The Church of Ireland captain says there was something of an inevitability about the two rivals being drawn against each other once more, but he reckons the challenge for his team now is to reverse their recent losing trend against ‘Quins.
“Without doubt, Harlequins are the form team in the cup — over the past four years they have been the most consistent side in the competition, with maybe only Lisnagarvey coming close to them,” he says.
“It is difficult facing them yet again because we know them so well, and while maybe you’d prefer to get a northern team or a Dublin outfit, that’s just the way it panned out. We know them as well as we know our own players and I’ve played alongside the likes of Jason Black and David and Paul Lombard for Munster since about 1995, so they are all too familiar.”
Chambers reckons today’s clash at Garryduff (2.30pm) will be a very close affair and says that while ‘Quins beat them in the league on a 5-1 scoreline earlier in the season, that form might not be a good indicator.
“They had about 10 chances that day and they took five of them. We’d about the same number of chances, but only scored one. That’s the way it goes sometimes. But then we beat them 4-3 in the Peard Cup final over Christmas in extra time in what was a very even game and we just got the better of them.
“We have quite a young team, so we might shade them there, but they have the edge in terms of experience, so Saturday is going to be very tight,” he says.
Chambers reports that his side’s four senior internationals — goalie Mark Ruddle, along with Karl Burns, John Jermyn and David Hobbs — all returned in good health from the Irish team’s recent tour to South Africa, and while they were a little tired from the hectic schedule of games they played, they will all be available for the cup derby.
“This is maybe the first time in four years we’ve been relatively injury free coming into the sharp end of the cup and that gives us confidence we can give them a good game. Also, in recent years we threw some of the younger guys like Jason Lynch, Jonny Bruton and Adam Pritchard in at the deep end maybe a year or so before we’d have liked. They had to grow up very quickly, but we think that experience is paying benefits now for them and for the team.
“Certainly we still have old stagers like myself, Derek Hales, Phil Smith and Alastair Dunne, but the majority of the team are under 25, so we think that’s in our favour.”
Having been around the block himself once or twice, Chambers reckons that his players will not need much motivation to be up for this match and he says that under new coach this season, Neil Welch, the emphasis has been on performing more cohesively as a unit.
“Neil has continued the work of Denis Pritchard in terms of maximising the flair in the side and our attacking nature, but with Neil we have been working hard on performing as a unit throughout the pitch and we’ve seen benefits there. I think also that we are mentally stronger and our fitness levels are very good.
“The approach this season has been more team-oriented and the team is coordinating better. Certainly we will look to the likes of John Jermyn and David Hobbs to do something special every now and then, but overall I think there is more structure to the team and that’s good,” he points out.
The other fourth round games today see Three Rock Rovers face a tricky home tie against Dublin rivals Pembroke Wanderers at Grange Road (12.30), while Banbridge play UCD, Belfast Harlequins host Glennane, Lisnagarvey play Kilkeel, Crookstown take on Bray, Railway Union play Annadale and Raphoe play Mossley.
In the third round of the ESB Women’s Irish Senior Cup today, Cork Harlequins face high flying Dublin side Loreto (hit off 1pm at Harlequin Park), while Cork Church of Ireland make the long trip to Ards. There is a big Dublin derby between Old Alex and Hermes.
The draw for the next round of both competitions will be made this evening.