Corinthians RFC 0
Sligo RFC 17
Sligo’s superb U17s won the Connacht league on Sunday in emphatic fashion scoring three trys with one converted to nil. This team are unbeaten this season and it showed on the day why this is so. They are a real good team with some excellent individuals and they had an excellent work ethic on the day in difficult conditions. Despite starting without their influential and very talented out half Darragh Cummins who had to cry off with illness they went about their business in a workmanlike fashion and were not overawed by the occasion.
To win tight rugby games its essential that pack of forwards get at least parity and on this occasion the Sligo lads were top notch. For the full seventy minutes they worked like beavers to eventually subdue their much vaunted rivals. With this platform the talented Sligo backline were able to attack the opposition and they came up with three fine trys on a day not overly suited for running rugby.
This game kicked off in very difficult conditions with a stiff wind and heavy driving rain into the face of the Sligo team. After a wobbly start they eased their way into the game. At this early stage Corinthians were coming in waves of attack at them but the Sligo team to a man defended with their lives a trend that was continue all match and which was critical to their eventual success. In this area the back row were magnificent with Daire Byrne excellent and number eight Conway not far behind. Out in centre field Matthew Cosgrove and the imperious Evan McGrath were closing down the space and putting in the hits and they needed to be as the Corinthians number twelve Ruairi Greene was a serious attacking threat.
Corinthians early on were not using the elements very well and at times were guilty of trying to run from deep when a simple kick downfield would have possibly yielded better rewards. The pressure Sligo was putting on in defence and at the breakdown was yielding dividends and it was one of these turnovers that led to the first of three trys from turnovers. With a turnover in midfield Sligo attacked down the left first before scrum half Kerins cleverly switched play to the right . Cosgrove made a very telling incision before doing a smashing draw and pass to release Paul Kilcoyne who raced in from the 22 to score. The conversion was missed but the score gave Sligo the confidence to drive on.
The half continued with some fantastic competitive rugby from both sides. However it was Sligo who were to strike again. Again as Corinthians attempted to attack from deep the ball was spilled. Sligo were on it like a flash and the ball was hacked forward and the chase was on. Ross Chrystal won the race showing super pace as he had a lot of ground to make up and he dived on the ball for a crucial score and a scoreline of 10 nil. The conversion was missed but Sligo were in the driving seat a position that they had no intention of relinquishing.
Sligo had the wind in the second half and unlike Corinthians they used that wind to huge avail. They constantly pushed Corinthians back deep into their half and kept an iron grip on the game. To their credit Corinthians battled gamely but they had no answer for a Sligo side with a magnificent second half from the pack. They were superb at the breakdown and and they stifled any attack that came their way. All the pressure finally told as Corinthians turned over yet another ball. Sligo were immediately on the offensive and they broke down the right side with the spikey scrum half Stephen Kerins scoring in the corner. To put the icing on the cake Matthew Cosgrove converted from the touchline with a kick that Ronan OGara would be proud of. The game was over after this score and as the final whistle went there was joy and ecstasy for the team and their coaches. Sligo are now kings of Connacht and they are also in The All Ireland semi final which will be played in the new year.
On the day Sligo’s unity of purpose and sheer tenacity was joy to behold. The pack hunted like a pack of wild dogs but with a lot of control and discipline. Sligo’s front row of Thomas Moran Joe Bennett and Conan ODonnell led by example getting through a mountain of work with Conan ODonnell one of the stand out forwards on the pitch and a star in his own right. The second rows of Jake Sexton and Cillian Gallagher worked well together with the athletic Gallagher winning some good clean line out ball and getting around in the loose. The back row for Sligo were truly magnificent covering every inch of the pitch. All three Ryan Bright Daire Byrne and Joe Conway did their jobs superbly and they showed great skill fitness and tenacity with Byrne a real terrier and a complete pest to the opposition.
If Sligo’s pack did the work up front so did the back line getting all those crucial scores. Each one of them stood up when it mattered especially in the crucial area of defence. At scrum half Stephen Kerins Sligo had the perfect link between forwards and backs. He mixed game very well passing kicking and sniping and at all times posing a huge threat to the opposition and he capped a fine performance with a great try to seal the match, At 10 Paul Kilcoyne was handed the task of filling the boots of Darragh Cummins and after a shaky start he acquitted himself very well and was not in any way overawed by the occasion and he capped a fine day with the first try of the match. Sligo are blessed with two fine centres the big powerful Matthew Cosgrove and the excellent Evan McGrath. The latter is a lovely footballer and is brave and tough in defence and a key figure in this back line. The wingers Jack Keegan and Ross Chrystal acquitted themselves very well in attack and defence in difficult conditions and Chrystal showed his pace to score the days second try. Full back Ryan Feehily a fine all rounder did a great job showing some lovely touches when required. Sligo while they dint use their bench had quality there and they have a strong squad if required.
Sunday was a day for celebrating but there are more trophies ahead to be played for none more important than a shot at an all Ireland title. While they are a good side they are still a work in progress and will need some polish before they can life an All Ireland trophy. More work need s to be done with the lineout especially as regards the driving maul and supporting the jumper as he comes to ground. John Davey as coach has done a great job with the squad over the last few years and with Des Cosgrove there also they have assembled a really strong squad with unity of purpose and an excellent team ethic. They can now relax and enjoy Christmas with a the league bagged and in the New Year expect a lot more from this side.
Sligo; Ryan Feehily Jack Keegan Evan McGrath Matthew Cosgrove Ross Chrystal Paul Kilcoyne Stephen Kerins (C) Thomas Moran Joe Bennett Conan ODonnell Cillian Gallagher Jake Sexton Ryan Bright Daire Byrne Joe Conway
SUBS; Neville Walker Liam McElhinney Luke Morrison Ciaran Cassidy Andrew Beirne Ronan Redmond Jack Tillion