Sligo RFC Development Squad 7 – Ballina RFC 43
Sligo’s dream of capturing the 2018 Connacht Junior Cup fell short with defeat to a strong Ballina outfit in the final at the Sportsgrounds in Galway on Sunday afternoon.
With Ballina having already secured the Junior league title and a place in the All Ireland League qualifying round robin series Sligo entered the game as rank outsiders. Despite the underdog status Sligo started the game brightly and strong carrying from Jamie Bowes and Ross Hickey was causing trouble in the Ballina defence. The early scrums were strong with Ross O’Boyle and Craig Adams proving a handful and David Cawley and Christian Nielsen were effective in the loose.
Sligo were provided with the first scoring chance of the game with a penalty award on the Ballina 10 metre line but unfortunately Outhalf Niall Gray’s effort drifted narrowly wide.
Ballina opened their account with a try from number 8 Daniel Molloy and added a second soon after from outhalf Kieran Lindsay.
Sligo gamely responded with good work from Jake Sexton , Garry O’Hehir and Charlie Cooper but the Ballina defence stayed strong and a Ballina penalty put the half time score at 17-0 in favour of the Mayo men.
Sligo regrouped for the second half and looked to get a foothold back in the game but two more try’s in quick succession put the game beyond the young Sligo outfit. Sligo refused to lie down and continued to battle to get a well deserved try. Enda Gavin , the evergreen Gavin Foley and David Heath put their bodies on the line for the cause and when Stuart O’Brien danced his way down the touch line to score in the right corner it was no less then the brave Sligo team deserved. Gray added an excellent conversion from the difficult angle.
When the final whistle blew it was the Ballina faithful that were cheering loudest but Sligo coaches Paddy Pearson and Roger Burrows will be proud of the charges who finished 3rd in the Junior League and runners up in the cup in their first season in the top tier of Connacht Junior rugby.
Sligo: Enda Gavin, Stuart O’Brien, Daire Byrne, Gavin Foley, Charlie Cooper, Niall Gray, Garry O’Hehir (Capt) Jamie Bowes, Ross O’Boyle, Craig Adams, David Cawley, David Heath, Jake Sexton, Christian Nielsen, Ross Hickey. Reps Aaron Tansey, Liam McElhinney, Michael McMorrow, Sean Mullin, Sean Wynne