An interesting first takes place today when Lansdowne FC travel to Sligo RFC to play the home side in the semi-final of the All-Ireland Bateman Cup, the competition played between the winners of the provincial leagues in Leinster, Ulster and Munster, and the Connacht Senior Cup winners.
There is no record of the sides ever having met on the pitch before but, coincidentally, the clubs share the same red, yellow and black jerseys and blue shorts. Even the two clubs’ socks are a match.
While Lansdowne FC records do not show a match against Sligo RFC at the time of the latter club’s foundation (1890), a tradition of the time was that a new club would play an established one in its first season and the older club would present the newcomers with a set of jerseys, which they would adopt as their club colours.
As they are the home side, Sligo RFC will be expected to forgo their traditional jerseys. Lansdowne qualified for the Bateman Cup by winning the Leinster Senior League Division One competition, having won the right to represent their province in the competition last November when they defeated Clontarf FC in the Leinster Senior League final at Castle Avenue.
The match doubled as an All-Ireland League fixture, the 9-0 score line reflecting a hard- fought match in which the cold and wet conditions dictated most of the play. Lansdowne’s out half lynchpin, Scott Deasy, contributed all nine points with three penalties.
On their way to the final, Lansdowne defeated Old Belvedere at home (50-0); UCD away (19-13) and St. Mary’s away (31-20).
Sligo, who lead Division 2C of the All-Ireland League, qualified as the Connacht representatives by narrowly defeating Galway Corinthians 29-27 in an exciting Connacht Senior Cup final before Christmas. Sligo’s only previous success in the Connacht Senior Cup was in 1914.
The Bateman Cup was first played in the 1920s and 1930s between the four provincial cup winners, before the competition was abandoned at the outset of the Second World War as fuel rationing restricted travel. Blackrock College were the last winners of the competition until it was revived by the IRFU in 2011.
The Bateman Cup was presented to the IRFU by Dr. Godfrey Bateman, a member of a well-known west Cork family, in memory of his sons, Reginald and Arthur, who were killed during the First World War.
Lansdowne defeated Cork Constitution in the first Bateman Cup final in 1922 by six points to five, and won the competition four times in the 1920s and ’30s, losing in the final on two other occasions.
Since its reintroduction in 2011, Munster clubs and Cork Constitution, in particular, have dominated the competition, with Con impressively winning the trophy for the last five years.
Lansdowne last won the Bateman Cup in 1931. Mike Ruddock’s side are determined to advance to meet the winner of the other semi-final between the City of Armagh and Cork Con in the final, and will be urged on by a large party of dedicated travelling supporters.