CIYMS go south to chase Ulster Cup glory as fixtures pile up
It is only the fourth weekend of the season but already there is fixture congestion for clubs in both the NCU and North West.
Saturday is the reserve day for the postponed matches in the first round of the Irish Cup but it is also first round day in the O'Neill's Ulster Cup and as Instonians and CIYMS head to Dublin, and Strabane host Railway Union in the premier competition, their Ulster Cup ties are put back all the way to June 21.
That just happens to be the reserve day for the second round of the Irish Cup and also clashes with Ireland's final T20 international against Scotland!
The clubs in Irish Cup action will just be grateful to be involved in a fixture backlog because the rain of two weeks ago has done them no favours.
Teams drawn out of the hat first must give up home advantage if the original tie is postponed, so Chris Dougherty takes his CIYMS side to Ballsbridge to tackle Merrion, beaten finalists in 2012 and 2013, and Instonians stop off at Malahide who are back in the top section of the Leinster League.
The away games, though, can be offset against the form of their opponents - neither has won a match this season with Merrion surprisingly losing to North County last week while Malahide have lost both their league games.
Strabane and Fox Lodge, at home to Co Galway, will both be desperate to give the North West some meaningful representation in the second round. Ardmore were the only winners on first round day although Bready are also through, but only because Terenure refused to travel.
In the Ulster Cup, Ardmore and Bready start as underdogs at Civil Service North and North Down respectively.
Eglinton and St Johnston have home advantage but Muckamore will travel with confidence and Carrickfergus have nothing to lose when they cross the border for the intriguing tie between last year's champions.
Donemana are the one North West side certain to start favourites, in their game at Wallace Park against a Lisburn side who have so far confirmed their low pre-season expectations.
The weekend for NCU teams starts tonight with the second round of Twenty20 Cup games and the four first round winners are favourites to confirm their semi-final place with a game to spare, namely with away victories for Instonians, North Down, Waringstown and CIYMS.
Weekend fixtures. Tomorrow: Hanley Energy Inter-provincial Trophy (5pm): Leinster Lightning v North West Warriors (Merrion)
Lagan Valley Steels Twenty20 Cup (6.15pm): Carrickfergus v Instonians, Lisburn v North Down, Ballymena v Waringstown, Civil Service North v CIYMS
Saturday, Irish Senior Cup first round (12.30pm): Fox Lodge v Co Galway, Strabane v Railway Union, Malahide v Instonians, Merrion v CIYMS
O'Neill's Ulster Cup first round (1pm): Civil Service North v Ardmore, Lisburn v Donemana, North Down v Bready, Eglinton v Muckamore, St Johnston v Carrickfergus
National Cup: Cliftonville v Balbriggan, Burndennett v Academy, Drummond v North Kildare, Dundrum (LCU) v Creevedonnell.
Ulster Bank League Section One: Downpatrick v Muckamore, Lurgan v Derriaghy, Woodvale v Donacloney
Section Two: Cregagh v Armagh, Drumaness v Saintfield, Dundrum v Victoria, Larne v BISC, Laurelvale v Holywood
Section Three: Cooke Collegians v Dungannon, Dunmurry v Ards, Monaghan v Donaghadee, Newforge v Millpark
Long's SuperValu Championship: Killyclooney v Newbuildings
Sunday, Hanley Energy inter-provincial Cup (10.45am): N Knights v NW Warriors
Ulster Bank League Section One: Derriaghy v Bangor, Woodvale v Downpatrick