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Ulster Bank Junior Cup: Quarter-Final Review

Ulster Bank Junior Cup: Quarter-Final Review

Saturday was a red-letter day for Ulster club rugby as three northern clubs (Bangor, Clogher Valley and Instonians) qualified for the Ulster Bank All-Ireland Junior Cup semi-finals, with 2014 champions Enniscorthy the other team to make the last-four.

Clogher Valley served up the result of the quarter-final weekend when they stunned Munster Junior champions Clonmel with a hugely impressive 31-0 defeat at Ard Gaoithe.

The long trip south to the Co. Tipperary venue proved very fruitful for the David Black and Glen Kyle-coached side who dominated the game from start to finish.

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Valley led inside three minutes, their forwards establishing an early stranglehold and strong ball carrier David Sharkey burst through for the opening try which out-half Philip Holme converted.

Holme also added the extras to a well-worked try from man-of-the-match Eugene McKenna in the 12th minute, the end-product of some excellent interplay between backs and forwards.

Denis Leamy’s Clonmel charges struggled to respond and indeed, it was the fired-up visitors who managed to add two more tries before half-time. They built pressure from a series of penalties before a catch and drive effort in the 23rd minute increased their lead to 19-0.

Clogher kept their foot on the gas and then conjured up the try of the game, Holme exploiting a gap on halfway and linking with his half-back partner Aaron Best who evaded the cover and gave Sharkey the time and space to complete his brace in the corner.

Turning around with a 24-point deficit, the Tipp men found some spark in the third quarter, but the well-balanced Valley back row, along with Andy Breen and David Speer in the backs, led an aggressive defence.

Valley lifted the pressure with a ruck steal from Michael Treanor and a brilliant run from deep by Speer got them back into Clonmel territory on the hour mark. Their pack took over again, forcing three scrum collapses from Clonmel inside the hosts’ 22 and referee Glenn Sheridan duly awarded a penalty try which Holme converted.

That completed the rout for Clogher whose commanding performance saw them book their semi-final place in some style. Notably, they face fellow All-Ireland semi-finalists Bangor in the Ulster Junior Cup’s last-four at the Cran next Saturday.

Bangor had to come from behind to see off the challenge of a determined Monkstown team, as a superior second half performance saw the Ulstermen eventually advance on a 38-16 scoreline.

The Dubliners notched two penalties and a drop goal in the first half at Upritchard Park, and they used a misplaced Bangor pass to attack out to the left where a chip over the top ended in a brilliantly-converted try.

That gave Monkstown a 16-12 lead early in the second period, however a yellow card really hampered them as a well-orchestrated Bangor lineout maul saw their influential replacement Curtis Stewart muscle over for his second try of the day.

Mark Widdowson converted and Bangor added another five-pointer soon after, Rob Gamble coming off the bench to very good effect and sliding over in the right corner after a concerted spell of pressure near the Monkstown try-line.

As the home side kept the tempo high, Monkstown began to fall off tackles and with space opening up, Desi Fusco sliced through a gap to score Bangor’s fifth try following some slick handling from half-backs Jason Guthrie and Jason Morgan.

Widdowson converted from the left flank, putting Morgan’s men out of sight at 31-16, before a strong platform from the forwards sprung Bangor through for a final converted score. Guthrie fed Gamble to come in off the wing and his diagonal run caught out the Monkstown defence as he dotted down under the posts.

Munster’s interest in this season’s All-Ireland Junior Cup ended with St. Senan’s joining Clonmel as beaten quarter-finalists. The Shannon town club had converted tries from David Webb and Warren Kelly, but hosts Instonians proved too strong as they ran out convincing 48-14 winners at Shaw’s Bridge.

In cold and windless conditions, Instonians recovered from a sluggish start to lead 22-14 at half-time with Robbie Kirk cutting through midfield for a 13th minute try, fellow winger Matt Kilpatrick adding a second touchdown, Richard McCarthy splitting the posts with a penalty and excellent flanker Matt Dawson barging in under the posts for a late seven-pointer.

The Belfast club, aided by a man-of-the-match performance from industrious prop Alan Whitten, went up through the gears on the resumption, tallying up 26 points without reply. Robbie Whitten returned from injury to strengthen the back row during the closing 40 minutes and Dawson initially went close to scoring an intercept effort.

A powerful lineout maul from the Senan’s 22-metre line did the trick, teeing up Inst hooker and captain Glen Baxter for a try which McCarthy converted. With the visitors losing a player to the sin-bin, Inst had a couple of near misses as a diving Alan Whitten and Misi Bogitini were both denied tries near the corner flag.

The pressure remained on Senan’s as they tried to clear from a five-metre lineout. They retrieved possession from the set piece but Dawson got in to gobble up possession and run in his second try of the game. McCarthy’s conversion had the hosts 36-14 in front, entering the final quarter.

A late tackle saw Instonians replacement prop Josh Lyness yellow-carded, but they managed to tag two more tries late on. Full-back Andrew McGregor benefited from quick ball and a narrow Senan’s defence to run in the penultimate effort and replacement winger Bogotini, following up on a Matthew Keane chip and collect, scooped up the ball to grab try number seven.

Meanwhile, Enniscorthy will carry the hopes of Leinster in next month’s semi-finals after winning their provincial derby against Ashbourne by a comfortable 32-20 margin.

Two converted tries and a penalty had the hosts leading 17-0 inside 18 minutes at Ross Road, but five well-struck penalties from Donal Crotty cut the gap for Ashbourne back to 22-15 by the hour mark.

Nonetheless, two quick-fire tries in the 70th and 72nd minutes saw the Co. Wexford club tighten their grip on the game before Jake Wall weighed in with a late consolation effort for the Meath men.

– With thanks to Bill Lockhart, Stephen Hetherington and Roger Corbett


Bangor 38 Monkstown 16, Upritchard Park
Clonmel 0 Clogher Valley 31, Ard Gaoithe
Enniscorthy 32 Ashbourne 20, Ross Road
Instonians 48 St. Senan’s 14, Shaw’s Bridge

The All-Ireland Junior Cup semi-finals have been scheduled for Saturday, December 12, with the final taking place on Saturday, February 6. The draw for the semi-finals will be made at the IRFU Rugby Committee meeting this Wednesday afternoon.

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.


2015 – Dundalk
2014 – Enniscorthy
2013 – Tullamore
2012 – Tullamore
2011 – Crosshaven
2010 – City of Derry
2009 – Tullamore
2008 – Navan
2007 – Seapoint
2006 – Rainey Old Boys