Sligo clinched Connacht Senior Cup final success for the third time in their history with a hard fought victory over Corinthians at the Sportsground.
Three penalties from the boot of Euan Brown, as well as tries from Enda Gavin and Shane O’Hehir accounted for Sligo’s points in a win built upon rock solid defence and clinical attack.
Corinthians, who enjoyed the lions share of possession and territory throughout, registed tries through captain Aaron Broderick and Hiram Wood Hennessy but were powerless to prevent Sligo -- whom they lead by ten points in the All Ireland League Division 2B table -- from upsetting the odds and claiming a deserved victory.
In an unseasonably dry day, both teams were keen to flex their attacking muscles from the outset and test the oppositions defence.
The Galway based side, with winger Michael O’Reilly prominent with the ball in hand, were in the ascendancy in terms of early possesion and territory but it was Sligo who opened the scoring on the day.
Organised and aggressive line speed -- the bedrock upon which Paddy Pearson’s charges won -- saw Sligo force a Corinthians knock on in their own 22. When they played the ball after the knock on, they were penalised for being offside. Euan Brown then slotted the kick to make the score 3-0.
Corinthians immediately sought to fight back, but, despite the best efforts of full back Simon Keller, all of their attacks were repelled by the same stubborn Sligo defence. Any try would have to be earned and when the game’s first try did arrive, it took a special piece of play to manufacture it.
A huge break from fly half Mark McDermott saw Corinthians establish field position deep in Sligo territory. A few phases of hard carries then saw the ball recycled wide to O’Reilly and his deft offload found Broderick, the big second row, to touch down. The difficult conversion fell narrowly wide, with the game delicately poised at 6-5 midway through the first half.
The try was Corinthians’ last score of the half, however, as Brown continued his 100% record off the tee with further penalties for Sligo to make the score at the interval 9-5.
The JP Cooney coached Galway side started the second half with the intensity they started the first and, after ten minutes of near constant pressure, scored the try their efforts deserved.
Once again, it required an audacious piece of play to prize Sligo open. Hooker Wood Hennessy’s quickly taken short lineout found it’s way back to him and he opportunistically crossed for a try which Keller, from the most difficult of angles, bisected the posts with.
It proved to be Corinthians last score as Sligo -- helped by the energy of winger Callum Goddard and the hunger of lock Ciaran Cassidy in the ball carrying stakes -- began to assert themselves.
Full back Enda Gavin, trusting his own pace, raced over for a try in the right hand corner after the hard work of the pack had given Sligo the opportunity to spread the ball wide to their backs in the Corinthians 22. The conversion was wide, but the tide of momentum was now firmly with the 7th placed side in the AIL Division 2B.
With Corinthians desperately looking for a try with only five minutes remaining, Sligo lay in wait on the counter attack.
Winning a turnover just outside the Corinthians 22, the ball was worked to hooker O’Hehir and he escaped the wide defensive coverage to touch down. The conversion was wide, but the seven point lead - with the trademark hard nosed red and yellow clad defence again coming up trumps -- was insurmountable and Sligo held on for the win.
Sligo team: 15-9: E.Gavin; C.Goddard; M.Butler, R.Feehily; P.Carter; E.Brown, B.Cunnigham; 8-1(M.Davey, B.West, S.Boyle; R.Holian, C.Cassidy; T.Gormley, S.O’Hehir, M.Keegan.
Corinthians team: 15-9: S.Keller; M.O’Reilly; C.Evans, S.Kilgallon; R.Greene; M.McDermott, R.Murphy; 8-1: R.Murphy, M.O’Brien, J.Campbell; A.Broderick, C.Raftery; C.Hansberry, H.Wood Hennessy, G.Noone