Domestic Club Rugby Preview : Sat 29th November 2014, by George Millar

Domestic Club Rugby Preview : Sat 29th November 2014, by George Millar

Another weekend of nail biting club action coming up with the First Trust Senior Cup semi finals, Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup semi finals and crucial league fixtures in Qualifying leagues One, Two, Three and Four. First of all we must congratulate Clogher Valley, Bangor and CIYMS on reaching the semi finals of the Ulster Bank All Ireland Junior Cup. The draw has paired Bangor against Clogher Valley with CIYMS hosting Leinster side Dundalk. Both ties to be played on Sat 13th December. We start our review with the Senior Cup where last seasons losing finalists Ballynahinch welcome City of Derry to Ballymacarn Park. The North West side will be underdogs going in against Ulsters number One team, Ballynahinch. The advantage for Derry coaches Mark Nicholl and Neil Beddow is that they have a settled squad that proved too strong for Belfast Harlequins in the quarter finals at Deramore Park. Ballynahinch coach Derek Suffern is waiting to see how many of his players will be involved with the Ulster Ravens this weekend. Injuries continue to rule out experienced players Kenny Morton and Rodger McBurney. Despite missing their Ulster contingent, Hinch can call on players including the ever consistent Jonny Madden, Michael Graham and Paul Pritchard to compete with the strong Derry forwards. In the backs they will look to Captain Harry McAleese, Robin Harte, Richard Reaney and Stephen McCauley to provide that cutting edge for the team. City of Derry stalwart Moss Dineen has said, “If your name is on the Cup you can’t disrespect the Gods of the Game”. They have picked a full strength squad with injured players Josh Lewis and Chris Barber returning to action. It is the threat posed by the Derry backrow of Richard Baird, Stephen Corr and the outstanding number 8 Stephen Feguson along with the talented half backs Andrew Semple and Richard McCarter and the irrepressible and talented Peter Henderson at full back that can cause an upset in this tie. Having watched Derry defeat Quins, they are a side that will compete for the full eighty minutes. Sure to attract another large crowd to the County Down venue. In the other semi final at Eaton Park Ballymena will start clear favourites despite losing 13 – 7 in a recent AIL game to Malone. The East Belfast team are decimated with injuries, Ulster Raven call ups that will see eight of the squad unavailable from the earlier fixture. Malone coach Jacque Benade will make late decisions on his team selection. Ballymena are expected to field the team that convincingly defeated Shannon last Sat in the AIL with Bryan Young, Paddy James and James Beattie expected to start. Richie McMaster has been called up to the Ulster Ravens and is expected to be replaced at out half by Tim Small. All four sides will be battling it out to reach the final that will be staged at the Kingspan stadium on Wednesday the 10th December. The winners will represent Ulster in the All Ireland Bateman Cup alongside the three other provincial winners in the new year.
Fixtures. Sat 29.11.14. Kick off 2.30pm
Ballynahinch v City of Derry
Ballymena v Malone
In the Millar McCall Junior Cup we have two Qualifying One sides hosting two Qualifying Two sides in the semi finals with the home sides favourites to progress to the final at the Kingspan stadium on Tuesday the 16th December. Cup favourites Instonians have selected their strongest match day squad with Matthew Kilpatrick still on the injured list and full back Ben Scott unavilable. Coach William Leacock has added Rory McCurry, Alan Whitten, Patrick Marks and Michael Melville to his match day squad with the goal of making the final. The South Belfast side do not underestimate the challenge the County Fermanagh side pose to their ambitions. Coach Leacock added, “We are putting out our best possible team. He felt his players were off the pace in their recent league match at Donaghadee, in a huge month coming up for the players and club”. Enniskillen coach Norman Richmond has selected his strongest available squad for the trip to Shaws bridge on Sat. It is very much a case of David playing Goliath. The Instonians juggernaut has been unstoppable this season in all competitions. Skins have the players to upset the form book with Captain Jamie Johnston at number 8 supported by a well drilled front five. The recent return of Ulster Junior centre Alan Wilkinson has strengthened the midfield options with ex Instonians out half Nick Finlay filling the ten jersey for Enniskillen. Ex Cooke fullback Ashley Finlay has been in outstanding form at full back using his electrifying pace to break opposition defences. With bus loads of Enniskillen supporters on route to this magnificent venue the atmosphere will be electric for this pulsating match.In the other semi final, Ballyclare coach Chris Campbell has built on the work of his predecessor Bob Young who guided the County Antrim side into Qualifying One this season. They are well positioned to finish in the top four of Q 1 and have the desire to make the pre Xmas final and reverse the disappointment the players endured in losing to Ballynahinch seconds in last years final. Their opponents Omagh, who they narrowly overhauled to win promotion are their opposition at Cloughan this weekend. What a titanic contest for the large crowd to witness. Ballyclare have restored the evergreen Willie Logan to the number 8 position with Kris James filling the 10 jersey vacated by Niall Lawther. With centre David Clarke unavailable the experienced Ryan Tweed is his replacement. Omagh coach Phil Marshall has witnessed his hard work that started several years ago to rebuild rugby in the Community. His reward is a resurgent Omagh club who hope to make the top table in Q 1 next season. Back row Dean Porter remains unavailable with a couple of last minute fitness checks, otherwise the Omagh squad will travel with much confidence this weekend. Both teams know each so well, this is a difficult tie to call. Everybody I have spoken to has been impressed by the style and tempo of rugby played by this Omagh team. They have match winners from Captain Mark Smyth alongside Mervyn Edgar in the front row through to talented half backs Stuart McCain and Lee Murphy along with threats posed by threequarters Alastair Beckett, Neil Brown and Ryan Mitchell. Another Town in the West of the province that is sure to see an exodus of supporters to the East Coast of Northern Ireland.
Fixtures. Sat 29.11.14. Kick off 2.30pm
Instonians v Enniskillen
Ballyclare v Omagh
In Qualifying league One we have two rearranged league games involving four teams with Ballymoney playing Bangor and Donaghadee hosting CIYMS. Both Bangor and CIYMS will be looking maximum points to finish in the top four whilst Ballymoney and Donaghadee need points to move away from the relegation zone. Ballymoney coach Jason Taggart picks from the same squad hoping to see a reversal in the teams fortunes. Bangor can expect a stern test at Kilraughts Road after slipping up in their last league match at home to Dromore. They cannot afford to be complacent as they look to add to their league points in this very competitive league. There will be no rest for several of their key players Jason Morgan, Curtis Stewart, Captain Jamie Clegg and Mark Widdowson as they look for a win. At Donaldson Park, Player coach Paul McKenzie will need another committed performance from his players as they made life difficult for Instonians in their last league outing. He is hoping to add forwards Richard Martindale and Conor Fulton to his selection options. Centre Nigel Barker aggravated his knee whilst playing for the seconds that will rule him out for a lengthy period. The halfback pairing of Captain Ally Lockhart and Paul gave organisation and direction to the team against Instonians. CIYMS coaches Gareth Fry, Davy Scott and John Anderson are hoping to build on recent wins in the All Ireland Junior Cup as their team seek out maximum points in the trip to North Down. Welcome selection headaches with several players returning from injury have strengthened the playing options available to the coaching staff. Club stalwart Maurice Dowle has witnessed a quiet cultural revolution at Belmont with increasing numbers at training this season. If you don’t train you don’t get selected for the 1st xv as several players have experienced. With the strong Campbell College spine in the team, competition has never been more competitive in the squad. CIYMS will travel with a strong team this Sat that will see the return of forwards Mark Scott and Scott Dowle to the team. From 1 – 15 + the bench, competition for starting places will see front row forwards Elliott Boyd, Jonny Jordan, Captain Gavin Woods, Stuart Ferguson ( Injured) Alan Whitley, Ben Robinson and recent addition – Samoan – Ali Alicate ex Bective rugby player who can play prop/hooker vying for a starting place. With the loss of second row Stevie Reynolds to Larne, Paddy Aiken and Chris Davidson have stepped in. Nowhere is competition more competitive than the backrow with Scott Dowle, Mark Scott, Matt Armstrong, Mark McConkey and Ross Hackney competing for places. In the backs, scrum half Michael Wilson along with Kiwi Sam Baker continue to impress, with Baker’s attitude to his rugby rubbing off on the other players, most notably in training. Centres Jordan Boyd and Andy Hodgen have the injured Jason Gilliland challenging for his place next week after completing his concussion protocol. In the threequarters Harry Howard, Chris McVitty and ex Malone player fullback Peter Raine provide a cutting edge to this talented back division.
Fixtures Sat 29.11.14 Kick off 2.30pm
Ballymoney v Bangor
Donaghadee v CIYMS
In Qualifying Two we have two interesting league fixtures involving Carrick against neighbours Academy and Grosvenor hosting Coleraine. With Omagh promotion favourites in this league, teams including Coleraine, Carrickfergus and Academy cannot afford any more slip ups if they are to maintain their pusuit of the County Tyrone side. At the Tom Simms Memeorial Park we have an East Antrim derby on Sat involving host side Carrickfergus and Academy. Both sides have been rebuilding with ambitions to return to Q 1. Academy coach and ex player Gareth Lynn has been rebuilding the Academy team following the highs and lows of promotion and relegation in recent seasons. The loss of several experienced players halted their progress. . With a strong Ulster Juniors representation in the team through props James Blair and Chris Nash along with Richard Henderson, Norman Carson and Chris Cooper, the team has been strenghtened by new additions in recent seasons, including ex Queens scrum half David Kenny who has taken on the kicking duties to great effect. Kenny has also had a big influence on the players in the changing room. Competition for places with increasing numbers attending training has seen the club make massive progress in terms of attitude and confidence with the players once again enjoying their rugby. Examples are prop Adam Martin keeping James Blair of the team in recent weeks. Blair will return for the match at Carrick with Martin moving into the second row. Last seasons player of the year Graham Dobbin will join him in the engine room. There is alot of excitement in the new back row combination with Ulster under 19 starlet Stuart Martin joined by the experienced Richard henderson and young Kiwi prospect Mitchell Atkins from Auckland at 7. Atkins is over from NZ providing PE support at BRA. Ex BRA Out half Jordan Buchanan has returned to playing rugby and has made the 10 jersey his own. With three Dobbin brothers playing at Academy. Graham is playing second row whilst brother Keith forms a centre combination with Stuart Martin. The other brother Keith is out injured at present along with centre Chris Cooper who is complying with the concussion protocol and William Martin recovering from injury. In the threequarters the exciting Ulster Junior winger Norman Carson continues to score tries and is joined by ex BRA player Jamie Hamilton on the other wing after coming out of retirement. Ex Omagh Accies fullback Simon Patterson completes an effective back trio. The coach Gareth Lynn is hoping to see their powerful centre John Kelly make a return to playing rugby. Last season he scored two tries against Carrick in this corresponding fixture. Another player who will add depth to the backs is winger Jonny Eatons. There is optimism for the future at Roughfort with the coach hoping to further strenghten his playing squad. Due to family commitments the experienced Chris McCarey has not been able to play for the team. Such is the quality of the playing squad Academy are assembling, don’t be surprised to see this ex Senior Club once again playing in Q 1. They have outstanding playing facilities and with the support of the local community can re -establish themselves as a force in Ulster rugby. Coach Gareth Lynn is very positive about the future. Carrick coach Warren McLean knows his side cannot slip up this weekend. At Belmont Grosvenor host promotion chasing Coleraine. It has been a tough run of fixtures for the East Belfast side after suffering heavy defeats to Academy and Omagh in recent weeks. The task will be no easier for coach Alasdair McKee as he deals with a mounting injury concerns that has seen scrum half Neil Adams and winger David Egner join the list. Late fitness tests will be made on several forwards before selection is confirmed for this weekend. Coleraine coach John Boyd has lost Captain Steven Dickey to injury. Once again South African scrum half Bokkie Carstens and player coach DD Andrews formed a half back pairing to see them through a tricky derby match with the students at the Riverside. Their number 8 Willie Hunt has become a key player for the North Coast side as they chase their goal of returning to Q 1.
Fixtures. Sat 29.11.14. Kick off 2.30pm
Carrickfergus v Academy
Grosvenor v Coleraine.
Qualifying Three.
Fixtures.Sat 29.11.14. Kick off 2.30pm
Larne v Strabane
Newry v Donegal.
Qualifying Four
Fixtures. Sat. 29.11.14. Kick off 2.30pm
Cavan v Virginia
Monaghan v BHSFP
Cheers
George
PS. Lets get behind our Community clubs and show our appreciation for the work put in by coaches and players each week by supporting the teams.