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Senior Cup Final

KnockOn.ie editor Rob Murphy on a worrying trend in senior club rugby as supporters turn their back on the big games and the IRFU shrug their shoulders, Meanwhile a combination provincial branches and clubs appear to be at sixes and sevens in dealing with the problem. Sunday’s Connacht Senior Cup final was the latest example, there will be more in the coming months.

One of the oldest trophies in club rugby in Connacht will be in the hands of Buccaneers for the next 12 months after they deservedly ended the Galwegians reign in this competition winning 28-14 and inflicting just a second defeat of the season on the sky blues in the process, at the Sportsground on Sunday afternoon.

The competition has long since lost its allure and the powers that be at IRFU, branch and club level are doing little to reinvigorate it.

A little bit of lateral thinking would do a world of good, but after the wholly uninspiring AIL restructuring proposals were unveiled in September, most club rugby advocates have lost all hope of such innovation from their governing body.

Bangor 9, Clogher Valley 6

Bangor

Ulster Bank All Ireland Junior Cup – Semi Final

Bangor 9
Clogher Valley 6

Bangor Scorers: Mark Widdowson 3 pens.
Clogher Valley Scorers: Philip Holme 1 pen, 1 drop goal.

Having had a couple of days to reflect on events in Upritchard Park last Saturday, the feeling that Bangor’s was a performance to rank with anything seen in club rugby in 2014 still persists. This result and Cup run will stand the test of time in the annals of the famous east coast rugby club.

Make no mistake, after a decade and a bit in the wilderness, Bangor are back, powered by an impressive young pack, piloted by an experienced half back duo and fuelled by an exciting and talented backline.

Their run to the final is without question the toughest any side has faced in the ten seasons of this competition and might never be matched. They have toppled unbeaten Munster league leaders Clonmel away before ousting the holders Enniscorthy and on Saturday last year’s runners up Clogher Valley on home soil.

All Pictures from Roger Corbett, Bangor RFC website

Towns Cup Draw

Sportsfile

Provincial Towns Cup

The draw for the Leinster Towns Cup was made on Saturday with four teams receiving a bye to round two and the other 24 being drawn for first round action.

The stand out ties include Division 1b Tullow at home to Division 1a Cill Dara which could be a very tight call between two form sides or the clash of Division 2b league leaders and giant killer hopefuls, Edenderry and one of the main contenders Enniscorthy.

Title holder Ashbourne received a bye into round two while last years runners up Kilkenny face a south east derby with County Carlow at Foulkestown.

High Drama in Cup

Action from the All Ireland Cup Semi final between CIYMS and Dundalk, Pic: Andy Gray Photography

Ulster Bank All Ireland Junior Cup Semi Finals

Bangor are through to the Ulster Bank All Ireland Junior Cup semi final but CIYMS and Dundalk will have to do it all over again after a day of big crowds, tension, drama and total commitment in the competition.

Semi Final Results
Bangor 9, Clogher Valley 6
CIYMS 25, Dundalk 25

At Upritchard Park Bangor overcame last year’s runners up Clogher Valley 9-6 in an enthralling encounter between two well match sides.  It might have lacked for tries but it was a captivating contest from start to finish on the east coast.

Meanwhile, 20 miles away in Belfast city, CIYMS were also defying their pre match underdog status and arguably causing even more of a surprise with a brilliant display against Leinster league leaders Dundalk in what ended up a 25-25 draw.

Bangor v Clogher Valley Preview

Action from Bangor 15-12 victory over Clogher Valley in October in UQ1. Pic: Roger Corbett, Bangor RFC website.

All Ireland Junior Cup Semi Final

Bangor v Clogher Valley, Upritchard Park, Saturday 2:30

This could turn out to be the biggest attended club rugby match of the weekend, even the month, on Saturday. The locals come out in force when Bangor are on the rise and the men from the seaside town are on some run in this competition, but they preparing for a phenomenal test this weekend with last year’s runners up in town.

Clogher Valley will bring a healthy support of their own from Tyrone, Fermanagh and further afield. The reigning Qualifying League leaders came within a flailing arm of winning this title last year and it is the motivation for a lot of their stalwarts to keep the shoulder to the wheel this season, that and the fact that emerging players like Eugene McKenna, Richard  Primrose, Paul Armstrong and Mark Ellis are coming through the ranks to carry the torch forward.

CIYMS v Dundalk Preview

rsz_ciymscelebrate

All Ireland Junior Cup Semi Final

CIYMS v Dundalk, Belmont, Saturday 2:30

The brains behind the best of Ulster club rugby will preach caution at the moment but they will acknowledge the progress all the same.

The provincial league clubs in Ulster are making huge strides forward this season occupying three of the four semi final spots in this year’s All Ireland Cup semi finals for the very first time since the competition started ten seasons ago.

Yet there is a sense that this is all as a result of hard work over five and more years across  a number of clubs that are feeling a surge at the moment. Munster have sent two teams in as many years to the AIL in recent seasons, Leinster have sent one up for six straight seasons while Ulster sides have come close but fell short.

All Ireland Cup Semi Finals

Bangor and Enniscorthy

Scene Set

The Ulster Bank All Ireland Junior Cup semi finals take centre stage this weekend with both ties taking place in Ulster on Saturday afternoon at Circular Road Belfast and Upritchard Park Bangor.

The all Ulster affair takes place on the east coast as Bangor host Clogher Valley in a rematch of their league encounter earlier this year while in the city, CIYMS entertain Leinster League leaders Dundalk.

Fixtures (Saturday 2:30, extra time if ness’)
CIYMS v Dundalk, Circular Road
Bangor v Clogher Valley, Upritchard Park

Connacht News

Ballina Westport

Connacht Division 1a

The league title race in Connacht has now firmly developed into a two horse race with Connemara and Monivea locked together on 39 points. Both sides have won eight from ten with Connemara nabbing a draw and one loss and Monivea losing twice including the narrow loss to their title rivals.

On Sunday Monivea won 26-12 at Galwegians seconds while Connemara easily dispatched OLBC 31-0. Meanwhile an under strength Corinthians seconds toppled Ballinasloe 10-8 putting an end to the east Galway side’s slim title hopes.

The derby spoils have firmly gone to Westport this season in Division 1a of the Junior league as they completed a season double over their Mayo rivals Ballina  at Carrowholly with a 16-3 point win to add to the ten point triumph at Hefferna Park in October.

In windy conditions on Sunday, Westport were superb from the get go playing against the elements. Slow starts have cost them in games of late so this was a marked improvement with Tobin kicking an early penalty, Australian James Coppens responding before Dave Keane powered over for a vital try converted by Tobin just before the break.

Ulster Round Up

Bangor

Ulster Qualifying League 1

Clogher Valley 27, Ballyclare 0

Clogher Valley Scorers: Stott 2 tries; Ryan Wilson and Primrose 1 try each; Holme 1 pen, 2 con.

Be under no doubt  at this stage, the Valley are hitting form at just the right time. Having easily dispatched Connemara in the All Ireland cup on their previous outing at this venue, the Tyrone side delivered a hugely impressive bonus point win over fellow top four side Ballyclare to move within six points of leaders instonians who they face in Belfast on December 20th.

Ballyclare: G Byers; T Wilson, D Clarke, D Crawford, J Greer; R Smith, C Morrow; D Lawther; R Montgomery, A Boyd; R Boyd, W Logan; J McKinstry, R Tweed, D Chambers.

Replacements, J Brownlee, M Kirk

Clogher Valley: Armstrong; Stott, Dunlop, Flaconer, Breen; Holme, Best; Primrose, Cobane, Bennett; Treanor, McKenna; Barry Jon Wilson, Sharkey, Ryan Wilson

Replacement: Clark and Treiner.

Munster Result

Clonmel

Munster Junior League – Division 1

Clonmel drew level with Newcastle West in the final round of action in 2014 on Sunday thanks to a hard earned and dramatic bonus point win over Waterpark in Ballinakill.

The hosts from Waterford City are an improving force in Division 1 and produced a fine display in the contest but the league leaders and title favourites held their nerve and delivered a four try to one win with kicks from Conor Cooney late on pulling them two scores clear.

In Newcastle West the unbeaten home side remained very much on track after a 13-7 home win over an improving Cobh Pirates. Out half Sean Herlihy notched two tries in the win that sets up the January 4th top two clash in south Tipperary nicely.

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