Fortune has favoured Leinster with home advantage for three of the province’s clubs in today’s Ulster Bank All-Ireland Junior Cup quarter-finals. Meanwhile, Ulster rivals Portadown and Clogher Valley will battle it out for a semi-final place at Chambers Park.
ULSTER BANK JUNIOR CUP QUARTER-FINALS: Saturday, November 12
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
Ashbourne v Bandon, Milltown House
Bandon’s win at Instonians was one of the surprise results in the opening round, their strong scrum and ability to finish chances out wide shining through in a hard-fought 30-26 victory.
Repeating those heroics is the task facing French coach Regis Sonnes and his players, who edged out Muskerry 7-3 in Munster League Division 1 last week thanks to Gearoid O’Leary’s late try.
Well-drilled Ashbourne have moved up to fourth in Leinster League Division 1A. With home advantage and the momentum of four wins on the trot, the Meath men stand on the brink of an historic All-Ireland Junior Cup semi-final place.
De La Salle Palmerston v Galbally, Kirwan Park
Another novel pairing in the All-Ireland Junior Cup’s last-eight. DLSP’s domestic form suggests they have what it takes to reach the semi-finals. A last-minute converted try saw them pip Dundalk 24-23 in the Leinster League last week, cementing their third place ranking in the table.
‘Salmo face Munster opposition again in the Junior Cup, having claimed the scalp of Clonmel (45-5) first time out. Limerick’s Galbally will be tough to beat, their tenacity very evident in recent late triumphs over Gorey (16-13) and Clanwilliam (25-19).
Backs Michael Donovan and Jack O’Mullane are two key men and regular scorers for Galbally whose pack will relish the physical exchanges at Kirwan Park. However, DLSP should have enough in the tank to progress.
Enniscorthy v Ballyclare, Ross Road
Defending champions Enniscorthy are scoring for fun of late, hammering NUI Galway 74-0 in their All-Ireland Junior Cup opener and last week saw them claim a 55-15 bonus point success against Leinster League Division 1A strugglers Monkstown.
Ballyclare will present a difficult challenge, though, and Mike McKeever’s men will be eager to bounce back from last week’s frustrating 22-0 Ulster Junior Cup loss to Coleraine. Niall Lawther returns to bolster their back-line, while second row Rab Boyd remains unavailable.
Tellingly, no Ulster club has won at Ross Road in the last five years, including Bangor who have since earned promoted to the Ulster Bank League. Expect ‘Scorthy to extend that impressive record.
Portadown v Clogher Valley, Chambers Park
Ulster are guaranteed representation at the semi-final stage as either Portadown or Clogher Valley will make it through. Current form suggests the Ports will be the ones to reach the last-four.
Portadown’s squad depth is certainly being tested as they are competing in four competitions at present, and could be playing upwards of 20 matches before Christmas. Gareth McCoy and Gary Hall return to the back row today, with Ryan Calvert replacing Johnny Holden in the centre.
Clogher Valley have struggled in the Ulster Junior League so far this term, injuries and player unavailability not helping their cause. Still, coaches Davy Black and Glen Kyle know their side are capable of causing an upset. Anything can happen in a local derby. Their pack will benefit from the inclusions of back rower Ian Mulligan, who missed last month’s defeat of Monivea, and Ulster Junior lock David Sharkey after a lengthy injury-enforced absence.
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