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Minnows can stake a claim and make a name in Kirk Cup

By Graham Hamilton

What are the chances of a new name being inscribed on the Kirk Cup in what is the competition's 188th season?

The Big Four - Banbridge, Lisnagarvey, Cookstown and Annadale - have dominated the tournament over the past 20 years. But this season they are absentees, having opted to move into the new all-Ireland set-up which hits off on September 26.

That means just four of the remaining participating teams have ever had their name engraved on the trophy now sponsored by GOC Estate Agents, leaving a better than usual chance for some of the minnows to make a name for themselves in the Boxing Day showpiece.

Instonians, though, have already been installed as favourites and the Shaw's Bridge outfit are the one team to have broken the recent Big Four domination by landing the Kirk Cup back in 2004 and 1993.

Mossley have had one win, in 1983, while South Antrim and North Down must go back to the competition's early days since their last success.

But teams like Kilkeel haven't had the pleasure of a run-out on Boxing Day and the Mournemen, despite the loss of coach Robbie Irwin, are optimistic that it could finally be their turn this time.

However, both they and Instonians sit out the action this weekend after last week's opening triumphs - they are the odd team out in their pools - and so the spotlight falls on Mossley and Portadown to build on their early wins, and Civil Service and Raphoe to make an impact in what is their opening games.

Mossley, of course, lost talisman Neal Glassey over the summer to Lisnagarvey but are looking to Jordan Robinson to inspire them this term, and he has already obliged with a goal against Harlequins last week.

Kirk Cup Pool A: South Antrim v Newry, Friends, 3pm.

Kirk Cup Pool B: Belfast Harlequins v Raphoe, Deramore, 2.30pm; Mossley v North Down, The Glade, 2.30pm.

Linden Cup Pool A: Armagh v Newcastle, Ardmore, 1pm; Portrush v Campbellians, Ballycastle.

Linden Cup Pool B: Ballynahinch v Cliftonville, St Colman's; Bangor v Antrim, Aurora, 2.30pm.

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