Friday 23 February 2018

O'Connor smashes Armagh hearts with last-ditch salvo

City of Derry 19
Armagh 17
Junior Cup final

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Ruaidhri O'Connor

Mark O'Connor sealed his place in Derry rugby folklore with a dramatic late contribution to steal the Cup from the grasp of Armagh.

After 85 minutes of an exciting final, the men from the Orchard County were on course for the title -- their No 8 Timmy Clarke had already picked up the Man of the Match award and the red and black ribbons had been tied on to the cup.

But they didn't put the ball out of play and in a desperate last-ditch attack, O'Connor picked up a wobbly pass to dive over in the corner to level.

The winger then nailed the touchline conversion, despite having missed three of his four kicks from easier positions earlier in the game. After a quick change of decoration, the Cup was presented to Bob McKillop in front of the disbelieving players and supporters from Armagh.

In truth, Armagh deserved to hang on, with their try-scoring winger Matty Irwin stopped just short after a searing break a minute before Derry's winner.

Armagh dominated the second half and Adam Gowing's fourth penalty seemed to have won the game with 10 minutes remaining.

But O'Connor had other ideas and his magnificent kick gave the former AIL side the trophy for the first time, breaking Armagh hearts in the process.

City of Derry -- P Henderson; M O'Connor, D Funston, J Bennett, R Moore; R McCarter, A Semple; D Witherow, S McAuley (J Mitchell, 77), S Duffy; D Houston, B McKillop (P Brady, 71); K Gemmell, S Corr, M Walker (S Simms, 77).

Armagh -- J Steenson; J Allen, L Manu, P Elliott, M Irwin; A Gowing, M Wright; B Patterson, J Johnston (R Merser, 80), M Hopps; P Hill, J Morton; J Clarke, T Clarke (D Martin, 76), A Hughes.

Ref -- D Phillips (IRFU).

Irish Independent

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