The competition organisers have confirmed that Portlaoise Rugby Club will be the venue for the upcoming Ulster Bank Junior Cup final between Ashbourne and Kilfeacle & District, with the game kicking off at 2.30pm on Saturday, January 27.
Ashbourne are the defending champions, having dethroned Enniscorthy in a thrilling final last year, and are aiming to become the first All-Ireland Junior Cup back-to-back winners since Tullamore in 2012 and 2013.
The County Meath club have made home advantage count throughout this season’s tournament, with wins over Ballyclare (23-13), Clonmel (22-13) and Ballina (22-17) at their Milltown House base and an average of three tries per game.
Flanker Conor Hurley has tallied up three tries so far, including a brace against Munster champions Clonmel, while captain Gavin Kennedy, their goal-kicking hero from the 2017 decider, continues to play a key role in open play and as a place-kicker.
Kilfeacle & District’s return to the All-Ireland Junior Cup after an absence of three years has seen them make history by securing a prized place in next month’s final. They are only the third Munster club to reach this stage and are bidding to match the feats of Crosshaven, the only previous Junior Cup champions from the province.
The Tipperary men had two visits to County Galway in the early rounds, recording victories over Monivea (24-7) and Connemara (12-10), and last Saturday’s semi-final at Morrissey Park saw them edge out Munster rivals Newcastle West, 17-14, thanks to Diarmuid O’Donnell’s 71st-minute try.
The Kilfeacle pack came to the fore during those three games, with two penalty tries awarded and brilliant back rower Kevin Kinane, a tireless carrier and defender, chipping in with a brace of tries in the opening round against Monivea.
Portlaoise Rugby Club is the ninth different venue to host an All-Ireland Junior Cup final. The midlands club will follow in the footsteps of Old Wesley RFC, Ashbourne RFC, Portadown RFC, Coolmine RFC and Cill Dara RFC in recent years, while the earlier finals were held at Lansdowne Road, Dubarry Park (on five occasions) and Templeville Road.
ULSTER BANK ALL-IRELAND JUNIOR CUP FINAL: Saturday, January 27
Ashbourne v Kilfeacle & District, Portlaoise RFC, 2.30pm
PREVIOUS CHAMPIONS –
2017 – Ashbourne
2016 – Enniscorthy
2015 – Dundalk
2014 – Enniscorthy
2013 – Tullamore
2012 – Tullamore
2011 – Crosshaven
2010 – City of Derry
2009 – Tullamore
2008 – Navan
2007 – Seapoint
2006 – Rainey Old Boys