Sligo bridged a 39 year gap when they lifted the Connacht Junior league division one trophy following an emphatic win over Castlebar on Sunday.
Sligo’s pace and physicality proved too strong for their Mayo visitors as they stormed to a well deserved victory which cemented their position as league champions.
Played in ideal conditions Sligo kicked off with the aid of the slight breeze and immediately put Castlebar under under pressure. The opening score arrived after 10 minutes when a James Wilson lineout take was driven to the Castlebar line before veteran flanker Cathal Culhane broke from the base to touch down in the corner. Outhalf Mark Butler superbly added the conversion to give his team the ideal start.
Minutes later Butler increased the Sligo lead with a well struck penalty following an infringement at the ruck.
Fifteen minutes in Sligo added to their total. Mark Butler made a half break and was stopped short of the line. A quick recycle was moved to onrushing full back David Gerritty and a well timed pass allowed Mata Fifita the space to crash over. Butler again added the extras and the outhalf followed up with another well struck penalty to put the half time score at 20 points to nil.
Sligo began the second half in a similar manner to how they finished the first. An early try was posted by the strong running Fifita and converted by Butler before Castlebar notched up their solitary score with a Robbie Cuscack penalty.
Sligo were now on top on all facets of play. Wilson and Peter Mullan were lording the lineouts, the front row of Mc Hale , Mannion and Maxwell were dominating the scrums and team captain Paddy Pearson and Butler were controlling the game from half back.
The bonus point was secured on the hour when a sweeping backline move resulted in Fifita being hauled down short of the line. A quick recycle was moved to giant second row Jamie Bowes who powered through the visitors defence and touched down right of the posts. Butler again converted.
Sligo continued to press and camped themselves in the Castlebar half. The final score arrived with five minutes remaining on the clock. Another Wilson lineout was driven towards the line before the ball was moved infield. Fifita was again hauled down short of the line before a quick recycle was moved to centre Gavin Foley who released substitute winger Roger Burrows for a try in the corner pushing the final score to 42-3 in favour of the home outfit.
Soon after, the final whistle sparked huge celbrations from the Sligo faithful. Connacht Branch official Robert Lahiffe presented the League Trophy to team Captain Pearson marking a significant moment in the history of Sligo Rugby Club and signalling the start of a new journey into All Ireland League rugby.
Sligo: David Gerritty, Aaron Spring, Gavin Foley, Mata Fifita, Billy Leahy , Mark Butler, Paddy Pearson, Wesley Maxwell, Ross Mannion, Adrian Mc Hale, James Wilson, Jamie Bowes, Cathal Culhane, Paddy Conlon, Peter Mullan. Reps Frankie Feeney, Gary Conneely, Martin Feeney, Roger Burrows,Simon Coulter.
League table – here
Photos by Rory Raftery – see more on facebook