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Ulster Bank Junior Cup: Semi-Final Review

Ulster Bank Junior Cup: Semi-Final Review

Enniscorthy, chasing their second title in three years, and first-time challengers Instonians will contest this season’s Ulster Bank All-Ireland Junior Cup final on Saturday, February 6.

2013/14 champions Enniscorthy gained revenge on Bangor for last year’s 14-12 quarter-final defeat as they mastered the heavy underfoot conditions at their Ross Road home.

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Having just lifted the Ulster Junior Cup for the first time last Tuesday night and with a number of regulars either rested or injured, this was a very tough ask for Bangor and so it proved.

Enniscorthy had the wind at their backs in the opening half and moved into a 13-0 lead, out-half Ivan Poole kicking two early penalties and flanker Timmy Morrissey bursting through for a well-taken converted try from a close range ruck.

Bangor had a couple of scoring opportunities despite struggling for territory. Winger Mark Widdowson threatened from a kick chase before he missed a difficult penalty from out wide, and number 8 Curtis Stewart was adjudged to have been held up from a well-driven maul.

The visitors enjoyed strong spells either side of half-time. With Enniscorthy prop Paddy Waters in the sin-bin, Stewart touched down successfully from an advancing five-metre scrum. Widdowson’s conversion attempt was off target.

Nonetheless, a couple of decisions by the match officials, led by referee Ken Imbusch, really hit Bangor’s hopes of drawing closer on the scoreboard. They managed to survive a sin-bin period for out-half Ross McCloskey, but he was given a second yellow card – 10 minutes from the end – for what was deemed a dangerous tackle.

A very well-worked thrust down the right wing, inspired by a Morrissey break and also involving James Doyle, ended with winger Ivan Jacob reaching over for an unconverted try against 14-man Bangor.

Enniscorthy’s captain and man-of-the-match Killian Lett then added a final gloss by expertly slipping by two defenders to score near the left corner, after the hosts had done well to retain possession from a scrappy scrum.

Meanwhile, Instonians delighted their supporters by bouncing back from their midweek Ulster Junior Cup final defeat to qualify in fine style for the All-Ireland Cup decider in February.

Inst got the better of Ulster rivals Clogher Valley in a 50-point thriller, with Glen Baxter, Michael Blackwood, Zach Finlay and Matthew Keane all touching down to inspire a memorable 30-20 triumph.

Their delighted head coach Wilbur Leacock told the Belfast Telegraph: “To come back after Tuesday’s defeat was absolutely brilliant. To regain our confidence and determination was amazing and once we withstood Clogher’s initial 20-minute onslaught, I knew we could do it and we took it to them.”

Clogher had the benefit of a diagonal wind in the opening half and signalled their intent early on with a penalty-winning scrum, having missed an initial opportunity off the kicking tee.

The visitors continued to press, and the penalties stacked up against Inst, leading to a yellow card for their number 8 Rory McCurry. The Valley side profited from a patiently-worked lineout maul with back rower David Sharkey driving over for a converted try.

Out-half Philip Holme added an excellent penalty in the 17th minute, but Inst showed some promise when they put the ball through the hands and Holme’s opposite number Fraser Wright probed with some well-judged kicks.

Playing mostly through their forwards, Clogher failed to score from another close-in maul opportunity and Inst got off the mark when Wright split the posts from a penalty which came after a strong midfield run from centre Rory Bell.

The home side built further momentum with their first try of the semi-final, a series of penalties setting up a five-metre lineout and a neat training ground move saw McCurry attack down the blindside and pass for hooker and captain Baxter to get over in the corner.

However, Clogher had the final say before the interval with another peach of a penalty from Holme, making it 13-8, the kick coming after a bout of handbags saw Inst flanker Lewis McNamara and Clogher’s Ryan Wilson both sin-binned.

Turning around with the wind in their favour, Instonians put width on the ball and they seemed determined to run Clogher into submission, with full-back Andrew McGregor countering impressively from a number of kicks that were sent his way.

Seven minutes in, the Belfast outfit edged ahead for the first time when second row Blackwood powered over following a concerted spell of pressure in the Inst 22. Wright’s conversion made it 15-13.

Leacock’s charges continued to execute to a high level, and they enjoyed a serious purple patch to move 30-13 clear by the 70-minute mark as their energetic backs regularly exploited space on the outside.

A McGregor run got Inst into scoring range and Wright eventually took the drop goal option to make it a five-point game. Replacement winger Finlay soon crossed in the corner following a blindside dart from lively scrum half Keane.

Clogher could not hold out as they leaked a fourth and final try, Keane deservedly getting the scoresheet as he went through a gap around the side of a ruck, 10 metres out, to nip in under the posts with replacement out-half Richard McCartney converting.

The second half blitz, with 22 unanswered points scored against them, left Clogher stunned but they showed great will and character to finish this provincial derby on the attack. A seven-pointer from Wilson off the back of an attacking scrum reduced the arrears, but it was a case of too little, too late.

– With thanks to Bill Lockhart and Roger Corbett


Enniscorthy 23 Bangor 5, Ross Road
Instonians 30 Clogher Valley 20, Shaw’s Bridge

The All-Ireland Junior Cup 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