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Armagh skipper Colvin savours gritty victory in historic Senior Cup final

Armagh 17-13 Ballymena

By Jonathan Bradley

City of Armagh earned the club's maiden First Trust Senior Cup at Kingspan Stadium last night after a come-from-behind 17-13 victory over Ballymena.

It was a tale of two yellow cards, with Armagh able to hold out with a man down while Ballymena conceded two scores during their own spell with a man in the bin.

Substitute Thomas Campbell scored the crucial try with less than 10 minutes to go as Armagh added the trophy to a cabinet already holding the SONI Premiership.

Having had their captain, the former Ulster player Ali Birch, forced into retirement since their semi-final win, it was a triumph against the odds, overcoming a Ballymena side that had Ulster player Dave Shanahan and former Ireland international Bryan Young in their ranks.

"It means so much," said captain Chris Colvin who won this competition with Queen's back in 2013.

"Not just to the players and the coaches, but the community of Armagh. Two Saturdays ago, with the pitch underneath three inches of snow, we had 50 people clearing the pitch to help us. It means so much to everyone.

"It was an honour to fill in for Ali, he's a great leader who's played at the top level for a long time."

Somewhat against the run of play, it had been Ballymena who opened the scoring in a tight first half, Callum Patterson getting the first of his 13 on the night.

With Armagh's backline moving the ball well, and on a few occasions having numbers wide as they looked to move around a sizeable opposing pack, it was deserved when man-of-the-match Cormac Fox levelled matters with a penalty of his own.

With half-time approaching, the first try seemed imminent but, after Andrew Smyth had been stopped short before he could get the ball to the man off his shoulder, patience looked set to pay off in the opposite corner but Timothy McNiece was just unable to get the ball down in the face of a strong tackle from Patterson.

Still in the ascendency, they would have to do it with 14 men after the turn with Robert Whitten sent to the bin.

The Palace Grounds outfit would see out the period well though, playing most of the 10 minutes out in Ballymena territory.

Soon after Whitten's return though, Ballymena would score.

Good carries from full-back Rodger McBurney and Stronge had Armagh scrambling back, and after the ball was recycled through the pack, Patterson barged over.

The centre converted his own score for a 10-3 lead, and for good measure on the hour mark, added another penalty.

A lifeline emerged though when Ballymena were given a yellow of their own, and Armagh wasted no time pressing home their man advantage when, from the resulting penalty, Armagh mauled their way over the line.

Fox's fine conversion cut the deficit to three.

And they made short work of seeing to that when substitute Campbell was worked over in the corner.

Yet another well struck Fox effort left Ballymena needing a try.

It would still take an heroic last defensive stand to deliver the trophy, especially when Patterson brilliantly measured a kick for the corner with the game on the blow.

Whitten though got up to spoil the lineout and spark huge celebrations.

Belfast Telegraph

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