City of Derry and Armagh meet at Dubarry Park on Saturday (kick-off 1pm), both bidding to become the first Ulster club to be crowned AIB Junior Cup champions since Rainey Old Boys won the final in 2006.
AIB JUNIOR CUP FINAL: Saturday, January 30
Home Ground: Palace Grounds
Kit: Red and black jersey, black shorts, black socks
President: George Knipe
Coach: Andy Hughes
Captain: James Morton
Did You Know?: This season John Callaghan has created history by becoming the first member of Armagh RFC to be enrolled as IRFU President
City of Derry –
Home Ground: Judge’s Road
Kit: Green jersey, black shorts, green socks
President: Mark McFeely
Coach: Bevan Lynch
Captain: Bob McKillop
Did You Know?: Former Ulster and Ireland ‘A’ centre Seamus Mallon started his rugby career at City of Derry. The proud Derry man is currently assistant player-coach at Instonians
Routes To The Finals:
First Round: Beat Ballina 25-3 (away); Tries: Joe Clarke, Eddie Irwin, Matthew Wright; Cons: Adam Gowing 2; Pens: Adam Gowing 2
Quarter-Final: Beat Cill Dara 24-3 (home); Tries: Joe Clarke, Eddie Irwin, Johnny Allen; Cons: Adam Gowing 3; Pen: Adam Gowing
Semi-Final: Beat Tullamore 21-8 (home); Tries: Brian Patterson, Adam Gowing; Con: Adam Gowing; Pens: Adam Gowing 3
City of Derry –
First Round: Beat Seapoint 19-14 (away); Tries: David Funston, Josh Lewis, Andrew Semple; Cons: Richard McCarter 2
Quarter-Final: Beat Boyne 45-5 (home); Tries: Sam McAuley 2, Ryan Campbell, Peter Henderson 2, Richard McCarter; Cons: Richard McCarter 5
Semi-Final: Beat Monivea 26-11 (home); Tries: Peter Henderson, Mark O’Connor, Stephen Corr, Richard McCarter; Cons: Mark O’Connor 3
AIB Junior Cup Records:
2005/06: Semi-Finalists; 2006/07: Quarter-Finalists; 2007/08: First Round; 2008/09: Quarter-Finalists
City of Derry –
2005/06: -; 2006/07: -; 2007/08: -; 2008/09: –
Kukri Ulster Qualifying League Section 1: First; Recent Matches: WWWWW
City of Derry –
Kukri Ulster Qualifying League Section 1: Fourth; Recent Matches: WWWWW
This is the first time both teams have reached the AIB Junior Cup final and will guarantee an Ulster name on the trophy for only the second time, Rainey from Magherafelt being the only previous northern winners.
Derry defeated Monivea from Galway 26-11 in the recently refixed semi-finals, while Armagh defeated the current champions Tullamore 21-8 to book their place in the decider.
Armagh and Derry have been the kingpins in Ulster junior rugby for the last two years, with Derry coming out on top last year with four victories over their northern opponents – two on their way to winning the Kukri Qualifying League and the other two came in the Towns Cup and the Junior Cup with City winning both trophies.
Armagh are currently flying high at the top of the Kukri Qualifying League, ten points ahead of Derry but having played two games more than their north west opponents.
Armagh and Derry have posted one victory over each other already this season, with both sides winning their home Kukri Qualifying League fixtures.
Saturday’s AIB Junior Cup showdown will, judging by past games between these rivals, be a closely contested affair with the result probably in doubt right to the finish.
The performances of the respective out-halves could swing it either way. Armagh’s number 10 Adam Gowing was the standout player when the teams met in their first league game in Armagh when they defeated Derry 24-13.
Gowing set up two tries for Andrew Willis and Eddie Irwin while also adding one conversion and two penalties. His astute kicking kept Derry on the back foot all day and Armagh player-coach Andy Hughes will be looking for a repeat performance this Saturday.
When the teams met in the return league fixture in Derry, the hosts’ out-half Richard McCarter was man-of-the-match, producing a performance from the Gods in the second half.
Armagh were leading 8-5 at the break and were to lose their out-half Gowing with an injury soon afterwards. Enter McCarter to score 16 unanswered points. There were two penalties and a drop goal, before a charge down led to him scoring a try with a 50-metre run, adding the conversion for good measure.
Then when Armagh came back to get within a bonus point of Derry, McCarter, with the last play of the game, produced an exquisite pass to his winger Rudi Moore to score a try in the corner and make it 26-15.
City of Derry coach Bevan Lynch will be looking to McCarter, an AIB Club international player of past seasons, to provide the inspirational performance that will guide Derry to a landmark victory this season.
There has been a great friendship between these two great northern rivals off the pitch going back many years. Irrespective of the result on Saturday the losers will be happy for their opponents and both teams will celebrate an Ulster success.