The draw for the 2015 Open Competitions Junior Cup involves ten former winners of the Cup, along with another three who have won other cups. Only four newer teams, Adamstown 3, Cabinteely, Castleknock 2 and Lucan 1 are yet to experience the thrill of lifting a Cricket Leinster cup. Maybe 2015 will be the year?
The cup sits towards the middle of the cup structure in the province, and is played, like all other cups, over 40 overs. The Senior, Senior 2, Middle, Middle 2 and Inter Cups are above the Junior Cup, although it looks down on its little siblings, the Minor and Minor 2 Cups. All sixteen teams in the draw play their cricket in either Division 11 or 12 of the Leinster leagues.
So that is the background to the competition, but onto the important questions. Who is playing who in the draw, and who are the teams to look out for?
Lucan 1 have the plum draw this year, and will be home all the way to the final should they win their first three matches. Their first two entries into cup competition have ended in failure, and although they have a good record against Pembroke, beating Pembroke 6 twice in 2013, this will present a step up in quality. Pembroke 5 won the Junior Cup in 2008 and 2010, triumphs which saw them promoted to the Intermediate Cup. After some good performances in that competition, they dropped back down to the Junior Cup in 2014, and promptly lost in the first round. They should bounce back this year though.
The second tie is an all Division 12 affair. Leinster 6 had an excellent cup record, winning this cup in 2003, and the higher Inter Cup in 2012. However, since dropping down to the Junior Cup in 2013, they have not won a cup game, and lost twice (heavily) to their opponents, The Hills 4, last season. The Hills won the Junior Cup in 2007, and have been steadily improving in recent years. They were losing quarter finalists in 2013 and losing semi finalists in 2014. So The Hills 4 to win in the first round, but we think that they will lose in the quarter final, making Pembroke 5 the first of our semi finalists.
Civil Service 3 have cup pedigree - if you have a good memory. Minor Cup winners in 1960 and 1969, their last cup final victory was in this competition in 1983. Their last two Junior Cup appearances have resulted in lost quarter finals, suggesting a team that is there and there abouts. Castleknock 2 present the opposition and a close one could be in prospect. The sides met three times in 2014, with Castleknock winning once convincingly, and Civil Service sneaking the other two. In addition to that, Castleknock 2 were the 2014 Junior Cup runners up. A tight one to call.
Merrion have two teams in this year's Junior Cup. By definition, there should be one stronger team, and one weaker team. And you would have thought that the stronger team would be Merrion 6. They probably are, but it's not as clear cut as you may think. Merrion 7 are only one league below their 6th team counterparts, and have an excellent cup record of 12-2 since 2011. They were Minor Cup winners in 2014, and Junior Cup winners in 2012. They haven't played any YMCA side in the last four seasons, but will be a strong favourite against a YMCA 5 side who are still finding their feet in cup competition. Although they are a league above Merrion 7, they haven't won a cup match in each of their three previous appearances, and may struggle again. So Merrion 7 to advance, and we think they will win their quarter final as well to take their semi final spot.
Halverstown 1 have played in the Middle 2 Cup, the Intermediate Cup and the Junior Cup in recent years, but have never made it past the quarter final in any of them. They will play fellow Division 12 side North County 5, who's only cup success was the 2004 Minor Cup. Halverstown have only played a North County side once since our records began, with North County 4 squeezing home by 1 wicket in 2011. Halverstown have home advantage, and that will be crucial in seeing them through to the quarter finals.
Clontarf 5 have an illustrious history in cup competitions. The Division 11 side won the Minor Cup four years in a row from 1964-1967, and then added two more titles in 2001 and 2005. They also won the Junior Cup in 1970 and 1976. Unfortunately that doesn't count for much! They will be up against Rush 3, who just happen to be the reigning Junior Cup champions after winning the final by the narrowest of margins, losing fewer wickets after the scores finished level against Castleknock 2. The two teams played each other four times in 2014, and the spoils were shared with two wins a piece. This one could go either way. Who ever wins this one will beat Halverstown in the quarter final, to become our third semi finalist.
The bottom quarter of the draw has two interesting ties. Cabinteely won their first cup match last year at the third time of asking, before losing in the quarter finals to eventual winners Rush 3. Cabinteely have been slowly developing, and after a tough couple of years in their infancy, have become a difficult outfit to beat, and beat their opponents Malahide 5 twice last year. Malahide 5 won this cup back in 1996, but have only been re-introduced to cup cricket in recent years, losing in the first round each year. Cabinteely should win this one.
The final tie is a tough one to call. Adamstown 3 are improving rapidly (like the club as a whole). They were losing Minor 2 Cup semi finalists last year, but the Junior Cup is two competitions further up the ladder. Adamstown 3 are 4-1 against Merrion teams, but that has always been Merrion 7 and 8. This year they play the might of Merrion 6. Winners of the Junior Cup in 1998, 2002, 2004 and 2005 (as well as the 2006 Inter Cup), the dominated this level of cricket ten years ago. Remarkably though, they have only won one cup tie since 2010 - a 1st round Inter Cup win over Civil Service 3 in 2013. However, this is the first time they have been in the Junior Cup for a long time (2004 we think) , and they have to be the favourite for the 2015 Junior Cup.
There has to be a good chance of a Merrion 7 vs Merrion 6 final, but as that has never happened, we think Pembroke 5 will overcome Merrion 7 at the top of the draw, before Merrion 6 conquer their Dublin 4 counterparts in the final.