RyanFeehilyElvery’s Connacht Schools Senior Cup Final Replay

Sligo Grammar 10-9 Garbally College

Just over a week since the last tight affair between these two sides, the two Connacht schools rugby powerhouses meet again for another tense affair. It was ultimately Sligo who came out on top, but the result was far from decided right up until the final whistle.

It was Garbally who started the game better, having a monopoly of possession in the opening five minutes, with Peter Claffey making the game’s first linebreak, but a knock on spoiled any chance of a try. This didn’t unsettle them though, and as they kept possession and built phases, they were able to draw a penalty from a dangerous tackle from Sligo no. 8 Joe Bennett. Simon Keller duly obliged with the kick from out in front.

Garbally then threatened to run amok, with Sean Horan making a searing break and step on fullback Feehily only for winger TJ Ford to get across just in time and knock the ball loose. This finally sprung Sligo into life, and through a series of penalties finally worked their way into the Garbally half, and Cosgrove was able to level the scores with a penalty from wide out on the left.

Garbally responded with more pressure, and after Stephen Tierney was released up the left wing and one on one with full back Ryan Feehily, his attempted offload to the support runner didn’t go to hand with the tryline begging, and the chance was gone.

The rain was beginning to get up and caused both teams problems contributing to a number of handling errors. Each team was well marshalled, and changed their tactics to suit the conditions, playing a largely territorial based game. There was no more scores in the first half, meaning 105 minutes of rugby could not separate the sides. 

Garbally started the second half the brighter of the two teams, with Donnchadh Reilly making a searing break, with an offload from Simon Keller continuing play for Irish schools international prop Conor Kenny to make a bullocking run right up to the Sligo try line. Somehow, Sligo managed to turn the ball over and clear their lines.

The pressure remained on Sligo’s line however, and when Conor Kenny charged down Cosgrove’s attempted clearance, Garbally had another chance for points with a 5m scrum. It was only great linespeed and pressure from the Sligo defensive line, lead brilliantly by outhalf Paul Kilcoyne that turned over another promising Garbally attack. This lead to Sligo finally getting the ball out of their half and giving Cosgrove a long penalty shot which drifted wide.

Back Garbally came again with relentless pressure, first with a break from impressive fullback Eoin McCormack who then chipped ahead for one of 4 Garbally attackers, but Kilcoyne somehow managed to appear from nowhere and dive on the ball. Garbally managed to win a penalty in front of the posts however, and Keller stroked the ball over for a three point lead midway through the second half. There was no stopping Garbally from here, as yet more possession and territory in the Sligo 22 yielded a drop goal attempt from Keller that gave the Ballinasloe school some daylight. 

Sligo had to gain some possession and territory, but when they finally did, some brilliant defence at a lineout from Garbally thwarted a potential Sligo move, and Keller was able to keep the play pinned back in the Sligo 22. A final attempt from the Grammar got them a lineout on halfway. A brilliant maul earned them 20 metres before Garbally pulled it down. Their last chance was to put it into the corner with less than five minutes remaining. 

Grammar were 5 metres out, and drove for the line. The Garbally defence held out a ferious drive after drive before the referee awarded a try. Big lock Jake Sexton came up from all the bodies to fierce congratulations. Sligo were within a point of Garbally with the conversion to come. Matthew Cosgrove made no mistake as his slotted the difficult conversion with only 2 minutes left. 

Garbally threw the kitchen sink at the Sligo Grammar defence which was yet to yield. With 60 seconds left, Simon Keller tried a drop goal that would have given Garbally the win, but the ball just drifted wide.

There was time for one more Garbally attack after Sligo infringed on the halfway line, and Keller’s touchline kick brought the Ballinasloe school to within 5 metres for the lineout. Somehow, Grammar were able to secure the lineout, and hold out for the win in tense circumstances.

Joy for Sligo, but credit must go to both schools for 140 minutes of quality rugby where only a point separated the two teams.

Sligo

 

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