All Ireland Junior Cup, Semi Final – Armagh v Tullamore

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Palace Grounds Armagh

Armagh 21 – Tullamore 8

Armagh returned to the Palace Grounds after an enforced break of almost a month, due to adverse weather conditions, with a return to form. This was to be the tie of the semis with the hosts playing last years winners of this competition Tullamore,

The Armagh team management had welcomed the break to get all their players back onto form, especially Gowing after the concussion he received at City of Derry.

On paper these teams were extremely well matched and this was proved on the pitch with tight play punctuated by brilliant runs and excellent defence.

After 20mins of end to end tight play interspersed with penalty decisions, reversals, and some slight injuries, it was to the delight of the usual vocal Armagh support, that the deadlock was broken by a penalty decision. Gowing stepped up and gave Armagh a well deserved three point cushion.

The restart saw Armagh back up immediately to the Tullamore 22 with some excellent timing in their kicks. Interference from Tullamore gave Armagh another chance at three points but Gowing could not convert his kick and the score remained 3 nil to the home side.

With tempers flaring from the visitors the Armagh team kept a calm head and let their rugby do the talking. Again Tullamore gave away a penalty within Gowing’s kicking range and this time it was slotted between the posts for 6-0.

As always the Armagh scrums and line-outs were standing up to the intense pressure brought by Tullamore.

A series of well placed passes and well hit tackles saw Armagh advancing up the pitch and after and superb passage of Armagh possession it was rewarded with a try for prop forward Brian Patterson. But the angle was to be Gowing’s undoing and the score stopped at 11-0 to Armagh.

This time the restart was in the favour of Tullamore and with excellent leadership from their captain Connor, they advanced slowly but surely towards the Armagh line. An unfortunate forward pass halted the Tullamore progress. But after a scrum decision was reversed, the kicker from Tullamore Scally was elected to take the three points before the half ended.

At the half time whistle Armagh were pleased to have an eight point gap at 11-3.

Armagh v Tullamore. All Ireland Junior Cup Semi Final
Armagh's out-half, Adam Gowing, touches down Armagh's second try.

The second half began with the same intensity from both sides as the first had ended. Tullamore were penalised early on for hands in the ruck and Gowing stepped up to take just short of the half way line. His accuracy was spot on but unfortunately the kick did not have the distance.

As in the first half again the play was extremely tight by two well matched teams and it looked as if the game would continue to go right to the wire.

But the play was marred by a blatant high tackle by Tullmore’s centre Brady, who was dutifully sin binned for this offence. Thankfully the Armagh player was not seriously injured and returned to the play. In the absence of their centre Tullamore tighten their defence and didn’t allow Armagh to capitalise.

Brady came back on to give Tullamore a little more impetus in their play and were awarded a penalty. But the post denied the points and the score stayed at 11-3.

A change to Armagh with Timmy Clarke on for Joe Clarke, saw the solidity of the scrum maintained in the face of tiring legs.

Armagh were awarded another penalty from sloppy Tullamore play and was converted to three points by Gow ing to make the score 14-3.

Three changes at once to Tullamore was designed to bring on fresh legs for the opposition, but the Armagh side was too established to allow this change of personnel disrupt Armagh’s game plan. And this was typified by a stunning passing sequence to Eddie Irwin and his run up the line that was heartbreakingly stopped by a forward pass.

This must have galvanised the team once again as the Armagh side worked their way steadily up the field to see out half Gowing touch down the ball and then duly converted his own score to raise the score to 21-3.

This should have been the end of the match but Tullamore were not to be held to just one three point penalty and they worked their way up the pitch to claim a consolation try. Unfortunately, it could not be converted and the final score ended 21- 8.

Report: Sue Roper.

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