Sligo RFC’s youngest 15 a side team were convincing winners over Ballina in a thrilling cup semi final contest in Hamilton Park on Saturday.
The Sligo boys started strongly receiving the kick off and retaining the ball well in the early phases with openside flanker Dean Davey soon breaking free to cross for the first score. Out Half Mark Tempany stepped up to slot the conversion adding the points.
Sligo continued to apply the pressure with some strong ball carries by their forwards , good interplay and swift passing by their backs seeing winger Abhainn Savage get over in the corner.
Ballina came back strongly with some excellent play stretching the Sligo cover and getting in for a well worked try just before half time.
After the break the visitors came back strongly and closed on Sligo with another good try narrowing the score board to 12 – 10.
A well organised Sligo were soon back in control with structured play and rampaging runs by their forwards leading to another good try when Issac Marsden made the line.
The local boys continued to apply the pressure and soon got the ball wide to release pacey Savage again for an impressive run down the right and finished under the posts. Again, Mark Tempany was on target for the conversion.
Ballina fought back well and pinned Sligo in their half with some good tactical kicking and open play stretching the Sligo defence. This yielded a fine try in the closing minutes however as the whistle blew it was Sligo’s day with the scoreboard showing a 24 – 12 victory for the home team.
Sligo meet Buccaneers RFC, Athlone in the final to be played in The Sports Ground in Galway on Apri 14th.
Hamilton Park played host to the quarter-final of the Ard na Cregg Cup last Saturday afternoon, when the Sligo Gulls, the third senior team in Sligo RFC took on J2 League Winners Carrick-on-Shannon. The visitors were the hot favourites to win through to the semi-final and Sligo’s odds had lengthened even more with the news that several influential players were unavailable for selection due to absence and injury.
The home side took the lead after 10minutes, when fullback Eoin Mc Cormack slotted home a well-struck penalty. Carrick piled on the pressure and responded with an equalising penalty 3minutes later. The Gulls’ defence continued to be tested and strong running from the visitors resulted in two tries and a conversion to bring the score to 3-15 at half-time.
The Gulls came out fighting in the second half and gave a great display of solid rugby, with the pack securing possession and setting up the backline for some determined running. Carrick found themselves on the backfoot for the opening 20minutes and the pressure led to a succession of penalties. Sligo opted to run the ball each time, exerting even more pressure on the visitors and a yellow card was eventually issued for persistent offences. The vocal home crowd did their best to get their team over the line, but a solid Carrick defence refused to crack, and some impressive clearance kicks finally relieved the pressure and brought the play into the Sligo 22. The home side were caught offside and Carrick added another 3points from a penalty in front of posts.
The Gulls were dominant from the restart and once again piled on the pressure. Darragh Mc Elhinney controlled the pace of the game, with quick ball from the back of the ruck. Strong ball-carrying from Niall Cawley, Dermot Kiely and Gary Golden tested the Carrick defence and Sligo’s determination and never-say-die attitude was eventually rewarded when Jamie Gerrity crashed over for a well-deserved try, much to the delight of the now-raucous home supporters. Eoin McCormack added the extras to put 8points between the sides, with only 5minutes left on the clock.
Pressure from the restart, resulted in a penalty for Carrick and having been dominant in the lineout throughout the game, they kicked for touch. A strong maul from the big Carrick pack, set up a ruck on the Sligo 5m line and the pack picked the ball and drove over the line for the final score of the game.
This may have been the Gulls’ final game of the season but it marks the start of a new era in senior rugby for Sligo RFC. It has been 35years since the Club last fielded three senior competitive teams. Great credit must go to coaches Podge Johnson and Clive Morris, as well as team manager Declan Lynch. Nearly 30 players were part of the Gulls’ squad this year, a mixture of young players who have come up though the youths’ system, complete novices to the game and many experienced players, with a real love for rugby. Jamie Gerrity finished the season as top try scorer (6 tries) with David Cummins coming in second (4tries). Well done to all involved.
Sligo Gulls: Christophe Perrott, Andreas Probst (c) James Tansey, Michael Healy, Niall Cawley, Jordan Sexton, Peter Walpole, Gary Golden, Mark Harte, Darren Harte, Jean De Rouge, Sean McVeigh, David Cummins, Callum McLoughlin, Eoin McCormack, Andrew Kerr, Dermot Kiely, Thomas McBride, Vincent Reynolds, Podge Johnson
The replay of the Division 2 League Final took place in Ballina RFC last Sunday. The first encounter between these two teams had been memorable. The large crowd were treated to an 8 try spectacle, with a 26-26 draw ensuring both teams would get another shot at the title.
The replay was once again a very close encounter. Westport lead 10-8 at the break thanks to a penalty and intercept try against the run of play. Sligo’s points came from a Cathal Feely penalty and a try by Josh Young.
Following the break Sligo took the lead when Callum Wall drove over from a well-worked maul. Westport however, came back strongly to take the lead with a converted try under the posts and then extended this lead out to 22-15 with a well-worked try in the corner with less than 10 mins to go. Led by captain Patrick Dixon, this Sligo U17 side have developed a great team spirit through this season and were not finished yet. U16 player Liam Candon, who had given a storming performance throughout, touched down out wide, following a period of sustained pressure, but unfortunately Cathal Feely’s conversion fell short of the mark. This proved to be the last kick of the game and a mere two points gave the league title to Westport.
Next Sunday sees Sligo play the Connacht U17 Cup semi-final against Buccaneers in Hamilton Park at 12 noon.
Sligo: P Padowski, C Wall, E Coyle, P Dixon (c), A Young, L Candon, J Mc Niffe, D Brennan, M O Hehir, C Feely, C Mc Meekin, B Reynolds, L Scott, F Young, J Carr, J Young, M Moroney, A Hunter, S Muldoon
There was blood, sweat and many tears in Hamilton Park last Saturday, as an epic battle took place between two incredible teams in the Connacht U18.5 Cup semi-final. After their comprehensive 28-14 win over Corinthians, deemed to be one of the hot favourites, Adrian Mc Hale and his team were under no illusion about what lay ahead for them playing a Ballinasloe team, who were still on a high after the Garbally senior Cup win.
The weather certainly played its part, with little or no wind and expectations were high among the large crowd. Sligo started at a furious pace and it was captain Donnacha Byrne who opened the scoring for the home side, with Hubert Gilvarry adding the extras. Ballinasloe replied by piling on the pressure from the restart and opening their scoring with an easy penalty in front of the posts. This was quickly followed by another penalty to put a mere point between the sides. Sligo upped the tempo of the game and dominated for another 10 minutes. A Hubert Gilvarry try was disallowed for an adjudged knock-on, but the strong Sligo maul, set up Will Whelan to spin off and speed through to score Sligo’s second try. Gilvarry added the 2 points from a difficult angle and Sligo went 5 points up, with 10 minutes left in the first half. The home side had their tails up and they continued to play with a new-found intensity, securing ruck ball and going through the phases. Out half Hubert Gilvarry was alert to every half chance and when the Ballinasloe defence stepped off the side of a ruck, pre-empting the attack from the pack, Gilvarry deftly nipped through the gap and dived over the line to add to his side’s tally. He converted his own try from in front of the posts to bring the score to 21-9 at the half way mark, which is 35 minutes in U18.5 rugby.
The second half was a bruising affair, with big tackles going in on both sides. The fluid rugby played by the two teams, was a testament to the clubs and their coaching staff and a glimpse of the future of Connacht rugby. Ballinasloe continued to battle, and possession changed hands several times. Sligo chose to run the ball out of defence each time and they eventually broke through for their 4th try, when Thomas Fox showed his pace to race down the touchline and score in the corner. Gilvarry’s conversion curled to the right of the posts to put the score at 26-9, with only 15 minutes left on the clock.
The hectic pace of the game continued, and Ballinasloe turned the screws on the Sligo defence. The visitors kept their heads, pressing the home side, and eventually broke through the Sligo defence to score their opening try. The conversion was good and there was now only 10 points between the teams, with 60 minutes gone on the clock. Two yellow cards were issued in quick succession against the home side and the numerical advantage paid off for the visitors, clocking up another converted try to put a mere 3 points between the teams with only 5 minutes plus injury time left to play.
Sligo’s restarts had been textbook throughout the game, with Gilvarry adjudging his kicks to perfection and Luke Hogge timing his chase with inch precision, to leap highest and secure the ball in the air for his side. However, the visitors had grown wise to this tactic and Hogge’s chase was brutally stopped by a cynical block in front of the Ballinasloe dugout. The referee awarded a penalty, but again the visitors escaped being issued a yellow card. Gilvarry added another 3points to his side’s tally to stretch the lead to 6 points.
The 13 man Sligo, continued to play their hearts out, laying their bodies on the line. Ballinasloe piled on the pressure searching for the winning score but, the game was now over 5 minutes into injury time. Sligo were penalised again, and the visitors closed the gap to 3 points. The clock continued to run, and it did not seem possible that there could be another twist in this game, however, a sweeping move through the pacey Ballinasloe backs brought the ball out on the wing and the visitors dived over in the corner to put them 2 points up. Sligo were returned to full strength and the final whistle still had not been sounded. One last attack by the home side was on the cards, but the ball was slowed down by the opposition and Sligo were unable to win the penalty, which could have sent them into the final. With an unbelievable 12 minutes injury time on the clock, the referee eventually sounded the final whistle, breaking the hearts of the Sligo team.
This was an incredible match, played at pace throughout, with the Sligo lads showing great strength, tenacity and teamwork. They displayed an epic work rate for all 82 minutes of the game, with a high level of fitness very apparent, due to all their hard work and training up and down Knocknarea. Great credit must go to Head Coach Adrian McHale, Manager Roger Burrows and Specialist Advisors Ross Mannion, James Wilson and Gavin Foley for their dedication throughout the season. A special thanks to the U18.5s’ parents for all their help and support.
Sligo hosted All Ireland League Division 2B champions elect, Maynooth University Barnhall RFC, in an excellently fought encounter at Strandhill on Saturday. Sligo went into the game hoping to do what no other team in Division 2B had done all season and turn over their visitors, but a seven minute three try blitz, one before and two just after the interval put paid to Sligo’s hopes of causing an upset.
The home team kicked off and started brightly, taking the game to their guests. Early carries from Mata Fifita and Kuba Wotzicit put pressure on the visiting defence and Sean Wynne was a nuisance at the breakdown.
Sligo opened their account after 12 minutes with an excellently struck Jack Keegan penalty but the visitors hit back 10 minutes later with a penalty of their own. The home team retook the lead with another Keegan penalty on the half hour but unfortunately for the large local support Sligo were unable to keep ahead.
Right on the stroke of half time Barnhall took the initiative when a prolonged period of pressure resulted in a try in the corner to put the half time score at 6-8.
Immediately after the resumption Barnhall rocked Sligo again with a well worked try and followed up with a fortunate effort from an intercept pass on the half way line.
Despite the hammer blow of conceding the 3 trys Sligo gamely tried to work their way back into the game. The Sligo scrum was strong with fine work from Tom Gormely and Conor Mitchell. Shane O’Hehir was combining well with Rob Holian and Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill at the lineout and Half backs Ryan Feehily and Mark Butler were managing the play. The back three of Philip Carter, Calum Goddard and Niall Gray were a constant threat out wide.
Sligo’s endeavour was rewarded with a try from Wotzicit following some good work from Keegan, Ciaran Cassidy and Matt Davey. Replacement Full Back Euan Browns’ conversion looked to have travelled inside the left post but the touch judges flags stayed down and the extras were not added.
Sligo continued to press to add to the tally but the well organised visiting defence kept tight and the scoreboard remained at 11-22 until the long blast.
With 2 games to go Sligo lie in 4th place , 6 points ahead of 5th. A win in one of their final 2 fixtures will secure a playoff place, the target that Sligo had set themselves at the start of the season. Sligo now have a week break before travelling North to face Dungannon RFC in their penultimate league match on April 6th in Stevenson Park.
Sligo: Niall Gray, Calum Goddard, Jack Keegan, Mata Fifita, Philip Carter, Mark Butler, Ryan Feehily, Kuba Wotzicit, Shane O’Hehir, Rob Holian, Ciaran Cassidy, Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill, Sean Wynne, Matt Davey. Reps Conor Mitchell, Jason East, Jake Sexton, Enda Gavin, Brendan Cunningham
After the first quarter-final battle ended up 19-19, Sligo were hoping to make the most of home advantage to topple local rivals Ballina, who were hot favourites to win the Connacht U16 Cup.
There was a sizeable home crowd in attendance and the atmosphere was charged, typical of a cup tie. The game started at a fast pace and the home wise were quick to settle, putting pressure on Ballina and maintaining possession. However, it was the visitors who were first to break the deadlock. A sweeping move by Sligo, with the ball being moved wide through the hands, was intercepted by the pacey Ballina fullback and he punched through the Sligo defence to touch down to the left of the posts. The out half added the extras to bring the score to 0-7.
Sligo regained possession from the restart and piled on the pressure. The forwards did a great job of picking and driving their way up the pitch, going through the phases and pulling the Ballina defence out of position. A strong drive from the back of a ruck, supported by the pack, eventually drove Ewan Ripon over the line for a well-deserved 5points. Out half Oisin Cregg had a difficult kick to level the game, but he judged it to perfection, kicking into the wind and curling the ball inside the upright. Sligo continued to control the game for the remaining 8 minutes of the half. Persistent infringements by the visitors eventually led to a penalty in front of the posts and Cregg assuredly slotted the ball home to bring the score to 10-7 on the half-time whistle.
The second half was a dogged affair with Sligo dominating in the line-out and having the lion’s share of possession. The greasy conditions led to a lot of handling errors on both sides, but it was the home side who continued to press, looking for the next score. A Cregg penalty was well struck from quite a distance but didn’t have the legs and the margin between the two sides remained a mere three points. Sligo once again applied pressure from the restart, but it was Ballina who made the breakthrough, when they pounced on a loose ball and kicked through the Sligo defence. A chase ensued, and the Ballina centre picked it up and sped through to score a try. The conversion brought the score to 10-14, with only minutes left on the clock. The Sligo lads kept their heads and kept fighting for the ball. They regained possession and pushed for the line. Repeated infringements by the opposition resulted in a string of penalties for the home side, bringing them within metres of the line each time, however only a try would suffice, and the clock was against them. Sligo kept the pressure on, but Ballina eventually won the ball back and kicked it to touch to end the game and put themselves into the Cup semi-final against Corinthians.
It was heartbreak for the Sligo lads, who put in a huge effort, giving 100% right until the final whistle. Great credit must go to all the players for their dedication throughout the season and a huge thanks to the coaching team of Hagan Mc Quaid, Michael O’Hehir, Wesley Maxwell and John Garvey, as well as all the parents for their support during the year.
It was only the hardiest of supporters who were brave enough to take to Hamilton Park last Sunday to cheer on the Sligo Development Team in their quest for a place in the Connacht Plate final. The weather was bitterly cold and the strong, swirling wind was destined to play a big role from the whistle.
Ballinrobe were quickest to settle into the game and their strong pack dominated for the first 10minutes, with their maul causing problems for the home side and eventually resulting in a drive over the Sligo line for the opening score of the game. The conversion seemed on target, but the wind proved too strong and the ball fell short of the posts.
Sligo upped their game from the restart and started to exert pressure on the visitors. The weather conditions continued to worsen, resulting in a litany of handling errors on both sides. The home side were dominant in the scrum and this provided them with a good attacking platform from which to run their set plays and exert further pressure on Ballinrobe. Indiscipline on both sides led to several penalties, but the strong wind negated any kicking options. It wasn’t until the half hour mark that Sligo were rewarded for their patience. After a scrum on the 10m line, the strong Sligo pack went through the phases and it was Sean Mullin who picked the ball off the back of a ruck to score under the posts. Garry O’ Hehir slotted home the extras and Sligo took the lead for the first time. However, this lead was short lived, as Ballinrobe regained possession from the restart and pushed for the line. The ‘Robe maul again proved too strong for the home side and they were able to add another 5points to their score. Just as with their first try, the wind proved to be too strong and the conversion fell short, to give the visitors a mere 3point lead at the half-way mark.
The short break re-energised the home side and they came out fighting in the second half. The crowd were delighted with the great display of interlinking play between the pack and the back line. Garry O’Hehir flashed the ball out wide to Charlie Cooper, who swiftly reversed the play back to O’Hehir and he showed an impressive turn of speed to break through the Ballinrobe defence and bring play up to the 10m. The visitors did manage to clear their lines, but Sligo counter-attacked and were awarded a penalty in front of the posts, which was slotted home by Garry O’Hehir to bring the score to 10-10.
Possession continued to change hands as the deteriorating weather conditions made handling difficult. Ballinrobe pushed forward again and a Sligo indiscretion in the ruck gave the visitors a penalty on the Sligo 22m line, which they opted to run. The Sligo defence held strong and Ballinrobe were reduced to 14 men, when their no8 picked up a shoulder injury and they had no subs on the bench. The sides stayed deadlocked at 10-10 until another Garry O’Hehir penalty put the home side 3 points up with 13 minutes still left on the clock. Brave Ballinrobe continued to battle, but Sligo were dominating in all the set plays and another injury reduced their numbers even further. The Sligo pack kept the ball in hand for the remainder of the game and went through the phases to retain possession and work their way up the pitch. The referee eventually called a halt to proceedings, much to the delight of the sizeable home crowd.
This was a well-deserved win, led by the player-coaches Ross O’Boyle, Garry O’Hehir and James O’Hehir, along with team manager James Gavin. Club President Des Cosgrove paid tribute in particular to the contribution of James O’ Hehir who has “fought his way back on to the pitch after several operations on his knee, being told not to play again” and who shows “remarkable commitment to our club”. The Man of the Match award must go to front row Jason East, who made a big impact on the game with his incisive decision-making and great ball carrying ability.
Having had an epic win last weekend to secure their place in the Connacht J1A league, Sligo Development Team will now finish their season with a Connacht final on 24th March in The Sportsground. Sligo will play Our Lady’s Boys Club (Galway) in the Connacht Plate Final, who had a 13-12 win over Dunmore in their semi-final win last weekend.
Sligo Development Team: Craig Adams, Ross O’ Boyle, Conor Mc Elligott, Michael Mc Morrow, Christian Nielsen, James O’ Hehir, Jack Gormley, Jake Sexton, Garry O’ Hehir, Donal Brady, Robbie Ryan, Charlie Cooper, Sean Mullin, Clive Morris, Matthew Kavanagh, Jason East, Liam Mc Elhinney, Gary Golden, Eoin Mc Cormack, Shaun Cawley
Sligo U13s had a comprehensive 36 point victory over Claremorris RFC last Saturday in Hamilton Park. This was their first competitive game of the season, as the aim of the U13 league is to encourage players to learn and enjoy the game. It was the visitors who started the stronger, scoring in the opening 5minutes, but the home side were quick to even the scoring. Sligo then settled into the game and proved too strong for Claremorris, running in a further 6 tries. Sligo were the bigger pack and they were well-drilled and disciplined in their defence. They showed great determination and inter-linking play throughout the game.
Sligo will now play the Cup semi-final against either Loughrea or Ballina on March 30th.
Sligo took another giant step in their quest to secure an All-Ireland League 2B promotion playoff spot with a bonus point win over Wanderers FC at Merrion road on Saturday. Sligo scored 5 trys on their way to victory but were made to fight all the way to the finish by a dangerous home side.
In blustery conditions it was the home side that kicked off and took the early initiative with a well worked try in the left corner with only 2 minutes gone. The difficult conversion attempt drifted wide. Sligo were stung into action and worked their way back into the game. Some strong running from Philip Carter brought his team into the Wanderers half and the home team were forced to concede a Penalty which Jack Keegan coolly slotted to open his and his team’s account. Sligo were now up and running and were carrying the game to their hosts. Mark Butler received on the half way and an excellent step inside opened up the home defence. The outhalf raced into the 22 and a huge skip pass gave winger Calum Goddard the opportunity to pin his ears back and race to the line for Sligo’s first try of the day. Keegan convert and Sligo were ahead by 5.
Sligo continued to press and it was the Butler/Goddard combination that once a gain opened the Wanderers defence. Butler received on the home 10 metre line and launched a pinpoint cross kick which was plucked from the air by Goddard. The winger raced into the 22 and combined with hooker Shane O’Hehir and scrum half Ryan Feehily before collecting and crossing over wide on the right , Keegan’s well struck conversion move the score to 5-17.
It was Wanderers turn to react and sweeping play was rewarded with a converted try to reel the deficit back to 5 with 16 minutes gone. The frantic pace of the game continued and it was the westerners who were next to trouble the scorekeeper. A fine clearance from full back Niall Gray positioned Sligo in the attacking half. Pressure on the wanderers throw forced the turnover after the lineout. Sligo went right and left through the phases before powerhouse second row Rob Holian collected on the 22 and burst through to the line for Sligo’s third of the day.
The bonus point was secured on the half hour. Sligo were awarded a scrum in the home 22. Matele Fifia carried strongly before Ciaran Cassidy and Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill took up the fight with good pick and go’s. Kuba Wojtkowicz collected 3 yards out and cleverly drove forward to touch down at the bottom of the post. Keegan again converted to move Sligos total to 29.
The home team were fighting to save their season and following the resumption worked their way back into the game with converted try’s on the 45th and 55th minutes. Sligo remained strong however and hit back again and Hat Trick Hero Goddard finished off a superbly worked team try following a right to left move. Keegan’s conversion put the score out to 26-36.
A wanders penalty brought the lead back to one score and Sligo’s cause was further hampered with a contentious yellow card reducing their numbers to 14 with only 12 minutes remaining. Wanderers threw everything at their guests in the final period but the visitors defence stood strong and an audacious steal from the excellent Ryan Feehily snuffed out the danger and Sligo were able to play down the clock on the half way line.
The bonus point win puts keeps Sligo in 4th position in Division 2B, 9 points ahead of Corinthians RFC in fifth and 1 point behind Rainey RFC in third with three games to play. The start of season goal of a playoff position is firmly with the grasp and Coaches Paddy Pearson and Jason East will be doing everything in their power to makes sure the goal is realised. Sligo now take a weeks break from action before welcoming the league pace setters MUI Barnhall to Strandhill on Saturday March 23rd.
Sligo: Niall Gray, Calum Goddard, Jack Keegan, Mata Fifita, Philip Carter, Mark Butler, Ryan Feehily, Kuba Wojtkowicz, Shane O’Hehir, Tom Gormely, Ciaran Cassidy, Rob Holian, Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill, Sean Wynne, Matt Davey. Reps Jason East, Conor Mitchell, Brendan Cunningham, Jake sexton, Enda Gavin.
Such was the passion shown on the second pitch in Hamilton Park, that you could be forgiven for assuming that it was a cup final between Sligo and Creggs RFC and not a standard league game. For the Sligo Development team, this was a fight for survival in the J1A league, as only a win would suffice. Second placed Creggs RFC, have been in impressive form all season and contest the Connacht Junior Cup final in two weeks’ time. The last time these two sides met, it was the visitors who had an emphatic 32-12 over Sligo, so there was no doubt that the home side had a huge battle on their hands.
From the first whistle, it was apparent that Sligo would be leaving nothing on the pitch. First blood went to the home side, when Sean Mullin punched through the Creggs’ defence at speed and touched down to the right of the posts. The visitors upped the pressure, but the Sligo defence stayed strong and it was Enda Gavin’s penalty that stretched the lead for Sligo, much to the delight of the large home crowd. Just before half time, Creggs went through the phases and worked the ball out wide. A perfectly-timed ankle tap, by full back Donal Brady, seemed to have prevented a certain try, but the offload found its target and the big Creggs second row crossed the line to touch down under the posts and the subsequent conversion brought the score to 8-7.
A nerve-wracking second half saw the home side stretch their lead to a mere 4 points, but they were under pressure to clear their lines and Creggs threatened to end the cup atmosphere on the side line. However, a resolute Sligo defence never cracked and their dominance in both the scrum and lineout allowed them to retain possession, go through the phases and run the clock down. The final whistle was met with joyous scenes both on and off the pitch, as the Sligo Development team avoided the relegation playoffs and finished the season in 5th place.
The next outing for the Development team is in Hamilton Park next Sunday, 10th March, when they take on Ballinrobe in the semi final of the Junior Plate.