Larne and Carrick rugby clubs will renew their rivalry when they meet in the opening round of the Junior Cup this weekend.
Saturday’s derby at Tom Simms Memorial Park promises to be a bruising encounter with progress in the competition at stake and local pride on the line.
As if that wasn’t enough, it’s the first of two head-to-heads between the teams. They’re scheduled to meet again in a Qualfying 2 league match on October 3.
Carrick came out on top with a 47-0 demolition of Larne the last time the two sides met in Hawkins Cup in December 2014. That result highlighted the gulf between the two teams but Larne have since won promotion to the same division as their neighbours and sent a message out to rest of the league with Saturday’s 57–19 victory over Academy. So this weekend’s showdown should prove to be a much closer encounter.
Larne skipper Ryan Garrett says he’s very much looking forward to locking horns with Carrick.
“Like every game against Carrick, I am very much expecting a physical affair with no love lost between the two sides,” he said. “Carrick know they have a slight advantage in terms of experience and size but we will not let that play on our minds. We will go out with the mindset that we need to win the collision point to have a chance of winning the game. With ball in hand we are as dangerous as any team in the league.”
He added: “For this week’s Cup match will be approaching it as we have every other so far this season. Any lessons we can learn from Carrick’s style of play may lead us to tweak a few things in training the for the following week but, all being well, our current structure will prove problematic for the home team and it will be them having to adapt for the following week.”
Asked which game he viewed as more important, Garrett replied: “Any game against Carrick is important. Bragging rights is such a big thing between the clubs and, as they say, you are only as good as your last game. Luckily one of us will not have too long to wait for a second bite at the cherry. As a club trying to establish itself in Qualifying 2, I feel the league game this year is of more importance.
“We need to pick up as many points as possible early on in the season to get ourselves safe. However, we will be going into both matches with the same mentality of winning.”
Carrick’s captain, Ross Marsden, said: “It’s basically like a Cup final every time we play Larne. They’ll be up for it and we’ll be up for it.
“Larne are on a good run at the minute. They had a good win last weekend and we’re just really starting to get our league campaign up and running. It’s going to be a big test for us.”