It’s Senior verses Junior as the Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup reaches the quarter final stage. Will the big clubs reign supreme or will the lesser lights strike a blow for the junior ranks?
It’s also a free weekend for the senior sides with no All-Ireland league games, so we could see some very experienced team sheets from the senior sides. This adds fuel to the debate as to whether senior sides should actually be in the Junior Cup? Personally, I think they should just be entered into the Towns Cup and leave the rest to fight it out for the junior cup.
Ballymoney v Banbridge. Kilraughts Road 2.30pm
It’s an all-Conference Two clash as surprise packets Ballymoney welcome Banbridge 2nd’s to North Antrim. Ballymoney have lost only the one league game so far in their return season to section two and have also scored heavily into the bargain. After coming through a tight opening day fixture against Academy they have gone on to average almost 30 points per game. Their one blemish being a defeat away to Randalstown at the beginning of October. They have also scored very well in the cup with 39 points notched up against Academy and then 36 being put on Limavady.
Banbridge have played just one cup game to date. That was a fine 27-15 win over Cooke. Like their North Antrim opponents, Banbridge have lost only once this season in all competitions. That was away back at the end of August against Ards. Although their games have been a lot tighter than Ballymoney’s, they haven’t looked back since that defeat and have built up some momentum with their unbeaten run.
Ballymoney have used their year in section three to blood some young players and they have more than kicked on from last season. Backed by a huge support, it should be the home side who reach the semi-finals.
Ballynahinch 2nd’s v Enniskillen. Ballymacarn Park 2.30pm
Regardless of their 1st XV being in action or not, you are always going to come up against a strong Hinch 2nd’s select. Again the County Down side have blown away all before them so far, but Instonians did push them all the way in the last round of the cup. Indeed it took a last second drop goal to get the better of the South Belfast side.
Enniskillen seem to save their best for the cup. They have reached the last two Towns Cup finals. Indeed it is was Saturday’s opponents who got the better of them in the 2017 showpiece last April. Not only will they be disappointed with their league form to date, they will also be concerned as they sit second from bottom in section one of the Kukri Rugby Championship.
Anything other than a home win would be a major surprise.
City of Armagh 2nds v Coleraine. Palace Grounds 2.30pm
In a dress rehearsal for this last week Armagh prevailed with a 20-7 win at Sandal Lodge. This kept Armagh’s unbeaten season intact and heaped more misery on the Bannsiders, who, after a promising start to the season have slid down the Conference One and section tables.
In fairness, Coleraine have played the top two in their opening four fixtures so there shouldn’t be any cause for concern in the North West just yet. They have been without the influential Poskitt in the centre and last years captain has been missed. Bokkie Carstens remains pivotal to their attack and he will look to Chris Nash, Josh Christie and Michael Ferguson to provide the leadership and ball winning up front.
At home and playing with confidence, Armagh will be favourites to progress to the semi-finals.The Armagh club in general is going through a bit of a renaissance at the minute. The 1st XV are riding high in the AIL and last week reached the semi-finals of the Senior Cup, and, come 4pm on Saturday evening, the 2nds XV should be in one too.
Portadown v Malone 2nd’s. Chambers Park 2.30pm.
A few weeks ago this would’ve been marked as a banker of an away win, but the last three weeks have changed all that.
While Malone 2nds have only suffered one defeat this season, their Mid-Ulster opponents took their time to get their season up and running. After receiving a first round bye, they got the better of Ards in round two. This win kick started their season and in their two league games since they have dug out two wins. Last week they went to Fivemiletown to beat Clogher Valley, but it was the previous weekend’s defeat of Coleraine that showed they have rediscovered last years form.
The Chambers Park outfit have shown in recent weeks that they have the stomach for a battle, and they will need to dig deep once more if they are to get the better of the Cregagh Road Red Sox.
That’s the four ties down for decision this weekend folks. I’ll be going for wins for Ballymoney, Ballynahinch 2nds, Armagh 2nds and Malone 2nds (by the minimum).