inpho 00790806Elverys Connacht Schools Senior Cup Final

Garbally College 10-10 Sligo Grammar

The 101st Connacht Senior Schools Cup final was an absorbing contest. Garbally were favourites going into today’s battle but never looked like they would end up victorius and will ultimately be the happier of the two teams after today’s game couldn’t separate the sides. They will have to do it all over again at a date that has yet to be confirmed.

Garbally started the better of the two teams, keeping the Grammar side pinned in their 22. They managed to force a turnover after kicking to Grammar, and were rewarded with a penalty in front of the post which Simon Keller knocked over for the opening score. Garbally had a 3-0 lead after two minutes.

Perhaps with a sign of things to come, the resulting kickoff from Sligo was allowed to bounce into touch from Garbally. This didn’t seem to effect them immediately, as first a penalty was awarded to them for holding, and then some excellent tactical kicking from Keller brought play back into the Sligo 22. From the resulting Sligo lineout, Conor Barrett was able to charge down Cosgrove’s attempted clearance to keep the pressure on. This time though, the excellent Sligo fullback Ryan Feehily was able to find a low clearing kick bringing play up to halfway.

This seemed to spark Sligo into life, and after openside Shane Layden charged down another attempted tactical kick from Keller, they struck. A scrum was awarded to Sligo 30 metres from the Garbally line. They chose to go down the blindside and some fantastic footwork from Feehily drew in the defending winger Cian Dooley, which allowed Daire Byrne to sprint over in the corner for a well worked try. Garbally were stunned, and although Cosgrove’s kick was wayward with the wind, Sligo had momentum, which they used to their full advantage.

This time it was Cosgrove’s turn to play for territory with a well placed kick, and after a turnover in the Garbally 22, a series of pick and goes was finished off by Cosgrove who had come in from the centre. His conversion kick was in the same place as previous, with the same result just drifting wide in the wind. Sligo were 10-3 up after fifteen minutes.

Grammar took the game to Garbally from this point, with Cosgrove being used on the crash ball up against the smaller Garbally midfield paying dividends. Feehily was getting more ball than in the semi final and showing that when given the chance, himself Ford and Daire Byrne can causes problems for any defence. Sligo were now playing keepball in the Garbally half, going through the phases and frustrating the Ballinasloe school. 

Eventually though, Garbally turned the ball over, and Keller was able to pin Sligo back in their 22. The Ballinasloe school finally had some possession after being starved of the ball, and were building nicely. They rejected two penalty opportunities that may have been kickable in more favourable conditions to go for the corner, but the Sligo defense was resolute; first in disrupting the lineout, and then the linespeed and tackle from outhalf Paul Kilcoyne brought a penalty after Feehily got in over the ball.

The final act of the half was a potentially serious injury to Garbally hooker Niall Higgins, who had to be stretchered off. Reports later confirmed he was conscious and walking around which is always a positive sign, and we hope he recovers well. Half time score was Sligo Grammar 10- 3 Garbally College.

Sligo started the better of the two sides in the second half, with Daire Byrne nearly putting TJ Ford away in the first minute, only for some excellent scramble defense from Garbally. A penalty resulted for Grammar however, and Cosgrove had the chance to put some daylight between the teams. His resulting penalty hit the post, and from the clearance kick, his hastily attempted drop goal was well wide.

It was all Grammar now though, and after openside Daniel Layden broke the cover defense at a ruck, the ball was spread wide to TJ Ford who again went close, choosing to kick ahead over the fullback but pushing his kick too far. Garbally were helpless to repel the Sligo onslaught, and it didnt help that their reserve hooker was struggling to throw in the increasingly windy conditions. From a lineout overthrow, Sligo scrumhalf Peter Brittain fended off the defense and made significant yardage. 

Garbally had to do something, so they brought on replacement wing Ian Duffy who was returning from injury. Duffy had a positive impact on the game, first making zagging run through the Sligo defense, and then gaining more territory with a smart kick in behind the defense.

Sligo again thwarted a potential Garbally attack with another great tackle from Kilcoyne, which forced an intercept from Daire Byrne. The tackle was made before Byrne got away, and Cosgrove was able to pin the game back into the Garbally 22. This lead to more pressure heaped on the Garbally defense, with Cosgrove taking two more drop goal attempts which both fell short. He was short with another penalty attempt, and when Garbally finally got out of their half, Sligo hooker John Oleyede got in on the ball at the breakdown to force a penalty, it seemed the result was settled. 

There was less than three minutes to go before Garbally finally got some pressure back on the tiring Sligo defense, and it was Garbally’s standout player, Simon Keller himself who stepped inside and forced his way over for the try. Keller himself converted to equalise the scores with barely a minute left on the clock.

It seemed at this stage the tie was destined for a draw, with Garbally in particular looking tired and seeking attention for cramp whenever possible. They were awarded a penalty in their own 22 when time was up, and decided to slug it out again with a replay by kicking it out instead of trying for the win. 

It just means that we will be treated to another epic contest between two Connacht schools powerhouses, with Sligo wondering how they let that slip away from their grasp.

Sligo Grammar:

15. Ryan Feehily, 14. TJ Ford, 13. Daire Byrne, 12. Matthew Cosgrove, 11. Peter Oloyede, 10. Paul Kilcoyne, 9. Peter Brittain; 1. Neville Walker, 2. John Oloyede, 3. Dairog Smith, 4. Austin McGuinn, 5. Jake Sexton, 6. Joe Conway (c), 7. Daniel Layden, 8. Joe Bennett.


16. John Bartley, 17. Mervyn Carter, 18. Cathal Joyce, 19. Ben Rooney, 20. Nicholas Barthel, 21. Cian Doyle, 22. Grant Tierney, 23. Luke Stanley, 24. Jason Greer, 25. Brian Moore,.

Garbally College:

15. Stephen Tierney, 14. Ian Fletcher, 13. Peter Flannery, 12. Sean Horan (c), 11. Cian Dooley, 10. Simon Keller, 9. Donnchadh Reilly; 1. Darren O’Hara, 2. Niall Higgins, 3. Conor Kenny, 4. Sam Holland, 5. Peter Claffey, 6. Conor Barrett, 7. Dylan Connolly, 8. Jack Codyre;


16. Ryan Glennon, 17. Conor Noone, 18. Anthony Curley, 19. Oisin Lyons, 20. Frank Hopkins, 21. Eoin McCormack, 22. Gene Donoghue, 23. Sam Parker, 24. Andrew Foulger, 25. Ian Duffy, 26. Kevin Flynn, 27. Liam Murray.

680 SGGar


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