In our weekly preview of grassroots rugby action from www.knockon.ie, we take a look at the club game in all four provinces.
Monivea, OLBC and Ballinasloe are all in contention for a place in the Ulster Bank League Round Robin qualifiers heading into the final round of action in Connacht this weekend, as they battle to be the highest ranked junior club behind Division 1A title winners Corinthians.
Ballinasloe and OLBC are level on 39 points – three points behind a Monivea side that have a vastly superior points difference should they finish level with either of the sides below them.
A losing bonus point then will be enough for the men from the Castle Grounds to hold off the challenge from below.
The problem for Monivea, however, is their form of late has been very poor. They have now gone three games without a win and the injury crisis in terms of forwards is not showing any signs of clearing. That opens up the very real possibility of an upset in the Galway village this weekend.
The relegation battle continues. Connemara are now in a strong position after their 20-10 victory over Ballina last time out and are away to already-relegated Tuam this weekend, knowing a win will keep them safe.
Westport need to get at least a point against Ballinasloe to avoid the drop and a win will take them clear of the relegation play-off.
In Division 1B, Corrib and Creggs meet in Headford with the home side needing the win to avoid relegation.
Ballinrobe secured the Division 1C crown last weekend and immediate promotion back to the second tier after last year’s relegation. NUIG secured a play-off spot.
The cup competitions take centre stage in Leinster this weekend. The Provincial Towns Cup, sponsored by Cleaning Contractors, has reached the quarter-final stage with one outstanding second round tie to be played on Sunday as well.
The stand-out tie of the round will take place at Ross Road as 2012 champions Enniscorthy take on 2011 winners Dundalk in a match-up of two of the main contenders for the title.
The home side finished fourth in the league thanks to last Sunday’s win over Newbridge, while the visitors from Louth were second in the league this year.
That is one of two games in the south east region of the province with giant-killers Kilkenny back in action on home soil at Foulkestown and up against Newbridge on Sunday afternoon.
The Division 1A visitors from Kildare should be favourites by dint of their league position, but the home side have knocked out last year’s runners-up Longford and Division 1A outfit Clondalkin already.
Reigning champions Tullamore are of course now in the All-Ireland League, but their second team remain in the competition and will look to defend the title at Spollanstown on Sunday as Division 1B’s Wicklow arrive in good form. The visitors beat Tullow in extra-time in round 2.
There is one outstanding round 2 tie as Roscrea take on Midland Warriors at Streamstown. The home side have been reinstated in the competition as a follow on from Cill Dara’s punishment for a transfer form irregularity.
The sides are two divisions apart but the Moate side upset the men from the Tipperary/Offaly border in the Midlands League back in September. The draw for the semi-finals will take place in Enniscorthy at the conclusion of the game there.
The Metro Cup quarter-finals also take place in the coming days as the second teams from eight Ulster Bank League clubs look to continue their run.
Round 2 giant-killers Old Wesley will look to add to their first round scalp of Wanderers firsts at Donnybrook on Sunday when they take on near neighbours Old Belvedere in what looks like the game of the round.
The other two ties are on next Tuesday evening at 7.30pm. Dublin University will attempt to upset the odds against Lansdowne at Sydney Parade, while UCD will be firm favourites against Seapoint at Belfield.
Competition favourites Clontarf are already into the last-four having defeated Terenure College last week.
Last Sunday, Kanturk claimed the Munster Junior League title for the first time in the club’s storied history.
They conclude their campaign tonight (Friday) away to Galbally, and continue their preparation for the forthcoming Ulster Bank League Round Robin qualifiers which commence next weekend.
The league title went to the Cork side a week earlier than expected because St. Mary’s unexpectedly slipped up at home to Newcastle West.
They will need to win their final game away to relegated Mallow on Sunday to regain second spot on the final day. At the bottom, Waterpark seem set to join Mallow barring an unlikely set of results.
In Division 2, Kinsale secured promotion to the top tier for the first time in their 32-year history last Sunday with a hard-earned 19-13 victory away to Waterford City.
That win completed a remarkable campaign for the Cork side where they scored 48 tries and conceding just 10 tries in 13 games.
Meanwhile, in Division 3 last weekend, Abbeyfeale and Ballincollig both secured promotion. They will battle it out for the title over the final couple of rounds.
There is one outstanding Munster Junior Cup first round fixture on Sunday and it promises to be a great clash between two local rivals as Division 1 side Muskerry host Bandon who are sitting third in Division 2.
The Ulster Qualifying League title race concluded on Wednesday with Clogher Valley making the trip to the east coast and coming away with a narrow 6-3 win over Donaghadee to wrap up a second league championship in three years.
David Black’s side have been ruthless all year, but they have also demonstrated an ability to grind out results when the pressure comes on. A long trip east on a Wednesday night is a challenge and they overcame it well.
Last Sunday, they put in the groundwork for victory in their last home game of the league campaign with a bonus point 31-0 win over All-Ireland Junior Cup chasing Dromore. A clear demonstration of the gulf in the league at the moment.
They now can look forward to the Round Robin qualifiers which will include a home clash against the Connacht qualifiers (either Monivea, OLBC or Ballinasloe) and trips to Kanturk and Wanderers.
Portadown kept the pressure on this week with a hard earned 10-7 win at Ballymoney and a good result from the long trip to Coleraine on Wednesday night, but it was never going to be enough.
Only one side goes down and UUC are set for that position, so the last issue to be decided is the All-Ireland Junior Cup places.
Bangor have all but secured third after a tremendous first season back in the top flight. They play the seaside derby this weekend with near rivals Donaghadee.
Dromore and Ballymoney are battling it out for the last All-Ireland Junior Cup spot. The former have one extra game to play beyond this weekend, that is away to Bangor.
Check out www.knockon.ie for all your grassroots rugby news.