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All-Ireland Cup semi-final: Dungannon v Corinthians

By Michael Sadlier

Dungannon's season gets another chance to continue on its upward curve tomorrow as their memorable Senior Cup win last month, at a blizzard-hit Ravenhill, has taken them into the last four for this season's All-Ireland Cup.

On a day when most of the focus will be on events over in northern Italy, 'Gannon will be aiming to see off Connacht Cup winners Corinthians and emulate Ballynahinch's success of two seasons ago by making the final and going on to lift the trophy.

Justin Fitzpatrick's squad got a fairly tame workout last Saturday by seeing off Belfast Harlequins 38-5 in the Ulster League, a game which was only the Tyrone side's second competitive outing since the end of November thanks to the horrendous weather over the festive period.

Despite the lack of game time, Fitzpatrick is nevertheless confident that his charges are moving in the right direction and that they can reach another cup final.

“I suppose we are seeing some return on our targets,” Fitzpatrick said. “We are sitting where we want to be in the Ulster League, we're pushing for promotion in the All-Ireland League, we won the Senior Cup and now we're in the All-Ireland Cup semi-finals.

“We're happy with where we are, but we're not complacent.”

'Gannon's style of play, assisted and developed by Fitzpatrick and assistant coach Kieran Campbell, has already been a marked feature of their season with a hard-working pack providing a platform to launch a talented backline.

“We'll take the win tomorrow no matter how we get it, but we like to play free-flowing, expansive rugby. We want it to be fun to play and we want to entertain but this style also suits our group of players' skill-sets.

“We've a plethora of talented guys,” Fitzpatrick said before adding: “Conor Gaston has great ability while Chris Cochrane has been outstanding and Craig Gilroy has already proved his worth with Ulster.

“They fit in really well along with with Glen Telford, who is one of the best centres in club rugby, and the hugely experienced Paul Magee.”

And with rising star Paddy Jackson pulling the strings at out half, ‘Gannon have a mean and muscular back-row consisting of Ali Birch, Stuart McKenzie and Callum Threlfall.

“We're very, very proud of the guys and we've got a very enthusiastic group of players who really work hard and are visibly progressing week on week,” Fitzpatrick said.

As for the opposition — who ply their trade in Division Two of the Ulster Bank League — Fitzpatrick admitted that Corinthians coach Sean Duignan is an old friend, though that will naturally be temporarily suspended over the course of the game.

Dungannon look in good shape to advance.

Belfast Telegraph


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