Garbally College 14 Sligo Grammar 12
Garbally College claimed three Top Oil Connacht Senior Schools Cups in a row for the first time in 22 years, but an heroic performance from Sligo’s Hubert Gilvarry almost led Grammar to a memorable come-from-behind victory at The Sportsground.
Trailing 14-0 at half-time after Cian Treacy converted tries by John Devine and Conor Goode, Sligo Grammar played the entire second half in Garbally territory. They were awarded a penalty try for a high tackle on Gilvarry and they added a second four minutes later when William Whelan got the touch on Darragh Feehily’s chip through.
Gilvarry, who was injured when making a try-saving tackle in the first half but battled on to the end, struck the levelling conversion attempt sweetly from the right, but it narrowly missed the target.
The Grammar had one more chance deep into added time, but they turned down a long-range penalty kick, and when they went to the corner instead, Garbally's maul defence held solid and they claimed a narrow win.
While conditions had improved somewhat from the earlier games at the Sportsground, it was still difficult for both teams in the wind, especially at lineout time.
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.
And six minutes in, a quickly taken penalty from impressive scrum-half Matthew Devine put Garbally on the front foot, and eventually captain Cian Treacy sent John Devine – Matthew's brother – through a hole to score the opener. Treacy converted from the right for a 7-0 lead.
While the Garbally backs purred from the start, their pack was not short of endeavour either and powerful carries and clean-outs ensured that Matthew Devine was regularly supplied with quick, clean possession.
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.
It was only a matter of time until the second try arrived though, and after Treacy and John 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 their 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 arrived 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 48th Connacht title.
Garbally College – 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).
Sligo Grammar – I Ellison; M McGlynn, H Gilvarry, 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.
Ref – S Gaughan (CBIRFU)