Congratulations to Alannah Gallagher who was successful in making the Connacht U18 Women’s 7s squad after competing in trials in Galway. Alannah only started playing rugby last season but is a talented all-rounder, also playing Gaelic football with Drumcliff/Rosses Point and soccer with Yeats Utd. Sligo RFC were unable to field an U18 girls’ team this year, but such was her new-found love for the game, that Alannah, and others, continued to train with the U16 and U14 teams. Sligo RFC are delighted for Alannah, who is currently training alongside the latest Irish international player, 17 year old Bebhinn Parsons, and wish her the very best of luck.
Sligo 20 – Westport 22
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
Sligo 29 – Ballinasloe 31
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 RFC 11 – Barnhall RFC 22
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
Sligo 10 – Ballina 14
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.
Sligo Development team 13 Ballinrobe RFC 10
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 41 – Claremorris 5
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 Development Team 11 – Creggs 7
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.
Sligo Gulls 23 – Tuam RFC 42
The final score did not reflect the reality of this J2 league semi-final and the fact that the visitors led by a mere 5 points with 5 minutes to go. Tuam lead 11-14 at the half time whistle and went through a purple patch, stretching their lead to 11-28, but the Gulls were determined to claw this back and scored two well-deserved tries in quick succession. However, Tuam proved too strong in the end and the final whistle marked the end of a remarkable run for the Gulls.
Much solace can be taken from the fact that the Sligo Gulls, the 3rd Senior team had only been revived this year after a 35 year break and still topped the league, winning five out of their six matches. All credit to the coaching staff, management and nearly 30 players who have made it happen this year. The Gulls next take to the pitch on 31st March to play Carrick on Shannon in the quarter final of the Ard na Cregg cup.
Sligo 28 – Corinthians 14
After a disappointing league campaign, 5th placed Sligo were drawn against 2nd placed Corinthians in the Connacht U18.5 Cup and they were under no illusions as to the mountain of a task that lay ahead. A sizeable home crowd had gathered in anticipation of a cracker of a cup game and they were not disappointed. It was the home team who started the stronger and enjoyed a considerable period of dominance over a frustrated Corinthians side. Sligo were the first on the scoreboard with two successive penalties from the trusty boot of out half Hubert Gilvarry. This was followed by a spirit comeback from the visitors, but they were unable to penetrate the solid Sligo defence. A Luke Hogge try added another 5points to the home side on the half time whistle.
The second half saw a Corinthian’s resurgence, applying pressure in the Sligo 22. They were eventually rewarded for their efforts and brought the score to 11-7. Sligo immediately rallied, and the pack worked the ball down the pitch, with Donnacha Byrne crossing the line in the corner to stretch the lead to 9points. Possession changed hands over the next ten minutes, but it was Corinthians who made the next break through down the Sligo touch line to score in the corner and slot home a difficult conversion to bring the score to 16-14. This narrow margin seemed to spur the Sligo lads on and an impressive maul, off a lineout on the 10m line, drove Matthew Early over the try line, with only 10 minutes left on the clock. Sligo sealed the deal with a sweeping move off a lineout on the halfway line. The ball was worked wide through the hands and across the pitch for Will Whelan to speed up the wing and touch down in the corner.
This was an impressive game by the Sligo side and all focus is now on the semi-final of the Cup on 24th March against Ballinasloe.
Sligo: 1 Matthew Harte 2 Matthew Earley 3 Cullen Vega 4 Anderson 5 Cummings 6 Will Whelan 7 Adam West 8 Donnacha Byrne 9 Andrew Ward 10 Hubert Gilvarry 11 Brennan 12 Whelan 13 Ronan McGoldrick 14 Higgins, 15 Luke Hogge16 Darragh Mc Elhinney 17 Thomas Fox 18 Matthew Horan 19 Niall Stokes 20 Staunton