Home advantage and their Division 1B status have Dungannon and Bruff marked out as probable winners of this weekend’s Bateman All-Ireland Cup semi-finals, but Corinthians and UCD are both more than capable of upsetting the odds.
BATEMAN ALL-IRELAND CUP SEMI-FINALS: Saturday, January 22
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
DUNGANNON (5th, Div 1B) v CORINTHIANS (8th, Div 2), Stevenson Park (match postponed due to unplayable pitch)
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Dungannon: LLWWWL; Corinthians: LWWLWW
Provincial Cup Runs – Dungannon (Ulster Senior Cup): Beat Belfast Harlequins 25-5; Beat Ballymena 25-18; Beat Malone 50-20; Beat City of Derry 25-0 (final); Corinthians (Connacht Senior Cup): Beat Buccaneers 38-9; Beat Galwegians 25-24, after extra-time (final)
Preview: Dungannon may be struggling for consistency in the Ulster Bank League, but they put together an excellent run in the Ulster Senior Cup before Christmas, culminating in an impressive dismissal of City of Derry in the final at snowy Ravenhill.
They blew off the cobwebs with a 38-5 victory over Belfast Harlequins in the Ulster Senior League last weekend, and now set their sights on qualifying for an All-Ireland final.
Saturday’s semi-final will see Dungannon director of rugby Justin Fitzpatrick try to put one over on old friend Sean ‘Diggers’ Duignan, who coaches Corinthians along with Paul Flanagan.
“We’ll take the win (tomorrow) no matter how we get it, but we like to play free-flowing, expansive rugby,” Fitzpatrick told the Belfast Telegraph.
“We want it to be fun to play and we want to entertain but this style also suits our group of players’ skills sets. We’ve a plethora of talented guys.
“Conor Gaston has great ability, Chris Cochrane has been outstanding and Craig Gilroy has already proved his worth with Ulster.
“They fit in really well along with Glen Telford, who is one of the best centres in club rugby, and the hugely experienced Paul Magee.”
But Dungannon will be missing the likes of Gilroy, out-half Paddy Jackson and back rower Thomas Anderson who are set to feature for the Ulster Ravens in the British & Irish Cup this weekend.
Corinthians are developing some fine players themselves, with Eoin Griffin and Shane Conneely making the breakthrough with Connacht.
Youngsters like Conor Murphy, Mick O’Flynn, Mattie Flynn and Aaron Conneely are also producing the goods week in, week out for the Galway club.
Duignan said: “After the bad weather disrupting things, the matches are now coming thick and fast over the next six weeks and the lads are champing at the bit to get some game-time under their belts.
“There’s a tremendous spirit and atmosphere within the entire squad. There’s no shortage of craic and laughs but to their credit, when hard work is required the attitude and application is excellent.
“There are some massive challenges ahead, starting with Dungannon, but the lads are very excited about facing them and trying to pick up results.”
Both sides have promotion in the Ulster Bank League at the top of their priorities, however a national cup is a huge prize and ‘Gannon look well-placed here – even without some of their frontliners – to progress to the April final.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Dungannon to win by 6-10 points
BRUFF (4th, Div 1B) v UCD (2nd, Div 2), Kilballyowen Park, 3pm (Sunday, January 23)
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Bruff: LLWWWWL; UCD: WWWWWW
Provincial Cup Runs – Bruff (Munster Senior Cup): Beat Shannon 21-14; Beat Cork Constitution 11-5; Beat Highfield (walkover); Beat Garryowen 23-19 (final); UCD (Leinster Senior Cup): Beat Old Belvedere 19-10; Beat Dublin University 11-6; Lost to Clontarf 23-21; Beat Seapoint 16-5; Beat Blackrock College 31-30; Beat St. Mary’s College 24-23 (final)
Preview: A big crowd is expected at Kilballyowen Park – with adults getting in for €;5 and kids free – as first-time Munster Senior Cup champions Bruff entertain Leinster winners UCD.
Bruff’s winning run in the Ulster Bank League was ended by Lansdowne recently, but the manner of their Munster final win over Garryowen shows how they thrive on the big occasions.
A victory for either side here would mean an awful lot as Bruff are celebrating their 40th year of existence and visitors UCD are in their centenary season.
Both had some very impressive results in their provincial cup competitions. UCD got the better of current Division 1A leaders Old Belvedere and a highly-regarded St. Mary’s side, while Bruff defeated local rivals Shannon and last season’s All-Ireland Cup champions, Cork Constitution.
Led by centre and captain Andy Cummiskey, UCD boast a hard working, talented squad. Look out for elusive winger Andy Boyle, powerful hooker David Doyle and athletic Leinster-capped lock Mark Flanagan, who has been on British & Irish Cup duty of late.
The students’ league form has been particularly impressive, with six wins in as many games, but Bruff will be quietly confident of turning them over.
Marshalled by player-coaches Eoin Cahill and Peter Malone, the Limerick club has profited from a hugely successful underage structure. So much so that 19 players from their matchday squad for the Munster final have come up through the underage ranks at Kilballyowen Park.
It has been a phenomenal rise for a club that only gained senior status in 2004. Bruff were 24-12 winners when UCD last paid them a visit 15 months ago, and are formidable opposition on their home patch.
It is hard to rule out UCD, on the basis of their attacking ability, cup pedigree and record this season against sides from higher divisions. And John McClean and Bobby Byrne will most certainly have their players primed for a big effort.
However, with Brian Cahill’s boot and captain Cathal O’Regan and his tireless forwards being big factors, Bruff should have enough in the tank to secure a place in the decider.
Last Season’s Meeting – Division 2 – Saturday, October 31, 2009: Bruff 24 UCD 12, Kilballyowen Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Bruff to win by 1-5 points
For the semi-finals and final, seven replacements may tog out and play.
(i) If clubs are tied at full-time, extra-time of 10 minutes each way shall be played.
(ii) If still tied, the club which has scored most tries shall be the winner.
(iii) If still tied, the away team shall be declared the winner.
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