Provincial Towns Cup – Round of 16 (Sunday 2:30)
Cill Dara v Gorey
Fascinating tie in store here. First tier v third tier in the Junior leagues and that should make it a straight forward prediction but the Wexford men toppled Dundalk in round one on home turf and are one of a number of sides left in this competition that have been building towards a Cup run from before Christmas. A well balanced side with a strong coaching ticket.
Cill Dara meanwhile are focused on staying up, All Ireland league promotion Tullamore would assure them of that whatever the result of a play off but they can’t take anything for granted. That said, after the home upset in the Quarter final last season against Ashbourne they’ll want to make amends. The safe bet is where we lie on this but a high scoring nail bitter is inevitable.
Home by 2
Caption: Action from Gorey’s victory over Dundalk in Round 1. Pic: Gorey RFC match gallery.
Mullingar v Tullamore
Only one winner here you’d think. The all Ireland Cup champions have had eight days to recover from their hugely impressive display against Enniscorthy and face a Division 2a side in Mullingar that have worked hard to kick on from last year’s promotion and are making progress.
That said, there isn’t any major momentum behind the Westmeath club and it would surely rank up there with any upset in the competition’s history if they toppled the Ofaly men.
Away by 15
Ashbourne v Co Carlow
The bottom two in Division 1b clash and while Carlow still have some hope of catching the Meath men in the league this is a game that will have less tension than the league encounter stlll to come.
The Meath side were knocked out at the semi final stage by Tullow last season and will want to go one better but this season’s form suggests that a final spot is unlikely, traditional cup kings Carlow are a transferred side since the Christmas break and might cause an upset here.
Away by 2
Naas 2nds v Edenderry
It’s been a while since an AIL J1 side made a push in this competition but having upset Portarlington, Naas will be confident of getting to the last eight with a home win here.
Edenderry are still in the running for promotion in Division 2b and that might be the priority but they would love to add a cup scalp to their end of season report and an away win here would certainly rank as that as Naas are now a force.
Home by 3
Wicklow v Newbridge
Huge game in Ashtown lane on Sunday as Wicklow who have adjusted to some key personal changes this season and being a strong top four side in Division 1b look to upset Division 1a top four contenders Newbridge.
The visitors are very much targeting a cup run in a competition that has brought very little success down through the years. Last year’s semi final spot was a first and they’ve never beaten a side from the top two divisions in the cup since the league started in 1996.
Yet they have to be favourites here having reached the All Ireland Cup last season and challenged early in the league this season. If there really is a significant gap between the top two tiers it should show here with an away win but it’s going to be a very close cup tie.
Away by 4
Longford v Enniscorthy
Certainly potential here for an upset as Longford look to give the faithful at CPL Park a Cup day like no other. They have rarely made headlines in this competition but with the reigning champions in town, that could change.
Enniscorthy’s coaching staff will have had a challenging job in lifting spirits after their heavy Cup final loss last Saturday. The tries either side of half time killed the tie and there was a feeling that key players gone from last year were sorely missed against Leinster’s strongest side, yet you still can’t go against them here.
There will be a minute silence before the game for Derek Bannon who was part of the Longford squad in the previous two campaigns and tragically passed away this week. It puts perspective on the tie and will add huge emotion to the home dressing room.
This is a very hard game to call but as All Ireland finalists and reigning champions Enniscorthy get the nod with a back three that could prove key in what will likely be a tight and entertaining contest.
Away by 6
Athy v Roscrea
This tie is hidden away among the others this weekend. One of these two teams will make a very low key entry into the last eight draw on Sunday evening and the visitors seem the more likely from that point of view.
Athy have Cup pedigree but are operating in a Division below Roscrea and they’ve struggled in that fourth tier for good measure. Roscrea went to the last eight last year and Tullow needed extra time to beat them, they’ll be confident of returning to that stage.
Away by 5
Tullow v Kilkenny
The Quarter Final draw will be in Black Gates after this tie between the top sides in the second and third tiers of Leinster club rugby. Kilkenny’s promotion push to return to Division 1b continues apace and they look set to take the title.
However, they still have work to do and Malahide are on their shoulder. Tullow on the other hand wrapped up the Division 1b title last week and can relax now and focus on a another cup run with a view towards going one better than last year. It’s a mission for the Carlow men and it won’t end Sunday.
Home by 8