Sligo are hoping to upset the odds against defending champions Terenure College, and Division 1A rivals Ballynahinch and Young Munster face off, as the Energia Bateman Cup semi-finals get the early season spotlight.
The Bateman Cup final is scheduled to take place in the New Year, on Saturday, January 6. The venue will be confirmed following the completion of the last-four clashes.
ENERGIA BATEMAN CUP SEMI-FINALS:
Saturday, September 30
Kick-off 2.30pm unless stated –
BALLYNAHINCH v YOUNG MUNSTER, Ballymacarn Park
Preview: Ballynahinch are back in the Bateman Cup for the first time since 2017. All-Ireland Cup winners back in 2009, this is ‘Hinch’s fourth attempt to reach a Bateman Cup final. Head coach Adam Craig has had to cope with a lengthy injury list of late.
New Zealander Dominic Clapcott makes just his second start for ‘Hinch at out-half, with Ulster Academy newcomer Ethan Graham featuring on the left wing. Bradley Luney packs down at number 8, coming up against what is always a challenging Young Munster pack.
Munsters, who were beaten finalists in 2022, have a new head coach in Ger Slattery who steps up from the assistant role. After losing their grip on the Munster Senior Cup title recently, the Cookies will be determined to put their best foot forward at Ballymacarn Park.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Ballynahinch to win
SLIGO v TERENURE COLLEGE, Hamilton Park
Preview: A huge day in prospect for Division 2B club Sligo who entertain the reigning AIL top flight and Bateman Cup champions. They previously hosted semi-finals against Lansdowne (2018) and Cork Constitution (2020), and have an ambitious team led by 22-year-old captain Matthew Earley.
Connacht Eagles’ Ambrose Bamber anchors a strong Sligo back row, while Scottish out-half Euan Brown and Kiwi centre Ethan Faitaua are the pick of their backs. The Terenure College back-line will be led by Callum Smith and Ireland Under-20 ace Fintan Gunne.
Sam Berman, another of that talented Ireland U-20 group, former Trinity favourite Aran Egan and Munster-capped winger Conor Phillips will all start behind a ‘Nure scrum that now contains Sligo’s own Conan O’Donnell, the ex-Connacht prop. Cian Huxford is another new addition to the back row.
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Terenure College to win