Next Sunday, November 12, in Strandhill’s Hamilton Park, Sligo play the defending champions, Westport, in a crucial Connacht Junior League Division One game (kick-off 2.30pm). Both teams are level on points and share second place in the table – both are three points behind Monivea – so neither side can afford to lose any more ground to the leaders.
This is the first meeting between the sides since Westport sensationally won the Division One title with a last second extra-time drop goal in last April’s thrilling play-off.
Sligo can justifiably feel that they got none of the breaks in that three-points defeat (18-15) which took place in Heffernan Park, Ballina, so they will be determined to make amends on Sunday. Both sides are likely to show a few changes in personnel from their encounter earlier this year. Westport will field without their very effective second-row partnership of last season, while two of Sligo’s most influential players from that period, Simon Galvan and Philip Maloney, are no longer available.
Sligo will be further weakened by the unavailability through injury of Jordan Farrington, Warner Wilders, Joe Sweeney, Julian Ripon and Martin Feeney. However, as they demonstrated against Ballinasloe recently, there is good strength-in-depth in the club.
Players such as David Green, David Gerrity, Neil Williams, Ronan Gillespie and Steven Connolly will relish the opportunity of staking claims for regular positions in the club’s first XV.
Westport will probably play a forward-orientated game as, in out-half Eddie Walsh, they have the ideal general to keep the pack going forward with his astute kicking game.
Sligo will most likely move the ball wide as much as possible and they will be hoping of gaining parity in the forward exchanges.
If the pack can reproduce their Ballinasloe form and raise the tempo and intensity of their game they can pave the way for a very important Sligo victory.