Valentine’s Day heartbreak is on the cards for four AIB League clubs on Saturday as the eagerly-awaited AIB Cup quarter-final matches take place in Cork, Galway and Limerick. Former champions Cork Constitution and Garryowen are still in the hunt, while Ballynahinch and UCC are both flying the flag for AIB League Division Two.
2008/09 AIB CUP QUARTER-FINALS: Saturday, February 14
DOLPHIN v CORK CONSTITUTION, Musgrave Park, 2.30pm
This is the one club rugby enthusiasts in Cork have been waiting for since the quarter-final draw was made on January 10.
Dolphin and Cork Constitution are two of the form teams in the AIB League – with nine wins between them in their last ten games – and their rivalry stretches back many years.
Dolphin have made great strides under coach Dave O’Mahony. They finished fifth in Division One last season and are right in the hunt to nail down a play-off spot this year thanks to five straight league wins.
Notably, they have taken the scalps of recent table-toppers Clontarf and Blackrock College and their record at Musgrave Park is an extremely impressive one.
Their unbeaten run at home in the AIB League stretches back 12 games and they have not lost a league game at their Cork base since March 2007.
Cork Constitution, the reigning AIB League Division One champions and current table-toppers, will not lack for form or motivation.
Since the third round of the cup, Brian Walsh’s side have risen from sixth place in the top flight table to first and they put 40-plus points on Dungannon and Buccaneers in their last two games.
Cork Con were the inaugural winners of the AIB Cup and will be eager to keep their current run going, particularly with arch rivals Dolphin standing in their way.
Rugby World Cup final referee Alain Rolland will be the man in charge at Musgrave Park and while Cork Constitution should have some of their contracted players available, Dolphin will be without their talismanic number 8 James Coughlan who is in duty with the Ireland Sevens squad.
They will, however, have Munster’s New Zealand recruit Nick Williams in their back row and AIB Club international out-half Barry Keeshan could be the man to kick the home side into the semi-finals.
Adding some extra spice to the game, these sides will also meet in the AIB League next Sunday.
Dolphin: J Power; P Hurley, K Lynch, W De Bruin, R Kenneally; B Keeshan, G O’Keeffe; F Gately, A O’Driscoll, C Condon, D Harty, C Rowe, G Finn, B O’Mahony, N Williams.
Cork Constitution: to be confirmed
AIB League Position: 4th in Division One
AIB League Form (last five matches, latest on the right): W (38-3 at home to St. Mary’s College), W (29-14 away to Galwegians), W (16-10 at home to Clontarf), W (19-15 at home to Blackrock College), W (25-12 away to Ballymena)
AIB Cup Run: 2008/09 – Second Round: Dolphin 64 Malone 0, Musgrave Park; Third Round: Dolphin 44 Ards 6, Musgrave Park
AIB Cup History: 2005/06: Reached second round; 2006/07: Did not qualify; 2007/08: Beaten in second round
Cork Constitution –
AIB League Position: 1st in Division One
AIB League Form (last five matches, latest on the right): W (25-7 at home to Galwegians), L (20-19 away to Garryowen), W (25-19 away to UL Bohemians), W (49-3 away to Dungannon), W (47-7 at home to Buccaneers)
AIB Cup Run: 2008/09 – Second Round: St. Mary’s College 13 Cork Constitution 15, Templeville Road; Third Round: Bruff 10 Cork Constitution 22, Kilballyowen Park
AIB Cup History: 2005/06: Champions; 2006/07: Reached first round; 2007/08: Reached third round
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dolphin to win by less than 7 points
GALWEGIANS v BALLYNAHINCH, Crowley Park, 2.30pm
Ballynahinch made history by winning the Ulster Senior League for the first time last month but they have gone off the boil somewhat since then, with injuries not helping their cause.
‘Hinch are the only Ulster club left in this season’s AIB Cup and they were out of action last weekend when their AIB League game against Highfield was called off due to an unplayable pitch at Ballymacarn Park.
Their coach Derek Suffern has selected largely the same side as he did for the Highfield tie, with recent Ulster debutant Willie Faloon packing down on the blindside.
Ulster centre Rob Dewey is not available for the County Down side due to his involvement with the Scotland ‘A’ squad, but their New Zealand ace Ryan Bambry, the goal-kicking hero when they sent holders Shannon crashing out in the last round, could have a vital presence at out-half.
Hosts Galwegians have struggled for tries in recent games, relying on full-back Rob O’Beirn for most of their points. He landed three penalty goals in ‘Wegians’ 9-8 AIB League derby win at Buccaneers last Saturday.
Experienced winger John Cleary was in outstanding form when the Galway men reached the semi-final stage last year.
If the likes of Brian McGovern, team captain Ivan Muldoon and Liam Casserly can secure quality ball up front, Cleary, Chris Brigl and Matt Brandon could make inroads for the top flight regulars.
Eamonn Molloy’s side gave a good account of themselves in their 18-9 defeat to Shannon and given home advantage and their experience of these cup knock-out stages, they should have enough strength to pull through to the last-four for the second successive season.
Galwegians: R O’Beirn; J Cleary, C Brigl, C Rogers, B Murphy; M Brandon, T Ellard; B McGovern, C Muldoon, J Stephens, D Nolan, L Scahill, I Muldoon, N McCarthy, L Casserly.
Ballynahinch: A Craig; S Morrow, J Cullen, D Harris, K Corrigan; R Bambry, H McAleese; C Stevenson, N Hanna, J Cronin, G Rourke, C Napier, R McBride, W Faloon, M Graham.
AIB League Position: 10th in Division One
AIB League Form (last five matches, latest on the right): L (25-7 away to Cork Constitution), L (29-14 at home to Dolphin), W (15-10 at home to Young Munster), L (18-9 at home to Shannon), W (9-8 away to Buccaneers)
AIB Cup Run: 2008/09 – Second Round: Galwegians 27 Highfield 17, Crowley Park; Third Round: Galwegians 14 Nenagh Ormond 3, Crowley Park
AIB Cup History: 2005/06: Quarter-finalists; 2006/07: Quarter-finalists; 2007/08: Semi-finalists
AIB League Position: 3rd in Division Two
AIB League Form (last five matches, latest on the right): L (26-24 away to Old Crescent), W (60-13 at home to Greystones), L (13-10 away to Lansdowne), L (21-9 away to UCC), W (31-5 at home to Malone)
AIB Cup Run: 2008/09 – First Round: Naas 20 Ballynahinch 41, Forenaughts; Second Round: Ballynahinch 33 County Carlow 10, Ballymacarn Park; Third Round: Shannon 14 Ballynahinch 15, Coonagh
AIB Cup History: 2005/06: Did not qualify; 2006/07: Did not qualify; 2007/08: Reached second round
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Galwegians to win by less than 7 points
GARRYOWEN v BUCCANEERS, Dooradoyle, 2.30pm
Buccaneers will be hoping that they can bounce back from some poor recent showings when they travel to Dooradoyle to take on a Garryowen side are unbeaten in AIB League or Cup rugby since october.
The Limerick club, who beat Bective Rangers in the last round, have climbed to fifth position in the league table.
They will, undoubtedly, be hot favourites to progress and will look to two ex-Buccs Conor Kilroy and Conor Hartigan as well as the peerless Paul Neville for leadership which can be capitalised on by Willie Staunton, Ciaran O’Boyle and Conan Doyle.
Buccs will be hoping for a more focussed and committed display than last week’s one at home to Galwegians, when a late penalty saw them lose 9-8.
The Pirates will also hope that Alex Hayman, whose tenacity was sorely missed against Galwegians, will be fit to resume. They have two potential game-breakers in Danny Riordan and Mark Bruce.
Second row remains a problem sector for Buccs with Kolo Kiripati more influential in the back row. But with their resources stretched and confidence waning at present, Buccs will be up against it to cause another cup upset.
If Garryowen do not turn up with the right mentality, an upset could be on the cards but you get the sense that Dara O’Sullivan’s charges will do nothing of the sort and it will be business as usual for the 2007 cup winners.
And even if it does become tight, Garryowen seem to have a knack of coming out on the right side of a close result. Cork Constitution, Dungannon, Terenure and UL Bohemians have all found that out to their cost in recent weeks.
Garryowen: to be confirmed
Buccaneers: D Riordan; S Carey, A Gaughan, A Hayman, P Harte; S Rolleston, M Bruce; M Diffley, M Madden, C Higgins, D Gannon, J Tormey, K Kiripati, K O’Gorman, A Hanley.
AIB League Position: 5th in Division One
AIB League Form (last five matches, latest on the right): W (26-14 away to Old Belvedere), W (20-19 at home to Cork Constitution), W (26-19 away to Dungannon), W (22-15 away to Terenure College), W (20-18 at home to UL Bohemians)
AIB Cup Run: 2008/09 – Second Round: Garryowen 37 Thomond 13, Dooradoyle; Third Round: Bective Rangers 9 Garryowen 15, Donnybrook
AIB Cup History: 2005/06: Semi-finalists; 2006/07: Champions; 2007/08: Quarter-finalists
AIB League Position: 13th in Division One
AIB League Form (last five matches, latest on the right): L (29-12 away to Blackrock College), L (21-17 at home to Ballymena), L (30-24 away to UCD), L (47-7 away to Cork Constitution, L (9-8 at home to Galwegians)
AIB Cup Run: 2008/09 – Second Round: Buccaneers 20 Clontarf 18, Dubarry Park; Third Round: Buccaneers 31 UL Bohemians 13, Dubarry Park
AIB Cup History: 2005/06: Semi-finalists; 2006/07: Reached first round; 2007/08: Beaten in second round
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win by 10 or more points
YOUNG MUNSTER v UCC, Tom Clifford Park, 2.30pm
These sides are closely matched in terms of league positions, with Young Munster second-from-bottom in AIB League Division One and UCC currently second in Division Two.
With Munster bragging rights on the line and Young Munster eager for revenge after their 18-8 defeat to the same opposition in last season’s Division Two play-off final, a lively encounter is expected.
UCC boast a crop of very talented youngsters with Gavin Dunne and Sam Cronin one of the most productive half-back pairings in the country.
Team captain Cronin is a quality footballer, always busy behind the Cork’s side hard-working pack. Their front eight will include former underage internationals Neilus Keogh and Don Keogh on Saturday.
Although they are missing full-back Scott Deasy and lock Ian Nagle, UCC could spring a surprise here even though most of their recent wins have been at their Mardyke base.
Young Munster have lost their last four AIB League matches and are in desperate need of a morale-boosting win. Reaching the last-four of the AIB Cup would be a great fillip for the club but of more concern is maintaing their presence in Division One.
Mike Lynch’s side secured arguably the result of the season when they beat reigning Division One champions Cork Constitution at Temple Hill in October, so on their day they can beat anyone.
They had to dig deep to see off UCD in the last round of the cup and facing student opposition again, it is unclear whether they will have experienced half-back Mike Prendergast available as he is due to fly off to a Munster training camp.
Expect big games from the likes of Mark McHugh, Matthew Costelloe and Stephen Carey, who have all impressed this season, but UCC may just edge it.
Young Munster: to be confirmed
UCC: B Derham; P Shallow, I Dineen, A Kelleher, C Crowley; G Dunne, S Cronin; John Ryan, W Falvey, W O’Donovan, N Keogh, E Nugent, D Keogh, D Nathan, James Ryan.
Young Munster –
AIB League Position: 15th in Division One
AIB League Form (last five matches, latest on the right): L (24-6 away to UL Bohemians), L (17-16 at home to Dungannon), L (15-10 away to Galwegians), W (15-3 at home to Terenure College), L (33-19 away to Blackrock College)
AIB Cup Run: 2008/09 – Second Round: Young Munster 18 Belfast Harlequins 15, Tom Clifford Park; Third Round: Young Munster 27 UCD 26, Tom Clifford Park
AIB Cup History: 2005/06: Did not qualify; 2006/07: Did not qualify; 2007/08: Beaten in first round
AIB League Position: 2nd in Division Two
AIB League Form (last five matches, latest on the right): W (7-0 at home to Belfast Harlequins), W (17-16 away to Malone), W (23-10 at home to Dublin University), W (21-9 at home to Ballynahinch), W (31-13 at home to Bective Rangers)
AIB Cup Run: 2008/09 – First Round: UCC 26 Greystones 9, The Mardyke; Second Round: UCC 37 Portadown 0, The Mardyke; Third Round: UCC 9 Old Belvedere 8, The Mardyke
AIB Cup History: 2005/06: Did not qualify; 2006/07: Did not qualify; 2007/08: Reached third round
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCC to win by less than 7 points