It’s that time of year again and as clubs wind down for the Christmas break and reflect on the first half of their season attention turns to one of junior rugby’s biggest events – the draw for the first round of the 90th Bank of Ireland Provincial Towns Cup…

The Presidents and Captains of all 40 Provincial clubs will gather together on Saturday December 13th in the Ballsbridge Hotel for the draw which takes place prior to the Leinster v Harlequins match. This event provides great excitement every year as club supporters wait anxiously to see what local derbies, grudge matches and reruns of previous epic encounters the draw will throw up. 28 clubs have entered the competition this year.
The Provincial Towns Cup trophy is one of the oldest trophies in existence in Irish Rugby. It was purchased in 1892 for £25 from Wests in Grafton Street, Dublin. The Cup bears the title of Leinster Junior Challenge Trophy but it is not as old as the competition itself, which was established in 1888.
Nine Clubs entered the first Junior Cup (Blackrock College, Clontarf, Cabra, Rangers, Claremont, Farra, Santry and Athy) and Blackrock College were the first winners. Medals were presented to the winners but there was no cup presented. Clubs were requested to subscribe to the cost of a Cup but the response was slow. The Leinster Branch records show that Blackrock College paid £2.20, Clontarf and Santry £2 each and Athy and Claremont £1.00 eachBlackrock College who won the initial Junior Cup in 1889 were the first club to be presented with the Cup when they won the competition in 1892.
The conditions of the competition were changed for the 1926 running of the competition and only Junior Clubs who were located at least 18 miles from the General Post Office in O’Connell Street were eligible to compete.

Enniscorthy won the final Leinster Junior Challenge Cup when they defeated Co. Kildare (Naas) by 10 points to 3 points at Lansdowne Road and also won the first Provincial Towns Cup in 1926 when they again defeated Co. Kildare (Naas) by 6 points to nil at Donnybrook. County Carlow are the most successful club in the competition’s history with a staggering 12 wins and they are followed closely by Skerries on 11 wins while Navan and Dundalk boast 10 wins each.
Every year clubs who don’t make it to the final compete for the honour of hosting the fixture which is one of junior rugby’s marquee events with thousands of supporters and rugby enthusiasts flocking to the venue. It is a sight to behold when a ground not used to such massive crowds experiences the atmosphere and celebrations that accompany such a wonderful occasion.

Last year it was Tullow who staged what turned out to be a nail biting final with Ashbourne coming out on top against Kilkenny after extra time was played. As both clubs were competing in Division 1B of the Leinster League at the time, it proved that in cup competitions teams outside of the top flight can achieve their dream of being crowned champions. That’s the magic of the cup!

Bank of Ireland will be streaming the draw live here on Saturday from 4pm.
Leinster Rugby will be tweeting live from the draw @LeinsterBranch using the hashtags #BOIrugby and #PTC90.