Saturday’s Bateman Cup final brings together a novel pairing in first-time finalists City of Armagh and 2012 champions Garryowen. Armagh are hoping to negate the divisional divide and add All-Ireland silverware after back-to-back Ulster Senior Cup titles.
BATEMAN CUP FINAL: Saturday, April 20
CITY OF ARMAGH v GARRYOWEN, St. Mary’s College RFC, Templeville Road, 12.30pm (live RTÉ Two/www.rte.ie/live)
* Admission is €10 for adults and €5 for OAPs and students
All-Ireland League Form – City of Armagh: LDWLWWLWWLDWLWWLLL; Garryowen: WWLLLWWWWLWWLLWLLL
All-Ireland League Top Scorers – City of Armagh: Points: Cormac Fox 77; Tries: Neil Faloon 5; Garryowen: Points: Peadar Collins 71; Tries: Diarmuid Barron 7
All-Ireland League Season’s Record – City of Armagh: 8th place finish (Division 1B), 8 wins and 2 draws; Garryowen: 5th place finish (Division 1A), 9 wins
Recent Bateman Cup Finals –
2011 – Bruff 24 Dungannon 18
2012 – Garryowen 24 Ballymena 6
2013 – Cork Constitution 24 St. Mary’s College 19
2014 – Cork Constitution 19 UCD 6
2015 – Cork Constitution 24 Clontarf 9
2016 – Galwegians 19 Cork Constitution 38
2017 – Old Belvedere 13 Cork Constitution 18
2018 – Cork Constitution 12 Lansdowne 32
Paths To The Final –
CITY OF ARMAGH:
Ulster Senior Cup
– won 50-14 v Bangor home
– won 40-3 v Omagh home
– won 31-15 v Rainey Old Boys home
– won 9-7 v Ballymena (final at Kingspan Stadium)
Bateman Cup semi-final
– won 29-13 v Buccaneers home
Munster Senior Cup
– won 29-23 v Young Munster home
– won 27-9 v Shannon home
– lost 26-23 v Cork Constitution (final at Thomond Park)
Bateman Cup semi-final
– won 14-12 v Lansdowne home
Preview: Ireland Under-20 Grand Slam winner Ben Healy and Munster’s Neil Cronin will pair up at half-back for Garryowen’s shot at a second Bateman Cup title in eight years. Last season Cronin captained the Light Blues to Munster Senior Cup glory, on the way to winning a professional contract with his native province.
That provincial success secured Conan Doyle’s charges a place in this season’s Bateman Cup, the same route that Armagh negotiated with their maiden Ulster Senior Cup triumph in 2018 and a follow-up victory in February’s decider against Ballymena at Kingspan Stadium.
The 33-year-old Doyle and his Armagh counterpart Willie Faloon (32) are two ambitious young coaches who are learning their craft in the All-Ireland League after wrapping up their professional playing careers. Faloon’s largely homegrown squad held onto their Division 1B status this term after back-to-back promotions.
They come into the cup final on the back of a disappointing three-match losing run in the league, a set of results which Garryowen matched in the top flight. Out of the running for the play-offs, the Limerick men went down 39-22 at Dublin University last Saturday but have a stronger line-up at their disposal tomorrow.
Seven personnel changes see Healy, Cronin, Bryan Fitzgerald and tricky centres Dave McCarthy and Peadar Collins return to the back-line, while prop Niall Horan and Healy’s Munster Academy Colleague Jack Daly are added to the Dean Moore-led pack.
Cronin’s younger brother, hooker Liam, is a key man for the Division 1A side with a number of their tries coming from lineout mauls. Watch out too for winger Cian O’Shea who scored six league tries, with tighthead Andy ‘Panda’ Keating, an Ireland Club international, also a quality operator at scrum time.
While Garryowen dethroned last year’s champions Lansdowne at the semi-final stage, Armagh advanced to tomorrow’s final with an eye-catching 29-13 defeat of Buccaneers in January. Number 8 Neil Faloon starred in that game and crammed his five tries into six rounds of the league.
The Ulstermen endured a 31-10 loss at Old Wesley in last Saturday’s final round, falling away in the second half. A head injury rules out prop Daryl Morton, but captain Chris Colvin is fit to resume at outside centre. Shea O’Brien is their only other change, offering a significant wing threat as does Evin Crummie.
Former St. Mary’s lock Peter Starrett is looking forward to running out at Templeville Road again, his presence also crucial in terms of physicality as Armagh cannot allow Garryowen to outmuscle them. If they can upset the odds, they will be the first Ulster club to lift the Bateman Cup since Queen’s University in 1937.
Armagh boss Faloon commented: “Reaching the Bateman Cup final is the icing on the cake for us this season. This final is a completely new experience for all of our players. Not being tagged as favourites has its advantages and we’ll give it our best shot on the day.”
Garryowen head coach Doyle said: “We’re really looking forward to playing for a national trophy. It’s been seven years since we won the Bateman Cup and we’re very proud that we have the opportunity to win it again.
“Some of our big players like captain Dean Moore and Kevin Seymour, his second row partner, were huge for us in our semi-final win over Lansdowne. Behind the pack Ben Healy was instrumental in the win, playing in his first year out of of schools rugby, as was Jamie Heuston who is playing his first season at full-back for the club.
“We were unlucky not to be competing for a place in the league semi-finals in our last league game but this allowed us to put an extra focus on the Bateman. We’re expecting a tough game from Armagh who have great momentum behind them from the past few seasons.”
IrishRugby.ie Prediction: Garryowen to win
CITY OF ARMAGH: Tim McNiece; Evin Crummie, Chris Colvin (capt), Jonny Pollock, Shea O’Brien; Harry Boyd, Harry Doyle; Paul Mullen, Jonny Morton, Philip Fletcher, Peter Starrett, Josh McKinley, Nigel Simpson, Robbie Whitten, Neil Faloon.
Replacements: Oisin Kiernan, Andrew Smyth, James Hanna, James Morton, Gerard Treanor, Cormac Fox, Andrew Willis, Chris Cousens, Stephen Morton.
GARRYOWEN: Jamie Heuston; Bryan Fitzgerald, Dave McCarthy, Peadar Collins, Cian O’Shea; Ben Healy, Neil Cronin; Niall Horan, Liam Cronin, Andy Keating, Kevin Seymour, Dean Moore (capt), Tim Ferguson, Jack Daly, Darren Ryan.
Replacements: Jack Mullany, Conor Fitzgerald, Alan Fitzgerald, Rob Guerin, Jamie Gavin, Roy Whelan, Andrew O’Byrne.
Referee: Nigel Correll (IRFU)