Dundalk v Cobh Pirates

Pic taken by Ciaran Culligan,

All Ireland Junior Cup Round 8

Dundalk v Cobh Pirates, Mill Road (Saturday 2:30)

Scene Set

The unbeaten league leaders in Leinster host a Cobh Pirates side that made great progress last year but have failed to spark this season. The time seems right for Dundalk to make a big impact in this competition, there should be a good crowd in Louth on Saturday.

Monivea v Coolmine

Monivea

All Ireland Junior Cup Round 1

Monivea v Coolmine, Castle Grounds (Saturday 2:30)

Scene Set

Again the fanfare might not be as predominant in this fixture, no team has more experience of out of province rugby (between the All Ireland Cup and Round Robin qualifiers) than Monivea. Coolmine are well used to All Ireland Cup action now in year four but this is their first trip to Connacht for a competitive fixture.

Competition History

Monivea: The all time record holders for appearences in this competition, they have missed just one season of All Ireland Cup rugby since it started and reached back to back finals in 2011 and 12 losing to Crosshaven and Tullamore.

Enniscorthy v Portadown

ail junior cup final 2014

All Ireland Junior Cup – Round 1

Enniscorthy v Portadown, Ross Road (Saturday 2:30)

Scene Set

A rematch of last year’s semi final. This game will have a little less fanfare and feel a little bit more like a run of the mill Cup clash because these two sides know the competition inside out and know each other fairly well too. Portadown won’t fear traveling and could be close to full strength, Ross Road is a fortress for the reigning champions.

Competition History

Enniscorthy: Champions last year, they are statically one of the most successful sides ever in the competition considering the fact that this is only their third year involved and they were runners up in their first campaign. Tullamore beat them in the 2013 final but they made amends last year by edging out Clogher Valley for a famous win.

Clogher Valley v Clondalkin

Clogher Valley

All Ireland Junior Cup – Round 1

Clogher Valley v Clondalkin, The Cran (Saturday 2:30)

Scene Set

It’s hard to imagine any team with a more driven mission to win this competition than Clogher Valley after coming within centimetres of glory last season. They are back on the trail again this weekend starting at home in the fortress that is the Cran and hosting a Clondalkin side very much in new territory. The visitors will travel in hope but fully aware of the challenge.

Competition History

Clogher Valley: A rich pedigree that includes last year’s final appearance, a semi final the season before and a quarter final showing back in 2006/07. It is the more recent history that matters, that’s where they have become contenders but the title has ultimately eluded them up to now.

Clondalkin: Their competition debut and their first competitive game outside the province of Leinster. They are the 14th side to represent the province since 2005, seven of those 14 are now AIL sides.

Newcastle West v OLBC

Newcastle West

All Ireland Junior Cup – Round 1

Newcastle West v OLBC, Newcastle West (Saturday 2:30)

Scene Set

A new dawn in Newcastle West as they embark on their first ever All Ireland Cup campaign. The visitors are Galway city side OLBC and they’ll receive a great welcome in the Limerick town but might find the going tough. The Sportsground based club are without a win in six Connacht league outings while Newcastle West top the Munster league and have won four from four in league and cup action.

Connemara v St Mary’s

Connemara OLBC

All Ireland Junior Cup

Connemara v St Mary’s, Monastery Field, Clifden (Saturday 2:30)

For a few hours on Saturday, rugby aficionados in the west coast town of Clifden will feel like all is right in the world again. A chilly morning in the picturesque town, winter on the way and a whole host of rugby folk with Munster accents milling around choosing between multiple options for a good breakfast/brunch before the big game out the Ballyconneely Road.

It’s only a cup competition and they’ve got to grips with their new life as a provincial league club and judging by their superb start to the current season, embraced it but you can forgive them for pinning for the old days and the visit of Limerick side St Mary’s will give them such a feeling.

Clonmel v Bangor

Stephen Pyke scores one of his two tries in Clonmel's 51-14 win over Kinsale on Sunday

All Ireland Junior Cup – Round 1

Clonmel v Bangor, Ardgaoithe, Clonmel (Saturday 2:30)

Scene set

This is exactly the kind of novel and fascinating fixture that makes this competition so compelling. Two rising forces in two very different provinces. Bangor, the former AIL club finally back at the top table and making their debut in the competition against Clonmel, back involved after a four year absences and on a high following their Munster Junior Cup triumph last season.

The rugby grounds on the Cashel Road overlooking the south Tipperary town will be a hive of activity with the kind of crowd normally reserved for the Munster A interprovincials likely to attend. Bangor will be bringing a big support too and they are staying in the town for two nights. It should be some weekend.

Competition History

Bangor: Their competition debut, the club haven’t played an out of province competitive game since the end of the 2001/02 season when they were relegated from the AIL, thus starting a decade of rebuilding. They are just back in the top tier in Ulster and marked their return with a top four finish.

Clonmel: Their fourth appearance in the competition. First round exits underpinned their recent two outings but in 2006/07 they had their best campaign beating Westport in the last eight before losing to Tullamore 13-6 in Spollanstown in the semi finals.

The Munster Verdict

- from David Lombard, player coach with Clonakilty RFC

“Last season was a really good campaign for Clonmel, we played them up there fairly early on and they were superb that day, I felt they were the best team we faced all season. They finished joint second and I think they were the dominant force even before the Munster Junior Cup started, it was there competition form a long way out and beating Cork Con underlined that.

“We played them two weeks ago, they got the better of us in the end and I think they just play a pragmatic game. They kick to the corners and pin you back. They are strong up front, well established in the back row and lively in the backline but most importantly they are really well coached by Denis Leamy. They are the complete package at Junior Level.

“They play like they’ve been a top side for years, wise heads on young shoulders. It’s all about tempo and they use their big pack to get over the gain lines. The Northern teams are difficult to judge. I know from our days in the AIL that at home they would always be stronger but Bangor seem like a strong side. Clonmel have a great home ground and with the noise coming from the stand there it can be a daunting place to go.”

The Ulster Verdict

- From Alasdair McKee, Grosvenor Head Coach and Ulster Juniors Head Coach.

“First of all, Bangor started slowly with home defeats to Ballyclare and Instonians but Jason Morgan their player coach was out injured and if he returns on Saturday that will make a big difference as he has all that experience both at AIL level and with us in the Junior inter pros. They are improving and have picked up some good wins in recent weeks.

“Just making this tournament after only one year back in the top flight is the fulfillment of a big ambition for the club and a sign of real progress. If they see this as being a one off type of game, they could go down and do very very well. It will be tough, Ulster teams always have difficulty away in Munster for some reason.

“The one thing I will say is that If they can come through this fixture, that they will announce themselves as real contenders for the cup. In my opinion is they’ll go down and give it a absolute lash. They have creativity all over the park and are very strong back row. Flanker Jamie Clegg was excellent for the Ulster juniors, while Mike Aspley is very good player, he helps to make them thick.”

Try time for Bangor in the seaside derby against near neighbours Donaghadee late on in the season. Pic: Roger Corbett, Bangor RFC website.

Try time for Bangor in the seaside derby against near neighbours Donaghadee late on in the season. Pic: Roger Corbett, Bangor RFC website.

KnockOn.ie Verdict

The fact that Bangor are going down in convoy and planning to take in two nights in Clonmel is great to hear and underlines that they intend giving this a right good go. Why not too, their silverware hopes are resting on the Cups and an away quarter final draw at Instonians means winning the Ulster Junior Cup might actually be equally as hard as winning this competition.

The turnaround for Bangor in recent weeks has been superb, the victory in Portadown was the catalyst for their momentum heading into this competition and with Morgan likely to return at ten, the potential for further progress is strong. Aspley at 13 and Clegg at seven have already being mentioned, they have a powerful front row of Whyte, Crockford and Leary and out wide they have a prolific finisher in Mark widdowson.

Winning at Clonmel however will be as tough a task as they’ll face this year. The Tipperary men beat newly Kinsale away scoring a half century of points, a good Kilfeacle side at home 31-0 and won away to former AIL outfit Clonakilty two weeks ago to mark a strong start to the season.

In Denis Leamy Clonmel have an outstanding coaching talent who is destined for work in the higher echelons of the game. He revels in club rugby though and he balances a strong work ethic within his team with an understanding that this is an amateur environment. The balance that comes from that is hugely impressive and that is why they are favourites to win the Junior league.

This competition will be in their crosshairs as well. They are one of four sides that are outright favourites and while this first round draw is as tough as they could have got, it is tests like this that they need if they are going to progress. Hold onto your hats for a gripping 80 minutes of rugby. This will be fast and tight. One for the neutrals to trek too as it will be compelling to the end.

Home by 3

CIYMS v Ballinasloe

Connacht Junior League Division 1A Ballinasloe RFC V OLBC RFC. 1/9/2013. Ballinasloe. Ballinasloe's Conor Loughrey get the pass away. © Jonathan Curran/ Sporting Occasions

All Ireland Junior Cup – Round 1

CIYMS v Ballinasloe, Belmont Park, (Saturday 2:30)

Scene Set

This is a big day for the east Galway club as they make their debut in the competition and they’ll want to do it justice but they face a CIYMS side that have been ruthless at home so far in the qualifying league. The hosts will give a great Belmont welcome to the Connacht side but they will expect to win and they will be targeting a good run in this competition.

All Ireland Cup Form Guide

Evan Lett on the charge during February's All Ireland Junior Cup final win over Clogher Valley. Pic: Voicu Duma

One of the great success stories of the IRFU in the club game in recent years has been the All Ireland Junior Cup.

It started in 2005, it still doesn’t get the final venue it deserves but as the race to qualify for the 16 team tournament has shown, thecompetition has captivated clubs all around the island of Ireland.

The Fixtures (Saturday 2:30)

CIYMS v Ballinasloe
Clogher Valley v Clondalkin
Clonmel v Bangor
Connemara v St Mary’s
Dundalk v Cobh Pirates
Enniscorthy v Portadown
Monivea v Coolmine
Newcastle West v OLBC

The Contenders

These are the sides that are seriously in contention for the title and would have the shortest odds if the bookmakers took a look at this tournament. All four would be confident that they have what it takes to win and all four will take some stopping. They are listed in alphabetical order.

Monivea 13, Connemara 17

Monivea Connemara

Connacht Division 1a
Monivea 13

Connemara 17

Alan Deegan at the Castle Grounds

Monivea Scorers: Cathal Laheen 1 try, Ger O’Connor 2 pens, 2 cons.
Connemara Scorers: Jack Vaughan 1 try; Shane Sweeney 4 pens.

The Connemara Blacks won a compelling battle against their main league title rivals Monivea at a windswept Castle Grounds on Sunday and moved three points clear at the top of the Connacht Junior League in the process.

The nature of the win can be encapsulated in the nature of the scrum contest. Monivea were the bigger, more dominant pack in the scrum, but Connemara’s clever use of quick, ‘channel one’ ball negated this potentially ruinous problem and actually gave the visitors the edge in what was a seismic encounter in the western provincial league.

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