The Sligo senior men’s rugby team are celebrating their first ever Connacht senior league title following Saturday’s 33-7 win against Galwegians at Crowley Park.
Listen to Sligo head coach Paddy Pearson’s interview with Ocean FM Sport:
Sligo went into the game equal on league points with Buccaneers but with a superior points difference so securing a bonus point win would be required to ensure the best chance of claiming the title.
On a dry track with a stiff crosswind Sligo kicked off and immediately put pressure on the hosts. Shane Boyle, Ciaran Cassidy and Rob Holian made notable carries, Shane O’Hehir was accurate at the lineout and props Mark Keegan and Tom Gormely were in control at the scrum.
With 15 minutes on the clock Sligo’s dominance came to fruition. A five metre lineout was secured and the pack rumbled to the line. Scrum half Ryan Feehily collected and crashed over on the left. Full back Euan Brown added the extras with a well judged strike.
Sligo continued to press and doubled the lead on the half hour. Powerhouse centre Mata Fifita burst his way through in midfield and touched down under the sticks. Brown again added the extras.
Try number three was picked up with five minutes left in the half. Sligo drove the Wegians scrum back and headed for the line. The initial drive was halted so the ball was moved wide across the backline to Brown who squeezed in at the corner flag. The difficult conversion drifted wide to leave the half time score at 19-0 in favour of the visitors.
Following the resumption Wegians picked up their only score when a loose Sligo pass was intercepted allowing a free run to the posts.
Sligo immediately responded and went hunting for the all important bonus point. Another big Sligo scrum ten metres out put the home defence on the back foot. The ball was moved left and a huge miss pass in midfield was collected by Philip Carter and the winger raced to the corner to touch down.
Sligo were now on top in all areas. The scrum was marching forward at every opportunity. The lineout was secure and Brian West and Ross Hickey were a menace at the breakdown. Mark Butler was running the game from out half and Enda Gavin was rock solid in midfield.
Matt Davey, Ross O Boyle, Niall Gray, Craig Trimble, Matthew Earley, Daire Byrne and Brendan Cunningham were introduced to the play and all fitted in seamlessly.
With time almost done Cunningham made a sublime break from inside his own half before linking with flying winger Calum Goddard. Goddard beat the last line of defence and raced in under the posts. Brown converted to complete the scoring.
Wegians restarted, but the word had come from Athlone that Buccaneers had been defeated so when Sligo regained possession the ball was put to touch, history was made and the celebrations began.
Connacht branch officer Ciaran Smith presented the League trophy to Sligo co-captains Feehily and O’Hehir to the delight of the large travelling Sligo support.
Sligo now take a well deserve one week break before commencing their All Ireland League campaign with another trip to Glenina on October 6th to lock horns again with Galwegians. While coaches Paddy Pearson and Jason east will be delighted with the win, they will undoubtedly be quick to resume focus on the upcoming AIL campaign.
Sligo: Euan Brown, Calum Goddard, Enda Gavin, Mata Fifita, Philip Carter, Mark Butler, Ryan Feehily, Mark Keegan, Shane O’Hehir, Tom Gormely, Ciaran Cassidy, Rob Holian, Shane Boyle, Brian West, Ross Hickey. Reps: Matt Davey, Ross O Boyle, Niall Gray, Craig Trimble, Matthew Earley, Daire Byrne,Brendan Cunningham.