Shannon begin the defence of their Munster Junior Cup trophy this weekend, one of the biggest in the junior rugby calendar.
With no seeding in the first round, there is potential for several upsets.
Shannon are among the favourites to win the trophy again, and get their campaign under way with a local derby at home to St Mary’s in Coonagh. While Mary’s have struggled in the league and will start as outsiders, the pressure will be off and they could kickstart their season with a strong performance.
Clonmel came mightily close to claiming the trophy last season, and while the league will be their primary priority, they will also aim to give the cup a go. They face a tough trip to take on Waterpark but the Tipperary’s side dynamic pack should give them a strong foothold.
St Senan’s were unlucky not to reach the final of the Clubs Cup but with home advantage will fancy their chances against Garryowen. The Light Blues always raise their game for the cup and, despite an average league campaign, could still pose a threat. It is a big test for both sides and whoever wins will certainly lay down a marker for their cup credentials.
Richmond already have a Clubs Cup final to look forward to and are also well in the hunt for the league. They have one of the most powerful packs in the competition and will expect to get the better of Bruff. But the senior club have had some decent wins and will battle hard to cause an upset.
The other finalists in the Clubs Cup, Galbally are at home to Presentation and should progress. However, their visitors are well in the promotion race in Division 2 and will relish testing themselves against a strong top-flight outfit.
One side who may fancy their chances of causing an upset is Abbeyfeale. Still unbeaten in Division 2, they travel to take on Clanwilliam full of confidence. However, the Tipperary side have hit good form lately and if they play to their potential should have enough to emerge with the win.
Highfield, semi-finalists last season, will expect another good cup run. They face a tough trip to Charleville who look to be secure in Division 2 and are capable of claiming a scalp on their day.
Cork Constitution have a superb record in this competition and are unlikely to fall at the first hurdle. They remain unbeaten in the Seconds League and make a short trip to Mallow, who are unlikely to halt their poor run.
Rejuvenated Youghal are dominating Division 3. Always full of talented players, this confidence boost could make them dangerous opposition for Dolphin, while a skilful and talented Bandon side should have enough ability to overcome Kanturk.
The visit of Thurles to Newcastle West should be another intriguing game. Waterford City may fancy their chances of claiming the scalp of a Division 1 side as they host Muskerry, while there should be an eagerly fought local derby in Cork as Old Christians visit Sunday’s Well.
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