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Ulster Bank Junior Cup Semi-Final Previews

Ulster Bank Junior Cup Semi-Final Previews

The bad weather spoiled one of the biggest days in the Irish junior club rugby calendar last Saturday. So, less than a week before the festive celebrations, Enniscorthy, Bangor, Instonians and Clogher Valley are all hoping to give their supporters an early Christmas present in the form of qualification for the Ulster Bank All-Ireland Junior Cup final.


Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –

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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.

A lot will depend on how Bangor pitch up following their exploits in last Tuesday’s Ulster Junior Cup decider against Instonians. Jason Morgan’s side triumphed 7-5, winning the title for the first time in the club’s history.

Player-coach Morgan, Darren Kelly, Michael Ferguson and Desi Fusco are among the players being rested amid a crowded fixtures schedule for Bangor, who have an important Kukri Qualifying League game against Clogher Valley to come next Saturday. It will certainly test their squad depth, with Morgan hoping for big performances from Ross McCloskey at out-half, Michael Weir in the centre and their Jamie Clegg-led back row.

Bangor made Enniscorthy pay for missed opportunities twelve months ago and although Monkstown handed them a surprise home defeat recently, the Co. Wexford outfit have enough all-round strength to secure the south east club’s third All-Ireland Junior Cup final appearance in four years.

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Enniscorthy to win

INSTONIANS v CLOGHER VALLEY, Shaw’s Bridge, 4.15pm

Preview: Instonians also have a recovery mission on their hands, with Wilbur Leacock’s men looking to quickly put the disappointment of that midweek Ulster Junior Cup final defeat behind them.

Leacock praised the ‘heart and character’ of his side after what was an attritional clash with Bangor, and his team selection will see a good deal of rotation with Mike Blackwood, Lewis McNamara, Zac Finlay, Josh Lewis and Fraser Wright all coming in to start.

Inst’s home form in their domestic league has been impressive as has been their All-Ireland campaign this season with convincing wins over Munster sides Newcastle West (20-5) and St. Senan’s (48-14) in the previous rounds.

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) in the Kukri Qualifying League.

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.

Notably, 14 of the players in the current squad appeared in Valley’s last three All-Ireland semi-finals, so that experience is a welcome asset for Kyle and Black. Captain David Sharkey leads a wily back row, with half-backs Aaron Best and Philip Holme both potential match winners on their day.

IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Clogher Valley to win

Ulster Bank Junior Cup First Round Review

Ulster Bank Junior Cup Quarter-Final Review

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.


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