Provincial Towns Cup: 1st Round preview
January 27, 2017 7:00 am Site Editor
With the famed competition now in its 92nd year, the prestige and honour that the Cup holds hasn’t dampened as it remains a competition close to the hearts of many clubs in the 12 counties of Leinster.
Defending champions Wicklow won the competition for the first time in their history last season, adding yet more intrigue to the cup when they beat a fancied Enniscorthy side in the final in Ashbourne.
Wicklow, plying their trade in Division 1B of the Leinster League can now serve as fresh evidence that cup rugby doesn’t always go to form.
The Wicklow men are currently riding high and on Sunday claimed the Division 1B title before their defence of the cup even starts but they will have to beat 1A opposition if they are to get past the 1st round this year when they travel to Kilkenny on Sunday.
Kilkenny are currently struggling at the bottom of 1A and will welcome the defending champions who are bang in form.
Local derbies always whet the appetite in cup rugby and the ‘battle of Laois’ will see Portarlington welcome Portlaoise to Lea Road.
Portlaoise won Division 2A last season, a league that contained Portarlington and, although they have struggled with the step up to 1B, they will look to the cup to get something from the year.
Both sides lost at the weekend so a win will come as a tonic to either team should they get it.
Portarlington are currently struggling in Division 2A but won’t fear their county rivals, especially at home where there is likely to be massive support on the day.
Edenderry are also in Division 2A but it will be Division 1B competition for them on Sunday when they welcome Clondalkin.
The home side beat Portarlington in the league at the weekend while Clondalkin saw Wicklow take the points off them to clinch the 1B title.
This has the potential to a tight affair with the home draw a definite advantage for the Midlanders.
Staying in the Midlands, Mullingar, who are struggling in Division 1B, will have it all to do when they welcome Division 1A mid-table side Gorey to Shay Murtagh Park.
Despite a morale boosting win over Portlaoise at the weekend, they remain rooted to the bottom of 1B. Gorey are a steady 1A side but come into the game on the back of a 32-0 loss to Enniscorthy.
The cup is both sides’ best chance of silverware this season.
Tullow will have the benefit of home comforts on Sunday when the entertain Newbridge.
Tullow are only second to the untouchable Wicklow in Division 1B, while the Newbridge men are struggling to make an impact in 2A.
Second bottom, they were beaten by league leaders Longford by 22 points last weekend and they would desperately love a cup run to take their minds and the pressure off a poor league run.
Tullow have only been beaten four times in 12 outings in the league and find themselves in form ahead of the cup after a 24-0 win over Coolmine last weekend.
As mentioned, Longford are the team to catch at the top of Division 2A. Having been relegated last year, the 2013 Towns Cup finalists have made an impressive start as they seek back to 1B but they face up against the Tullamore seconds who have plenty of talent in their ranks.
Aided by a couple of senior players, the seconds won the Midlands League in December and have been impressing in the Metro League.
There will be a Division 2B derby in New Ross when the hosts take on Athy.
The visitors also have the added incentive of the final being held in Athy later this year.
New Ross have only been beaten once this season and that was back in October. Both sides come into the game having won in the league last weekend and this is another game that could go right down to the wire.
Arklow are also in Division 2B and they will take the trek to Meath to take on Boyne seconds.
A tough away draw for the Wicklow men; Boyne have a strong tradition in the cup and will go into the game as favourites. That said, one win is all it takes to get a teams’ tails up and Arklow will travel with that bit of cup rugby freedom.
County Carlow are only five points off 2A table-toppers Longford but they will have to slay a Dundalk side two divisions ahead of them if they are to advance in the Towns Cup.
Only two seasons ago, Dundalk won the 1A title but their fortunes have slipped as they now struggle to find form in the league.
The Carlow men have the massive bonus of home advantage, while you would have to imagine Dundalk will be itching to get a run in the cup given their slump in form in the league.
Midland Warriors are currently leading Division 3 of the Leinster League and they have the biggest task of the lot in terms of league placing as they play host to a North Kildare side three divisions ahead of them.
The Moate-based club will be up against it but they have the form and confidence to have a right cut off a North Kildare side sitting in mid table in 1B.
The cup will be their best chance of silverware so despite being on the road, they will travel with intent and a confidence of making their divisional gap visible on the day.
Roscrea are having a season to forget in 2A as they sit rock-bottom and look destined for a swift return to 2B. A cup run will be no easy task either when they have to travel to Skerries to take on the home side on Sunday.
Skerries will be strong favourites as the Dublin club look to set down a marker.
Finally, there is the clash of Wexford Wanderers and Naas seconds. The Wexford men have home advantage but will face atough Naas side looking to get their campaign off to the right start.
The Wanderers sit second in a highly competitive Division 2B but Naas seconds are an experienced Metro side who had a good run in the competition last year.