On Saturday morning Sligo’s U13 had an early start travelling to UL Bohs for the annual Pat Lawler tournament in Limerick. On arriving they found out who their opposition were in the group stages. They were in a group with Cork Con, Garryowen and local Connacht rivals Corinthians. Cork con were up first and whatever cobwebs the Sligo lads might have had were well and truly dusted down once the whistle blew to start the game. To a man they played brilliant with all of the squad getting a run out. They won their 1st match 8 tries to nil.
Garryowen didn’t show or didn’t bring enough teams, so to fill the gap Sligo played another different selection from Cork Con and while it was a stiffer test, they won again on a score line of 5 tries to nil.
Last game in the group was against Corinthians who had also won their previous 2 games. The game would decide the group and the path forward for each team. It proved to be the toughest test of the group stages. Corinthians were well drilled at the breakdown and scored first. The Sligo lads picked up their game to equalise. The game ebbed and flowed. Sligo scored to go 2-1 ahead but Corinthians pegged them back with a score of their own. Sligo finished the stronger and could have edged it but for some brilliant defence by the opposition. The game ended in a draw 2-2. Sligo topped the group based on the number of tries scored so continued to the cup knock out stage.
They were drawn against Ballina/Killaloe, a club where the great Keith Wood and the late and great Anthony Foley first started playing rugby. Straight away the Sligo lads knew that they were playing in a level higher than what they experienced in the group stages. Sligo scored first and then had to soak up pressure towards the end of the 1st half. That pressure ended in the opposition scoring an equalising try deep into time added on!
The second half was a tense affair with both teams having chances. The skill level on both sides was a joy to watch. There was big crowd there supporting the Ballina/Killaloe lads. Sligo’s youngsters ended the game defending their line with the noise from the opposition side deafening. The final whistle blew with the game drawn at 1 apiece. There was tension while both sets of youngsters waited on a decision over the walkie-talkie and then it was announced that Sligo were to go through because they had scored more tries in the tournament.
Up next in the cup Semi were Young Munster, Sligo’s U13 coach’s former club! In the other semi-final Clanwilliam RFC were playing Shannon RFC. There was a lot of support on the side lines for the Young Munster team. The Sligo lads really put it up to them and went into a 2 try to nil lead in the 1st half. We suffered two injuries in quick succession which resulted in 2 players having to leave the field. While the full squad played in all games throughout the day and changes were made throughout all games, this was a blow to the squad. Young Munster finished the 1st half with a try at the death leaving it 2-1 to Sligo at half time. Young Munster played an aggressive game up the middle throughout the 2nd half and this pressure paid off with 2 further tries. While Sligo had a chance at the death to level the game, the Muster covering and tackling was very good. Full time saw the Sligo Lads bowing out of the competition 2-3 to Young Munster. To a man they were all brilliant. There fitness, skill level, fight, determination and overall play was something to be proud of. It was a tired bus of youngsters that headed home after 5 games, scoring 20 tries and conceding only 5. It was a great day out enjoyed by all who played and indeed who were there to support the lads.