Cashel and Skib can prevent final re-run

THE Heineken Munster Junior Clubs Challenge Cup semi-finals dominate the weekend’s junior rugby program with two Second Division sides, Cashel and Skibbereen, in the way of a repeat of last season’s final between holder’s Nenagh Ormond and Bruff.

Both games have a 2pm kick off, with the Tipperary pairing meeting at Thomond Park, and Bruff travelling to Musgrave Park to face Skibbereen.

First Division leaders Nenagh Ormond will not underestimate Cashel, especially as the Second Division outfit have already defeated them (25-5) earlier in the season in the semi-final of the Garryowen Cup. They have played only two games to reach this stage, both away, beating Kilfeacle 17-3 and Douglas 44-12. They received a walkover from Mallow. The First Division leaders got back to winning ways last week, after their defeat by Bruff seven days previous, with an impressive performance away to Richmond. They probably have the best back line at this level in the province, with Derek Corcoran bagging a hat trick of tries in two games this season. Veteran Mick Lynch has also been outstanding Cashel have defeated three First Division sides to reach this stage. Clonmel and Clanwilliam, at home, and St Senan’s away. They have only suffered one defeat this season, away to Skibbereen in the league. They will not be overawed and on their day will not make it easy for their more illustrious opponents and could cause an upset.

League champions Bruff travel to Musgrave Park to take on Skibbereen and are confident of preserving their unbeaten record. They are the only junior side not to have tasted defeat in any competition this season.

They have failed to pick up a bonus point in any of their league games, but surprisingly have scored 12 tries in their two previous cup ties, both against First Division opposition.

Skibbereen have to pick themselves up after a surprising defeat by Kanturk last week. The West Cork side have never reached the final of either of the major cup competitions. They did reach the last four of the Challenge Cup in the ’94/’95 season, losing to Kilfeacle, and Shannon defeated them in the Junior Cup semi-final in 1994.

It would be a great boost to the club to reach the decider, as their only provincial success was the Junior Plate victory in 1996. The club has had a new lease of life this season with the signing of Tyrone Taipa. The Kiwi’s kicking has been excellent. He has managed 16 sixteen penalties, 13 thirteen conversions and two tries in their eight competitive games this season and while he will be their main threat, the West Cork side will be looking for a big effort from their pack where Brendan O’Donovan has led by example.

Current form indicates that Bruff, with their experience, should preserve their unbeaten run.

The two O’Neill Cup semi-finals will also be decided, and a new name will be carved on the trophy, as none of the four sides involved have tasted success in this competition.

Charleville take on Muskerry at the North Cork venue and the visitors will be expected to repeat their win earlier in the season, although confidence is low in the camp after two successive defeats, by Cashel and Thurles.

Fermoy have home advantage against Dunmanway and they should make amends for their earlier defeat by the West Cork side in the league with a victory.

Cork Constitution will be hoping to close the gap on leader’s Garryowen in the Munster Seconds League, with an away win over UL Bohemian. The first phase of the U20 League is nearing completion with places still up for grabs in the top section in the next phase.

The top four sides in Section A meet each other and, with all four likely to qualify for the top section after Christmas, the results of these games will be carried forward to that phase. Bruff with maximum points from their five games have a home game against UL Bohemian. Corinthians, in fourth place, entertain Cork Constitution. The other two games are equally as important, especially as four of the sides from the lower section will not be playing in Division One next season. NUIG take on Shannon in Galway and Thomond travel to Waterpark, with both Limerick sides expected to pick up the points.

In Section B, unbeaten Sunday’s Well will hope to extend their run with a victory away to Highfield. Joint leaders UCC travel to Rosbrien to face bottom side Old Crescent.

Buccaneers entertain Garryowen with the home side anxious to win the points to keep them in the running for a place in the All Ireland series in March. Young Munster, still in with an outside chance of making the top section, will hope to pick up maximum points away to Galwegians.

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