It will be make or break time for eight clubs this Saturday as the AIB Junior Cup quarter-finals take place in Armagh, Kildare, Meath and Mayo. We take a closer look at each of the four games.
2008/09 AIB JUNIOR CUP: QUARTER-FINALS: Saturday, February 14
ARMAGH v CASHEL, Palace Grounds, 2.30pm
After two postponements due to frozen pitches, Armagh and Crosshaven were belatedly able to play their AIB Junior Cup first round tie at the Palace Grounds on January 31.
Armagh ran out 20-13 winners but had it tough and they were only 13-10 ahead at half-time, with influential out-half Johnny Steenson scoring all of their points.
A converted try in the second half from winger Eddie Irwin was enough for the Armagh side to make the competition’s last-eight. They are coached this season by former Dungannon AIB League winner Andrew Hughes.
The best indication of Armagh’s form is in the Kukri Qualifying League where they are currently second-placed in the table, courtesy of 11 wins from 13 games.
Their opponents on Saturday, Cashel, enjoyed a handsome 49-3 first round victory over Clogher Valley and the Tipperary side will be determined to win through to the semi-finals in their debut season in the AIB Junior Cup.
Cashel currently top the Munster Junior League, on the back of nine straight wins. This will be a good test for the defending Munster champions and current form would indicate that they could cause an upset.
CILL DARA v RICHMOND, Beechpark, 2.30pm
Richmond travel to Kildare this weekend, looking to reach the AIB Junior Cup semi-finals for the first time in their history.
Boosted by their Munster Junior Cup replay win over Young Munster last weekend, Richmond will travel with a good deal of confidence.
Currently fifth in the Munster Junior League table, the Limerick club beat Castlebar away in the first round of the AIB Junior Cup, gaining a 23-17 win, so there will be little fear for them in having to travel to Beechpark.
Half-backs Jeff McNamara and Darragh Clancy are two slick operators whose goal-kicking came to the fore in Castlebar.
Flanker James Willis, lock Adrian Browne and centres James McDermott and John O’Driscoll also had big games in that first round tie.
Hosts Cill Dara are also in their first season in the AIB Junior Cup and they accounted for Ballina (10-6) on the road in round one.
The Kildare town outfit moved up to fifth in the Leinster Junior League Division One standings when they put together back-to-back wins over Portlaoise and Dundalk.
Coached by Paddy White and Enda Finn, Cill Dara have worryingly not had a competitive game for three weeks after the postponement of their Provincial Towns Cup second round game last Sunday.
NAVAN v BALLYMONEY, Balreask Old, 2.30pm
Reigning AIB Junior champions Navan will put their title on the line once again on Saturday when Antrim side Ballymoney visit Balreask Old.
Unfortunately, Ballymoney, who are currently fifth in the Kukri Qualifying League, have some injuries to key players at the moment and will not be at full strength.
An away win would be a surprise but it would be a significant boost for ‘the Toon’, as they recently started the formulation process for the club’s new three-year plan.
In the first round, Ballymoney claimed a 23-3 home win over St. Senan’s and Navan beat 2007 champions Seapoint 23-12 away from home.
Seapoint gained some revenge on Navan when they scored a 30-9 victory in a recent Leinster League tie but the Meath men remain top of the provincial table and they should prolong their All-Ireland cup run here.
WESTPORT v TULLAMORE, Carrowholly, 2.30pm
Tullamore, who are currently third behind Seapoint and Navan in the Leinster Junior League Division One, face a trip to County Mayo as they look to keep up their interest in the AIB Junior Cup.
The Offaly side lost last season’s final to Navan and have a strong pedigree in the competition, having featured in it for the past three years.
In league terms, they began 2009 with wins over Wicklow and Monkstown and accounted for a highly-rated Cooke outfit in the first round of the AIB Junior Cup.
Flankers Colin Finnerty and Rob Connors are key players, as is out-half and club captain Gearoid O’Grady.
But again, they have not played for the past two weekends and that will be a worry for Andy Melville and his coaching staff.
Hosts Westport, who lost to Clonmel at this stage last year, have had some encouraging cup wins since Christmas and will have Liam Scahill available and free from his dual status commitments with Galwegians.
Lyndon Jones is out injured for them, leaving Eddie Walsh to take on the out-half duties. Westport recently lost away to Tuam in the Connacht League and their lack of obvious form may see them second best on the day.