Two Sligo players are in the running for Connacht Rugby Awards on April 13th.
Scrum half Ryan Feehily has been nominated for the Connacht Senior Club Player of the Year. Ryan is an integral part of the All-Ireland League Division 2B team. He is joint captain, along with Shane O’Hehir and is the current top scorer for the season, with a total of 9 tries.
Donnacha Byrne has been nominated for the Connacht U18 Player of the Year. Captain of the U18.5 Club team and the Summerhill College senior team, Donnacha has also played for Connacht U18s and U19s and is currently training with the Ireland U18 Clubs & Schools, having earned his first Irish Cap against Italy in November.
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 Development Team had a whirlwind season, having to win their final league game in order to avoid relegation and yet then finishing 5th in the J1A league. The team had a short-lived Cup campaign but have now reached the Connacht Junior Plate Final, having secured a 13-10 point victory over Ballinrobe RFC in the semi-final.
Sligo will now contest the Connacht Junior Plate Final against Our Ladies Boys Club (OLBC) next Sunday 24th March at 1pm in The Sportsground.
Saturday 23rd March sees the second last home game of the season in Division 2B of the All-Ireland League. Sligo, currently in 4th place, take on league leaders M.U. Barnhall at 3.00p.m. in Hamilton Park.
There will be a pre-match lunch beforehand, open to all members and friends of Sligo RFC. Tickets for the lunch are priced at €15 per person, which includes a 2 course lunch from The Glasshouse, complimentary wine and entry to the match.
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 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.
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’s push for a playoff spot in AIL division 2B continued with an excellently crafted victory over second placed Greystones at Hamilton Park on Saturday. Having shipped a heavy defeat in the reverse match earlier in the season, Sligo were determined to make amends and an all action performance proved too much for the visitors to handle as the home team ran in three try’s while keeping their own line intact.
Despite the early in the day torrential rain, Hamilton Park was in good condition when the teams took to the field. The strong gusting winds made handling difficult but both sides adapted and tried to put width on the ball from the off. The visitors owned the early possession but Sligo’s defence stood strong and strong tackling from Sean Wynne and Man of the Match Kuba Wojtkowicz eventually led to Sligo winning possession. With almost their first opportunity Sligo ran a sweeping right to left move. Right winger Calum Goddard popped up in centre field and added pace to the move before releasing his comrade on the left Phillip Carter. Carter pinned his ears back and beat the covering defence to touch down on the left to open the Sligo account.
Greystones were stung into action and worked their way back into Sligo territory, the Sligo tackling was strong and despite the best efforts of the visitors, the line remained intact and Greystones had to be content with a three pointer from a penalty in front of the Sligo posts.
The match ebbed and flowed until half time with Sligo taking the break holding on to a two point lead.
Following the resumption Sligo turned into the stiff breeze knowing that holding possession was vital to the outcome of the match. Shane O’Hehir was linking superbly with Rob Holian and Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill at the lineout and Tom Gormely and Conor Mitchell were causing havoc at the set scrum. Ciaran Cassidy was carrying with intent and Matt Davey was a dynamo In the loose. Player coach Jason East was using all his experience to lead by example with some excellent carries and vital tackles.
Ten minutes in Sligo pulled further ahead. O’Hehir found O’Dowd Hill at a lineout on the ‘Stones 22. The flanker drove through the lineout before East carried further into the red zone. Scrum Half Ryan Feehily picked out centre Jack Keegan whose excellent line carved open the defence and raced to the line to pick up Sligo’s second try. The centre popped over the conversion and Sligo were nine points clear.
Sligo sensed a victory and pushed hard to ram the advantage home. The cultured boots of outhalf Mark Butler and fullback Niall Gray put play in the ‘stones half. Powerhouse centre Matele Fifita collected on the visitors 22 and drove down the left hand side swatting defenders out of his way before being hauled down close to the line. Sligo regrouped and patiently carried to the line before O’Dowd Hill forced the ball over for Sligo’s third try of the day.
The visitors again tried to respond but the locals well organised defence proved impenetrable and when referee Rob Watson blew the long whistle Sligo were celebrating having kept their line intact for two weeks in a row.
Sligo now sit in fourth place in Division 2B of the All Ireland League. Come the end of the season, the second,third and fourth placed teams in the 2B along with the second last placed team in division 2A will play off for a spot in division 2A so with 4 games to go Sligo’s destiny is in their own hands and a promotion is within reach.
Next week Sligo travel east to IRFU headquarters to battle Wanderers at the back pitch in the Aviva Stadium. Sligo will be looking to continue their recent form which has seen victory in 6 of the last 8 outings. The match kicks off at 2.30.
Sligo: Niall Gray, Calum Goddard, Jack Keegan, Matele Fifita, Philip Carter, Mark Butler, Ryan Feehily (Co-Capt) , Kuba Wojtkowicz, Shane O’ Hehir ( Co-Capt) Jason East, Rob Holian, Ciaran Cassidy, Diarmuid O’Dowd Hill, Sean Wynne, Matt Davey. Reps Conor Mitchell, Tom Gormely, Jake Sexton, Enda Gavin, Brendan Cunningham.
Last Sunday saw the first round of the Connacht Junior Plate and Sligo travelled to Loughrea for their quarter final. The J1B side were first to open the scoring with a penalty after 15 minutes, but the trusty boot of Niall Gray equalised 5 minutes later. Sligo trailed 10-3 at the half-way mark. The second half started with the visitors dominating play and they were quickly rewarded for their efforts when Michael McMorrow crossed the line and Niall Gray slotted home the conversion. Another Gray penalty gave Sligo the well-deserved lead and 10 minutes later, a Conor Brady try put 8 points between the sides with only 2 minutes left on the clock. The home side failed to add to their score in the second half and then Sean Mullin put the final nail in the Loughrea coffin scoring a try well into injury time. Niall Gray coolly added the extras just before the referee blew the final whistle.
The Sligo Development team will have a home semi-final against Ballinrobe R.F.C. on March 10th, but they must first return to action in the J1A league next Sunday when they travel to Clifden to take on table-toppers Connemara.