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Round Robin Series: Portadown In Pole Position

Round Robin Series: Portadown In Pole Position

Saturday’s clash at Chambers Park between Portadown and Cashel, the Munster champions, will be a massive occasion as the Ulster side look to maintain their winning run in the All-Ireland League junior clubs’ round robin series and qualify for next season’s AIB League.

Portadown finished bottom in AIB League Division Three last season, losing all 15 of their matches and being demoted to the junior ranks in Ulster.

But coach Hika Reid has got his squad playing some fine rugby this term, so much so that between September 15 and March 23 Portadown won 22 of their 23 matches and drew the other.


The County Armagh men won the Ulster Qualifying League and reached the recent Towns Cup final before an arduous schedule took its toll and they had to field a second string line-up in the decider which they lost to City of Armagh.


Portadown have been the team to beat in this season’s All-Ireland League junior clubs’ round robin series, thanks to a bonus point 24-10 win away to a fancied Monivea side first time out and last week’s 18-3 defeat of Cill Dara.


Chambers Park has become something of a fortress for Reid’s side – they have not lost at the venue in seven months.


As it stands, Portadown lead the round robin series with 9 points, Cill Dara and Monivea both have 4 points and Cashel are bottom with 2 points (both losing bonus points).


All that means the Ulster champions are heavily favoured to win their place back in Division Three, with a losing bonus point against Cashel being enough to get them through.


But a cautious Reid admitted: “Yes, it’s odds-on (we’ll qualify) but we won’t be celebrating until it’s certain and even then it will be low-key as we’ve a Junior Cup quarter-final against Banbridge on Tuesday night.”


You can expect tries-a-plenty at the Castle Grounds in Saturday’s other round robin game. With both Monivea and Cill Dara hoping Portadown finish pointless against Cashel, the champions from Connacht and Leinster could yet steal top spot with a bonus point victory.


Kevin Higgins’ Monivea side, helped by their home advantage, would be the more likely to run in four tries or more, but Cill Dara have taken the scalps of Navan and Tullamore already this season and boast some quality players.


If Portadown get the point(s) they need on Saturday, whoever wins between Monivea and Cill Dara will have to settle for second place in the final round robin standings and a play-off with Waterpark to decide the final team in next season’s Division Three.


In another twist, if Monivea and Cill Dara draw their game, a win for Cashel over Portadown would be enough for the Tipperary outfit to book a play-off date with Waterpark.


Waterpark’s 15th place finish in the Division Three table was confirmed last Saturday when they beat City of Derry, the side that finished bottom and dropped out of the league.


2007/08 ALL-IRELAND LEAGUE JUNIOR CLUBS’ ROUND ROBIN SERIES:


RESULTS SO FAR –


Saturday, March 22:


Cill Dara 10 Cashel 5; Monivea 10 Portadown 24


Saturday, March 29:


Portadown 18 Cill Dara 3; Cashel 8 Monivea 14


FIXTURES TO COME –


Saturday, April 5:


Monivea v Cill Dara, Castle Grounds, 2.30pm; Portadown v Cashel, Chambers Park, 2.30pm

LIST OF CLUBS PROMOTED TO AIB LEAGUE FROM ROUND ROBIN SERIES:

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2006/2007: Naas (Leinster)
2005/2006: Rainey Old Boys (Ulster)
2004/2005: Nenagh Ormond (Munster)
2003/2004: Bruff (Munster)
2002/2003: Ards (Ulster)
2001/2002: Queen’s University (Ulster) and Highfield (Munster)
2000/2001: Clonakilty (Munster) and Connemara (Connacht)
1999/2000: Naas (Leinster)
1998/1999: Barnhall (Leinster) and Thomond (Munster)
1997/1998: Banbridge (Ulster) and Midleton (Munster)
1996/1997: County Carlow (Leinster)
1995/1996: Suttonians (Leinster), Richmond (Munster), Ballynahinch (Ulster) and Creggs (Connacht)