Saturday 18 November 2017

Determined Sligo aiming to thwart Jes treble bid and seal double

Tony Ward

Tony Ward

It's fair to say there's been a seismic shift in force in the western province in recent times. What with St Joseph's College, Garbally, losing its core boarding element, and with St Joseph's College, Galway (The Bish), some distance from the heavyweight power it once was, it's the turn of Colaiste Iognaid (The Jes) and Sligo Grammar to set the pace.

Garbally lead the roll of honour by a distance, with 44 titles in the cabinet; The Bish are in second place on 12, just one outright success ahead of The Jes and three ahead of Sligo.

All evidence points to that gap narrowing further still, with Sligo the near untouchable favourites ahead of The Jes and possibly Marist College, Athlone, Junior Cup winners in 2007 and runners up in 2008.

The Jes (winners of the League and Cup double last season) and Sligo (runners-up in both) have already met in the League final this time, with Sligo reversing the tables by winning 22-0 at the Sportsground.

The Jes boast two of the outstanding young players in the province, in Ireland U-19 international Rory Cunningham and U-18 Schools representative Aaron Conneely, but with only three starters left from last year's all-conquering side, it is Sligo who have the strength and depth in talent.

They are without a visible weakness and with a particularly strong back row in Aaron Spring, Danny Qualter and Tom Callaghan, they have the platform up front, the direction at half-back and the cutting edge behind to wreak havoc.

The opening clash against Marist (albeit in Sligo) could prove the sternest test.

Garbally and Gallen Community School field talented squads too, but all evidence points to a repeat of last year's final, but with the result reversed as it was in the league.

Jimmy Staunton's well-organised, multi-talented squad look set to complete the League and Cup double.

For The Jes, chasing three titles on the bounce and five in six years, the incentive is great, but this has Sligo stamped all over. Take the talented men from the Mall to make it Senior title number nine.

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