormond, Won 21-0
Tries: Niall Conlon, Darren Cave, Keith Pyper; Cons: Keith Pyper 3
Quarter-Final, Saturday, February 3, 2007
Home to Galwegians, Won 22-19
Tries: Niall Conlon, Chris McCarey, Andy Ward; Cons: Keith Pyper 2 ; Pen: Rory Blake-Knox .
Semi-Final, Saturday, March 31, 2007
Home to Shannon, Won 32-28
Tries: Stuart Philpott, Darren Cave, Paul Marshall, Paul McKenzie; Cons: Niall O’Connor 3; Pens: Niall O’Connor 2.
In total, they have scored 10 tries, 8 conversions and 3 penalty goals to make this weekend’s final.
President : Ronnie Gregg
Coaches : Alan Solomons (South Africa), Andy Ward
Assistant : Maurice Field
Manager : Conor Keown
Full Backs/Wings – Mark Kettyle, Jonny Lowe, Gavin McLaughlin, Paul McKenzie
Centres – Michael Orchin-McKeever, Johnny McLaughlin, Darren Cave, Rory Blake-Knox, Keith Pyper (capt), Joe Reihana
Out-Halves – Niall O’Connor
Scrum Halves – Roger Kirkwood, Paul Marshall, Michael Finlay
Props – Niall Conlon, Conor Keown, Brendan Lynch, John Andress
Hookers – Stuart Philpott, Ben Hanvey
Locks – Gareth Rourke, Graham Jewhurst, Lewis Stevenson
Flankers – Rob Devonshire, Andy Ward, Colin Atkinson, David Johnston
No. 8s – Andrew Gillespie, Chris McCarrey
– Statistics provided by Des Daly –