Sligo 1st XV v Ballinasloe Match Report

Sligo 45Â – Ballinasloe 0Â

Sligo got their Connacht Junior 1 League campaign back on track when they scored a convincing 45 point victory, [45-0 ] over Ballinasloe in Hamilton Park on Sunday last. The game was played in perfect conditions, and despite missing some key personnel, Sligo gave one of their better performances, as they had too much guile and experience for their opponents.

With Jordan Farrington, Trevor Sweeney, Martin Feeney and David Gerrity all unavailable, because of injuries sustained in last week’s game against OLBC, wing forward, Gary Conneally out because of a family bereavement, and five other players absent through long term injuries, it was a depleted Sligo side which lined out. Because of injuries to backs, Sligo’s management were forced to play second row, Andrew Williams on the wing, and with regular wing forwards, Warner Wilders and Conneally out, first team starting debuts were handed to former Lansdowne player, David Greene at blind side and to 19 year old, Steven Connolly at open side.

All three fitted seamlessly into the team, and made significant contributions to the victory. Williams, showed his inate footballing ability, as he linked very well with his back-line colleagues. Greene, a strong, mobile player, is a major acquisition, and was very effective both as a ball carrier and at the breakdown. Connolly, from Curry, won an all-Ireland U-18 league medal with the club in 2005, and was introduced to the game in Banada Abbey by Jean McConnell. He had a very impressive outing in the No.7 shirt, as his support play was excellent, and he showed a great appetite for the physical encounters.

It is a tribute to the coaching skills of Bernie Kelly, and his management assistants, that this experimental side gelled so well, and indeed exorcised the ghosts of the past two weeks. The side played with a fluency and an abandon lacking in their most recent games, and this performance augurs well for the big clash with champions, Westport on Sunday week.

The display of the pack was in marked contrast to last week. On this occasion, Sligo totally controlled the forward exchanges. Their scrum overwhelmed their opponents, taking four balls against the head and wheeling the Ballinasloe scrum almost at will. Sligo dominated in all facets of forward play, controlling the mauls, rucks and line-outs.

With the forwards providing such a plentiful supply of ball, the Sligo backs were afforded ample opportunities to demonstrate their skills. Sligo scored eight tries, and newcomer, Greene also dotted down, but was whistled back for a controversial forward pass. The winners led by 23-0 at the interval, and at that stage had already achieved a bonus point. They preceeded to add four more tries in the second period, and indeed their only concern after a fine afternoon’s work was some wayward goal-kicking.

In a fine team performance, each member made a significant imput. From Sligo’s management’s perspective, it was reassuring to see so many players back to their best form. In this regard, Billy Leahy, Peter Mullan, Adrian McHale, Gary Boland and Cathal Culhane were all back to their early season form. 20 year old Connacht player, Ronan Gillespie starred when introduced at loose-head, and scored a superb try, while the return of Joe Kelly brought greater solidity to the front row. Kelly scored the opening try in the 8th minute, when the pack mauled over, but out-half, Gavin Foley, who also did well, failed to convert. Full-back, Gary Boland got the second, after a well timed incision into the line, but Foley was wide with the kick. He made amends when he scored from a 30 metre penalty in the 24th minute to increase the lead to 13-0. Billy Leahy crossed in the 30th minute and Cathal Culhane in the 38th minute to give Sligo an unassailable 23-0 interval lead.

In the second half they continued to pile on the pressure and further tries came from Roger Burrows Gillespie Livingstone and Mullan with Foley landing one conversion.

Indeed the only disquieting note for Sligo was the poor goalkicking, with only two successes from nine attempts from either Foley or Boland, although admittedly, several of the misses were from close to the touchlines. Greene, Boland and Livingstone were all strong contenders for the man of the match accolade, with Kiwi, Livingstone the narrow winner by virtue of his control at the restarts and his exceptional line-out play.
Man of the Match: Jamie Livingstone [Sligo]
Sligo: G. Boland, R. Burrows, A. Feeney, C. Culhane, A. Williams, G. Foley, B. Leahy, N. Williams, R. Mannion, J. Kelly, J. Livingstone, A. McHale, D. Greene, P. Mullan [c.], S. Connolly.
Ballinasloe: J. Egan, F. Sweeney, C. Brophy, R. Headd, N. Loughrey, N. Carey, J. Burke, E. Courtney, G. Sheridan, T. Dolan, D. Feeley, A. Sweeney, A. O’Hara, M. Headd, A. Dooley.

Referee: Michael Honan [Ballina]