The countdown to the 2014 season started yesterday, as the draw for the RSA Leinster Senior Cup 2014 was drawn live on NEAR 90.3fm.
Fourteen teams were in the draw, with the only change to the entry list being the addition of Cork County. In their one previous match in the Leinster Senior Cup, the Munster side lost in the first round to Old Belvedere in 2012. Along with Merrion, Cork County were given a bye in 2014, and will be guaranteed a place in the last eight for the first time in their history.
The six matches drawn contain only two all Division 1 matches, a single all Division 2 match, along with three matches with Division 1 opposition pitted against Division 2 teams.
The first all Division 1 clash is the pick of the ties, with a repeat of the 2013 final. Champions YMCA will face runners-up Pembroke, and at this earkly stage it is too early to even contemplate a favourite. After reaching the two previous finals, Pembroke will be desperate to make it third time lucky. In the last five league and cup meetings between the two, YMCA have won four - although Pembroke won by 7 wickets on the last day of the 2013 season.
The other Division 1 line up, has reigning Bob Kerr Irish Senior Cup champions Clontarf host Terenure. Both sides were promoted from Division 2 last year, but with Clontarf winning the two league encounters by 146 and 210 runs, Terenure have a lot of ground to make up.
The all Division 2 clash sees Balbriggan play host to Phoenix. Balbriggan's first entry into the Leinster Senior Cup resulted in a loss to The Hills in 2013, and they will be delighted to get a home draw. It will be the first time these two have met (perhaps ever at first team level?) - unless of courses the fixture computer throws up an early season league clash.
In the three other ties, the tag of favourites will surely attach itself to the Division 1 teams. The Hills will be strong favourites against a Leinster side that was relegated last year. The teams met twice last year, with The Hills winning both times. A cup triumph may be felt to be overdue in Milverton, the last win being 2006. They will be amongst everyone's fancied teams.
Malahide showed the first signs of a resurgence last year, winning the National Cup. They have shown a decent cup pedigree in recent years as well, reaching the last eight in 2012, and the semi final in 2013. They may fancy their chances against Railway Union.
The final tie sees Rush host North County - a match that was predictable in that there was bound to be at least one Fingal derby. In their two most recent matches, North County won by 10 wickets and 183 runs, but as with Malahide, there is something of a touch of confidence in Kenure at the moment, and Rush shouldn't be written off quite yet.
The full draw is below