The top two divisions in the Ulster Bank League take a break for a couple of weeks, so the focus switches to the Bateman Cup and Cork Constitution’s bid to win the competition for a fourth successive year. We preview Saturday’s semi-finals in Galway and Dublin.
ULSTER BANK BATEMAN CUP SEMI-FINALS: Saturday, January 16
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
GALWEGIANS (8th, Div 1A) v BALLYNAHINCH (10th, Div 1A), Crowley Park, 2pm
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – Galwegians: WLLWLLLWWL; Ballynahinch: LLLLLLLLWLW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – Galwegians: Points: Aidan Moynihan 46; Tries: Ed O’Keeffe 6; Ballynahinch: Points: Chris Quinn 73; Tries: Craig Trenier, Aaron Cairns 3 each
Provincial Cups – Galwegians (Connacht Senior Cup): Beat Buccaneers 27-10 (final); Ballynahinch (Ulster Senior Cup): Beat City of Derry 33-29; Drew 5-5 with Belfast Harlequins; Beat Belfast Harlequins 24-5; Beat Ballymena 19-10 (final)
Preview: Last week’s dress rehearsal ended in a runaway league win for Ballynahinch, with second half tries from Blane McIlroy, Conor Joyce and Aaron Cairns guiding Derek Suffern’s men to a 33-16 success.
Ironically, that was the same scoreline when ”Hinch visited Crowley Park at the end of November, although it was the Galway men who triumphed on that occasion thanks largely to an 18-point haul from Connacht’s Shane O’Leary.
O’Leary will be among a number of absentees this weekend as both clubs cope with British & Irish Cup call-ups. The likelihood is that the winning margin should be much closer than the two league games this season so with that in mind, ace goal-kicker Chris Quinn – as he did against Ballymena in the Ulster Senior Cup final – could prove to be the match winner for ‘Hinch.
A victory for the Co. Down side, who were the 2008/09 All-Ireland Cup winners, would see them become the first Ulster club to reach the Bateman Cup final since Ballymena in 2012, while Galwegians are just 80 minutes away from being the first Bateman Cup finalists from Connacht since UCG in 1935/36.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, November 28, 2015: Galwegians 33 Ballynahinch 16, Crowley Park; Saturday, January 9, 2016: Ballynahinch 33 Galwegians 16, Ballymacarn Park
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win
UCD (1st, Div 1A) v CORK CONSTITUTION (4th, Div 1A), Belfield Bowl
Ulster Bank League Season’s Form – UCD: LWWDLWWWWWW; Cork Constitution: LDLDWWLLWW
Ulster Bank League Top Scorers – UCD: Points: Conall Doherty 45; Tries: Barry Daly 9; Cork Constitution: Points: Tomas Quinlan 102; Tries: James Murphy 3
Provincial Cups – UCD (Leinster Senior League Cup): Beat Clontarf 12-3; Beat Skerries 44-24; Beat Old Wesley 34-9; Beat Lansdowne 37-17; Beat Old Belvedere 23-13 (final); Cork Constitution (Munster Senior Cup): Beat Highfield 57-6; Beat Garryowen 11-9
Preview: Provincial duty is also calling for a number of UCD and Cork Constitution’s leading lights, with the likes of Adam Byrne, Andrew Porter, Peadar Timmins, Johnny Holland, Brendan Quinlan and Ned Hodson all missing.
Nonetheless, this is still shaping up to be a fascinating meeting between the top flight’s form team (UCD are the Division 1A leaders and are enjoying a six-match winning streak) and the most decorated All-Ireland Cup side of modern times (Cork Con are gunning for their fourth Bateman Cup title in-a-row, and they also lifted the All-Ireland Cup in 2006 and 2010).
Constitution certainly reserve some of their best performances for this competition, including their 2014 final victory at home to UCD (19-6), and are no strangers to winning away semi-finals. Ballymena (20-13, 2013) and Buccaneers (36-25, 2015) will need no reminder of that.
However, despite some notable absentees from the scrum and behind it, UCD should have enough strength in depth to dethrone the title holders. Noel McNamara will be urging his youngsters to maintain the level of performance they produced in recent weeks against both Old Belvedere and Garryowen.
Recent League Meetings – Saturday, April 11, 2015: Cork Constitution 3 UCD 10, Temple Hill; Saturday, October 3, 2016: Cork Constitution 19 UCD 19, Temple Hill
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: UCD to win
– The final is scheduled for the weekend of April 30/May 1
(i) If teams are tied at full-time, extra-time of 10 minutes each way will be played
(ii) If still tied, the team that has scored the most tries will be the winners
(iii) If still tied, the away team will be declared the winners
All-Ireland Cup Champions’ Roll Of Honour:
2014/15 – Cork Constitution (Bateman Cup)
2013/14 – Cork Constitution (Bateman Cup)
2012/13 – Cork Constitution (Bateman Cup)
2011/12 – Garryowen (Bateman Cup)
2010/11 – Bruff (Bateman Cup)
2009/10 – Cork Constitution
2008/09 – Ballynahinch
2007/08 – Shannon
2006/07 – Garryowen
2005/06 – Cork Constitution