Sligo storm to third straight Seniors Schools Cup

14 March 2024

Sligo storm to third straight Seniors Schools Cup

Sligo Grammar School                  29

(Dylan McCloat, Quentin Moughty, Liam McNamee Mas, Gareth McGinty tries, Alex Tempany one pen, three cons)

Marist College                                 18

(Otega Awhinawhi, Rian Claffey tries; Charlie O’Carroll one pen, two cons)

Kevin Egan at the Dexcom Stadium.  

A showpiece contest for a showpiece occasion. For three quarters of this absorbing, intense contest, Marist College rolled with the punches and did everything they could to hint at the possibility of denying this remarkable Sligo Grammar School side an historic third senior cup in a row, matching the achievements of the 1961, 1962 and 1963 teams from the school.

In the end, the sheer power and relentless accuracy and energy of the Grammar School overwhelmed the midlanders, and once Quentin Moughty crossed the whitewash in the 53rdminute to nudge the Sligo side into a 15-13 lead, they didn’t look back and powered on to claim a commanding victory.

Simply put, Marist asked very tough questions of Sligo Grammar, and the champions, as they have done so many times over the past three seasons, found the answers. Coming into this game, the question was if Sligo Grammar could play the game on their terms, exerting their forward power and starving the talented Marist back division of possession.

To an extent they did this, and certainly their dominance in the lineout and maul was both obvious and significant, but no less impressive was their own ability to carve out space and thus territory, breaking lines by using the full width of the Dexcom Stadium.

Like an American Football team who might seek to “establish the run” in order to open up space for the more stylish and flamboyant aspects of their game, Sligo Grammar kicked things off by eating up 30 metres of ground across two powerful mauls, and even though they didn’t ultimately trouble the scoreboard, already they were testing the Marist defence.

To their credit, the Athlone school came up with the answers. Tom Sheehan and Thomas Cotton were a formidable and almost impassable partnership in the centre, Charlie O’Carroll’s box kicks covered a lot of ground and would have caused problems if Gareth McGinty hadn’t been so assured under the dropping ball, and they succeeded in opening the scoring through an O’Carroll penalty.

An outstanding piece of footwork from Gerard Murtagh was able to unlock the Marist defence however, and once the centre stepped left and beat two tacklers to take play inside the Marist 22, three phases of quickly-recycled ruck ball led to Dylan McCloat touching down for the first try.

By now however, the relatively inexperienced Marist group had settled, and they began to play some rugby of their own. It took a heroic piece of defence for Dara Holmes to hold up Lorcan McCormack and stop the winger from scoring in the left corner, but once the ball was run back into Sligo Grammar territory, Marist hammered at the goal line a second time, Otega Awhinawhi breaking through.

A Mark Tempany penalty levelled the score, Kailin Blessing denied Liam McNamee Mas when it seemed like the Sligo lock was bound to score, and at 10-10, the half-time score hinted at a thrilling second half.

A quarter of an hour later, an O’Carroll penalty was the only additional score, and the prospect of an upset loomed large.

Once again, Gerard Murtagh’s dancing feet turned the tide. Again the centre made ground in traffic and left defenders bamboozled and tangled, and while he was stopped on the goal line, Quentin Moughty was left with a simple pick and drive to score.

By now, it was clear who had more energy in the tank. The hard graft of the Sligo Grammar front row, led by Connacht U-19 prop Arann Platt, had depleted the Athlone side and as the attacks continued in waves, penalty advantages and scores accrued. Liam McNamee Mas grounded at the end of yet another lineout maul, McGinty ensured that the backs got a try to their name, and while Rian Claffey got over the line in the corner in stoppage time, by that stage, Marist were looking to reduce the gap and begin their first steps towards a renewed assault in 2025.

2024, like 2023 and 2022 before them, had been firmly claimed by this excellent Sligo Grammar group. 

MARIST COLLEGE: Andrew Henson; Lorcan McCormack, Thomas Cotton, Tom Sheehan, Daniel Reid; James Clarke, Charlie O’Carroll; Kailin Blessing, Evan McMickan, James Heaslip; Matthew Fallon, Callum Kelly; Patrick Egan, Otega Awhinawhi, Niall Tallon.  

Replacements: Kyle Byrne for Tallon (20-h/t, temp), Tom Bourke for Fallon (40), Conor Dowling for McCormack (54), Byrne for Heaslip (57), Rian Claffey for Tallon (65).

SLIGO GRAMMAR SCHOOL: Gareth McGinty; Dara Holmes, Gerard Murtagh, Earl Norris, Jack Draper; Mark Tempany, Jacon Kilcoyne; Jack Deegan, William Draper, Arann Platt; Dylan McCloat, Liam McNamee Mas; Quentin Moughty, Max Hunter, Diarmaid O’Connell.

Replacements: Luke Marvrak for Draper (55), Ambrose Devine for Moughty (57), Isaac Marsden for McCloat (70), Senan Fallon for Deegan (70), Bertie Bamber for Draper (70).

Referee: Cathal Roddy