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Club Rugby: Provincial Preview

Club Rugby: Provincial Preview

Rob Murphy from grassroots rugby website, www.knockon.ie, brings us his weekly look at the local club action from around the four provinces.

Ulster Bank League Round Robin Qualifiers

Kanturk moved to within one win of All-Ireland League rugby last eekend thanks in the main to a blistering first half display at home to Clogher Valley.

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Three tries were enough to secure a deserved win, but the 18-7 scoreline flattered the Cork side by full-time leaving them with plenty to ponder ahead of their Easter Saturday play-off at Instonians.

The atmosphere at Shaw’s Bridge in Belfast city will be a unique one. The proud home club of Instonians will be defending their senior status against a Kanturk side that are taking a lot of positive momentum into the clash.

Wanderers completed their journey back to senior rugby on their home patch last Saturday 51-7 victory over Galway outfit OLBC.

The margin of victory underlined their superiority on the day and a run of 16 wins from 17 outings in the campaign for promotion should explain the rest.

The Dubliners’ sole defeat came on the last day of league season at Cill Dara when the home side had a lot more at stake regarding the outcome.

Overall, if you take out the first month of last season, Wanderers have been a cut above every other side in Leinster junior rugby since October 2012.

It took time to adjust to life back in the junior ranks and the machine that was Tullamore proved too much to overcome in season one.

Connacht

Impressive away performances were the order of the day in the Cawley Cup semi-finals last Sunday as Westport and Connemara booked their places in the final which is scheduled for Easter Sunday at 2.30pm in Crowley Park, home of Galwegians RFC.

It took a late try in Moher Road for Westport to pip Ballinasloe and reach a second major final of the season. The 24-23 win sends the Bulls back to the final of this competition after a heavy defeat at the hands of Ballina in last year’s decider.

Meanwhile, Connemara are competing in the competition – reserved solely for junior clubs – for the very first time this season and followed up their one-point victory at Monivea last week with a slightly more comprehensive 21-12 triumph at Ballina.

In the Curley Cup final, Corrib will take on Carrick-on-Shannon in the final this Friday evening in Ballyhaunis. The Galway side will be firm favourites against their Leitrim opponents but it represents a huge opportunity for the fledgling club from the north west of the province to get their first provincial silverware.

Leinster

There is only one show in town in Leinster junior rugby this weekend as the Provincial Towns Cup final takes centre stage with Black Gates, home of Tullow RFC, hosting the showpiece event for junior clubs around the province.

The final is a novel pairing as an Ashbourne take on Kilkenny in a final that has the potential to be a thrilling battle for the big crowd that is expected to attend.

A huge volunteer operation will be in place at the Carlow club with a marquee, food on site and plenty of other entertainment to keep the large crowds entertained before the 3pm kick-off.

Both sides are back in the final after a long absence. Kilkenny are going for title number six and take to the field for a Towns Cup final for the first time since 2002. Meanwhile, Ashbourne are looking for a first title and were last in the final in 1999 when they lost to Naas.

The form guide suggests the County Meath side has the edge coming into this encounter. They won Division 1B of the Leinster league and gained promotion to the top tier this season after a run of 14 wins from 14 outings and they have maintained that remarkable unbeaten run in this competition.

In the same division, Kilkenny had a more understated campaign but injuries played a part in that and since Christmas they have been a real force, ousting last year’s beaten finalists Longford and Division 1 pair Clondalkin and Newbridge on their way to the semi-finals where they got the better of Wicklow.

Munster

It is quarter-finals weekend in the Munster Junior Cup and the competition is building towards an exciting conclusion with the senior club superiority not as clear-cut this season as it has been in previous years.

One of the major contenders will fall at this hurdle on Sunday at Annacotty where UL Bohemians host holders Garryowen. The Dooradoyle side almost lost their title in the previous round at home to St. Senan’s but survived in extra-time, while Bohs eased past Galbally in the last 16.

Cashel seconds are making great progress. They got the better of Muskerry in the last 16 and have a home tie with Clonakilty on Sunday. The west Cork side are finishing the season strongly and look like strong contenders for this title in their first year back at junior level.

In Tipperary town, a big crowd is expected to descend on Clanwilliam Park for their clash with Thomond seconds.

The Limerick city team have made great progress this season and ousted Division 1 top four side Newcastle West at Liam Fitzgerald Park last weekend. They come into this one as favourites with a home semi-final at stake.

There will be quarter-final action in west Cork too as Skibbereen look to continue their good recent record in this competition when they host ever-improving Clonmel. The south Tipperary outfit caused a major stir in the previous round with their win away to Cork Constitution.

Ulster

The Towns Cup final takes centre stage in Ulster at Ravenhill (2.30pm) on Easter Monday as Clogher Valley take to the field for the 32nd time in all competitions this season to face underdogs Donaghadee in the decider.

The east coast men in green and red won the 2011/12 Junior Cup and have caused quite a stir on their way to the final, knocking out current Junior Cup holders Ballynahinch seconds in the semi-finals. Their league form has been far from consistent but all their focus is on this end of season clash.

For the men from Fivemiletown, the long arduous season has taken its toll but they enter the final in good spirits after another league title-winning campaign and a battling effort in the Ulster Bank League Round Robin qualifiers despite a difficult spate of injuries during the last four weeks.

Valley’s come-from-behind win over Ballymena seconds in the semi-finals was all the more impressive considering the hectic schedule of late.

Last weekend CIYMS secured their place in next season’s All-Ireland Junior Cup competition by sneaking into the top four with a 28-7 win in their final game away to Donaghadee. That helped them leapfrog over Dromore who finished fifth for the second successive season.

Next Wednesday at Ravenhill (7pm), the McCrea Cup final takes place for teams in the Belfast metropolitan area with CIYMS up against underdogs Grosvenor in what should be an entertaining contest.

Check out www.knockon.ie for all your grassroots rugby news.