Mullingar 0 :: Sligo 45
Late on Friday last the long anticipated League match against local rivals Ballina was cancelled due to the condition of the Ballina Pitch. In order that the players and coaches were not left with a quiet and restful weekend, the Under 13 support team contacted and arranged a practice march with our good friends down in Mullingar. So on Sunday morning, in very damp conditions, a significant number of the Sligo Players dutifully left home and travelled down to Mullingar, where everyone knew a friendly but competitive meeting would be had.
Because the match was to be a training exercise for both teams, it was decided to play three twenty minute sections to the game. This would allow the coaches of both teams the opportunity to point out errors where necessary and to try various options throughout the time available. It also would ensure that all the players present got a run out on the pitch. Mullingar were a man short, due to some of their more experienced players having to act as back-up for their Under 14 Squad, who had been affected by injuries and were playing away, so Sligo loaned players as needed.
The results of the mid-week training, which had focussed on defence, were beginning to show some positive results. In this match whenever the play broke down a somewhat more organised and disciplined defensive line was being formed by the Sligo panel. Mullingar, despite their somewhat depleted team, were no mean force to be reckoned with and their ability to spoil the ball around the breakdown was proving somewhat frustrating for the Sligo team. As has frequently happened this season, Sligo were the first to score, with the persistent driving of the Sligo pack constantly pressurising the Mullingar players and driving them backwards.
The backline was more free-flowing than in last weekâ€™s match, and the support from the pack was that bit sharper and faster than had previously been the case. By the end of the first third, Sligo had run in three tries, two of which were converted, and had not conceded a point. They had, however spent a significant portion of this period confined to their own half by the strong rucking of Mullingar, and occasional handling or positional errors from Sligo.
For the second session, Sligo made a couple of minor changes, giving a couple of the forwards a breather, and trying a new pack combination. This did not appear to cause any major problems to the nature of the game, other than a marginal decrease in the defensive speed of Sligo, who began to allow the occasional breakthrough by some of the obviously more experienced Mullingar backs. The nearest Mullingar got to a try was a daring breakthrough by one of the Mullingar centres, who darted around the back of a ruck at great pace and burst through a couple of rather weak tackles. He was soon, however, stopped by the backline which had reformed in front of him, and was left somewhat isolated and lost possession of the ball. During this session the majority of the game took place in Mullingarâ€™s half, and Sligo were unlucky not to score more than the two tries and one conversion taken here.
The third session was used by the Sligo coaches to attempt a complete re-configuration of the back-line, moving players out of their â€œnormalâ€? positions and trying them elsewhere. Whilst this appeared to have some benefit, it became clear that the initial re-configuration was not ideal and a couple of minor changes were made. The new lineup did show some potential, and when combined with strong forward play, Sligo again scored two tries, both of which were converted, and conceded nothing. Other than as a result of a dropped pass or a penalised infringement, Sligo spent the whole of this period attacking within the Mullingar half.
Throughout the whole match, Sligoâ€™s discipline around the breakdown was generally much better than in the last two matches. Occasional over-eagerness around the ruck and scrum, however, all too frequently resulted in needless penalties being given away to Mullingar. It is a credit, however, to the Sligo squad that their reaction to this was to tighten their defence each time and stifle any opportunity that was given to Mullingar as a result.
Panel: Cian Mulligan, Eoin Kilroy-Talbot, Matthew Davey, Darragh Burke, Aaron Donnellan, James Oâ€™Hehir, Leigh Dunne, Conor Kerins, Gabriel Knecht, Peter Murray, Karol Devaney, Killian Filan, Aaron Mulligan, Sean Finnegan, Eddie Weaver, Paul Mahon, Dylan, Tommy and Tyrone.