BUCCANEERS came up marginally short against a serial Cup winning Sligo side when the north-westerners edged the Bank of Ireland Connacht U-18.5 Cup final at The Sportsground on Sunday. Conditions were breezier for this decider, the third of the afternoon, contested in front of a notably smaller crowd.

It was nip and tuck in the opening half with both teams enjoying spells of slight supremacy. Buccs began brightly and opened the scoring with a 16th minute James Clarke penalty. However, Sligo responded swiftly through a brace of Oisin O’Neill penalties on 20 and 22 minutes. Buccs then held out after a smashing break by hooker Keelan Schoen while the midlanders best chance was lost when Fionn Lyons lacked quick support, so Sligo led 6-3 at the interval.

Conditions were brighter and warmer following the restart and Buccs were soon on level terms, Clarke slotting over a penalty 5 minutes into the second period. Sligo got a lucky break in the build up to their try. An attempted kick ahead was blocked by a Buccs defender but an offside teammate could not resist the temptation to gather the ball. Sligo punted to the left corner where, following the lineout, their pack mauled over for an 11th minute try converted by O’Neill.

Sligo maintained their advantage until Tom Walsh was yellow carded for a high tackle on Bobby Foxe. Buccs now attacked relentlessly, finally stretching the opposition defence to breaking point, and Leon Cassidy romped in for 26th minute try wide on the right. Clarke was short with the touchline conversion and so Sligo held on for a narrow 13-11 win that completed a Cup and League double.

It was a hard-fought and close encounter that did not fully catch fire. Sligo’s bigger pack gave them a key advantage at lineouts (here Buccs missed Niall Tallon, ruled out by illness) and fly-half O’Neill managed the game smartly. Patrick Egan was the outstanding Pirates performer with notable contributions in the pack from Peadar Dolan, Sean Rohan and substitute Foxe. Oisin O’Flaherty was pick of the backs unit.

BUCCANEERS:- D.Connolly; J.Donnelly, O.O’Flaherty, E.Joyce-Whyte, D.Reid; J.Clarke, F.Lyons; S.P.Doyle, S.Rohan, A.Oates; C.Sheehan, J.Dillon; O.O’Donoghue, P.Dolan and P.Egan. Replacements:- L.Casssidy (for Oates, h/t), B.Foxe (for Doyle, h/t), E.McDonnell (for Joyce-Whyte, 62 mins), J.Prieto (for Dolan, 62 mins), A.Saka, M.Fallon, S.McGrath and J.Gelet.

SLIGO:- R.O’Kelly-Lynch; R.O’Connor, S.Roche, C.Creaven, R.O’Hehir; O.O’Neill, G.McGinty; A.Platt, K.Schoen, O.Quinn; M.Gallagher, T.Walsh; M.Cullen, M.Hunter and A.Bamber. Replacements:- Q.Moughy, A.Gilligan, S.Fallon, M.Ryan, C.Fernandez-Hatre, J.Kilcoyne, I.Marsden and J.Draper.

Referee:- Cathal Roddy (Connacht).