This weekend sees the start of the All-Ireland competitions with some meaty ties down for decision in the first round of both the Irish Senior and National Cups.
As always we sought the views of some of the best placed "experts" around to see who they thought might go all the way this year in the Irish Senior Cup.
Emmet Riordan (Irish Times)
They say you have to lose a final before you can win one and Merrion have gone one better and lost the last two All-Ireland finals after winning in 2010. Merrion and Waringstown are the two sides to have been involved in at least the least the quarter-finals in the last four years.
The men from The Lawn will challenge again but I think that Merrion's experience, a couple of decent acquisitions and what could be a big year for Tyrone Kane would mark them out as my favourites to go one better than last year.
Ryan Haire (North Down)
In terms of comment I feel the Irish Cup is becoming an increasingly open tournament with better northern professionals and fewer sides in Dublin with 6/8 overseas players helping to close the gap that was present.
Clubs to look out for will of course be (in Dublin) last seasons winners Clontarf alongside Merrion and Railway Union. Of the Northern clubs NCU side CIYMS have built a squad that could compete with anyone on their day alongside Waringstown and ourselves. We at North Down are continuing our policy of promoting our own young talented players and have high hopes for a successful 2014. We are looking forward to our visit to Eglinton this Saturday and hope that we can build a strong cup run in what is the premier competition to win in 2014.
Robert Duggan/Ross Durity (Cork County)
Cork County are delighted to be welcoming Donemana to the Mardyke in the 1st Round of the Irish Senior Cup. Getting a home tie is always a bonus and to be hosting the 2012 Club of Year should be a great occasion with a big support from the North West expected.
Cork County's record in the competition has been pretty poor over recent years with the Club's last victory recorded back in 2003 after a victory over Ardmore. The Club are eager to make an impact in the competition particularly with a decent pool of talent available in the squad right now and Club Captain, Ross Durity, is excited at the prospect of facing a strong Donemana side in Cork and added: As always the Irish Cup is a competition that excites all players and supporters and having been given a home tie we are certainly looking forward to going up against one of the top club sides in the country.
"The Club experienced great success last season with a Munster double and clinching the Leinster Division 3 title and with a few additions over the off-season we are confident that we can give our visitors a run for their money."
"The great thing about the Irish Senior Cup is that Club's throughout he country, who might not encounter each other usually, get the chance to visit new grounds and meet new people and this is especially important for us in Munster who rely heavily on this kind of exposure and experience. As far as I'm aware there is a big group travelling down to support the Donemana team and everyone at the Mardyke is looking forward to welcoming them and no matter what the outcome it should be an enjoyable night on Leeside."
Terence Patton (Strabane)
Unfortunately I reckon the Leinster dominance will continue this season although I expect to see at least one North West team in the semi-finals. As for the winners I would take a punt on Pembroke if I had to pick one.
Barry Chambers (CricketEurope)
I see from Robert Duggan's entry that Cork County's last and perhaps only(?) win in the Irish Cup came against Ardmore back in 2003 - the last senior match I played - no coincidence I think!
The weather could be a crucial factor this season with no replays after the first round until the final. Bowl-outs a terrible way to decide who progresses and I pray that they aren't needed especially in the latter stages.
Leinster teams have more depth than the other Unions but the NW and NCU sides all have impact players who can win a match on their own.
The usual suspects will be in the frame - I'd back Merrion and Waringstown as each way bets, and feel Strabane have the players to progress to the final. I'd love to see a new face in the final and reckon the winner of the Coleraine v CIYMS tie will get belief that this could be their year.
Dom Joyce (Merrion)
Obviously hoping for another final! Would be 4 in 5 years. YM probably have the most depth in Leinster but most of the Leinster teams have a good chance.
I'm sure the northern teams will be determined to end the Leinster dominance in this cup. Waringstown in particular look strong and Coleraine are a very complete side at full strength. Not going to tempt fate by picking a winner. Just hope we get through the tough first game away to Muckamore.
Ian Callender (Belfast Telegraph)
Expect all the usual suspects to be still at the business end of the Irish Cup again this year. Leinster clubs have won in eight of the last nine years and they look to have the strongest hand again this year.
Of the favourites, Railway Union look to have the hardest first round tie, at home to Instonians, the 2011 finalists and defending joint champions in the NCU. Merrion are going for their third final in a row and their fourth in five years while YMCA and defending Leinster champions The Hills can have an extended run.
In the NCU, Waringstown, the only team to interrupt Leinster's winning run, three years ago, can go all the way again but Civil Service North, last year's semi finalists, could also do it again; both look to have easy first round games.
North West clubs are always strong at home but it has been 10 years since a team from the area has won the final and I don't think the anniversary will bring a change of luck. It is really needs the luck of the draw to get a good run but I'll put the scud on YMCA to break their duck in the competition and not only reach the final for the first time but win the 33rd edition of the Irish Cup
John Pierce (Eglinton)
Having played them in our pre-season I fancy CIYMS as an outside bet. They are strong in all departments and could go well although they have a very difficult first hurdle to clear.
Ger Siggins (Irish Daily Star)
EVERY year Cricket Europe asks me to do this and every year I get it wrong, so apologies to whoever I do tip! LCU clubs won only one of the first 19 Irish Senior Cups, but have won 11 of the last 13, and the strongest clubs are still to be found in Dublin.
Last year I fancied YMCA to break their duck, but they blew a great chance in the semi-final and they won't get that far again for a little while. Clontarf's hunger for a first Bob Kerr drove them to last year's victory but I will be putting my money this year a powerful side with quality all the way down the order, and a 2nd XI playing at such a high level that replacements will be battle-hardened. Apologies to Dom, but my tip is Merrion.
Joe Curtis (CricketEurope)
There was a time you only had to select a team from Fingal and you were sure to get an excellent run for your money. The main front runners in that regard being North County and Hills.
Both these teams got their 2014 campaigns away to less than glorious starts I'm afraid. Don't write them off however as the cut and thrust of cup competition often brings out the best in players.
Despite their reliance on John Anderson, Merrion must be taken into serious reckoning as a team who will progress all the way to the final stages. The achievement of Clontarf last year in springing a major surprise by winning out from their second division status marked them as candidates.
Having to nail my colours to the mast I'll plump this year for Merrion to win through, with Hills right there until the final stages.
Alistair Bushe (News Letter)
Leinster have dominated this competition for a decade now, bar 2011, and I can't see it changing in 2014. It's difficult to see which NCU and North West clubs could go all the way but a good draw would give likes of Coleraine, Donemana, Waringstown and North Down a chance, assuming they get past the first round.
On other hand any one of Leinster's big hitters could win it. Merrion have been unfortunate to lose two finals in a row, but they are capable of going one better this time.
David Rankin (Bready)
It could be quite open this season with teams from each region all in with a good chance. Both Dublin YMCA and Waringstown have loads of talent and experience in their sides and I think the winner will come from that pair.
Coleraine have a good shout as well while you can never rule Donemana out in this competition.
Neil Gill (Muckamore)
We have got a tough draw at home to Merrion and one were really looking forward to. We are realistic that we are massive underdogs but will be going all out for the win. We are missing Bryan Baguley who is only playing league games this season so we will bring in young 16 year old Sam Gordon who has a bright future in the game.
League survival is our priority and building on that next season to push further up the league, if we get a cup run it's a bonus. I can see Waringstown go all the way, all round quality blended with youth and experience in there team, they will certainly be hard to beat.
Trent Johnston (YMCA)
It will depend on the draw more than ever this year. Get a good draw as well as a home tie and you might just see yourself winning the biggest prize in club cricket. With the likes of Merrion, Waringstown, Clontarf, North Down, Donemana, Coleraine will feature heavily as they have very good squads.
Gordon Montgomery (Glendermott)
The Dublin sides still have the edge and as always throughout the summer much will depend on the availability of players. I think The Hills could do well in this although obviously they have to get past the GCC first!
Stephen Hughes (CIYMS)
With CI having such a decent start to the NCU season, we would be hoping for a decent run in the ISC, however we are facing one of the teams I fancy, as possible dark horses, in their own backyard!
I think the winner of our game against Coleraine will go far in the ISC. It is easy to opt for a LCU team such as Merrion and the likes to win, as they are top teams with recent credentials in the competition, but I fancy Waringstown to go deep in this years competition as well.
Albert van der Merwe (YMCA)
Very much looking forward to the competition again this year, had a good campaign last season. Will not be looking too far ahead. Taking it a game at a time and hopefully get a kind draw to go deep into the competition.
Teams that look strong are last years finalists Clontarf and particular Merrion. Don't count out North County this year. North of the border Donemana and Coleraine have the depth, Waringstown and CSNI have strong squads and a good record over the last couple of years. North Down are due a a good run and I'll be surprised if they are not there or thereabouts.
Willie Dwyer (The Hills)
Ever since the club played our first match in the all Ireland way back in the early 80s it has always had a very special place in our clubs fixtures. A hope to get to bowl to foreign pros and or play against legendary Irish international in the 80s. A chance to a see how far we had come in the 90s. A dare to dream in the noughties and finally to reach the Irish Everest in the tenths.
It's a great competition. Long may it prosper.
2014 may well be the toughest campaign in many a season. So many clubs will feel they have a great chance. The provinces are getting closer and closer. Leinster has had the wood on the other 3 unions over the last while but with both northern unions producing some wonderful home grown talent along with strong First class Pros they now have 6 to 8 sides who believe they could win the cup.
But Leinster won't let their recent strong grip on the cup go without a major struggle. The Northern union look to be scoring runs for fun and that's a worry. Any of the Premier league sides will be a handful. The north west teams are always difficult to get past. But as usual Donemana and Strabane will take beating.
The Hills have our old friend Glendermott and if you take our last couple of All Ireland's games into consideration 400 plus could be a par score. They have a few who could hurt us including the Pro. We will need to bring our A+ game to the vineyard this Saturday to get home.
As we said before. You need 3 things to win the all Ireland. 1. A bit of luck with weather and draws. 2. An all round side to get stuck in when the match is not going your way and 3. a bit of luck.
We will take each match as our final and see where that takes us. So who will win it. Merrion are a strong unit. YMs young guns are a decent outfit with talent and a growing steel in there armour. Tarf have the batting to chase runs. County are rebuilding. Waringstown CIYMS North Down and Instonions won't be far away, nor will Strabane or Donemana.
But getting off the fence I think Merrion are a good unit who have strengthen since last season. So with that in mind a Hills/Merrion final will do. I hope. I wish. Who knows. Maybe a bit of luck might bring Bob back home. Good luck to all who travel or stay at home this weekend.
Iftikhar Hussain (Fox Lodge)
The southern teams will be strong once more and the one who could be as good as any is Merrion. They seem to have put together a very good squad so I would side with them.
Kevin O'Brien (Railway Union)
We have a tough game against Instonians on Saturday and obviously we've fallen early in the past few seasons after reaching the final in 2010. Home advantage is always important so hopefully we get the game played on Saturday and are able to get on a run.
Merrion are very strong, and reigning champions Clontarf have a good cup tradition. of the Northern teams, Donemana, Waringstown and North Down look strong.
It's such a great competition to play in and one of the highlights of the season which everyone looks forward to playing in. Hopefully we'll go further this year, especially with Niall able to play on Saturday.
Pete Johnston (Leinster)
It's an interesting time at Rathmines with the club very much in transition. We have a number of extremely talented teenagers alongside some very experienced players and I'm sure they will form the nucleus of our team for many years to come. We've placed great emphasis on coaching and sustainability and I'm sure that will stand us in good stead for years to come.
We're looking forward to our trip to Fox Lodge. It's one of the highlights for us to be going to different regions, meeting and playing new teams. It brings out the best in some players, freed from domestic league cricket.
Merrion and YMCA have a lot of strength in depth, and I'm sure with Trent in the ranks they'll be trying very hard to win the competition for the first time.
The NW teams play a different brand of cricket with the grounds tending to be smaller, but they'll be helped by the interprovincial series. In just one year you can see the improvement in their batting already by those in the set-up.
The NCU have a number of teams who can win it, and they too will benefit from the professionalism introduced by the interpro's.
I think it could be more open this year with teams from the North pushing the Leinster sides all the way. I'm hoping for an exciting tournament with an entertaining brand of cricket on display - I've a feeling it could be a vintage year.
Andrew Poynter (Clontarf)
We've started the season fairly well and the batting has been in good shape. We don't mind chasing down a total as we showed in our final win last year against Merrion. We did lose against North County but we were missing myself and Alex Cusack which is a big chunk out of our middle order.
We've a number of talented younger players coming into the team which keeps everything fresh, like David Delany and Colin Currie. It's great that we're producing our own players and not having to go elsewhere to source them like some teams.
We play Lisburn and with the game being switched to Castle Avenue, that's a massive boost for us as we look to make it a bit of a fortress.
Of the other teams Waringstown are strong and usually thereabouts, while North Down and Instonians have a lot of talented and experienced performers.
I'd like to see a NW side go far. I think it's important for the strength of the national game that all three regions are strong. I'd love to play at Donemana in a later round. Andy McBrine has been telling me about the atmosphere and the ground and I'd like to experience that.