Sligo 10 :: Monivea 10
Sligo’s U-14 and Monivea played out a draw in a frenetic Connacht U-14 Cup final at the Sportsgrounds, Galway on Sunday last. To state that the result was in doubt until the final whistle would be an understatement. Referee, Emmet Dormer had played 9 minutes of injury time, and Sligo were holding on by their finger nails to a 10-5 lead, when Monivea launched an attack from a line-out five metres from the Sligo line. Securing possession from the line-out, they attacked the line, and their impressive, towering no.8, touched down beside the posts, to bring the score to 10-10. The conversion to win the game, from virtually in front of the posts, seemed a formality, but to the utter relief of the Sligo players and supporters, and to the consternation of the large Monivea following, their highly impressive out-half incredibly skewed the kick right and wide. Amazingly, the referee still allowed play to continue for a further two minutes, and Sligo forced a penalty 30 metres from the Monivea posts. However, they eschewed the option of going for the posts in favour of a tap penalty which proved to be fruitless. [Editors note: The Ref told Sligo they couldn’t end the game with a kick for goal and then said it was a Free kick, not a penalty. Bizarre interpretation of the laws of the game.]
Sligo’s players will probably be the first to admit that they did not play to their potential on this occasion, and that the unwanted favourites’Â tag proved to be quite a burden. They started tentatively, and were forced to defend for the opening 10 minutes as Monivea camped in Sligo territory. The Co. Galway side took a deserved lead, with a try after 9 minutes, to go ahead by 5-0. They continued to attack and only some desperate Sligo defence kept them at bay. With an upset now a distinct possibility, Sligo rallied. Cometh the hour, cometh the man, and within the space of three minutes, Sligo’s second row, Diarmuid O’Dowd-Hill left an indelible imprint on the exchanges with two outstanding tries. In the 14th minute, following a tapped penalty close to the line, he swatted aside would be tacklers, and crashed over to level the scores at 5-5. In the 17th minute, following a line-out near the corner, O’Dowd-Hill grabbed possession and proved to be unstoppable. Sligo now led by 10-5, but try as they did, they could not increase their lead. Approaching half time, with Sligo on the defensive close to heir own line, the Sligo talisman, O’Dowd-Hill, was harshly shown a yellow card by the referee, but the defence held firm from the resultant tap penalty.
The referee showed two yellow cards to Monivea players in seperate incidens in the second half, following Diarmuid O’Dowd-Hill’s return to the fray, but despite their numerical advantage, Sligo coud not add to their scoring tally. When Monivea had their full complement of players, they were back on the attack, and only two superb tackles from right winger, David Heffernan, and from No 8,Sean Donnolly denied Monivea in the 18th and 22nd minute respectively. Sligo were now coping well defensively, and camped inside the Monivea half. With 9 minutes of injury time gone, and Sligo spectators absolutely perplexed as to why the final whistle had not been sounded minutes ago, Monivea struck for the crucial equalising try, but Sligo were spared the heart break of a sensational last ditch defeat by the missed conversion.
For Sligo, Diarmuid O’Dowd-Hill was again his team’s hero, as he not only scored the two vital tries for Sligo, but his ball carrying and line-out work were also immense. Indeed on the training ground this week, it is likely that a lot of work will be done by the coaches in ensuring that his forward colleagues reach the breakdown quicker when his marauding runs are halted.
Elsewhere for Sligo, full-back, Kieran Blake also had an outstanding game, and his ability to counter attack was very impressive, as were his all round footballing skills. Team captain, Sean Donnolly, although not as conspicuous as on previous occasions did a lot of useful work in the back row, where he was well supported by Eoin Flanagan and Caoimhin Lyons. The other pack members, Matthew and Martin Davey, Eoin Kilroy and James Mullen worked hard at their primary duties, but as a unit, a better return from the pack will be expected by the team management in the replay. Behind the scrum, much of Sligo’s work was done in defence. All seven backs tackled well, but Sligo will be seeking a sharper attacking edge in the replay. The line breaking runs of James Mullen out wide were certainly missed on this occasion.
The replay has been fixed for this Thursday at 6.30pm in Ballyhaunis. Sligo can expect another very testing game, but now that they will be free of the burden of favouritism, they will surely play a less inhibited game, and if they can put the shackles on the Monivea out-half, and their No 8, they are more than capable of bringing the cup back to Sligo. Certainly the potential is in the side to achieve victory.
Sligo: Kieran Blake, Enda Roche, Will Weaver, Robert Smith, David Heffernan, Michael Martin, Enda Gavin, Martin Davey, Matthew Davey, Eoin Kilroy, Diarmuid O’Dowd-Hill, James Mullen, Eoin Flanagan, Sean Donnolly [c.], Caoimhin Lyons. Subs: [Used]; Ben Spellman for C. Lyons, Jonathan Draper for D. Heffernan [inj.].