Sligo 48 :: Monivea 10
Having already been cancelled twice, Sligo Under 13s first Connacht Cup match finally took place on a very heavy pitch at Hamilton Park. The opposition was to be Monivea, a club who have a good reputation across all of their age groups (their senior team had defeated Sligo earlier in the week). Sligo started the match short of three of their best forwards due to injury and illness, and the delayed arrival of another. Their backline, however had returned to near full strength with the return of Jason McGoldrick from injury and Eddie Weaver returning to his position of Wing.
Mid-week training, had focussed on defence and spreading the ball out wide from the breakdown, and this was to prove the deciding factor in the first half. From the kick-off Sligoâ€™s forwards began to dominate the ruck, effectively using pick and drive, and freeing the ball to the backs, who drove hard and fast towards the Monivea defence.
Within the first five minutes, quick ball from the breakdown had released Sligoâ€™s backline and Daragh Burke spotted a gap in the defence. He charged through the hole with Eoin Kilroy-Talbot providing support on the outside, held his pass as long as he could, and then passed the ball to Eoin who shifted up a gear and blasted through the last two defenders to score between the posts for an easy to convert try.
Monivea were not however to allow this to dishearten them, and following a ruck in the Sligo 22, sharp thinking by their forwards released a blind-side attack that resulted in one of their players skipping through a couple of weak tackles and crossing in the corner for their first try. Sligo responded almost immediately with their forwards chasing hard after the restart and gaining turnover ball which was quickly released to Jason McGoldrick who burst through a gap in Moniveaâ€™s centre to score the second try between the posts.
The first half continued with Sligo increasing their domination of the ruck, constantly gaining turnover ball and driving relentlessly towards Moniveaâ€™s try line. A powerful surging maul resulted in Gabriel Knecht powering over the line for Sligoâ€™s third try of the day. Yet another breakdown and very fast ball coming from it released Jason McGoldrick for his second of the day. Conditions were now playing their part, with the ball being difficult to keep in hand, and the clammy ground causing players to loose their footing easily. Monivea were able to capitalise on both of these factors and succeeded in driving over a score with their pack. The conversion fell short and the referee blew his whistle for half time. Sligo lead at this point 24 to 10.
The second half started as the first half had begun, with Sligoâ€™s forwards having the upper hand in the ruck and maul and Cian Mulligan was ensuring good ball back to Connor Kerins at out-half. His passing was on top form, ably supported by Sean Finnegan, whose tackling was a fierce as ever, and the strength and aggression of the loose forwards and McGoldrick outside of him soon resulted in Jason getting his third of the day.
About ten minutes into the second half the score stood at Sligo 31 Monivea 10, and the coaches began to take off some of the players who had started the match carrying minor injuries. Dylan Fehilly, who had been a absolute tower of strength at prop was replaced, as were Eoin Kilroy-Talbot, Eddie Weaver (who had a very strong game on the wing), Jason McGoldrick (three tries is enough!), Daragh Burke, Andrew Nairn (whose game at loose forward continues to improve, and whose tackling always leaves a mark), were gradually replaced by Aaron Mulligan, Stephen Martyn, Jack Selby, Cian Allen-Kielly, Joey Walshe, and Tommy Marren.
Another massive drive by the forwards (Matt Davey and Jamie McGovern being the destroyers and rippers that they are) with a good combination of loose rucking by Killian Filan, Aaron Donnellan and James Oâ€™Hehir on the edge of the breakdown deep in the Monivea 22 released Matt Davey and Gabriel Knecht who together charged down a loose ball from the Monivea ruck with Matt Davey pouncing on it to score Sligoâ€™s sixth try. Joey and Tommy were to prove later on to be too much for Monivea to bear, as, following fast ball coming out of the ruck, they combined with each other and Jack Selby to release Joey out on the wing for a brace of tries.
When the referee blew the final whistle Monivea had failed to score at all in the second half and Sligoâ€™s tally of Eight tries with four conversions left the score at Sligo 48 Monivea 10. Sligo now go on (next week weather permitting) to play Creggs in the quarter final at Hamilton Park.