Centres John Devine and Conor Goode crossed for the key tries as Garbally College fended off Sligo Grammar’s brave comeback to win their 48th Top Oil Connacht Senior Schools Cup.
This was a hat-trick of wins for the Ballinasloe college but they were made to fight every inch of the way as Sligo totally dominated the second half.
A penalty try awarded following a high tackle on Hubert Gilvarry ignited Sligo’s comeback in the final quarter, and they closed to within two points after Willian Whelan’s second four minutes later, but Gilvarry’s conversion from the right just missed its target and Garbally held on for the win.
While playing conditions had improved somewhat from the earlier games, it was still very tough on both sets of players and cramp became a real issue as time ticked away.
Sligo Grammar, chasing a first provincial title since 2014, showed their power game early on with a couple of well-constructed driving lineouts, while Garbally looked the far slicker outfit when the ball was moved through the hands.
Garbally hit the front six minutes in when captain Cian Tracey sent Devine through a hole to score the opener. Treacy converted from the right for a 7-0 lead.
After 19 minutes a second Garbally try looked certain but a remarkable covering tackle from Gilvarry saved Sligo in the corner as Shea Hennessy stooped to score. The excellent Gilvarry sustained a knee injury in that incident but he somehow played on to the end.
It was only a matter of time until the second try arrived, though, and after Treacy and Devine linked well on the right, Conor Goode cut back against the grain to score. Again, Treacy was on the mark with the conversion.
While Sligo Grammar finished the half camped in the Garbally half they got no return, and they continued to fight back after the break in an effort to eat into the half-time deficit.
The breakthrough arrived when Gilvarry was tackled high by Jamie Curley, and as well as awarding a penalty try, referee Shane Gaughan sin-binned the Garbally tighthead.
The second try came soon after when William Whelan showed great pace to beat the cover defence to the kick through. But despite their late efforts, Sligo couldn’t deny Garbally a fourth win in six years.
J Devine, C Goode tries; C Treacy 2 cons.
pen try, W Whelan tries.
A Fogarty; T Fitzpatrick (B Daly 76), C Goode, J Devine, S Hennessy; C Treacy (c), M Devine (N Murphy 57-65); R Carry (L Feehily 46), S Egan, J Curley; D Blackweir, P Galvin (B Feeney 64); K Blackweir, C Lohan (L Walsh 52), J Claffey (J Carry 65-72).
I Ellison; M McGlynn, H Gilvary, W Whelan (jc), S Ndego; D Feehily, J Fleming; S Nee, J Whelan, M Irwin; D Barlow, M O’Hara; F Staunton (jc), A Hunter, K Palamaraczuk.
Shane Gaughan (CBIRFU).