Ballina RFC 0
Sligo RFC 11
On Sunday last in Ballina Sligo passed another huge examination in their quest for Connacht glory when they defeated Ballina 11 nil in Heffernan Park. This has been a graveyard for many a Sligo team over the years but on this occasion Sligo showed why they are the best Junior team in Connacht.
This was a very mature performance against a very good side. Sligo bossed this game from start to finish and could have had several scores were it not for excellent last ditch defence from Ballina.
What made this result so great was that the team knew all they had to do was win and coach Simon Galvan has to be lauded for the tactics on the day. Gone was the open fancy rugby to be replaced by pragmatism. No loose passes or throwing it wide for the sake of it , Sligo got stuck in and simply demolished the Ballina forward unit.
Sligo’s success this season has been based on a fifteen man game with the backs totally dominant. On this occasion the forwards and the half backs were asked to step up and they responded in spades.
For the first 15 minutes it was all Ballina but despite their dominance they had very little to show for it as Sligo defended superbly. Having defended for that opening spell Sligo went on the offensive. A great move from right to left saw Jordan Farrington sail in for a try. For the rest of the half Sligo kept Ballina pinned in their half. This tactic proved very fruitful as a penalty offense was punished just before the break to push Sligo in front 8, nil.
The second half saw Sligo dominating territory and possession in a very tense battle but Sligo were always in control and a further penalty by Mark Butler put them 11 nil ahead. Sligo was in no mood to give anything away and that was the final score of another epic battle.
Without a doubt this is the best Sligo team ever seen in the last thirty years or maybe ever. On Sunday their forwards to a man were magnificent. Their front row of Wesley Maxwell, Ross Mannion and Adrian McHale were simply awesome with Maxwells scrummaging just superb. Wilson and Bowes, as they have been all season, just exuded physicality. The back row again were super against very good opponents and for Cathal Culhane this will banish those bad memories against Westport in the play offs a few years ago. He was just so good on the day showing all his experience.
All season Sligo backs have been amazing- scoring close to ninety trys in all competitions and a huge part comes down to their brilliant half backs Paddy Pearson and Mark Butler. On the day against Mick Murphy and Kiwi Corey Brown they directed operations with great skill and intelligence. Outside them Mata Fifita and Gavin Foley were just superb with veteran Foley having the game of the year. Gavin put in some amazing tackles to stymey what is a very good Ballina back line. The back three of Spring, Farrington and the impeccable David Gerrity put in a great days work to round off a fantastic team effort.
Sligo now have one hand on the Connacht League trophy and it is unlikely they slip up at home in two weeks time against Castlebar. However before that game they have a very important assignment against Crosshaven next Saturday in the All Ireland Junior Cup semi final.
Sligo; David Gerrity Aaron Spring Gavin Foley Mata Fifita Jordan Farrington Mark Butler Paddy Pearson Adrian McHale Ross Mannion Wesley Maxwell James Wilson Jamie Bowes Paddy Conlon Cathal Culhane Peter Mullan Subs Simon Coulter Dara Cox Billy Leahy Frankie Feeney Gary Coneeley
Photos by Rory Raftery – see more game pics here