Crosshaven geared up for Tralee challenge

TRALEE’S Challenge Cup clash with Crosshaven at Myrtleville highlights a weekend of semi-finals in the three Junior clubs competitions.

The home side have had to do it the hard way against two tough opponents in Skibbereen and Kilfeacle on the road but they produced some superb rugby to win both games and the Seasiders certainly looked to have strengthened since last year.

They are playing with great confidence and while their defence remains as robust as ever, they are also proving far more clinical in attack.

Liam Delaney has once again proven to be very reliable with the boot but has also been a major asset to Crosshaven in open play, scoring numerous tries and he is a major component of his side’s attacking threat. With a strong, hard-working pack supplemented by a dangerous back-line they will feel this could be a good year.

Having earned those wins on the road, they will be eager not to slip up at home but know they face a major task against a talented Tralee side, who have already created history by reaching the All Ireland Junior Cup but would love to compete for major silverware.

They overcame a focused Pirates side last Sunday, lock John Gilmartin is a major force while the return of prop Aonrai O’Donovan sees him bring plenty of Senior experience to the squad and Gareth Walsh is once again one of the pivotal creative backs.

It should be a very keenly-fought game with the visitors looking to withhold what is likely to be an early onslaught from the home side. If they can keep their discipline in defence Tralee could have plenty of threats to possibly sneak a victory.

The other semi-final between Tipperary rivals Cashel and Clonmel is postponed as Clonmel have a tough ODM Financial Munster Senior Cup trip to Clonakilty this Saturday.

The first of the Challenge Shield semis takes place on Saturday evening as Galbally host Castleisland under lights. The side from South East Limerick were unlucky not to gain promotion last season and look to have built since, so will expect to be one of the leading forces in the second tier again.

They are a very committed bunch of players who have built up a great bond and certainly appear to have gained confidence with Liam Casey one of their star performers.

It will be a tough task for the Kerry team to overturn their opponents but it will be a great test as they aim to compete at a higher level.

They earned a hard-fought win over Charleville last week and know they will need to up the tempo if they are to cause an upset.

The other semi sees Newcastle West travelling to Kinsale, whose backs Frazer Hodgson and Peter Murphy are proving a lethal attacking threat in the Second Division. The Cork side will start favourites but Newcastle West will be quietly confident of putting in a big performance. Their defence has been quite tight and will need to be once again if they are to stay in the game. Tommy Kelleher is a player to watch out for and showed nerves of steel last week with a last-minute drop goal against Mallow to secure victory.

In the Martin O’Sullivan Cup, Waterford City face a long journey and what is also likely to be a vocal crowd to Corca Dhuibhne. The Kerry side will be psyched up to reach their first major final at this grade but the Waterford club will be a tough nut to crack. If the visitors can keep the score down early, their experience could see them grind out a win.

Presentation host Scariff in the other semi. The Limerick side have played some decent attacking rugby and should have enough to break down the dogged defence of the well-organised East Clare team.

There is one game in the Mansergh Cup where Cashel will expect to prevail at the expense of Thurles.

In the Cork County Cup, Skibbereen should have too much power for Charleville while Kanturk will hope to get the better of Bandon.

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