Preview: Provincial Towns Cup Quarter-Finals
March 20, 2015 12:00 am client
The Bank Of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup has reached the Quarter final stage and this Sunday sees the eight clubs still standing gunning for a semi final spot. Of the eight clubs involved, there are three Division 1a sides, two clubs represented by their second string, giant killers and not to mention league champions.
At the start of the year, 27 teams set out aiming to claim the 90th Provincial Towns and with only eight teams remaining, clubs can now dare to dream.
Dundalk landed the Division 1A league title with a final day win down in Enniscorthy and with the All Ireland Junior Cup already secured, they are focused now on emulating Tullamore’s historic year in the 2013 in which they claimed league, All Ireland Junior Cup, Towns Cup and Round Robin series victories.
It will be a massive ask for Dundalk and whatever about the Round Robin series, they are certainly favourites to land their 11th Towns Cup crown. They had a 19-0 win over Wicklow in the previous round and with Portarlington travelling to the league champions, all the aces seem to be in the Dundalk deck.
Ultan Murphy has been in good scoring form with the boot while Steve McGee also grabbed a brace of tries in their win over Wicklow in the previous round. Holding their opponents to nil also serves as an indication that they are a team who hold a stern defence.
As mentioned above, Dundalk are also chasing promotion to the All Ireland league and their Round Robin quest will begin a mere six days after their Towns Cup quarter final clash making it vital that they have a strong panel.
Portarlington are the visitors to County Louth on Sunday and player/coach Ross Doyle has steered his charges through some memorable wins to get to this stage. A hard earned victory over Naas was followed up by a resolute win over Navan 2nd XV on home soil last time out.
Navan had held the initiative and led 10-0 at one stage in the opening half before going in 10-5 ahead at the break. However, spurred on by the large home support, Doyle and Portarlington got down to business in the second half and tries from Colm Dowling and Thomas Clarke saw them power on to victory while holding Navan to just three points in the second half.
Player/coach, Doyle admitted to local radio after the Navan game that drawing Dundalk was probably the toughest draw they could have received but that they would prepare to the best of their ability and would be travelling to win while conceding that they would be the underdogs once again.
The clash between Skerries 2nd XV and Kilkenny will also be an interesting tussle. Kilkenny have both current and cup form going into the game. Beaten in last year’s final at the hands of Ashbourne, they are fresh off claiming Division 1B league glory by a single point over Gorey.
They are a team glowing in confidence while also having the extra incentive of getting back to the final to rectify last year’s failings. The Kilkenny men found themselves at home to New Ross in the last round and they had a comprehensive 32-6 win.
At home again, the recently crowned league champions, coached by Steve Ashmore, will welcome the men of Skerries to battle on Sunday. A club’s second string team can be hard to access in the build up to cup games but the Skerries men put in one of the most impressive performances in the last round when they took care of Division 1B side Newbridge, 23-7.
The home side took an 18-0 lead at one stage during the game and could even afford to be reduced to 14 men late on before cruising to a 16-point win. With their first team plying their trade in the All Ireland league, the standard in the club is high and while Kilkenny will go in as favourites, Skerries won’t fear the Division 1B opposition and will pack a punch.
Clondalkin finished their Division 1A league campaign with a mid table fourth place finish. The Dublin club were part of an epic clash with Gorey last time out in a game that saw them come back from the dead to grab the win and tee up a quarter-final with Tullamore’s 2nd XV.
Gorey had control of the game for 70 minutes but a storming final 10 minutes from the home side saw late tries from Matt Stapleton and Derek Glennon steer them to a win that looked unlikely, especially with Gorey leading at the break by three points and by eight points with 25 minutes to play.
Tullamore have had a route that hasn’t seen as much traffic as they would have possibly liked. Arklow pulled out after the draw for the first round had been made, leaving the Tullamore men with a bye while their scheduled second round game with Portlaoise fell victim to the weather before going on to eventually beat their local rivals.
Tullamore’s second string reached the quarter final last year so they are no stranger to the heat of knockout cup action. They can call on players who have gained All Ireland league experience this season and will be a strong visiting outfit.
The final quarter-final sees the meeting of Carlow and Wexford as Tullow entertain Enniscorthy. Tullow had an average year in Division 1B while Enniscorthy were still in with a shout of the league title in 1A when Dundalk clinched the title on the final day.
Home advantage will be key for Tullow and although they have never won the Cup before, they have recent form having reached the final in 2012. They pulled through an all Division 1B clash in the previous round when they defeated Longford 15-8 down in Longford and they will relish the chance to put it up to 1A opposition on their home patch. Tullow were impressive winners and had a 15-3 lead build up before a late consolation from Longford narrowed the winning margin.
Enniscorthy dumped out 2014 champions, Ashbourne 25-14 last time out and they have the potent Ivan Jacob in excellent cup form scoring twice in the win over Ashbourne and also claiming a hat-trick against Edenderry in the previous round. Enniscorthy will be anxious to put their league disappointment behind them and taste cup success, especially having been beaten by the all conquering Tullamore in the 2013 final.
So who will cause the upset in the quarter final? Sunday’s games have all the makings of pulsating clashes and with the leagues completed, it is the cup or bust for the eight teams still standing.