Qualifying League Preview Saturday 28th December 2013 by George Millar includes video interviews with Stuart Ferguson CIYMS, Scott Stevenson UUC, Brett Campbell UUC & Tom Andrews CIYMS

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Round eleven of the Qualifying league campaign coming up this weekend with only seven games remaining. It would appear to be a two horse race between league leaders Clogher Valley and reigning champions Portadown who are one point behind. Nine points separate them from CIYMS and Bangor in third and fourth place with both sides having a game in hand. This weekend will see the meeting of Bangor and CIYMS at Upritchard Park in a must win game for both sides if they are to challenge the top two. Both Bangor and CIYMS meet again at Belmont on the 1st February in their outstanding league game. Before that CIYMS play Portadown and Clogher Valley play Bangor on the 11th January. No doubt the meeting of Portadown and Clogher Valley at Chambers Park on the 18th January will go some way to deciding the destination of this seasons league title. For both sides their pursuit of silverware continues with no rest as they entertain Ballymena seconds and Limavady respectively in the first round of the Towns Cup on the 4th January. It appears that the chase for finishing in the top four and qualification for the AIL Junior Cup will come down to CIYMS, Bangor and Ballymoney fighting it out for the remaining two positions. Can teams including Dromore and Donaghadee mount a late challenge.

Qualifying One

UUC v Clogher Valley
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Once again the students have demonstrated that they will be a diffcult side to defeat in the second half of the season despite being fifteen points behind second from bottom place Coleraine. They pushed CIYMS all the way at Belmont last Saturday before losing 17 – 10. Both Clogher Valley and Portadown have shown they have that ability to grind out wins and the Fivemiletown side will show respect for the students when they travel to the North Coast on Saturday. The County Tyrone side have already recorded a 46 – 0 win over the students in the league and a 48 – 11 win in the Junior Cup at the Riverside venue. With a squad of nearly forty players available to coaches Glen Kyle and Davy Black the management of their playing resources will be crucial in the coming weeks if they are to bring further silverware to the Cran. In the absence of scrum half James Bates to Dungannon the Clogher side have replaced him with half backs Aaron Best and Philip Holme who have become the key influential players in the side. Clogher Valley to win

Bangor v CIYMS
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Expect a large Xmas crowd for this all important league game at the seaside venue. Two sides who were the dominant forces in Ulster Senior rugby in the 1970s and the 1980s have the opportunities to renew old rivalries and lay claims to resetablsih themselves in Ulster Senior rugby. Bangor showed improvement in their narrow defeat away to league champions Portadown 10 – 3 last Saturday at Chambers Park. Three defeats to Portadown, Donaghadee and Ballymoney have seriously dented their promotion ambitions. Their goal now has to be to finish in the top four. CIYMS with their strong forwards have struggled to impose themselves on opposition sides. Expect a ferocious contest between the two forward packs. Both sides have talented backlines to make this a high scoring contest. CIYMS to win

Coleraine v Ballymoney

A local derby that is sure to set up another nail biting match. In the first meeting between the two sides Coleraine recorded a narrow 22 – 21 win at Kilraughts Road in September. How the fortunes of both sides have changed since this meeting. Ballymoney have went on to mount a serious challenge for a top four placing in the league with Coleraine sitting second from bottom. Both sides contested the semi finals of the Junior Cup with Ballymoney losing narrowly to eventual winners Ballynahinch seconds. Coleraine were well beaten by runners up Ballyclare. Coleraine suffered a heavy 42 – 12 defeat at Cooke last Saturday despite leading 12 – 10 at half time. The lost of their South African Bokkie Carstens to injury turned the game with Cooke scoring six tries. Injuries have plagued the North Coast side this season and coach Richard Beggs will be hoping that some of his key players will be available this weekend. For Ballymoney their opening two league defeats and that narrow cup defeat to Ballynahinch seconds has denied the County Antrim side the chance to bring silverware to Kilraughts Road. They pushed league leaders Clogher Valley all the way last Saturday before losing 10 – 9. Once again Openside forward Garvin Bellingham was the stand out player for the Ballymoney side. Ballymoney to win

Donaghadee v Portadown

What a tasty Xmas Fayre the supporters can expect at Donaldson Park. It is unfortunate that in North Down and Ards you have three fixtures involving Ards v Malone, Bangor v CIYMS and Donaghadee v Portadown on the same afternoon. Three fixtures that would attract large crowds. Last season the temperature was high in this fiesty and full on encounter with Portadown running out winners in a high scoring game. Portadown had to work hard in the early season meeting between the two sides to win 10 – 3 at Chambers Park. The County Armagh side will want to complete the double over the North down side. Donaghadee will need another performance similar to their win over Bangor by 23 – 19 if they want to take any points from this game. Back row forward Chris Hamilton is the inspirational figure in the forwards and his lost to injury in their 14 – 10 defeat at Dromore last Saturday was crucial. Portadown will need maximum points to keep up the pressure on Clogher Valley. Portadown to win.

Dromore V Cooke

The County Down side will welcome an inform Cooke side to Barban Hill on the back of two impressive wins over Coleraine and Ballymena seconds in recent weeks. Dromore once again have shown their fighting qualities to have an outside chance of pushing for a top four place after defeating Donaghadee 14 – 10 at home last Saturday. Coaches Dewet Bekker and Jeremy Ogle will want another win before they travel to face an inform Carrickfergus in the Towns Cup the following Saturday. Cooke will look to maintain their winning sequence before they travel to play Academy away in a tricky McCrea Cup match. Alot at stake for both sides in this game. Cooke were strengthened by the return of the talented Philip Cartmill last saturday. Ex Sullivan scrum half Charlie Burrows was the stand out player for the Shawsbridge side last Saturday contributing 17 points with his kicking including one try. This match has the potential to be a high scoring game. Cooke to win.

Qualifying Four

Londonderry YMCA v Armoy

Congratulations to Armoy on securing their first league win this season by defeating Civil Service 31 – 7 at Lime Park. Well done guys. Can the North East Antrim side make it back to back wins by defeating the YMCA at Drumahoe. Willy Lamrock will be hoping his side can can go better than their draw at Civil Service to secure that all important first league win. Interesting game. Armoy to win

Gordon West Cup Group A

The postponed game between BHSFP and Ophir due to a water logged pitch at Greenisland last Saturday has been rearranged for the same venue this Saturday.

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