Qualifying League Preview Saturday 21st December 2013 by George Millar

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Congratulations to Clogher Valley on making it through to the All Ireland Junior Cup Final where they will play Enniscorthy. Portadown coach Richard Hedley and his players must be bitterly disappointed in their sides narrow 14 – 13 loss to Enniscorthy. We in Ulster were looking forward to the two Ulster sides contesting the final. In the Junior Cup final last night Ballyclare despite dominating the possession and terroritory did not possess the accuracy and cutting edge to penetrate a well organised Ballynahinch seconds defence with the County Down side running out deserved winners by 17 – 7.

Qualifying One

Clogher Valley remain out in front one point ahead of second place Portadown with both Bangor and CIYMS having slipped further behind the two front runners. Ballymoney with recent wins over CIYMS and Bangor are pushing for that top four place. Can Donaghadee and Dromore make up ground to push for a top four place.

Ballymoney v Clogher Valley

The Fivemiletown side have been involved in a rentlentless fixture programme from August. Despite their long trip last weekend to Skibbereen the players are fully focused on maintaining their number one position in the league when they visit Kilraughts Road this weekend. The County Antrim side have shown their fighting qualities in pushing for the top four in the league.They will look to turn around their opening day league defeat at Fivemiletown when they were beaten 62 – 0. Both sets of coaches Neil Beddow and Jason Taggart and Glen Kyle and Davy Black have developed squads to maintain their push for silverware this season. Clogher Valley have seen the work they have undertaken at Junior and Youth level producing players such as their two second rows Eugene McKenna and Michael Treanor who have come through from their Under 19 side. Half backs Aaron Best and Philip Holme along with Captain Stephen Baxter and the experienced BJ Wilson and centre PC Falconer can see Clogher through to another win. This will be a battle of the two forward units. Ballymoney number 8 Jonny Hanna and the half backs of Scott Nelson and James Campbell have key roles to play in deciding the outcome of this game. Can Ballymoney make it three in a row at home against the top sides after defeating Bangor and CIYMS. Clogher Valley to win.


The Belmont side will be looking for maximum points against the students. Stuart Ferguson’s side won the opening day fixture at the Riverside 50 -20. The East Belfast side will not want reminded of a previous slip up at home to the North Coast students. CIYMS to win

Cooke v Coleraine

Two clubs who have failed to perform this season. Coleraine will be looking to bounce back from their 22 – 3 defeat at home to Ballyclare in the Junior Cup semi final. With a Towns Cup tie coming up at home to Randalstown on the 4th January the North Coast side also have a local derby with Ballymoney on Sat week.Coach Richard Beggs has been plagued by injuries this season. There is talent within the squad but they lack consistency.The Belfast side recorded an opening day 22 – 20 win at Sandel lodge and will want to use the 32 – 7 Conference league win over Ballymena seconds last Saturday to move away from second bottom in the league. Injuries again have plagued the Shaws bridge side with Alex and Alan Gourlay, Richard Finlay, Andrew Quigley joining Phil Cartmill on the injury list. Coach Colin Atkinson will look to the experienced Graham Jewhurst to guide their young players through this difficult period. Cooke to win

Dromore v Donaghadee

Two sides who need to put together a winning run if they want to push for a top four place in the league. A win is vital for both sides. The Dee side will have been boosted by their impressive 23 – 19 win over near neighbours Bangor at Donaldson Park. Dromore in their last outing won 15 – 9 at Coleraine. Donaghadee have had to rebuild this season and the addition of Michael Blair, Jack Cooke and Stephen Adams to the experienced Dee pack could tip outcome of this game in Dee’s favour. Once again Captain Alastair Lockhart has to lift his players. Dromore will be looking to their backrow of Gareth Fitzpatrick, Adam McGregor and Jonny Maguire to give their talented backline plenty of ball. Dee to win

Portadown v Bangor

The North Down side will not relish this visit to the Chambers Park side who will be hurting from the disappointment of their All Ireland Junior Cup semi final defeat at Enniscorthy. Portadown won the opening league game at Upritchard Park in August 26 – 24 and recorded a convincing 43 – 24 win at the same venue in the Junior Cup. Bangor who have had promotion ambitions have struggled in recent weeks with very little game time. Two defeats at Ballymoney and Donaghadee have seriously dented their promotion claims. Portadown are battle hardened from their campaigns in the All Ireland Junior Cup, Junior Cup and Qualifying league. The reigning league champions will not give up their grip on the league without a fight. Portadown will have too much strength in their forwards and backs for this contest. Lack of strength in depth in their playing squad has hampered the seasiders ambitions. Portadown to win.

Qualifying Two

It was expected at the outset of this campaign that Ballyclare would be untroubled in their pursuit of promotion to Qualifying One after narrowly missing out to Bangor last season. Suddenly three other sides Academy, Omagh and Randalstown have closed the gap to within two points. This weekend could see Ballyclare toppled from their top position by Academy replacing them with Omagh closing the gap even further. Of the top four sides only Randalstown are not playing.

Limavady v Strabane.

This North West derby will see the meeting of the bottom two sides. Strabane remain bottom without a win from eight games. Limavady have two wins from nine. Despite the difficulties Strabane have had in adapting to life in Qualifying Two the side have been very competitive particularly in the forwards. Can they record their first win. Limavady to win

Omagh v Enniskillen

Mellon Park will attract a large crowd for this local derby. After three wins Enniskillen suffered a 11 – 0 home defeat to Academy last Saturday. Omagh recorded an impressive 22 – 7 win at Lisburn to maintain their promotion challenge. In their previous encounter at Mullaghmeen in October Omagh scored four tries to win 28 – 11. Omagh coach Phil Marshall has a strong pack lead by Captain Ally Ferguson that should prove too strong for the Enniskillen side. Bonus points are important and the Tyrone side will be looking maximum points. Omagh to win.

Ballyclare v Academy

After the disappointment of their Junior Cup defeat the County Antrim side will have no difficulty in focusing on this important league game at Cloughan on Saturday against near neighbours Academy. After a slow start Academy despite playing two more games than Ballyclare sit two points behind the leaders. A win is crucial for the Roughfort team. They have experience in abundance throughout their side with number 8 Chris McCarey a key player alongside their Ulster Junior contingent. For the Clare side promotion is their number one goal this season. One slip up will allow the chasing pack to close in and turn this promotion contest into a dogfight. Coach Bob Young has plenty of depth in his squad and may use several players who didint feature on wednesday night in this game. There have been many important games played at Cloughan this season with this fixture added to the long list. Clare were lucky to escape Roughfort in the earlier league meeting with a 15 – 14 win. A missed kick deciding the outcome of the game. This match is sure to attract another large crowd.
Ballyclare to win

Lisburn v Grosvenor

Again two sides who promised much with both sitting mid table. Lisburn were regarded as serious promotion contenders only to slip down the table after several defeats. Coach David Smyth has much work to do. Grosvenor have put together two impressive results over Strabane and Limavady.
Grosvenor to win

Qualifying Three

It remains a clear contest between Larne and Holywood for that top spot in this league. Holywood have the opportunity to move two points ahead of nearest rivals Larne this weekend. Both Donegal and Newry will provide difficult opposition for these two sides in their pursuit of promotion.

Lurgan v Holywood

The Pollack Park side had shown some improvement in recent weeks only to suffer a 50 – 8 defeat at Larne last Saturday. Expect this well organised and undefeated Holywood side to take the two points. Holywood to win

Qualifying Four

Ophir remain the clear favourites for promotion from this league with a maximum 16 points from eight league wins.

Armoy v Civil Service

Sadly Armoy are struggling to fulfil their away fixtures. Civil Service visited league leaders Ophir last Saturday and were well beaten 46 – 0. Armoy still await their first win of the season. Civil Service won the home meeting between the two sides 22 – 0. Civil Service to win

Cavan v Virginia.

County Cavan derby at Swellan Park this weekend. Virginia won the home league meeting between the two sides 32 – 21 and the Gordon West Cup game at home 35 – 10. Can Virginia complete the treble over their neighbours. Virginia were on a roll until they suffered league defeats at BHSFP and Ophir. Cavan have won their last four league games including an impressive recent win at BHSFP. Cavan to win

Gordon West Cup Group A

BHSFP v Ophir

One outstanding game to decide the top two in this group Both PSNI and Ophir have four points with BHSFP on two points. This is the first of two meetings in consecutive weekends between the two sides with a crucial league game at the Greenisland venue on Sat week. Ophir to win

Hawkins Cup

Fascinating second leg of the Hawkins Cup at the Glynn this Saturday. Carrick won the first leg at home on the 7th September 23 – 22. With Larne riding high in Qualifying Three and Carrick showing alot of improvement in Qualifying Two this game will attract a large crowd. Larne to win

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