We all felt the pain as Clogher Valley lost the All Ireland Junior Cup Final in Dublin last Sat to Enniscorthy 10 – 9. Despite the disappointment, Clogher Valley coaches Glen Kyle and Davy Black still have the league and Towns Cup to pursue in the remaining weeks left in this epic 2013/14 season. In the only Qual One game played last weekend Bangor recorded a hard earned 15 -13 win at Belmont over CIYMS to consolidate their third place in the league. With five games this weekend CV and Portadown remain unchallenged in first and second place. Bangor sit in third place with Dromore in fourth place; both sides meet at Upritchard Park in a crucial game this weekend. Such is the competition for fourth place there are potentialy four sides including Dromore, CIYMS, Ballymoney and Coleraine who can make it through to compete in next seasons All Ireland Junior Cup. Donaghadee and Cooke will want to avoid finishing second from bottom if an Ulster club is relegated from the AIL and no Ulster club makes it through the AlL Ireland Round Robin series into the AIL. Every game remaining in the coming weeks is so important for the clubs in Qualifying One. Pride will push UUC to win league games before the end of the season. In Qualifying Two Ballyclare have the title to lose. Academy closed the gap to one point after defeating Randalstown 18 – 7 last Sat, having played three games more than Ballyclare. Omagh will be looking for the County Antrim side to slip up, before the two sides meet at the Thomas Mellon Playing fields on the 1st March. Strabane remain rooted to the bottom with no wins from eleven league games. In Qualifying Three Larne moved up level on points with Holywood after defeating Newry 18 – 10 at the Glynn in an hard earned win; Larne having played one more game than Holywood. This weekend Larne are faced with another physical encounter when they travel to play Donegal away, subject to the pitch being playable. In the only other game played Lurgan earned a crucial win , 10 – 7 at Monaghan to ease their way out of relegation.
Ballymoney(6th) v Donaghadee(9th)
Crucial game for both sides at this stage of the season. The two sides have already met twice this season. Ballymoney winning 39 – 18 at Donaldson Park in October and the County Antrim side again successful when the two sides met at Kilraughts Road in the Junior Cup in Nov: Ballymoney winning 15 – 0. It has not been all plain sailing for coaches Neil Beddow and Jason Taggart with a dramatic slump in form by their team that resulted in five defeats from six. In recent weeks a last minute try secured a narrow 15 – 14 win at Cooke that was followed up with a 45 – 0 Towns Cup win at home to Strabane in their last outing. Both sides have made it through to the Quarter finals of the Towns Cup on the 22 nd Feb. Donaghadee have suffered narrow defeats in their last three league outings against Cooke, Portadown and Dromore. A 34 – 12 win in the Towns Cup over Enniskillen has turned around a losing run. The key player for the Dee in this match was a two try performance by number 8 Max Montgomery. Ballymoney to win
Bangor(3rd) v Dromore(4th)
When these two sides met at Barban Hill in October, Bangor ran out comfortable 44 – 10 winners. Both sides are in good form with Bangor winning four out of their last five games. Dromore were on an undefeated five game run, until they were defeated by Ballynahinch seconds in the Towns Cup. Bangor backrow of Jamie Clegg, Ryan Latimer and James Henley will be key to the North Down side winning this match. Dromore are a well organised side with half backs Chris Jenks and Ryan Cobb continuing to impress. The return of the experienced Rory Pepper in the forwards has galvanised the pack as they push to secure a top four place. Bangor to win
Clogher Valley(1st) v CIYMS(5th)
Expect the Fivemiletown side to put in a big performance as they push for league honours. With only six points separating CV and Portadown, coaches Glen Kyle and Davy Black cannot afford any slip ups. When the two sides met at Belmont in October the East Belfast side rcorded a 31 – 24 win. CV are on a run of eight cosecutive wins in the league. CI have lost their last three league games against Bangor (twice) and Portadown. They have a fight on their hands as they look to secure a top four place. Games between these two sides have always been keenly contested. Expect another physical encounter between two big packs at the Cran. CV to win
Coleraine(7th) v Portadown(2nd)
The North Coast side have won their last five league and Cup matches. Can Richard Begg’s team make a late challenge for a top four placing in the league? A win for his team this Saturday would also make them serious contenders for the Towns Cup. Have the players the hunger and ambition to be successful? The next two months will define the rest of the season for the Coleraine squad. For Portadown coaches Richard Hedley and Ciaran O’Kane a season that promised so much has failed to deliver. Only a slip by CV with five league games to go will open up the league for the Mid Ulster team. Fascinating game. When the two sides met at Chambers Park in October, Portadown ran out 38 – 18 winners. Coleraine to win
UUC(10th) v Cooke(8th)
Sadly the students remain without a win from thirteen matches; they ran Coleraine close before losing 23 – 18 four weeks ago at the Riverside. The following week they lost 43 – 0 at Dromore. Unfortunately the students had to concede their Towns Cup game at Ballymena seconds two weeks ago. Cooke were unfortunate to lose at home to Ballymoney 15 -14 in the league three weeks ago. When the two sides met at Shawsbridge in October, Cooke won 27 – 14. Cooke will have too much experience in their team for the students. Cooke to win.
Grosvenor(6th) v Ballyclare(1st)
League favourites Ballyclare remain undefeated in the league. They will know that this Grosvenor side will be dangerous on their own patch. They ran Clare close at Cloughan when the sides met in October with Ballyclare winning a high scoring game 39 – 27. The young Grosvenor side would fancy their chances of running Clare close in this game. In their last league outing at Omagh they pushed the Tyrone side all the way before losing 19 – 11. This fixture has the potential to be another high scoring match. Ballyclare to win.
Limavady(9th) v Carrickfergus(8th)
Four points separate these two sides in the league with Limavady having played one game more. Both sides have failed to fulfil their potential this season with winless Strabane occupying bottom place. When the two sides met at Carrick in Sept the home side won 10 – 3. Expect another close encounter. Limavady to win
Omagh(3rd) v Lisburn(4th)
Eight points separate these two sides with Lisburn having played two games more than Omagh. The County Tyrone side still have ambitions on winning the league. With only seven league games remaining they will need the leaders Ballyclare to slip up. When the two sides met at Blaris in Sept, Omagh ran out comfortable 22 – 7 winners. With a winable Towns Cup game coming up at Donaghadee in two weeks time the Omagh boys still have alot to play for this season. Omagh to win.
Randalstown(5th) v Strabane(10th)
Having suffered league defeats to nearest challengers Academy and Omagh in recent weeks, Gary Longwell will look to see his players get back to winning ways this weekend, before they travel to league leaders Ballyclare on the 15th Feb. Having narrowly avoided relegation last season, the Nelisbrook side have firmly established themselves in the top half of the league. With the remaining league fixtures the team can finish in the top four. Strabane have struggled to adapt to life in Qual Two after securing promotion this season. Randalstown to win
Donegal(4th) v Larne(2nd)
The weather forced the postponement of last Sat’s fixture between Donegal and Holywood at the Holmes. In their last home outing on 18th Jan Donegal lost a fiesty encounter with Newry 30 – 22. Larne won a difficult game at home to Newry last Sat 18 – 10; coming back from a HT 10 – 7 deficit. When these two sides last met in October, Larne ran out 16 – 10 winners. Expect another fiesty contest. Larne can go ahead of their rivals Holywood if they win this weekend. The meeting of Larne and Holywood at the Glynn on the 1st March will decide the league winners in Qual Three. Larne to win.