City of Derry's Irish Junior Cup tie conjures memories of 2010 victory!

Derry team celebrate winning the 2010 AIB Junior Cup. (Photo: Presseye/Dan Sheridan)Derry team celebrate winning the 2010 AIB Junior Cup. (Photo: Presseye/Dan Sheridan)
Derry team celebrate winning the 2010 AIB Junior Cup. (Photo: Presseye/Dan Sheridan)
​On Saturday, City of Derry play their first All-Ireland Junior Cup tie in 13 years. Head Coach Richard McCarter won't need reminding of their last.

The date: Saturday, January 30th, 2010. The venue: Dubarry Park, Athlone. The opposition: Armagh. The outcome: History!

That uncharacteristically bright winter day saw Mark O'Connor's right boot kick a Derry team including the likes of Peter Henderson, Rudi Moore, Sam McAuley, Davy Houston, Davy Funston, Karl Gemmell, Andrew Semple, Mark Walker, Jarred Bennett, Davy Witherow and the one and only Bob McKillop into club history as the first team from Judges Road to claim an All Ireland trophy.

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That they did it with O'Connor's try and conversion six minutes into injury time to secure a 19-17 victory only adds to the myth. The result kick-started some great years for a hugely talented Derry squad under Bevan Lynch and Terry McMaster.

McCarter was a try scorer in Athlone that day on a team that also included Stephen Corr with Simon Logue a fresh faced replacement on the bench and the experienced trio don't need an explanation as to what this competition can do for a club.

"Yeah, that was Bevan and Terry in charge when we won down in Athlone," laughed McCarter when reminded this week, "We scored last play of the match down in the corner and it left Mark (O'Connor) with a difficult conversion to win it but he nailed it. It was some day!

"We had to play Armagh twice in the league that year; they won one, we won one and we ended up finishing joint top so had to have a play-off to even get into the AIL round-robin. We beat them in the play-off as well so I think they were sick of the sight of us by the end of the year.

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"I remember we won cup final very dramatically. We then won the league via a play-off; got into All Ireland League promotion/relegation play-off against Portadown and won that to get back to the AIL. We went into Division Three, as it was back then, won that straight away and got up to Division Two but that squad should have kicked on even further.

"We should have been a Division One side but we probably under achieved when it came to the really crucial periods of the league campaigns."

The days and months prior to that memorable 2010 victory are not dissimilar to the circumstances Derry now find themselves in. Out of the AIL but growing again and rebuilding with the emphasis on home grown talent. McCarter may have swapped the No. 10 shirt for the manager's jacket, but his priority remains the same, improving his club and this season has given cause for renewed optimism.

"I know absolutely nothing about Connemara if I'm honest," admitted the Derry coach, "I spoke to the Ballyclare coach after our recent game, very briefly, and he gave me a bit of information but I nearly prefer not knowing anything about them. As long as we have our own house in order on Saturday, that's my priority.

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"You're talking about the top four junior teams from every province so the standard will be good. It's one that if we win on Saturday you find yourself in an All Ireland cup quarter-final and then it's just about the luck of the draw.

"We need to play well on Saturday because this is a competition I think we could do quite well in if we keep our consistently high."

Ironically McCarter will be without the mercurial Logue this weekend but can welcome back Killian Thornton for a first start of a season McCarter hopes his players can continue to grow into after an encouraging start.

"I have said this before, but what I like about playing this level of Junior rugby is that we are involved in four competitions this year and we have every chance of winning any one or more of those competitions. You don't have that in senior rugby so this is a nice distraction for us. It is a nice change from the league.

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"We were disappointed after losing to Ballyclare because we played really well. Now, we want to keep the performance levels where they have been and take each game as it comes.

"Having the various cup competitions gives us a different focus every few weeks and we're really looking forward to it."