Sligo’s recapturing of the Bank of Ireland Connacht Senior League title over the weekend means the semi-final line-up for this season’s Energia Bateman Cup is now complete.
ENERGIA BATEMAN CUP SEMI-FINALS:
Saturday, September 30 –
SLIGO v TERENURE COLLEGE, Hamilton Park, 2.30pm
BALLYNAHINCH v YOUNG MUNSTER, Ballymacarn Park, 2.30pm
Four years on from winning their first Connacht Senior League, Sligo did again when dethroning last season’s winners Buccaneers. They won 49-17 in Strandhill with a clinical seven-try performance against a below-par Buccs.
Gary Duffy, captain Martin Earley, Kuba Wojtkowicz, Finn Bamber (2), Ethan Faitaua and Philip Carter shared out the tries as Sligo, coached by New Zealander Paddy Pearson, secured the prized provincial silverware and booked their place in the Bateman Cup.
The prestigious All-Ireland Cup competition, which was first played in 1922 and has been dominated by Munster and Dublin clubs in the modern era, was reintroduced by the IRFU for the 2010/11 season.
The trophy was presented to the Union over a century ago by Dr. Godfrey Bateman in memory of his sons Reginald and Arthur who were killed during the First World War.
In a change to the usual January slot, the Bateman Cup semi-finals will take place on Saturday, September 30, a week before the start of the Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Divisions across all four provinces.
The draw for the semi-finals has put reigning Division 1A and Bateman Cup champions Terenure College on the road to Sligo, while Ballynahinch will have home advantage against top flight rivals Young Munster. Both games, on Saturday week, will kick off at 2.30pm.
Following on from their superb All-Ireland and Leinster quadruple success, Sean Skehan’s Terenure side are already having a busy early season with a tour of Argentina and a three-match winning run, which has set up this Saturday’s Leinster Senior Cup final against Lansdowne.
Terenure’s new signings include former Dublin University sharpshooter Aran Egan, and Conor Phillips and Conan O’Donnell, who both have experience of the professional ranks from their time at Munster and Connacht respectively.
Sligo are no strangers to hosting big Division 1A clubs in Bateman Cup semi-finals at Hamilton Park. They entertained Lansdowne in 2018 and Cork Constitution in 2020, losing out 34-15 and 38-10 respectively.
Meanwhile, having won the Bank of Ireland Ulster Senior Cup in May, Ballynahinch are back in the Bateman Cup for the first time since 2017. Adam Craig’s charges have also started the new campaign in impressive fashion by retaining the Stevenson Shield.
Despite an extensive injury list and the loss of Greg Hutley to French club CA Périgueux, Ballynahinch claimed an Ulster Rugby Premiership Division 1 three-in-a-row by beating City of Armagh 38-17 at home last Saturday.
Goal-kicking full-back Conor Rankin scored 18 points, including a terrific chip-and-chase try, with in-form scrum half Arthur Johnson (2), Tom Donnan and Claytan Milligan also crossing the whitewash.
Young Munster, the Bateman Cup runners-up in 2022, are now coached by former club captain Ger Slattery following Gearoid Prendergast’s appointment as the Greencore Munster Rugby Academy and Pathway Manager.
Young Munster beat Ballynahinch to the final play-off spot in Division 1A last term, as well as winning their third straight Bank of Ireland Munster Senior Cup. They are captained by lock/flanker Alan Kennedy (pictured above) for a sixth consecutive season.
Slattery, who was assistant coach for seven seasons, has formed a strong coaching set-up for the Cookies. He is assisted by AIL stalwart Tadhg Bennett, the former Shannon and Richmond head coach, and Simon Malone who enjoyed a successful four year stint with Terenure.
Young winger Tomas Clifford has touched down in both of their Munster Senior Cup group games so far, an opening 15-5 victory over local rivals Garryowen and a disappointing 28-21 defeat at home to UCC.
The Bateman Cup final is scheduled to take place in the New Year, on Saturday, January 6. The venue will be confirmed following the completion of the semi-finals.