Crosshaven RFC 6 :: Sligo RFC 5
Sligo’s dream of All Ireland glory came to an end in the cruellest of manners when they went down by a single point to Crosshaven at Myrtleville on Saturday in the semi final of the all Ireland junior cup. Sligo lead by two points with two minutes remaining on the clock but a well taken Liam Delaney drop goal secured the win for the home side.
With a howling gale blowing down the pitch the match was always going to be a battle of the forward packs. Sligo played the first half with the favour of the breeze but Crosshaven started well with their strong forward pack causing Sligo to concede some early penalties. As the game went on Sligo settled into their own pattern and began to pressure their hosts. The first scoring opportunity fell to Sligo in the form of a Mark Butler penalty on the 10 metre line but the wind made kicking extremely tricky and the outhalfs attempt was pushed wide of the posts. Sligo continued to press and were eventually rewarded with a Jordan Farrington try. A James Wison lineout take was taken down and driven towards the line by the Sligo pack. A series of pick and drives were stopped short before the ball was moved right to Mata Fifita. The centre timed his pass perfectly to give Farrington the chance to dot down ten metres in from touch.
Butler was narrowly wide with the difficult conversion attempt. Sligo looked to increase their tally before half time but their cause was not helped with the sin binning of scrum half and team captain Paddy Pearson for a high tackle five minutes before the break. However, to a man Sligo raised their game and the score remained the same until Pearsons return.
Crosshaven kicked off the second half and immediately used the now strengthening gale to gain field position. Kicking out of defence was impossible so Sligo had to keep the ball in hand to make their way up the park. The Sligo pack, with the outstanding Paddy Conlon leading the charge continually drove up the pitch to keep Crosshaven at bay. Adrian Mc Hale , Jamie Bowes and Fifita all carried well and trademark tackling from Gavin Foley and Cathal Culhane constantly frustrated the visitors.
Crosshaven narrowed the gap to two points twelve minutes into the half when a Liam Delaney drop goal effort was awarded by the referee. The ball appeared to have drifted wide of the left upright but the referee raised his arm and to the dismay of the visitors the score stood.
Sligo continued to up the work rate and were gaining ascendancy in the scrum and hooker Ross Mannion was linking well with Wilson and Peter Mullan in the line out. The pick and drive game was continually pushing the visitors back and the back three of David Gerrity, Aaron Spring and Farrington were fielding well and running back at their hosts at every opportunity.
The game was at a knife edge but Sligo were the team in control. Dynamic prop forward Wesley Maxwell had to retire with an injured shoulder but his replacement Martin Feeney scrummaged superbly and ensured that Sligo continued to dominate.
With three minutes remaining Crosshaven were awarded a controversial penalty for feet up at a scrum inside their own half. The ball was kicked deep into the Sligo half and from the resulting lineout Delaney was given field position in front of the posts allowing the outhalf the chance to bisect the posts for the winning score.
Time had run out for the visitors and two minutes later the ref blew the final whistle which signalled heartbreak for Sligo and their large travelling support.
Sligo. David Gerrity, Jordan Farrington, Matele Fifita, Gavin Foley, Aaron Spring, Mark Butler, Paddy Pearson, Wesley Maxwell, Ross Mannion ,Adrian Mc Hale, James Wilson, Jamie Bowes, Cathal Culhane, Paddy Conlon, Peter Mullan. Reps Martin Feeney, Frankie Feeney, Simon Coulter, Billy Leahy, Brian Hynes, Gary Conneely, Darragh Cox.
Match photos by Rory Raftery – see more here.
Full match commentary by Daragh Cox and Ken O’Neill from Ocean FM – download full match commentary here.