The AIB Junior Cup has really been embraced by the competing clubs since it started back in 2005. Leinster clubs have had a bit of a stranglehold with three out of the four winners coming from the province. Holders Tullamore are aiming for their third straight final appearance but Armagh, Monivea and City of Derry stand in the way.
2009/10 AIB JUNIOR CUP SEMI-FINALS: Saturday, January 16th
Armagh V Tullamore, Palace Grounds
Preview: Midlands club Tullamore epitomise the spirit of the AIB Junior Cup. Beaten finalists two seasons ago, they rocked up last season to take the trophy from arch rivals Navan.
They will do their utmost to beat Armagh on Saturday on the pitch and give them a wonderfully warm welcome off it.
Their track record speaks for itself while their road to the final this season has seen them squeeze past Coleraine before beating a spirited Sligo at Spollanstown in the last round.
Tullamore are having a mixed season in Division 1A of the Leinster Junior League. They are currently in fifth place with four wins in nine games.
The Offaly men will definitely score points on Saturday though as they have the second highest tally in their league with 163 to their credit. With 15 tries in the bank, they pose a threat to any side.
Armagh host Tullamore this weekend with an impressive season already under their belt. They have knocked out Ballina and Cill Dara in the cup and their league form is pretty impressive with eight wins out of ten.
They sit proudly at the top of the Kukri Qualifying League in Ulster with 40 points and a game in hand on second-placed Ballymoney. Armagh is the home club of current IRFU President John Callaghan and they would surely like to win some silverware in his presidential season.
Tullamore will have vocal support but form says that a home win and a new name on the AIB Junior Cup could be on the cards.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Armagh to win by 1-5 points
CITY OF DERRY VMONIVEA, Judges Road
Preview: This is new ground for both of these sides and the prospect of a place in the January 30 final at Dubarry Park should prove an incentive.
Monivea will be hoping to be the first Connacht club to reach the final of this competition. In the first round they notched up a big win over Waterpark, while in the quarters they toughed it out against Cashel.
Their league form is impressive. They lead the Junior 1A League in Connacht with seven wins out of seven and a massive 36 tries to their name, so expect some serious running rugby on Saturday.
City of Derry dropped down from the AIB League a few seasons back and they are roughing it in the business end of the Ulster Qualifying League. They lie in fourth place behind Armagh, Ballymoney and Dromore with only seven points between then and top spot and two games in hand.
Seven wins and an impressive five bonus points means Derry should be well up for an open game with their Galway rivals in this AIB Junior Cup semi-final.
This is a really tough game to call as both sides are motoring nicely. Home advantage will always be worth something but both sides have shown they can win on the road. Either way the winners will be well worth their place in the decider.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Monivea to win by 1-5 points
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