The competition reaches its quarter final stage this weekend with an interesting mix of fixtures featuring sides from all three Provincial Unions and holders North County still on course for a record breaking three-in-a-row following their wins in 2006 and 2007.
The North Dublin side face familiar opposition when Pembroke are the visitors to Inch for the first of three scheduled meetings between the sides over the next few weeks. Both sides are in good form at present with recent convincing victories in domestic action behind them. John Mooney starred in North County's 177 run win over Malahide with 102 followed up by 5 for 21 while Pembroke thrashed Rush by 119 runs setting up a semi final meeting in the Lewis Hohn Williams Cup on July 25 which is only seven days after the sides clash in the League. The visitors will include in their line-up teenage prodigy Andrew Balbarnie who was publicly lauded by Adie Birrell this week and it will be interesting to see how the youngster copes with the added pressure. The home side must start favourites with their record in this competition and I think they will justify that tag.
Two other LCU sides are also strong contenders for the trophy and both have tough away assignments. Merrion who breezed past NCU kingpins North Down at Comber in the last round are on the road again when they visit the John Hunter Ground to take on NW League leaders Limavady in a mouth watering contest. The home side suffered a painful Cup defeat last weekend at the hands of bitter rivals Donemana and will be keen to progress in this competition. They also host Strabane in a crucial League match on Sunday so this weekend will be pivotal in the Roe Valley side's season.Merrion's strong batting line up headed by Dom Joyce who made a classy century at Comber will relish the good batting conditions at Limavady where high scores have been the norm this season but home captain David Cooke will be looking to his troops to bounce back after last week's reverse and I take the home side to progress to the last four.
Leinster are also on their travels when they play Lisburn at Wallace Park where the home side are enjoying their best season for a long time and are leading the League and have qualified for the last four of their domestic Cup .I find this tie possibly the easiest to predict as I feel that the home side will be far too strong in all departments for the visitors who have played relatively little cricket this season with only one League outing to date. I plump with some confidence for a home win.
The final fixture is again an interesting one when NCU side CIYMS make the trip to the Holm to face a buoyant Donemana side who will be eager to repeat their triumph in 2000 in this competition. The County Tyrone side had a morale boosting win over Limavady in the domestic Cup last weekend and are a formidable outfit on their own patch but they will have to perform to their best to overcome an improved CI side who have talented players such as skipper Derek Heasley, Thinus Fourie and Barry Cooper in their ranks. I feel that home advantage will play a crucial part in this game and select Donemama to reach the semi finals.