The showpiece of Connacht schools rugby takes place next Wednesday with Galway’s Colaiste Iognaid fancied for a second successive title.
The Jes will face an up-and-coming Sligo Grammar outfit at the Galway Sportsground (2pm ) in this third final meeting between these two schools in the last five years.
The Galway school enters this provincial decider as favourites with hopes of winning back-to-back crowns for a second time in five years. Ten-times winners, the Jes were unbeaten in the Connacht league and cup last year and are unbeaten to date again this year. They advanced to the quarter-finals with a walkover, before overcoming Calasanctius Oranmore 34 - 8 and Marist Athlone in the semi-final in which they scored four tries in this repeat of last year's final to win by 25 - 11.
These two schools have dominated Connacht schools’ rugby in the last decade. The Jes has appeared in four finals, winning all - two of which were against Sligo in the 2005 (16-3 ) and 2006 (13-10 ) deciders. Wednesday’s final will represent Sligo’s sixth final appearance in nine years during which they won 2000 and 2003 to claim their eighth crown. They have come through the other side of the schools’ draw with some facile victories over Athenry, the Bish, and Garbally, and recorded their only defeat of the season to the Jes in the Connacht league final, losing by 8 - 6.
The Jes is top heavy with representative players, providing plenty of experience and all-round strength, while Sligo, a school with a fine rugby tradition, boasts some five players from last year’s side, including Irish schools player Aaran Spring who moved from Summerhill who were not playing in this year’s cup. They are certainly a lot less experienced than the Jes, with 14 eligible for senior again next season. However they are a skilful outfit and well balanced, but they might be better placed next year to claim their ninth title.
It certainly has all the hallmarks of another highly competitive encounter.