Clogher aim to go to town in tricky semi-final clash
By Clogher Valley's high standards this season must go down as a disappointing one.
By Clogher Valley's high standards this season must go down as a disappointing one.
Though Ballynahinch have a game in hand on their rivals, the seventh-placed side have a decidedly tricky run-in ahead of them as they bid to dig themselves out of their current situation.
Banbridge and Armagh will be looking to make big strides this weekend in their races to potentially secure the titles in Divisions 2A and 2B respectively.
Omagh have qualified to be Ulster's representatives for the All Ireland League Round-Robin but face a difficult task to return to the League from which they were relegated 17 seasons ago. It was 1997/98 that the Tyrone side won promotion but their stay only lasted three seasons.
It looks like Ballynahinch and Ballymena will not only end their campaigns well outside the play-offs but also with serious concerns of finishing at the wrong end of the table.
It could have all fallen better for Ulster 'A' as they prepare for their first British and Irish Cup quarter-final in five years.
Division 2B leaders Armagh are locked in a race with Greystones for the title which looks set to go down to the wire with just one point separating them with four games to go.
Fifth plays fourth tomorrow when play-off hopefuls Ballynahinch host Old Wesley with victory the essential outcome for the Co Down side.
The Division 2A Ulster derby at Deramore turned out as expected with Banbridge going top of the table after emerging 27-0 winners over relegation certainties Belfast Harlequins.
There were double celebrations for Ballyclare High as their firsts qualified for the Danske Bank Subsidiary Shield final with a 24-7 victory over Grosvenor Grammar and the seconds reached the Plate final.
These are testing enough times for both Ballymena and Ballynahinch.
The only Ulster derby clash over the three divisions this weekend brings together Division 2A sides Banbridge and Belfast Harlequins, though they come into this game with contrasting backgrounds.
A defiant Belfast Harlequins last night rubbished claims that they were considering giving up their status as a senior club.
Ballynahinch's toughest test en route to their Millar McCall Wylie Junior Cup success came at Carrickfergus, where they squeezed through 18-17 - and the RiverRock Towns' Cup favourites know they're in for another difficult challenge against the east Antrim side at Tom Simms...
The outcomes in Division 2B made pleasant viewing for Ulster's three clubs as Armagh, Dungannon and City of Derry all tasted victory at the weekend.
It was a distinctly bad day at the office for both Ballymena and Ballynahinch with their defeats inflicting potentially severe damage on the clubs' top four aspirations.
Banbridge had to get a result to revive their promotion bid in Division 2A and Dan Soper's men did exactly that with a narrow 13-10 win at Cashel.
These are tough times for Belfast Harlequins, who are rooted to the foot of the 2A table and look destined to drop down another division.
Ballymena host Ballynahinch tonight in Division 1B of the AIL (kick-off 8.00pm) in what should be a cracking Ulster derby as both sides seek to push on towards breaking into the coveted top four in what is a highly congested area of the table.
It was, all told, a pretty decent weekend for both Ballynahinch and Ballymena in AIL Div 1B with the former taking a bonus point win at home and the Braidmen drawing under lights at leaders Buccaneers.
While Banbridge's troubles continued, there were positive outcomes for Queen's University and Malone as both clubs boosted their promotion hopes in AIL Division Two.
There is no doubting the most significant clash over the three divisions as 2B pace-setters City of Armagh host their nearest challengers Greystones.
There's a lot at stake this weekend as both Ballymena and Ballynahinch go in search of positive outcomes to keep their league seasons in reasonable health.
The spin-off for retaining the First Trust Ulster Senior Cup kicks in this weekend for Ballynahinch as they travel to meet Old Belvedere in the semi-final of the Bateman All-Ireland Cup.
A rarely-visited place in the British and Irish Cup quarter-finals is beckoning for Ulster 'A' today when they meet Jersey Reds at St Peter (2pm). And should the side coached by Kieran Campbell and Willie Anderson get the better of the Reds - which they did when they met...
Cardiff Blues last night confirmed the capture of Ulster lock Franco van der Merwe for next season.
Armagh's hopes of winning the SONI Ulster Premiership for the first time have diminished following the postponement of their vital game against Ballymena at Eaton Park.
If Armagh defeat Ballymena with a try bonus point, as they did against Ballynahinch 52-14 a fortnight ago, they will become the new SONI Ulster Rugby Premiership champions.
Chris Orr took advantage of Ballynahinch II's superior possession against Coleraine to score three tries in the River Rock Towns' Cup first round 34-3 victory at Ballymacarn Park.
The fate of the SONI Ulster Rugby Premiership title is in the hands of Armagh, who will lift the crown if they record a bonus-point victory against Ballymena on Saturday.
With four teams tied at the top of the SONI Ulster Rugby Premiership Division 1, the title will not be decided on this the penultimate weekend of the competition but some teams will bow out of contention.
The SONI Ulster Rugby Premiership Division 1 title race is set for a mouthwatering conclusion with Banbridge, Ballynahinch, Ballymena and Armagh all locked on 10 points with just two games to play.
Ballynahinch will be fielding the same team that won the First Trust Senior Cup (Dungannon 27-10) a fortnight ago when they travel to Armagh tomorrow(2.30pm) for the vital SONI Ulster Premier League game.
Ballynahinch will clinch their first ever hat-trick of First Trust Ulster Senior Cup victories should the Co. Down side overcome Dungannon in the domestic showpiece at Kingspan Stadium (7.30pm).
Omagh head coach Phil Marshall has instructed his side to soak up every minute of tonight's Junior Cup final against Ballynahinch IIs at Kingspan Stadium (7.30pm kick-off).
Ballymena are to provide the IRFU with video footage of the tackle that saw Ulster player Mark Best leave Eaton Park in an ambulance on Saturday.
Even though Ballynahinch got back to winning ways in Cork, all the attention was drawn to Eaton Park where a worrying incident involving Ulster squad member Mark Best halted play for a lengthy time during Ballymena's clash with league leaders Buccaneers.
Malone brightened a dank enough day at Gibson Park with a hugely valuable 22-0 win over local rivals Belfast Harlequins, allowing the victors to sign off for the first part of the AIL's back-to-back encounters - the sides meet again when the league reconvenes in January - in fitting style.
Coleraine face an uphill task in their Millar,McCall, Wylie Junior Cup semi-final at Omagh but will have a stronger squad available as compared to last week when the tie was postponed.
The challenge is certainly on for Ballymena, before the AIL signs off until the New Year, as they face the formidable task of hosting 1B leaders Buccaneers today. The Connacht side have only lost one of the eight games played so far and are nine points in front of the...
Armagh will be aiming to still be the only club in the AIL with a 100 per cent record when they host Wanderers in the last scheduled round of matches before Christmas. For the Division 2B leaders going nine victories from nine is the intention when Wanderers - who are in...
Ballynahinch have never achieved the cup 'double' but can create history in a fortnight when their firsts face Dungannon in the First Trust Senior Cup final on Thursday at Kingspan while their seconds contest the Millar, McCaw Wylie Junior Cup final two evenings earlier.
While Ballymena made off with the spoils from the Ulster derby encounter at Ballymacarn Park, Ballynahinch were left to rue another bad day at the office after going down 28-18.
With neither Ballynahinch nor Ballymena exactly setting Division 1B alight with their form, there is an added backdrop to their meeting as both strive to bring some consistency to their seasons.
Queen's University have now been elevated to third after their 27-15 bonus point win over Blackrock at the Dub.
Almost predictably, it was another mixed bag for the two Ulster clubs in 1B with one winning and the other falling short.
Clogher Valley eliminated Portadown from both the Junior and Towns' Cups last season so the Chambers Park team are out for revenge in the All Ireland Junior Cup quarter-final.
With the only remaining unblemished record throughout the entire AIL, Division 2B leaders Armagh are intent on making it seven wins from seven when they host struggling Thomond at the Palace Grounds.
With this being the last block of AIL games for a fortnight the importance to finish the segment on a high note is clearly uppermost for both Ballynahinch and Ballymena. It was a case of contrasting fortunes for both last week.
It was hard not to feel for Belfast Harlequins who now find themselves alone and somewhat adrift in the Division 2A basement.