The 91st Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup is down to eight teams. All in with a shout and all dreaming of edging one step closer to glory this Sunday as the quarter finals of the prestigious cup take centre stage.

As in any cup competition, there have been plenty of thrills and spills along the way and you can bet your bottom dollar that there will be plenty of more drama before a champion is crowned next month.

League champions, promotion achievers and teams that have suffered the pain of relegation are all in the mix on Sunday and with full focus now on the Towns Cup, business is surely about to pick up.

The tie of the round is a rematch of last year’s final.  Enniscorthy have had a memorable year and already have the All Ireland Junior cup and the Division 1A league title secured as they now go in search of promotion to the AIL and back to back Towns Cups.

In last year’s semi final, they took care of Dundalk, a team who were in a similar situation to that of Enniscorthy this year.  They were All Ireland Junior Cup champions while the league also headed for Louth but in a rip roaring semi final, Enniscorthy pipped them at the post for a dramatic victory.  They will look to that scenario and hope the same doesn’t happen to them while the experience of it all should stand to them.

Both of these teams got a bye into the second round of the cup.  The Wexford men took care of Cill Dara 22-16 while Kilkenny had a somewhat fortunate 7-6 win over Mullingar.  Kilkenny won Division 1B last year and enjoyed a steady first year back in the top flight.

They looked to have last year’s final won before a late penalty beat them but this year springs a fresh and stand alone challenge.  Podge Mahon got the all important try against Mullingar early in the opening half and they showed great mettle to hang on as the Mullingar men attacked in droves looking for that extra score.

Enniscorthy were made battle all the way against Cill Dara.  A Killian Lett try in the opening half proved vital as they held an 8-6 half time lead having played against the wind.  Cill Dara then took the lead early in the second half before a Timmy Morrissey try and three penalties from the in form Ivan Poole gave them a cushion to be comfortable in the end.

Enniscorthy are the form team and will be favourites to advance but with last year’s final defeat still fresh in the minds of the Kilkenny men, this could go either way.

Portlaoise are another club with a pep in their step. Fresh from a double league crowning with their firsts winning the Division 2A title and their seconds clinching the Division 2A seconds title, the Laois men are at home in Togher and will welcome Wicklow.

Two form teams.  Wicklow won a promotion/relegation contest 21-16 away to Clondalkin last weekend to earn them a passage to Division 1A, however they will have a nervous wait to see if a leinster team is relegated back from the AIL.  If that is the case, they will need Enniscorthy to gain promotion to the AIL for their spot in 1A to be confirmed.  Eanna Killeen and Ben Armstrong both scored tries in that win over Clondalkin while in form kicker Niall Earls nailed some vital kicks, just like he did when Wicklow turned over Ashbourne in the second round 29-13 with Earls contributing 24 of those 29 points.

Portlaoise will apply their trade in Division 1B next season as they convincing claimed the Division 2A title last Sunday week. A narrow win over Tullamore seconds opening round sent them on the road to North Kildare in the second round and they came through that examination with flying colours – 24-17.

Portlaoise led 12-7 at half time before second half tries from Ross Cooper and Kevin Griffin propelled them into a dominant position.  Two clubs in a rich vein of form and with confidence soaring.  A high scoring contest could be on the cards with the draw for the semi finals of the cup taking place at Portlaoise RFC after the game.

Clondalkin will host Roscrea in Dublin with both clubs in contrasting head space.  Roscrea were runaway winners of Division 2B while Clondalkin finished second bottom in Division 1A and lost a relegation/promotion playoff last weekend to Wicklow to send them down to 1B next season.

Roscrea defeated Edenderry in the opening round before they disposed of Wexford Wanderers in the second round 14-8 with Denis Maloney kicking three penalties along the way.  While they have been playing a few divisions below their opponents on Sunday, they are in a far superior frame of mind it would seem and they will surely have their gander up for an upset.  David Carney has been in form for the club on the Offaly and Tipperary border and this will be their first game on the road in this year’s competition.

While Clondalkin suffered in the league this year, the Towns Cup has proven a chance for them to forget their woes.  After beating Newbridge in the opening round, they defeated Midland Warriors 63-0 with Collie McHugh grabbing a hat-trick and Chris Jebb racking up the points with the boot.

  Clondalkin were beaten semi finalists last year and will start as favourites to reach back to back semi finals but Roscrea have nothing to lose and will be keen to keep their successful season going.

The final quarter final sees Gorey take on Naas seconds.  Gorey came close to taking the Division 1A league title but in the end, couldn’t overtake their fellow Wexford men, Enniscorthy.  Naas apply their trade in the Metro two league with their first team in the AIL.

Unfortunately for the Naas men, they fell 18-16 at the hands of Blackrock in the Metro two final last weekend but they have played with confidence in the cup this year with a big win over Portarlington in the opening round followed up by an impressive 20-17 away win at Tullow last time out.

Charlie Kings and Andrew Kearney crossed for tries in the opening half of that game before Tullow drew level before the break.  Henry Bryce put Naas back ahead in early in the second half but it was the Tullow men who held a 17-15 lead as the game neared the end.

With just over 10 minutes to go, Mark Ronaldson struck for the Kildare men that try proved to be the last score of the game and Naas were through as not only  the only second string team to make the second round but the quarter finals as well.

Gorey trounced neighbours New Ross 36-5 in the second round.  A side that hit form in the second half of the year, they were never in any doubt of making the quarter finals and having come second in the league, they will be hoping and putting all their man power into bringing silverware to Gorey before the year is out.

Eoin Walsh has five tries in their two Towns Cup games to date this year with a hat-trick in the opening round and two more against New Ross.  Leading 19-5 at half time, the game was well on the way to be sown up but they kicked on and put up an impressive haul of 36 points with tries from Andrew Walsh and Phil De Barra to name just two.

Gorey will enter the game as favourites but the underdog tag has served Naas well to date.

All games will take place this Sunday the 20th March with the first named teams at home. KO 3pm.
Clondalkin v Roscrea
Portlaoise v Wicklow
Naas 2nd XV v Gorey
Enniscorthy v Kilkenny