Sligo 43 Ballina 7
The new season kicked off last Sunday with Round 1 of the Connacht Senior League. This was a highly anticipated fixture, as neighbours and local rivals Ballina RFC had a storming season last year and were promoted to Division 2B to join Sligo and Corinthians, along with the demoted Galwegians.
The opening fixture of the season was preceded by a minute’s silence in memory of the late Lily Cunningham, mother of Club President, Jacqui Cunningham. There was a nervous start to the game but Sligo showed their strength in the scrum and Ballina were completely dominated throughout by the strong Sligo pack.
Speedy winger Cal Goddard opened the scoring for Sligo after 10 minutes, but Jack Keegan’s conversion failed to make its mark. A mere 4 minutes later, outhalf Ryan Feehily kicked through a well-weighted chip over the back line to find Enda Gavin and Sligo crossed the line for the second time. Keegan split the posts with his conversion, putting the home side 12 points up after 15 minutes, much to the delight of the big home crowd. Sligo’s dominance in the scrum was beginning to pay dividends and they were rewarded with a penalty just outside the visitors’ 22. Keegan coolly added another 3 points to the home side’s tally. First centre Mata Fifita powered over for Sligo’s third try and Keegan brought the score to 22-0 at half time.
Ballina had the stronger start to the second half with a good spell of possession, and played the ball wide to cross the whitewash in the corner. The conversion was well-struck, with the ball bouncing on the crossbar and going over for the extras. The home-side regrouped and again threatened the Ballina line, with the pack keeping it tight and using the big ball-carriers to gain the extra yards. New signing Benroy Sala eventually powered through the defence to score Sligo’s bonus point try. Jack Keegan brought the score to 29-7, with approximately 30 minutes still left on the clock. Sustained pressure from the home side added a fifth try when Ryan Feehily went over in the corner and Keegan’s conversion was sweetly struck.
Powerful running in the middle of the park with Shane Boyle linking with Sean Mullin and it was Brendan Cunningham who finished off the move by touching down in the corner. Euan Brown slotted home the extra two points to put 36 points between the sides, as the referee blew up the game.
There are lots of new faces and plenty of experienced ones in the 2019/20 Sligo A.I.L. squad.
Conor Mitchell, Matthew Cosgrove, Kuba Wojtkowicz, Diarmuid O’Dowd-Hill and Matthew Davey will all be a big loss this year but, the club is delighted to have quite an influx of new players. There are five players coming through from the Youths this season, four of whom were on duty with the Connacht U19s last weekend and the fifth, Brian West, making a big impact when he replaced the injured Mattie Davey. The return of David Heath and Ross Hickey, along with newcomers Craig Trimble and Benroy Sala means that Sligo have a strong squad and will continue to build on their successes from last year.
Action from the Connacht Senior League continues next Sunday 1st September in Hamilton Park, when Buccaneers play Sligo at 2.30p.m. Again we call on Sligo RFC supporters to Pack the Park and let Buccs’ hear them roar.