1 November 2001
Last year's beaten finalists Cliftonville should have a comfortable start, against Rush, who have yet to win a game in the competition, and league champions North Down will be confident of progressing against Eglinton, last year's North West Senior Two champions and back in the cup after an absence of two years and without a win since 1997.
North of Ireland, despite pulling out of last year's competition because they could not agree a preliminary round date with Pembroke, have been given a reprieve by the ICU and are not only in the draw but are paired against Pembroke. This time they should have no problem with the date, a closed Saturday on May 25, reserved exclusively for the first round of the Irish Cup.
Instonians' home game with Fox Lodge will bring back horror memories for the NCU side of the last game between the teams when the North West side chased 304 while Waringstown will, almost certainly, find themselves back in Dublin, where they have lost on their last three visits. A game against Railway Union should be a lot easier than The Hills or North County, however.
The latter, the holders, are one of eight teams who must play a preliminary round game, against Glendermott, the Derry side the only team from Northern Ireland involved at this stage. A North County win would bring them to the North West to take on Strabane two weeks later, the team they hammered at home in the third round on their way to the trophy.
Both the North West league champions and cup holders have difficult games in Dublin. Brigade are away to Leinster cup holders YMCA, who won at Donemana last season in the Irish Cup and it will be no easier for Donemana next year, away to Clontarf who knocked out Limavady at Castle Avenue at the same stage in May.
For the first time there are three teams from Cork in the competition and although the draw was, presumably, not seeded, all three must play a preliminary round game to reach the first round.
There is one major change to the regulations for next year's competition with bowlers allowed up to 15 overs - five more than previous seasons - so North County, with three international bowlers, will be among the favourites to lift the cup again in 2002.
Preliminary round draw: UCC v The Hills, Railway Union v Cork Harlequins, Cork County v Old Belvedere, North County v Glendermott. Games to be played on Saturday May 4.
First round draw: (In NCU area): North v Pembroke, Instonians v Fox Lodge, Muckamore v UCC or The Hills, Lurgan v Merrion, North Down v Eglinton,
Lisburn v Phoenix, Cliftonville v Rush, Woodvale v Limavady.
(In North West): Sion Mills v Donwpatrick, Strabane v North County or Glendermott.
(In Leinster): Clontarf v Donemana, CYM v Cork County or Old Belvedere, Leinster v Drummond, YMCA v Brigade, Malahide v Bready, Railway Union or Cork Harlequins v Waringstown.
Games to be played on Saturday May 25th.