Photos: Jonathan Curren/ &  K McGing (Castlebar)
MCawleyCastlebar travelled to Crowley Park, Glenina to play Sligo in the final of the Cawley Cup on Sunday. Castlebar were looking to achieve a historic two in a row in this competition. It was a fine sunny day with a swirling wind that would make life difficult for the kickers all afternoon. Castlebar were very much the underdogs with Sligo coming off a fine League run  having also played in the final of the Connacht Cup. Castlebar on the other hand had an indifferent year with some good wins and quite a few losses. This was a great chance to claim honours for both Clubs.

The game started at a ferocious pace a sign of what was to come all afternoon. Sligo immediately put Castlebar under pressure with kicks into the corner using the wind. They lost their outhalf, Paddy Pearson, very early which unsettled them somewhat. Jordan Farrington took over kicking duties and it was he who opened the scoring with a well struck penalty in the third minute. The early pressure brought another penalty to Sligo however this one was taken by the wind to the left of the upright. Castlebar had done well to only concede one score and their play improved immensely as the half wore on. They might have felt that the game was not going their way as three penalty attempts were taken by the tricky wind from poor enough positions but that was not the case. Castlebar had kept Sligo in their own half for all of twenty minutes when a fine team move brought the first try of the game. Phase after phase was played from left to right and back again stretching the Sligo defence when Paul Coady offloaded to Man of th Match Robbie Cusack who slipped through the Sligo defence to touch down near the posts. Ronan Conway converted to give the Mayo team a four point lead going into the final minutes of the half. Sligo responded vigorously  from the restart and pushed Castlebar right back into their 22 where a penalty by Farrington brought them within a point. Further pressure from the restart  opened the Castlebar defence for scrum half Frank Feeney to go over. Jordan Farrington was on hand to convert. This all happened in a few minutes and thing now looked ominous for the Castlebar men, leaving the half time score Castlebar 7 Sligo 13.

CBarThe second half was just as intense and tough as the first. Both teams threatened but it was not until Tadhg Kirby made a great break that a score looked likely. He probably had enough pace to make the line but elected for safety and passed infield from 10 metres but the pass was knocked on. Castlebar were magnificent in the ensuing scrum winning it against the head and when Sligo were caught offside Robbie Cusack converted a difficult penalty to bring Castlebar back into the game. Castlebar were now regaining their confidence and pressured the Sligo defence with good kicking and chipping. Sligo were caught in possession behind their own line and conceded another penalty for not releasing which Robbie Cusack again converted to draw level at 13 points each. Sligo still had plenty of rugby left to play and a fine individual run from midfield by Jordan Farrington yielded their second try which went unconverted. Once again it looked ominous for Castlebar but they kept on playing and when Sligo failed to gather a chip ahead on their own 22 metre line winger Nigel Byrne sprang to go over for a marvellous try in the corner. The swirling wind again came into play as the conversion was missed. Castlebar kept Sligo in their own half for the remainder of the game and Robbie Cusack was unlucky not to snatch victory when he was set up for a drop goal attempt. The half ended with Castlebar and Sligo both on 18 points and extra time beckoned.

Castlebar seemed to find something extra in the first half of extra time. Time and again they prodded and pressured the Sligo men. Castlebar had Sligo on the back foot while rucking on the 22 when Christy Cusack spotted a gap on the blind side. He fed Nigel Byrne who once again went over to give Castlebar a vital edge. The conversion was missed but Castlebar had the upper hand now. They continued to press and once again in the last play of the half Robbie Cusack was set up for a drop goal which was successful and gave Castlebar an 8 point lead at the end of the first period of extra time.

The pace dropped a little in the second period as both sides emptied their benches with injuries and fatigue being a major factor now. Sligo pressed for most of the period but Castlebar defended stoutly to keep them scoreless and ensure a historic second Cawley Cup victory in a row for the Club.

Sligo had fine performers in Jamie Bowes, Mataele Fafita, Frank Feeney, Jordan Farrington and Captain James Wilson. Castlebar had great games from Tom McAuliffe, Paddy Flannelly, Sean Wooton and Nigel Byrne. Enda Murphy was excellent throughout but for his excellent all round play and his ability to get scores when they were needed Robbie Cusack must emerge as the Man of the Match.CBar3

Castlebar :-  R,Conway, F.Casey, P.Coady, T.Kirby, N.Byrne, R.Cusack, C.Cusack, T.McAuliffe, E.Murphy, P.Flannelly, R. Hughes, S. Wooton, K. Cox, N. Coyle, L. Molloy, Subs  D. Staunton,  C. Rogan, P. O’Malley, Luke Staunton, D. Casey.

Sligo :- N.O’Hara, A. Feeney, J. Farrington, G. Foley, J. Rippon, P. Pearson, F. Feeney, M. Fafita, S. Coulter, A. Spring, J. Bowes, J. Wilson, M. Feeney, G. Conneely, A. McHale. Subs R. Mannion, D. Cox, T. Sweeney, P. Mullan, B. Leahy.


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