Sligo RFC 19
Corinthians RFC 12
On a monumental day in the 129 year history of the club, Sligo completed their first Connacht Senior League and Cup double when they overcame a strong Corinthians outfit in a tough encounter at the Sportsgrounds in Galway on Sunday.
Sligo had to come from behind twice in a seesaw encounter which will be long remembered in the annals of the history of the proud club. Coming off the back of 7 energy sapping back to back weeks of high intensity rugby the Sligo heroes went to the well once more and to a man they delivered a performance worthy of champions.
Sligo kicked off, playing towards the College Road end, with the aid of the breeze. Corinthians failed to deal with the kick off and Sligo were given a foothold in opposition territory which eventually resulted in a well struck three pointer from the in form Euan Brown.
Corinthians were stung into life and worked their way into the game with their strong carrying forwards forcing the Sligo defence back. The sustained period of pressure from the Galway men was rewarded with the first try of the game with a touchdown in the right corner to take the lead with a half an hour gone.
Sligo responded and almost immediately retook the lead with another Brown penalty before extending the lead with Browns third successful kick of the day right on the stroke of halftime.
The match was on a knife edge with both teams in looking to wrest control. Every scrum was hotly contested with Matthew Earley, Tom Gormely and Mark Keegan giving nothing to the massive Corinthians front row. Shane O’Hehir was combining well with Shane Boyle and Rob Holian to ensure Sligo possession from touch and Matt Davey, Ciaran Cassidy, Brian West and Jason East were putting in a mountain of work in open play.
The tribesmen were next to strike with a converted try from a well executed trick lineout play in the left corner to take a three point advantage.
Sligo again regrouped and quickly put the setback behind them to work their way back behind enemy lines. A lineout on the 5 metre line in the left corner set the platform for a sustained attack. The forwards carried hard before scrum half Brendan Cunningham released the backline. Brown, Ryan Feehily and Mark Butler all put hands on the ball before full back Enda Gavin joined the line and burst over in the right corner.
14-12 with 8 minutes remaining the prize was there for whoever wanted it most. Corinthians threw the proverbial kitchen sink at the Yeats men but the Sligo belief was strong and Sligo were winning the individual battles.
Wingers, Calum Goddard and Philip Carter, and substitute Daire Byrne all made telling defensive hits to press home the Sligo advantage before the final hammer blow came with five minutes remaining.
Cassidy reacted quickest to a loose Corinthians line out and drove forward before linking with Shane O’Hehir who raced from 15 metres out to squeeze in at the right corner.
Corinthians again tried to respond but Sligo had drawn a defensive line on the 10 meter mark and nothing was going to breach it.
The final play saw Feehily boot the ball to touch and the Sligo players and supporters were in rugby heaven. Connacht Branch President Ted Carty presented the cup to Sligo co-captains Shane O’Hehir and Ryan Feehily who raised the cup with their team to top off a historic year for the club.
A further reward for the valiant Sligo team is a place in the semi final of the prestigious All Ireland Bateman Cup. Sligo have been handed a home draw and will be hosting none other than All Ireland League Division 1a leaders Cork Constitution at Hamilton Park in early January.
Sligo: Enda Gavin, Calum Goddard, Mark Butler, Ryan Feehily, Philip Carter, Euan Brown, Brendan Cunningham, Matthew Earley, Shane O’Hehir, Tom Gormely, Ciaran Cassidy, Rob Holian, Shane Boyle, Brian West, Matt Davey, Mark Keegan, Ross O’Boyle, James O’Hehir, Jason East, Daire Byrne.