Four mouth-watering fixtures make up a fascinating Ulster Bank All-Ireland Junior Cup quarter-final day, with big crowds expected in Bangor, Clonmel, Enniscorthy and Belfast. There are three teams each from Leinster and Ulster, while Clonmel and St. Senan’s carry the hopes of Munster.
ULSTER BANK ALL-IRELAND JUNIOR CUP QUARTER-FINALS: Saturday, November 21
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
BANGOR v MONKSTOWN, Upritchard Park
Preview: Two former All-Ireland League clubs meet in what promises to be a keenly-contested tie. Bangor were 23-10 winners over Clondalkin in the opening round, and will be hoping to make it a ‘Dublin double’ against Monkstown.
Jason Morgan’s men are currently top of Ulster Qualifying League 1 and have a busy schedule, with an Ulster Junior Cup semi-final (away to Clogher Valley) next Saturday. He is hoping influential forward Curtis Stewart passes a fitness test on his calf for the Monkstown game, and goal-kicking winger Mark Widdowson is another key man back from injury.
Monkstown travel north on the back of a 39-25 league victory over Suttonians. They hit Muskerry for six tries on their long-awaited return to the All-Ireland Junior Cup last month, and Bangor will certainly need to curb the influence of props Aaron O’Callaghan, Cian Carroll and Hugh O’Donnell who all touched down in the previous round.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Bangor to win
CLONMEL v CLOGHER VALLEY, Ard Gaoithe
Preview: These two sides received walkovers in the first round so they will be itching to get going in what is another eagerly-awaited interprovincial clash. Clonmel will be aiming to avoid any late lapses, just like the one that saw them defeated by Bangor at this venue 13 months ago.
The Tipperary men lead the way at the top of Munster Junior League Division 1, their fifth successive victory – 14-8 against St. Senan’s – owing much to a 65th minute try from powerful second row Ronan Crosse.
Clogher, who lie fourth in their domestic league, boast some strong combinations, particularly in the forwards where number 8 Ryan Wilson has weighed in with eight tries in four games. They will miss injured centre PC Faulkner, and Clonmel should have enough quality to make home advantage count – but expect a tight winning margin.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clonmel to win
ENNISCORTHY v ASHBOURNE, Ross Road
Preview: There is a lot of interest in this crunch Leinster derby as Ashbourne look to overcome tournament favourites and 2014 champions Enniscorthy at their Ross Road fortress.
Ashbourne’s most recent trip south to the Co. Wexford town saw them comprehensively beaten 38-3, with wingers Ivan Jacob and David O’Dwyer, flanker Tom Ryan and number 8 Timmy Morrissey all crossing the whitewash for Enniscorthy.
Enniscorthy, who had a walkover from Dromore in the first round, are riding high at the top of Leinster Junior League Division 1A with six wins from six. Centre Hugh O’Neill’s late try saw them edge out second-placed DLSP 21-14 last weekend. Ashbourne are an improving force – out-half Donal Crotty landed eight penalties in their 24-11 victory over Clondalkin – and this should be a lot closer than the sides’ league meeting last month.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Enniscorthy to win
INSTONIANS v ST. SENAN’S, Shaw’s Bridge
Preview: Instonians tackle Munster opposition for the second successive round, as St. Senan’s from Co. Clare visit Shaw’s Bridge for the first time in their history.
Robert Whitten, Paddy Bell and Michael Blackwood return from injury for Wilbur Leacock’s Inst side, who are in the midst of three competitions between Ulster Qualifying League 1, the Ulster Junior Cup and All-Ireland Junior Cup.
The Belfast outfit were 20-5 winners away to Newcastle West in the last round, while St. Senan’s dismissed Moniva on a 34-3 scoreline and gave Clonmel a tough examination in the league last weekend. Number 8 Niall Mallon was to the fore as they earned a late losing bonus point in Tipperary. Inst will certainly have to keep close tabs on Warren Kelly, Emile Mafiet and Fernando Galant in the Shannon club’s back-line.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Instonians to win
The four quarter-final winners will advance to the All-Ireland Junior Cup semi-finals on Saturday, December 12, with the final taking place on Saturday, February 6.
The Ulster Bank-sponsored competition has been a springboard to further success for several previous winners and finalists – the likes of Armagh, Tullamore, Rainey Old Boys, City of Derry and Dundalk have all gone on to gain promotion to the Ulster Bank League.
PREVIOUS CHAMPIONS –
2015 – Dundalk
2014 – Enniscorthy
2013 – Tullamore
2012 – Tullamore
2011 – Crosshaven
2010 – City of Derry
2009 – Tullamore
2008 – Navan
2007 – Seapoint
2006 – Rainey Old Boys