Sligo 13 :: Castlebar 16
Sligo’s Connacht Junior 1 League prospects suffered a major set-back at Hamilton Park on Sunday last, when the home side were surprisingly defeated by Castlebar. Played in ideal conditions, the game never really ignited, and it was only in the closing 15 minutes that Sligo played with urgency, and to their potential. In this closing period, they scored an excellent try, and when the game ended they were camped on the Castlebar line in quest of that elusive match winning try, but in the end, their best efforts were unavailing.
Castlebar were clearly the hungrier side and received a great morale booster when they scored a try after just 4 minutes. Some slack defensive work by the home side gifted space to centre, Marty McNicholas, and the former Mayo gaelic football star did not require a second invitation as he touched down near the corner. Out-half, Robbie Cusack landed the difficult conversion to give his side a 7-0 lead. When play resumed, Sligo’s game remained lethargic. However, they got a fortuitous, albeit opportunistic try, after 12 minutes. McNicholas ran a ball inside his own half, and sought to link with his left winger, Ciaran Flynn on halfway. The move was expertly read by Sligo right winger, Mark Boland. He intercepted the pass, and despite having the entire Castlebar team in hot persuit, he won the 50 metre race and touched down. Although Stuart Dorran was off target with the difficult conversion, Sligo now trailed by just 7-5.
Unfortunately, this fine score failed to inspire Sligo as they lapsed into indiscipline and unforced errors. Sligo were ‘pinged’ by referee Stephen O’Brien [Cobh Pirate’s RFC] on several occasions for dissent and this proved costly. Cusack scored two further penalties before the break to give his side a 13-5 interval lead.
Sligo brought on 20 year old Ted Mulvanney on the wing for the second half, and he immediately impressed with a fine break and an astute kick which gained 60 metres of territory. Sligo were gradually gaining a foothold in the Castlebar half, but were turning over the ball when in favourable positions. They reduced arrears to a single score when Stuart Dorran scored a 20 metres penalty. However, they allowed Castlebar downfield, and Sligo were forced to defend.
In the 24th minute, excellent work by Roger Burrows seemed to have averted danger, but in the ensuing ruck, the ball was inexplicably turned over, and scrum-half, Christy Cusack dropped a neat goal from 20 metres.
This score roused Sligo from their slumbers,and for the remainder of the game they laid siege to the Castlebar line. In the 36th minute, Sligo scored a brilliant try. Great work by hooker, Ronan Gillespie, No.8, Jamie Livingstone, and full-back, Cathal Culhane created the space for centre, Stuart Dorran and he touched down. Although he missed the conversion, Sligo were now just three points behind.
The closing stages produced some very spirited play from the home side, and the game ended in a welter of excitement, as Sligo’s final attack, just 5 metres from the line, ended with the ball going to ground.
Few of the Sligo players will retain happy memories of the first three quarters of this game. Full-back, Cathal Culhane never put a foot wrong and was his side’s best back. Winger, Mark Boland played with a lot of determination, while centre, Gavin Foley battled bravely. In the pack, hooker Ronan Gillespie excelled in the loose, but had some difficulty connecting with his line-out jumpers. Jamie Livingstone did his utmost to rally his pack, while Peter Mullan and Andrew Williams also contributed well, but as a unit the pack lacked the fire and aggression which characterised their last home game against Corinthians.
Sligo’s cause was certainly not helped by the absence due to injury of their two wingers, Julian Rippon and Thomas Darcel, and of regular hooker, Gary Conneally, while both prop, Martin Feeney and out-half, Kakaber Machiditze are both unavailable due to injury for several weeks. For Sligo’s management, there will be much to mull over for the next few days as they search for the formula to get their team back to its winning ways.
Sligo: C. Culhane, M. Boland, S. Dorran, G. Foley, R. Ongirski, R. Burrows, B. Leahy, A. McHale, R. Gillespie, J. Kelly, P. Mullan, A. Williams, S. Coulter, J. Livingstone [c.], J. Sweeney. Subs: T. Mulvanney for R.Ongirski, D. Greene for S. Coulter, R. O’Boyle for J. Sweeney.
Castlebar: D. McGinty, S. O’Malley, M. McNicholas, N. Byrne, C. Flynn, R. Cusack, C. Cusack, E. Butterworth, P. Durcan, K. Cox, R. Hughes, A. Good, G. Prendergast, T. Kirby, E. Murphy
Photos from the match available here.