The long awaited season defining battle between Sligo and Monivea lived up to its expectation in a superb encounter at Standhill on Sunday. The match was scheduled to kick off at 2.30 pm however due to the inclement weather conditions the kick off time was switched to 3.00 pm on the instructions of the referee to allow the frozen pitch to thaw.
Come kick off time the main pitch at Standhill was still frozen so the referee decided to play the game on the second pitch.
Monivea won the toss and elected to play towards the club house in the first half however against the advantage of the slight hill Sligo were first to put points on the board with a Mark Butler penalty after 10 minutes.
Monivea immediately reacted and camped in the Sligo half. A sweeping move by the Monivea back line gave dynamic centre Dave Prior the opportunity to round the Sligo defence and the Monivea speedster made no mistake in scoring his side’s first try. Ger O’Connor made no mistake with the conversion.
Monivea were now on top and their pressure defence was forcing Sligo into uncharacteristic mistakes.
Try number two for the visitors arrived on 35 minutes when an offensive kick by Sligo was collected by Monivea winger Rory O’Connor and the Galway man showed a clean pair of heals and beat the covering defence to put his side into a 17 – 3 point lead.
Sligo continued to press and were unfortunate not be awarded with points before the half time whistle blew.
The second half was a different story, Sligo moved up the gears and quickly got themselves back into the game. Early pressure was immediately rewarded when a sweeping back line move found its way to winger Jordan Farrington and the kiwi made no mistake in touching down in the corner.
A superb Mark Butler conversion put his team within one score of the opposition.
Monivea again reacted and were rewarded with their only points of the second half with a penalty from out half Ger O Connor.
Sligo again reacted and from a line out take from James Wilson the ball was moved in field, Butler fed the powerful Mata Fifita and the centre used all his strength to force his way over the line to touch down for a five pointer for Sligo. Butler converted to equalise.
Sligo were now in top gear and the front row of Maxwell, McHale, and Mannion were giving the visitors a torrid time in the scrums, Wilson,Mullan and Conlon were lording the line outs and Pearson and Butlers tactical kicking ensured that the visitors were pinned back.
Sligo’s third try resulted from a superbly crafted individual effort by dynamic winger Aaron Spring. A line out steal by Wilson was quickly moved to Pearson. The scrum half released Spring and the youngster broke three tackles before racing from the 22 into the corner to put the game beyond Monivea’s reach. Butler again converted and followed up soon after with a well struck penalty moving the score line to 30 – 20 in Sligo’s favour.
Monivea gamely responded but the Sligo defence with flanker Paddy Conlon to the fore were never going to be breached and final whistle sparked long awaited celebrations for the Sligo faithful.
David Gerrity, Jordon Farrington, Gavin Foley, Mata Fafita, Aaron Spring, Mark Butler, Patrick Pearson, Adrian McHale, Ross Mannion, Wesley Maxwell, Jame Wilson, Jamie Bowes, Paddy Conlon, Simon Coutler, Peter Mullan. Reps. Frankie Feeney, Gary Conneely, Darragh Cox, Billie Leahy, Brian Hynes.
Photos by Carl Brennan and Rory Raftery