The AIB Cup and AIB Junior Cup finals take place at Dubarry Park in Athlone next Sunday. Reigning Division One champions Cork Constitution will be favoured to capture the Senior title at the expense of surprise packets Ballynahinch.
But Division Two outfit Ballynahinch should not be discounted lightly, having knocked out three top flight teams – Garryowen, Galwegians and holders Shannon – in previous rounds.
Indeed, the County Down men claimed the scalps of both Shannon and ‘Wegians away from home so they will not be overawed by the prospect of meeting Cork Constitution on neutral soil.
‘Hinch and place-kicking ace Ryan Bambry are going well in Division Two, nestled in third place.
Cork Constitution have a huge pick and are, arguably, the best club side in the country but they came unstuck away to Blackrock College in the league last weekend so are not unbeatable.
Indeed, they have lost four league matches to date. But they can boast a host of players with Munster experience in their ranks while ex-Bucc David Kelly has established himself in the senior squad this term.
It should be a cracker of a contest in which Cork Con’s greater experience and strength in depth could prove decisive, but Ballynahinch will not be intimidated easily and can be counted upon to make this a very competitive and exciting final.
The AIB Junior Cup precedes the Senior decider and is a repeat of last year’s final pairing with Leinster clubs Navan and Tullamore going head-to-head once more.
Navan had the ‘indian’ sign on the Offaly club last season but Tullamore will be keen to wrestle the crown away from one of their arch rivals on Sunday.
Skipper Bernard Smyth will be leading the Meath club by example as they look to become the first club to retain an AIB Cup trophy and Karl Manning, Ryan Roberts and David Geraghty could be his key allies.
However, Tullamore are going well at present and will look to their captain Gearoid O’Grady to be their talisman.
Colin Finnerty is an abrasive back rower who will be a constant thorn for the holders, while young Rob Connor, Polonga Pedro, Niall Geraghty and wily player coach Andy Melville can be counted on to make this a tight battle to the finish.
The Senior final, which is being transmitted live on RTE Two, kicks off at 3pm and is preceded by the Junior decider at 1pm. Cash will be taken at the turnstiles in the midlands stadium.