Keller earns dramatic replay for Garbally
Garbally College 10 Sligo Grammar 10
Connacht Schools Snr Cup Final
Simon Keller's try and conversion three minutes into injury-time rescued a draw for favourites Garbally College of Ballinasloe after an edge-of-the-seat battle at the Sportsground.
Two tries from Daire Byrne and Matthew Cosgrove in three first-half minutes gave Sligo Grammar the upper hand and they held their lead until the dying moments, when Keller sidestepped a tackle and dived over.
With a howling wind to contend with, the stylish fly-half landed the conversion to earn a replay next week.
Keller had earlier kicked Garbally College into 3-0 lead in the second minute after they pounced on a knock-on from the kick-off and laid siege to Sligo Grammar, forcing an offside.
With Keller playing a smart territorial game, Garbally looked very comfortable early on. But the massive boot of Sligo Grammar centre Cosgrove came in useful in the gale-force conditions and he was used frequently to clear the pressure whenever they got their hands on the ball.
In the 13th minute Sligo took a surprise lead when a super block by flanker Daniel Leyden in the in-goal area gave his side a five-metre scrum. After Peter Brittan picked off the back and attacked the short side, Ryan Feehily sent Byrne over in the corner.
Cosgrove was unlucky to miss the conversion as Sligo took a 5-3 lead, but he was soon trying to convert his own try after he picked and dove over three minutes later.
Once again the powerful wind pushed his kick wide, but with a 10-3 lead, Sligo Grammar were happy to eat up the Garbally pressure until the break.
Three minutes into the second half Cosgrove came agonisingly close to increasing Sligo's lead to double figures, but his tricky penalty from the right came back off the post, and moments later he missed the target with a drop-goal attempt.
Garbally had lost hooker Niall Higgins just before the break to a bad head injury and found it difficult to cope with his loss.
After first asking Ireland Schools international Conor Kenny to throw into the line-out, they called upon replacement Conor Noone to fill the role.
But with their 45th Connacht senior title on the line, the record winners of the competition cranked up the pressure in the closing stages. Despite Sligo defending their line superbly throughout, Keller spotted a gap late on to forced the replay.
Garbally College – S Tierney; I Fletcher, P Flannery, S Horan, C Dooley (E McCormack 41); S Keller, D Reilly; D O'Hara, N Higgins (C Noone 34), C Kenny; S Holland, P Claffey; C Barrett, D Connolly, J Codyre.
Sligo Grammar – R Feehily; TJ Ford, D Byrne, M Cosgrove, P Oloyede; P Kilcoyne, P Brittan; N Walker, J Oloyede, D Smith; A McGuinn, J Sexton; J Conway, D Layden, J Bennett.
Ref – D Flood (CBIRFU)