TOMORROW’S Ulster Senior Cup Quarter-final clash with Armagh at Judges Road will evoke memories of one of City of Derry’s greatest comebacks in recent years (kick-off 2.30pm).
Armagh, who defeated Ards convincingly 30-7 in the first round of the Cup while Derry had a Bye, were Derry’s opposition back in season 2009/10 when the teams contested the All Ireland Junior Cup Final in Athlone. The judges Road team looked dead and buried as they trailed by five points deep into injury time. However, with the last play of the game from their own 22m line, Derry launched what has become a historic attack with hooker Jason Mitchell throwing a wonder pass to Mark O’Connor on the wing to get in for a try in the corner to level the scores. The drama wasn’t over though as O’Connor kicked the conversion from right on the touchline to seal an incredible victory and a first All Ireland title for Derry amid wild celebrations.
While the stakes will not be quite as high tomorrow, there will still be plenty to play. Derry have played Armagh 11 times in recent times with the scoreline an emphatic 10-1 in favour of the locals. The encounters have been hard and fairly fought with some memorably close encounters and Armagh should have been victorious on a number of occasions but Derry have often managed to steal defeat from the jaws of victory.
One such game saw Derry defeated Armagh at Judges Road in a play-off with Gerald McCarter as Head Coach to stay in All Ireland Division 3 in the season 2006-2007. Armagh looked destined for victory but a penalty from Richard Allen and three late tries by former Derry players playing as Dual Status - James Moore (60 mins) and Keith Gallick and Colin Mitchell scoring in the last five minutes - gave Derry victory by 18-12.
Another memorable contest between these two great rivals came in season 2009/10 when both teams finished level on points at the end of their ulster Junior league campaigns. The two teams had a ‘winner take all’ play-off on a Monday night at Shaws Bridge in Belfast before a massive crowd for a Junior Rugby Fixture. It was one of the most physical but fair games either of the teams would have experienced with Derry emerging victorious by 17-7. However, such was the intensity of the game that Derry took five serious injuries into their All Ireland League Round Robin play-off against Seapoint at Judges Road the following Saturday and were defeated. This seriously dented Derry’s chances of promotion to All Ireland League Division 3 but the team regrouped and went on to defeat Monivea and Richmond and set-up an emotional play-off victory when they defeated Portadown at Chambers Park to eventually regain AIL Status.
Derry defeated Armagh last Saturday at the Palace Grounds by 25-6 to seal a bonus point victory and retain their position as leaders of the Ulster Senior League. City of Derry made a number of changes for that fixture with David Ferguson, Steven Jefferson, Richard Baird, Adam Parke, David Graham and Peter Henderson returning to the team. Richard Baird came off injured and will be rested this weekend. The feature of that game was the performance of captain David Funston who played at open side wing forward for the first time and produced a ‘Man of the Match’ performance. The home supporters will be looking forward to seeing this new development tomorrow in what should be another close encounter between these two great rivals.
City of Derry Squad (from); Steven Jefferson, Sam McAuley, Paul McFeely, David Houston, Chris Cooper, Adam Bratton, David Funston, Tom Patton, Andrew Semple, Richard McCarter, David Graham, Chris Barber, Ryan Campbell, Simon Logue, Peter Henderson.