North Down have not the won the Bob Kerr Irish Senior Cup since 1995. It is an unenviable record which continues to bug the most successful team in the NCU for the last 10 years.
In that time the Comber side have won (or shared) seven Premier League titles and six Challenge Cups, as well as two Ulster Cup successes. But in the same period they have never got past the semi-finals of the only all-Ireland competition and when they head to Rush tomorrow morning for this year’s second round tie, memories of their clash in Kenure three years ago will come flooding back.
That day, North Down not only failed to defend 309 but they also had two players suspended from the first Irish Cup match the following year. This year, North Down head south with Peter Connell and Ralph Coetzee, tempted out of retirement, but without their registered professional for the Irish Cup, New Zealander Iain Robertson. He should be here next week.
Ballymena have not won an Irish Cup match since 2000 and for only their third match since, they must also head to Dublin to face Merrion, semi-finalists last year.
There are two all-Ulster clashes with the NCU teams CIYMS and Lisburn at home to Eglinton and Coleraine respectively, while among the four matches in the North West, Brigade and Limavady will start big favourites against Old Belvedere and CYM.
There should have been a fifth match in the North West but Fox Lodge have given up home advantage to Leinster.
Tomorrow’s fixtures: Bob Kerr Irish Senior Cup second round (12.30): In NCU: Bangor v North County, Civil Service North v Phoenix, CIYMS v Eglinton, Lisburn v Coleraine. In North West: Bready v Waringstown, Brigade v Old Belvedere, Strabane v YMCA, Limavady v CYM.
In Leinster: The Hills v Instonians, Rush v North Down, Malahide v Donemana, Railway Union v Glendermott, Merrion v Ballymena, Clontarf v Carrickfergus, Leinster v Fox Lodge, Pembroke v Cork Harlequins.
TCH Challenge Cup first round (12.00): Derriaghy v Downpatrick, Saintfield v Cliftonville, Laurelvale v Holywood, Muckamore v Armagh, Dundrum v Dunmurry, Lurgan v Cooke Collegians.
Goldblatt McGuigan Junior Cup (1.00): PSNI v Academy, Carrickfergus II v Clogher, Woodvale II v BISC, North Down II v Millpark, Civil Service North II v Templepatrick, Bangor II v Dungannon, Waringstown II v Drumaness, Larne v Lurgan II, Ballymena II v Lisburn II.