THERE are eight ties in the preliminary round of the National League Cup taking place this Saturday as the men’s competitive club season swings into action for 2019-20.
Ardrossan Accies have had a good pre-season and are looking forward to welcoming Berwick to the Memorial Field. Encouraging hit outs against Irvine and Ayr’s Club XV, as well as a very valuable training day last weekend on the 4G at the sportscotland’s Inverclyde National Training Centre facility, has prepared them well for the match against the Scremerston men (who won promotion back into the National Leagues last season with an undefeated season, which also saw them lift the Shield in April).
“I have been really happy with how pre-season has gone,” said Rory Couper, the former Boroughmuir and Scotland Club XV winger, who is now head coach at Ardrossan. “We have a squad of mainly homegrown guys and we have a nice balance of youth and experience, for example the players in Saturday’s squad range from 18 to 38.
“The friendly matches were good for helping our game shape while the guys are very fit, and the training day at Inverclyde was good because it allowed us to fine tune a few things and really set down our goals for the season.
“Berwick were promoted into our league last year so they are used to winning and this should be a competitive tie.”
Meanwhile, Hamilton Bulls welcome Gordonians to Laigh Bent. “We have 35 guys who are in contention for first team rugby this season and as a coach that is great to see, although it has meant some tough selection calls this week,” said Bulls head coach Kenny Brown, who is an ex-player at the club and most recently coached at Dumfries Saints. “It is up to the players who have been selected for this first game against Gordonians to put a marker down and keep the jersey.
“The club is really in a good place at the minute, we can’t wait to start the competitive action, but know that Gordonians will be a good side.”
Tennent’s National League Division Two sides Kirkcaldy and Newton Stewart meet at Beveridge Park. Having suffered a number of injuries during a spell with Heriot’s, Kirkcaldy captain Josh Laird is loving being back at the club where his career began.
“We are all very much looking forward to getting the season started,” said the 23-year-old centre. “A lot of boys who were in the squad last year have dealt with the disappointment of relegation and are looking to make amends in the coming months.
“We have had a lot of young lads stepping up and a few new faces around the club. During pre-season, excluding the Fife Rugby Festival, we played two good teams in Aberdeen Grammar and Gala, and faired well, so I’m excited to see how we do against a team in our league.
“I’m expecting Newton Stewart to be a very strong outfit and they will be coming to Beveridge with the intent to play. I am very proud to be captain of this team, but as captain you are only remembered if the team do well, so the focus is on working hard as a group and getting results.”
GHK, with Peter Wright now installed as head coach, make the short trip to Hughenden to take on Hillhead/Jordanhill.
Dumfries Saints, who won this event a couple of years ago, take on Glasgow Accies as they try to launch another cup run. Colin Taylor, Finlay Neilson, Ronan Joy and Mark Howie are set to make their first team debuts for the Accies at New Anniesland.
Whitecraigs hit the road to take on Peebles at The Gytes, with Carrick taking on Preston Lodge, and Lasswade travelling to Burnbrae for their tie with West of Scotland.
National League Cup Preliminary Round fixtures – all games kick off at 3pm –
Carrick v Preston Lodge
Ardrossan Accies v Berwick
Hamilton Bulls v Gordonians
Kirkcaldy v Newton Stewart
Peebles v Whitecraigs
Glasgow Accies v Dumfries
West of Scotland v Lasswade
Hillhead/Jordanhill v GHK