Ulster clubs in quest to cure our history of Irish Cup woes
Ulster teams' annual quest for Irish Cup glory resumes on Saturday, desperately hoping to improve a record of just four finalists in the last 10 years.
Waringstown, the only winners in that period - defeating Instonians in 2011 - are actually playing their first match of the season this weekend, after two Premier League washouts, but will be confident of hitting the ground running against St Johnston.
The most interesting game in the NCU could be at Woodvale, who face YMCA. This is only their second Irish Cup appearance since 2002. Weather reduced their only other one, in 2009, to a bowl-out, which they lost.
Relegated Muckamore keep their place in the competition, but they will be doing well to get past Coleraine, who have won their opening two Premiership games so convincingly.
Pick of the games in the North West is at Donemana - beaten finalists in 2008 and 2009 - where five-times winners North County are the visitors, but since the last of those wins seven years ago they haven't got past the quarter-finals and Balbriggan's gain - they have snapped up Ireland international John Mooney - is North County's loss, so with Andy McBrine fit to play his first match for the North West cup holders, they should go on another run.
There seven North West clubs at home because Terenure and Co. Galway are not permitted to play on their mat wickets in the competition so Bready, who hope to have Craig Young available and Fox Lodge are the beneficiaries.
All of the NCU's big three are at home, but it will much tougher for Instonians and particularly CIYMS who face Merrion, last year's runners-up in Leinster and beaten finalists in the Irish Cup in 2012 and 2013. Opening batsmen, former internationals Reinhardt Strydom and Fintan McAllister are Malahide's biggest dangers.
Heading south yet again are North Down and it doesn't get any easier for the team which hasn't won the Irish Cup since 1995; their first round opponents are The Hills, the holders.
Meanwhile, in the National Cup, Cliftonville will face Mooney following his decision to drop down to Division 2, while 2014 runners-up Killyclooney resume where they finished last year's competition, at the The Meadow, against hosts Downpatrick.
Irish Senior Cup first round (12.30pm): (In NCU) Ballymena v Ardmore, CIYMS v Merrion, Instonians v Malahide, Waringstown v St Johnston, Woodvale v YMCA (in North West) Bready v Terenure, Brigade v Civil Service North, Coleraine v Muckamore, Donemana v North County, Fox Lodge v Co Galway, Eglinton v Pembroke, Glendermott v Lisburn (In Leinster) Clontarf v Cork County, Leinster v Carrickfergus, Railway Union v Strabane, The Hills v North Down
National Cup: Academy v Burndennett, Downpatrick v Killyclooney, Holywood v Civil Service, Templepatrick v Rush, Ballyspallen v Laois, Bonds Glen v Bangor, Creevedonnell v Dundrum (LCU), Newbuildings v Lurgan, Sion Mills v Greystones, Balbriggan v Cliftonville, North Kildare v Drummond, Phoenix v Derriaghy.