The quarter finals of the Provincial Towns Cup sponsored by Cleaning Contractors will be played on Sunday and this year’s exciting renewal has produced more than its fair share of drama in the opening two rounds…
And, to date, there have been plenty of late heroics coupled with some unforeseen upsets.
Tullamore are hot favourites to win their first title since 2006 when they beat Sunday’s opponents Wicklow 25-3 in North Kildare to record their fourth overall success.
The county Offaly side have swept all before them so far this season including winning Division 1A of the Leinster League as well as the All Ireland Junior Cup and at home in Spollanstown on Sunday they will be expected to advance to a semi-final en route to making up for three final losses in a row from 2009-11.
Their biggest challenge will be in maintaining two challenges simultaneously as they will commence battle in the AIL Round Robin a week later in Portadown with six, or maybe even seven games in successive weeks that will test the durability of their squad.
Wicklow have already taken the major scalp of Newbridge as well as beating Skerries 2nd XV and will provide a stern test but if Tullamore are on song, as they were when comfortably disposing of Mullingar away after getting a bye into the 2nd round, they should make it through to the penultimate stage.
Tullow are clear second favourites on the back of an unbeaten Leinster League run that delivered the Division 1B title by a massive 23 points and on Sunday they welcome Ashbourne to their Black Gates stronghold.
Tullow have had impressive wins over Rathdrum and Kilkenny so far in the Towns Cup while Ashbourne have seen off the challenges of Clane and Co Carlow but the formbook points soundly to a home victory which would be a repeat of last season’s solid 17-3 semi-final win for the Carlovians.
Cill Dara have been the Houdini side of this year’s Towns Cup, getting out of jail with a last minute penalty try to force extra time before eventually beating Clondalkin at home in Beechpark and then kicking a match-winning injury time penalty goal in squeezing past Gorey at home to get this far.
And if two dramatic home wins wasn’t enough the Kildare town club was first out of the hat again and will be in Beechpark to welcome Longford on Sunday in a repeat of a 2nd round tie won 8-6 by Cill Dara a year ago.
Longford won in North Kildare before dumping holders Enniscorthy out of the Towns Cup in a sensational result at home in CPL Park and will be confident of causing another upset on Sunday in a game that looks extremely evenly matched but home advantage might just be enough to nudge the hosts through to the semi-final.
Another repeat of a 2nd round clash from a year ago is the visit of Roscrea to Carbury to tackle Edenderry with the hosts anxious to reverse last season’s 11-9 result when Roscrea had home advantage.
Roscrea beat Boyne 2nd XV at home and Athy away to get to this stage while Edenderry struggled to a 3-0 victory in Arklow before impressively winning away against Naas 2nd XV.
This is another tie that looks like it’ll be decided by less than a score and again it could be a case of home comforts being the key.
The draw for the semi-finals of the Provincial Towns Cup will take place in Edenderry Rugby Club immediately after their clash with Roscrea and will be broadcast live on Midland 103 radio.