2013/14 champions Enniscorthy stand in the way of Ulster’s near domination of this season’s Ulster Bank All-Ireland Junior Cup, with three northern clubs (Bangor, Instonians and Clogher Valley) contesting Saturday’s semi-finals.
ULSTER BANK ALL-IRELAND JUNIOR CUP SEMI-FINALS: Saturday, December 12
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
ENNISCORTHY v BANGOR, Ross Road
Preview: This is Enniscorthy’s third home game in this season’s Junior Cup, albeit that they got a walkover from Dromore in the first round. The Leinster Junior League pacesetters have some unfinished business with Bangor who knocked them out at the quarter-final stage last year.
Winger Mark Widdowson’s late converted try – with Enniscorthy’s Ivan Jacob in the sin-bin – steered Bangor to a 14-12 victory at Upritchard Park. There was a high standard and intensity throughout that clash, and supporters of both clubs will be hoping for an equally exciting rematch.
Reaching their second successive All-Ireland final would be a big boost for Jason Morgan’s Bangor side just three days before they play Instonians in the Ulster Junior Cup decider at Kingspan Stadium. Apart from influential back rower David Bradford who has a knock and is being rested for Tuesday’s game, the Kukri Qualifying League leaders are bringing a strong squad down to Co. Wexford.
They made Enniscorthy pay for missed opportunities twelve months ago and although Monkstown handed them a surprise home defeat recently, Killian Lett and his team-mates have enough all-round strength to secure the south east club’s third Junior Cup final appearance in four years.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Enniscorthy to win
INSTONIANS v CLOGHER VALLEY, Shaw’s Bridge
Preview: These are very busy times for Instonians with three big matches in the space of a week – this All-Ireland Junior Cup semi-final is followed by the Ulster Junior Cup decider against Bangor on Tuesday and then Saturday week’s league trip to Portadown.
Fraser Wright and David Scott miss out through injury this weekend, but Inst boss Wilbur Leacock is able to retain the team that beat Ballyclare 21-7 last time out in the Kukri Qualifying League. They got the better of two Munster sides – Newcastle West (20-5) and St. Senan’s (48-14) – on the way to the last-four.
Their opponents in this all-Ulster tie, Clogher Valley, are appearing in their fourth straight All-Ireland semi-final – their only victory so far came against Skibbereen two years ago. Valley claimed the result of this season’s competition when thumping Munster kingpins Clonmel 31-0 and have already beaten Inst (20-8) on the domestic scene.
The confidence built up by those two results could prove crucial for the visitors come Saturday. Winning away from home for the second round running is a tough ask, but Glen Kyle and Davy Black’s charges have it in them to achieve the feat.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clogher Valley to win
The two semi-final winners will advance to the final which will take 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