There will be a new name on the All-Ireland Junior Cup trophy this season. Holders City of Derry were promoted to the All-Ireland League last term and 2009 winners Tullamore were knocked out by Sligo on Saturday afternoon.
ALL-IRELAND JUNIOR CUP FIRST ROUND RESULTS: Saturday, October 30
Armagh 34 Tralee 23, Palace Grounds
Ballymoney 27 Boyne 23, Kilraughts Road
Dromore 55 Ballina 22, Barban Hill
Dundalk 24 Crosshaven 49, Mill Road
Monivea 23 Cashel 19, Castle Grounds
Skerries 59 Clonmel 5, Holmpatrick
Tullamore 11 Sligo 19, Spollanstown
Cooke 78 Corrib 9, Shaw’s Bridge
With City of Derry promoted, the 2009 winners Tullamore must have entertained hopes of continuing their love affair with the All-Ireland Junior Cup but it was not to be.
In the tie of the first round, a game Sligo side put the two-time finalists out of this season’s competition with a 19-11 win at Spollanstown.
The Connacht men outscored hosts Tullamore by three tries to one, having trailed 8-0 in the opening half. A penalty from out-half Johnny Moloney and try from scrum half Richie Hughes helped Tullamore nudge ahead.
Hughes’ 25th-minute effort was the result of some concerted pressure in the Sligo 22. After a series of rucks, he sniped over in the corner. Moloney’s conversion attempt fell short of the posts.
Sligo scored a confidence-boosting try just before half-time when Mark Butler’s cross-field kick broke for well-placed winger Frankie Feeney to gather and beat the cover for the corner. Out-half Butler’s missed conversion left it 8-5 for the break.
A 43rd minute penalty from Moloney extended Tullamore’s lead, but it proved to be the home side’s final score as Sligo began to turn the screw.
Great persistence from centre Matele Fifita forced Tullamore to concede a lineout, and after Sligo had slogged through twelve phases of play, scrum half Paddy Pearson spotted a gap and burst clear to score out wide on the right. Butler added to Sligo’s momentum with a terrific conversion for a 12-11 scoreline.
With a solid set piece behind them, the visitors claimed the match-winning score ten minutes from time. Powerful prop Wesley Maxwell barged his way forward, making good yardage, before Butler used ruck ball to sidestep past the defence and raid in under the posts, adding the extras himself for an eight-point lead.
Turnovers blighted Tullamore’s play as they tried to run at Sligo and carve out some openings, and the visitors’ committed defence, summed up by the tough-tackling James Wilson, saw the visitors deservedly hold on.
Sligo will entertain last season’s beaten finalists, Armagh, at the quarter-final stage. Armagh excelled in the opening half against Tralee, building a 26-9 lead at the Palace Grounds.
Tries from Garrett Walsh and John Morath brought the Kerry side back into contention, but Armagh proved too strong on the day.
Former IRFU President John Callaghan, a proud Armagh clubman, spoke afterwards about the club game, the friendships made, the value of the All-Ireland Junior Cup and of Tralee’s involvement with the IRFU Charitable Trust.
The meeting of the reigning Ulster and Leinster Junior Cup champions at Kilraughts Road went the way of Ballymoney on a tight 27-23 scoreline.
Extra-time was needed to separate Ballymoney and Boyne in what was a high quality encounter. Boyne, the current Leinster League leaders, took the lead in the tenth minute with a penalty from debutant out-half Richard Jenkinson.
Ballymoney moved ahead for half-time, 5-3, and both sides missed conversion attempts at the end of a five-try final quarter. But a converted try in extra-time was enough to send the Antrim outfit into the last-eight.
Crosshaven are the only Munster club left in the competition after their impressive 49-24 win at Dundalk. Bobby Rodgers scored a hat-trick of tries for the Cork side, with Andrew Lane, Robbie Savage, Darren O’Keeffe and Graham Edwards also touching down.
Cian McGovern finished with a 14-point tally, courtesy of four conversions and two penalties. Crosshaven face a long trip to Dromore next month, the Down side having accounted for Ballina in the opening round (55-22).
Props Richard Mackey and Jonny Murray starred for Dromore in the scrum and both carried a ball-carrying threat. Understrength Ballina were 36-3 adrift at the interval, with lock Stephen Robinson, winger James Gibson, centre Chris Leathem (2) and flanker De Wet Bekker crossing the visitors’ whitewash.
Quick-fire tries from centres Chris O’Neill and David Newman, who finished off a fine team effort, saw Ballina burst into life at the start of the second half. But normal service was resumed when Dromore number 8 Gary Hall and scrum half Tom Finn (2) struck for further Dromore tries.
Ballina actually had to finish the game with 14 players, owing to injuries and a used bench, and there uncontested scrums for the closing 20 minutes. But the visitors gained some consolation as O’Neill completed his brace of tries.
Meanwhile, Monivea showed their battling qualities to seal a hard-fought 23-19 victory over Cashel at the Castle Grounds, while Cooke and Skerries enjoyed big home wins.
At Shaw’s Bridge, Cooke outclassed Galway side Corrib in a 78-9 trouncing. Corrib were missing a number of frontline players due to injury and it showed in the final scoreline.
By half-time, Cooke were 43-6 to the good. Scrum half Jonny Manning took a quick tap penalty to dart over by the posts for the hosts’ opening try. They scored 11 tries in all.
Skerries touched down on nine occasions in their 59-5 triumph over Clonmel at Holmpatrick on Saturday, which was a fitting way to christen their new home pitch.
Experienced scrum half Chris Keane was involved in the build-up to centre Peter Tanner’s opening try, and Tanner’s midfield partner, Ross Dempsey, added a second in the 25th minute. Dempsey turned provider when his break teed up Tanner for his second, on the half hour mark, and Skerries were 19-0 in front.
Skerries kept pressing for scores in the second half and Dempsey, Keane, flanker Rick O’Mahony and winger Paul Devitt, who helped himself to a hat-trick, duly delivered. Clonmel’s John Long salvaged some pride for the visitors with a 61st minute try.
Skerries are the only Leinster team left in the competition, after the opening round, and will travel to Belfast to face Cooke in a mouth-watering quarter-final clash.
With two Connacht clubs qualifying for the quarter-finals, Connacht CEO Gerry Kelly said: “To have two Connacht teams in the quarter-finals shows that club rugby in the province of Connacht is as strong as ever.
“Sligo were unlucky to be knocked out at the quarter-final stage last season, while Monivea were beaten by eventual winners City of Derry in the semi-finals, so hopefully they can go one step further this year and I wish both teams the very best of luck.”
ALL-IRELAND JUNIOR CUP QUARTER-FINALS: Saturday, November 27
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
Monivea v Ballymoney, Castle Grounds
Dromore v Crosshaven, Barban Hill
Cooke v Skerries, Shaw’s Bridge
Sligo v Armagh, Hamilton Park