History was created at Hamilton park on Saturday when Sligo defeated Armagh to take their place in the semi final of the all Ireland junior cup for the first time since the inception of the competition.
Sligo’s will to win and determined approach won out against last years beaten finalists in the country’s premier junior club competition.
Armagh won the toss and elected to play with the aid of the slight breeze in the first half. This advantage was rewarded 2 minutes into the game when a penalty award on the home 22 was easily dispatched by the visitors to open their account.
Sligo restarted and immediately attacked their hosts. Some super pressure, in particular by Cathal Culhane and Paddy Conlon resulted in a penalty award inside the Armagh 22 and the excellent Mark Butler made no mistake with the kick to level the scores.
The restart from Armagh was poorly dealt with by the home team and the northern outfit wasted no team in regaining the initiative. A speculative chip through was recovered by the visiting chasers and crisp passing yielded a try in the corner to put 5 points between the teams.
Sligo again reacted and good tactical play from Butler and scrum half Paddy Pearson placed them inside the Armagh 22. An attempted clearance by Armagh was blocked down and powerhouse Matele Fifita latched on to the loose ball and drove over the line for his teams first try. Butler converted to put Sligo into the lead for the first time in the game.
The nip and tuck nature of the game was always evident and on the half hour Armagh immediately came back at their hosts. A penalty following an infringement at the breakdown was converted to put Armagh ahead by the slenderest margin.
Again Sligo came back and a super break by Aaron Spring resulted in a penalty inside the Armagh half. Once again the reliable butler stepped up and bisected the posts to push the scoreline to 13-11 to the home side.
The first half scoring was not over yet as Sligo failed to deal with a well judged kick by Armagh. A well worked chase forced the error and the visitors pounced to touch down and put Armagh 18-13 ahead .
Once again Sligo picked themselves up, and from the restart some dynamic defence resulted in a penalty award on the visitors 22. The reliable Butler again converted to post a half time score of 18-16 in favour of the visitors.
Sligo upped the tempo at the start of the second half and a flowing backline move and super work by Pearson allowed Spring the chance to run at the Armagh defence. Despite being stopped short the cartron native used his strength to great effect to force his way over to put his team back in front.
10 minutes into the second half Sligo moved further ahead when following some great carries by the powerful Jamie Bowes and the tireless Paddy Conlon Sligo were awarded a penalty on the opposition ten metre line. Once again Butler stepped up and placed the ball neatly between the posts to extend his sides lead to 24 points to 18.
60 minutes gone and the game was on a knife edge. Armagh were beaten finalists last season and were in no mood to bow out at this stage in the competition. However ,this Sligo outfit have developed a serious measure of steel. Armagh attacked everything and picked up three points with a penalty on 75 minutes to set up a grandstand finish but Sligo weren’t going to give this one away. Armagh pounded the home line in the closing moments but fantastic work by David Gerrity and Fifita ensured that the line remained intact and earned an historic victory for Sligo.
Next week sees Sligo resume their Junior League campaign in a vital match against Galway Corinthians. Kick off at 2.30 at Hamilton park.
Sligo ; David Gerrity, Gavin foley, Aaron Spring, Matele Fifita, Jordan Farrington, Mark Butler, Paddy Pearson, Martin Feeney, Ross Mannion, Adrian Mc Hale, James Wilson, Jamie Bowes, Cathal Culhane, Paddy Conlon, Peter Mullan. Reps Frankie Feeney, Gary Conneely, Wesley Maxwell, Billy Leahy, Dara Cox.