Domestic Club rugby preview. Sat 25th October 2014 by George Millar

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We may have European rugby this weekend, but for our four Qualifying One teams from Ulster competing in the first round of the Ulster Bank All Ireland Junior Cup this weekend, this is the one trophy they all want to win. Clogher Valley lost 10 – 9 to Enniscorthy in last years final and will want to go one better after being defeated in 2012/13 semi finals. Portadown suffered a narrow 14 -13 loss to Enniscorthy in last years semi final and open their campaign away to holders Enniscorthy. CIYMS were swept aside 25 – 0 by Enniscorthy in the first round last year. Bangor make their first appearance in the tournament and face a daunting trip to Munster kingpins Clonmel. The last Ulster winners were City of Derry who defeated fellow Ulster side Armagh 19 – 17 in a dramatic 2009/10 final. Leinster clubs have dominated recent finals with their fixture scheduling providing the opportunity for their teams to win the trophy. Clogher Valley welcome Leinster team Clondalkin to the ‘Cran’ with the good news that they will be able to field their strongest starting xv this season. The back row unit of David Sharkey and brothers BJ and Ryan Wilson return for their first game together with influential outhalf Philip Hulme teaming up with scrum half and Captain Aaron Best. There is one piece of silverware missing from their trophy cabinet in Fivemiletown and the squad want to put aside their disappointments of recent seasons to finally get their hands on this Cup. Portadown are the perennial under achievers in Cup competitions and have shown they have the personnel to go all the way and win the trophy after losing a tightly contested semi final to eventual winners Enniscorthy last season. Experienced players such as Barry Gribben, Gareth McCoy, James Carleton and Diarmuid O’Kane will need their side to keep their discipline if they are to win this difficult opening match. CIYMS learned alot from their heavy defeat away to winners Enniscorthy last season. I would expect the Belmont side to be focused for this tricky tie with Connacht side Ballinasloe. CIYMS will welcome back their rested players, Stuart Ferguson, Mark Scott, Scott Dowle, Harry Howard, Paddy Aiken, and Captain Gavin Woods who only played forty minutes against Ballynahinch seconds last Sat. Anything less than a win will be a disappointment for the East Belfast team. Bangor include the returning player coach Jason Morgan and Davy Charles for their diffcult trip away to Munster Junior Cup holders and last seasons league runners up Clonmel. Recent results have lifted the spirits of the North Down side after a diffcult start to the season.

Ulster Bank All Ireland Junior Cup 1st Round. Kick off 2.30pm
Clonmel v Bangor
Monivea v Coolmine
Dundalk v Cobh Pirates
CIYMS v Ballinasloe
Newcastle West v OLBC
Enniscorthy v Portadown
Clogher Valley v Clondalkin
Connemara v St Mary’s

In Qualifying Two we have four fixtures this weekend with the Holywood v Grosvenor match being moved to Friday night. At this early stage Omagh and Coleraine would be the favourites to win the league with outsiders Enniskillen and Carrickfergus having ground to make up. Once again bonus points will be crucial in deciding the outcome of this league. The action continues with Omagh facing a difficult away trip to play Academy at Roughfort. Academy have a strong forward unit that will match any side in the league. A must win game for Academy if they are to harbour any promotion ambitions. Omagh coach Phil Marshall has a large squad at his disposal for selection. Key forwards Mark Smyth, Mervyn Edgar and Andrew Ferguson will need to be at their best to contain the strong Academy forwards. Coleraine will travel to face a plucky Lisburn side at Blaris, who are well organised by coach Mark Crothers. After their excellent 20 – 19 win at Enniskillen the Coleraine faithful will expect no less than five points from Captain Stephen Dickey and his players. Randalstown face County Antrim neighbours Carrickfergus at Nelisbrook. Interesting game this with Gary Longwell’s team not having played since their 23 – 8 win over Enniskillen on the 20th September. Carrick have ambitions this season and know they can’t afford to lose this match after suffering a 35 – 5 Junior Cup defeat at Omagh last Saturday. In the final fixture in this league Holywood entertain neighbours Grosvenor at Kerr Park who impressed in a 14 – 0 home defeat of Carrickfergus three weeks ago. Holywood drew 29 – 29 at UUC in their last outing. Must win game for Holywood coach Laurence Kelly and his players. There is a real potential for two teams to be relegated from the Qualifying leagues again this season with Ards proping up Div 2B of the All Ireland League. Every point will prove crucial in the final placings.

Qualifying league Two. kick off 2.30pm
Academy v Omagh
Lisburn v Coleraine
Randalstown v Carrickfergus
Holywood v Grosvenor. Played Friday 24th October. Kick off 7.15pm
Qualifying Three. Kick off 2.30pm
Limavadyv Strabane
Lurgan v Newry
Ophir v PSNI
Qualifying Four
Londonderry YMCA v BHSFP

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