Colaiste Iognaid 10
Sligo Grammar School 3
At the start of the academic year last autumn Colaiste Iognaid’s rugby players reported back to Sea Road aware of one unavoidable fact. Whoever bettered Sligo Grammar School would be crowned Connacht Cup winners.
The Jes had the trophy in safe keeping following their efficient 2008 triumph, but all their debate and deliberation centred on Grammar, who spent a part of the summer in South Africa. That is how seriously the northwesterns were preparing, and beefed up over the years by additions from Garbally and Summerhill in Sligo too they assembled a potent panel.
Jes, though, are usually honest, and Paul Kilraine soldiered on defiantly guiding his charges through the League and friendly circuit which brought impressive results.
Still a positive start was hankered for yesterday afternoon at the Sportsground, but neither outfit was able to seize control early on as a gritty, forward battle ensued. Jes were eventually given a sight at goal in the 12th minute, but winger Anthony O’Loughlin dragged a penalty wide following a reasonable drive by the pack.
Despite that miss Jes took heart from the way in which they meandered into Grammar territory, and they made their next dash count. Fearghall Campbell, Conor Murphy, and Eoin McKeon did the spadework for Rory Cunningham, who wriggled over the line for a clever 19th minute try. O’Loughlin wasn’t able to steer over the touchline conversion, but Jes continued to beaver away.
And with the Conneely brothers outstanding in a now dominant forward unit Jes inflicted further damage in the 29th minute. Off a second phase following a five metre scrum Campbell flashed the ball to Aaron Conneely, who used guile as well as brute force to scramble a second Jes try. Ten points pocketed, Kilraine’s half-time oration had plenty of positives to focus on.
Requiring a high tackle count Jes provided that with conviction. Aaron Spring, the Sligo danger, embarked on one break, but was nailed by Colin Conroy, seconds before Aaron Conneely had demonstrated his bravery with a similarly solid hit. Jes were certainly a threat going forward, but the game’s basics weren’t forgotten about either.
Sligo needed the injection of hope a score brings, but it didn’t arrive until the 20th minute of the second half when Pat Hughes stepped into the pocket and nudged over a drop goal to pare the deficit back to a manageable margin.
Now Jes were under pressure and important contributions were sought, and when defending they remained compact. Then just to remind Grammar of Jes’ ability Colin Conroy flicked a deft reverse pass to colleague Eoin Griffin, who came within a whisker of sealing the deal.
Inevitably Jes had to be staunchly robust in the dying embers, bodies were heroically put on the line, and the Cup was retained.
Colaiste Iognaid: T Flaherty; A O’Loughlin, C Conroy, E Griffin, D McDonagh, CF Murphy, F Campbell; B Madden, E Shaughnessy, N O’Maolain, R Cunningham, D Phelan, A Conneely, S Conneely, E McKeon. Replacements: C Qualter for O’Maolain (48 mins ), B Kennedy for S Conneely (54 mins ).
Sligo Grammar: S Oates; A Corduff, D Butler, C Nairn, P Hazelton, P Hughes, O van der Grijn; T Ferrari, G McConnell, J Gill, J Clarke, S Mullaney, T Power, T Callaghan, A Spring. Replacements: E O’Donnell for Clarke (49 mins ).
Referee: Mr D Conneely.