Rathfriland Rangers won the Intermediate Cup for the first time in their history at the National Football Stadium at Windsor Park tonight.
The men from the foothills of the Mournes scored two sumptuous second half goals to defeat Armagh City in an entertaining McComb's Coach Travel Intermediate Cup decider enjoyed by 995 spectators.
Captain Ross Black and attacking midfielder Ruairi Fitzpatrick were on target for the Amateur League Premier Division side in the 2-0 victory.
Rathfriland striker Lee Newell was the focal point for attacks early on and he kept the Armagh centre backs busy.
Armagh’s first opportunity fell to Conor Mullen, who fired over the top from distance. Then City captain Ryan Corrigan’s low drive was deflected out for a corner, and Ruairi Duffy directed a header straight at Rathfriland keeper Bryan McMullan from that corner.
Down the other end, as the game sparked into life, Newell lifted an effort over Conner Byrne’s bar.
After some neat footwork City midfielder Marc McConnell found Mullen 20 yards out but McMullan held on to his snapshot.
Byrne easily gathered a free-kick from Fitzpatrick as the game ebbed and flowed, while the City keeper also rose well to gather in a Jesse Carson cross.
The best chance of the first half came as half-time approached. Rathfriland skipper Black flicked on a Fitzpatrick corner to Adam Neale at the back post but he nodded the ball wide of the post.
Neale was back on the ball just a minute later when he struck a low shot which Byrne smothered.
Armagh fashioned the first opportunity of the second half. Corrigan evaded a couple of markers and slipped in Mullen whose shot was superbly smothered by McMullan as he raced off his line. Moments later the Rathfriland keeper was called into action again, this time to pluck a Stefan Lavery header out of the air.
Rathfriland then surged forward. Fitzpatrick teed up Jordan Hayes whose shot sailed over the bar.
However, Ally Wilson’s side grabbed the lead shortly after when captain Black blasted a free-kick from nearly 30 yards low and hard, with a slight swerve, past Byrne into the bottom corner.
Neale had a half-chance to double the lead as he raced towards goal but his rising shot nestled in the side netting. And his strike partner Newell was unlucky with a crisp effort which went inches past the upright.
A superb goal made it 2-0 to the Co Down side on 60 minutes. Hayes won the ball in a midfield tussle and slid it to Fitzpatrick on the edge of the area and he bamboozled his marker before smashing the ball into the top corner. It was an excellent finish.
Armagh did not let their heads drop though, with skipper Corrigan driving them forward.
A Shea Geraghty cross from deep found McConnell at the back post and McMullan did well to turn his powerful shot past the post.
Neale’s cross-cum-shot flashed across the goalmouth as the Whites went in search of a third.
City continued to push and Corrigan produced another top notch pass to send McConnell clear but again the Rathfriland keeper kept him out.
Armagh substitute James McCormack tried his luck with a well-struck shot which went over the top.
Fitzpatrick forced Byrne into a good save at his near post as Rathfriland pushed forward once again.
Shea Campbell’s NIFL Premier Intermediate charges pushed right to the end, with Duffy clipping a shot wide from close range after McMullan had dropped a cross, but the Whites had done enough to secure the trophy.
Rathfriland’s success tonight was a fitting way to mark the club’s 60th anniversary.
Rathfriland Rangers: Bryan McMullan, Jesse Carson, Jack Graham, Ross Black (captain), Harry Campbell, Jordan Hayes, Ruairi Fitzpatrick, Andrew Kilmartin, Lee Newell, Adam Neale, Matthew Holloway. Substitutes: (used) Scott Ward; (unused) Mark Gracey (GK), Mark Bronte, Jonathan Scannell, Stephen Greene.
Armagh City: Conner Byrne, Jack Clarke, Shea Geraghty, Dermot McCaffrey, Padraig Judge, Ryan Corrigan (captain), Jonathan Carlin, Marc McConnell, Conor Mullen, Stefan Lavery, Ruairi Duffy. Substitutes: (used) Neill Kerr, James McCormack, Andrew Wilson; (unused) Jordan King, Ben Mullen.