After winning the Connacht Senior Cup final, ending a 104 year wait, Sligo RFC continues to re-write the history books. The Connacht final was played outside Galway for the first time in its history, and next weekend, Hamilton Park will have another first, when it hosts the All-Ireland semi-final of the Bateman Cup.
Sligo is represented in both semi-finals of the Cup this year, with former Summerhill College and Sligo RFC man Niall Kenneally, captaining Cork Con, having lifted the Cup last year. Indeed, it is Cork Con who are going for 6 in a row this year, having won every year since 2013. They will face City of Armagh, who won the Ulster Senior Cup for the first time in the 142year history of their club. City of Armagh Rugby Club is one of the oldest clubs in Ireland and they currently lie fourth in Division 2A. They certainly have their work cut out for them, as Cork Con lie second in the top division, behind 1A table-toppers Lansdowne RFC, who will provide the opposition for Sligo in the other semi-final.
Lansdowne featured strongly in the early history of the competition- winning the Bateman Cup four times and reaching the final on two other occasions – but they have yet to feature in the modern version of the All-Ireland finals and Sligo is hoping to stop them in their tracks. A Connacht team has only ever reached the final three times and has yet to bring the cup back over the Shannon, but in rugby, anything is possible. With an average age of 23, Sligo RFC mixes youth with experience and has proven time and again that they are not afraid to go up against the big teams. Lansdowne will undoubtedly provide the biggest opposition in the 158 year history of the club, as they are currently 13 points clear at the top of Division 1A, having won all 11 of their league games this year. The home side will be pulling out all the stops and will certainly leave everything on the pitch, as their ardent supporters have come to expect.
The odds may be against the home side, but in rugby, the result is never a given and Sligo RFC will give 100%, with a view to pulling off the greatest result in the history of the club. There is no doubt that this is a case of David versus Goliath, but we all know how that story ended.
The club continues to make history, both on and off the pitch, and it is calling on the people of Sligo to get behind their team and play their part, supporting their club, their county and ultimately, their province. The All-Ireland semi-final of the Bateman Cup kicks off at 2pm in Hamilton Park. Admission is €5 for adults, children go free.