City of Armagh bid to go one better when Buccaneers come to the Palace

Armagh lost to Cork Con in last year's All Ireland Senior Cup semi-final
Armagh lost to Cork Con in last year's All Ireland Senior Cup semi-final

Cup fever is reverberating around the Palace Grounds as City of Armagh look to clinch a place in a second final within a week.

The defending champions booked their spot in the First Trust Ulster Senior Cup decider with a win over Rainey last weekend and they will look to reach the Bateman Cup (All Ireland Cup) final for the first time as they host Buccaneers in a last four tie on Saturday.

Armagh assistant coach Chris Parker was delighted to reach another Kingspan final but knows the side will need an improved performance to beat a Buccs side that won the Connacht Senior Cup with the last kick of the game against Corinthians.

“The boys wanted to get back to Kingspan and we’re there now so it is something to look forward to,” said Parker.

“But we’ll think about that nearer the time and concentrate on Buss at the weekend.

“There were bits and pieces against Rainey that had transferred well through the week that we were very happy with, there were some elements that we need to be better at against Buccs if we want to get a second cup final out of it, the boys trained hard and we’ll go in with confidence.”

Armagh had home advantage against Cork Con at the same stage last year but came up just short.

“It was a big learning curve but I think the boys took a lot of encouragement out of it, morethan anything that they were able to push a 1A side so close.

“A big crowd turned out and it was a really great occasion which has given that the hunger to do it again and to get an opportunity is great.”

Armagh are joint top of Division 1B with Buccs bottom but they made home advantage count when the sides met in Athlone at the start of December and Parker knows it’s all on the day in a semi-final.

“I think it is hard to read too much into that league table, they are maybe going in as favourites as they beat us and thoroughly deserved to earlier in the season,” added Park.

“It will be a tight encounter every 1B game this year there is very little between any of the sides so it will be small margins and small percentages that will hopefully get us the victory on Saturday.

“Buccs play a lot of rugby, they play a lot out the back and hold a lot of width so defensively we’re going to have to make sure we hold our width and we match them.

“They are very dangerous on counter attack so we have to make sure we kick accurately but most importantly when we have the ball we look after it.”

Parker is hoping for a raucous at the Palace Grounds.

“The home record is massive and hopefully it will give us a bit extra and give the boys encouragement especially with no other senior fixtures on that day it would be great if some other clubs fans would get out and give us some support.

There was a further boost for Armagh this week with lock Peter Starrett being selected in the Ireland squad for the upcoming club internationals

“It is brilliant for Peter, he travels up from Dublin three times a week, two nights to train and travels up on a Saturday to play,” said Parker.

“He goes that bit extra for the club and it is great that he has been recognised in that way.

“He made the point in training his recognition is down to the other boys and the team performing and it has given us that platform for boys to get a bit of recognition.”

Centre Chris Colvin is unavailable but front rower Paul Mullan returns to the squad.