Instonians face toughest route back to the AIL
After a gap of four seasons Instonians begin their quest for a return to the AIL with a most difficult round-robin game against the Leinster Junior champions Ashbourne this afternoon.
The Meath team have won the All-Ireland Junior Cup for the past two seasons and finished eight points ahead of nearest rivals Enniscorthy in the league.
Inst overtook Towns Cup winners Ballyclare in the last few games of Kukri Division 1 and are on a roll at the moment.
Director of Rugby Wilbert Leacock says that everything is good with his team. "We are at full strength but realise it will be a really tough challenge. If our physicality is right then we can get a win," he said.
"We have the experience of former Irish international Roger Wilson and Ireland A's John Annett as well as captain Josh Atkinson in a hard working pack.
"Atkinson at wing forward has had an outstanding year as has Alan Whitten at tight head," he added.
A lot of Inst's success has been due to their talented half-back partnership of Matthew Keane and Fraser Wright. Their quick service has set up an abundance of tries which resulted in 16 league victories and only two defeats against Ballyclare and Dromore, 14-9 and 21-19 respectively.
In contrast Ashbourne only played 14 fixtures in their league, winning 11 and losing three, but of more significance is the fact that they are undefeated at home.
This will probably be Inst's most difficult game in the competition in the alternative year that the Ulster representatives have away fixtures to both Leinster and Munster.
Omagh, who are now well in contention for promotion to 2B, had it easier last season when they had the two strong provinces at home in the competition.
In the other tie Ballina are at home to the Munster champions Brandon.
It's an afternoon of finals at Kingspan where the McCambley Cup decider between Ballymena IV and Enniskillen starts the action at 12.30pm.
The Gordon West Cup final between Lurgan and Donaghadee is at 2.30pm followed by the Forster Cup decider involving Dungannon III and Ballyclare IV at 4.30pm.