SLIGO dethroned Buccaneers as Bank of Ireland Connacht Senior Cup holders when they proved too strong for an understrength Pirates crew who went down 34-12 at well attended Hamilton Park, Sligo, on Saturday. In the process, the Yeats County men completed a rare provincial double as they had earlier in the season wrested the league title from the midlanders.

A biting strong crossfield breeze was a challenge for players and spectators alike with the heavy underfoot conditions benefitting the hosts more than the lighter visitors. The exchanges were relatively even for the opening quarter before the homesters were awarded a contentious penalty try on 25 minutes. Frank Hopkins knocked on when attempting an intercept and referee Andrew Fogarty deemed it deliberate, sin-binning the Pirates skipper and also awarding a contentious penalty try to Sligo.

The already depleted visitors then lost their most experienced back Shane Layden to a 32nd minute injury. Sligo finished the half on the offensive and substitute Kuba Wojtkowicz barged over wide on the left for a try converted by Euan Brown with the final kick of the half at which stage the challengers led 14-0.

A reckless Sligo tackle following the restart went unpunished as did a tackle in the air before the interval while, frustratingly, penalties against Buccaneers seemed to be awarded more readily with Gavin Daly seeing yellow for an untidy tackle on 46 minutes. Julian Leszczynski extended the home side’s lead with a 50th minute penalty. Buccs responded with a super Stephen Mannion penalty to the left and, following the lineout, the midlanders moved the ball smartly to the opposite flank where substitute Jensen Nagle showed great desire and strenght to force his way over for an unconverted 56th minute try wide on the right.

Sligo finally incurred a yellow card on the hour to flyhalf Leszczynski following a high tackle on Harry Hughes. But, as Buccaneers endeavoured to profit from their temporary numerical superiority, Gary Duffy swooped on a pass on the 10-metre line to race away for an intercept try between the posts on 64 minutes. This was to prove the killer score and Hubert Gilvarry’s conversion put Sligo 24-5 to the good.

Buccs did not cave in and their hard work was rewarded with a 70th minute Mannion try wide on the left and his excellent conversion renewed hope. But a Brown penalty calmed home nerves and they sealed the trophy when Ryan Feehily fastened on to a dropped ball by Buccs to notch an opportunist try. Brown’s conversion completed the action and the scoreline of 34-12 in favour of Sligo.

Lock Duffy, who lorded the lineouts, was Sligo’s most influential performer with Ethan Faitaua being pick of their backs. Tom Shine, Fergus Galvin and Mannion provided most defiance for Buccs.

After the game Connacht President and proud Sligo man Michael O’Hehir presented the magnificent trophy to victorious captain Matthew Earley.

SLIGO:- E.Brown; F.Bamber, E.Faitaua, R.Feehily, P.Carter; J.Leszczynski, B.Cunningham; M.Earley (captain), B.Hynes, T.Gormley; A.MacLean, G.Duffy; B.West, J.O’Hehir and A.Bamber. Replacements:- C.Cummins (for MacLean, 4 mins), K.Wojtkowicz (for Gormley, 32 mins), A.MacLean (for Duffy, 32 mins), H.Gilvarry (for Brown, h/t), T.Gormley (for Hynes, 44 mins), G.Duffy (for Cummins, 44 mins), D.Byrne (for West, 53 mins), R.Tiernan (for O’Hehir, 57 mins), E.Brown (for Carter, 65 mins) and C.Finneran (for Cunningham, 71 mins).

BUCCANEERS:- S.Mannion; L.MacFarlane, S.Layden, T.Shine, Y.Avrahami; M.Hanley, F.Hopkins (captain); J.Kelly, O.Dolan, M.Staunton; F.McDonnell, F.Galvin; G.Daly, C.Walsh and R.O’Meara. Replacements:- J.Nagle (for Avrahami, 23 mins), H.Hughes (for Layden, inj. 32 mins), D.Bolger (for Dolan, inj. 50 mins), F.Murray (for Staunton, 57 mins), L.Balsiger (for Daly, 57 mins), C.Daly (for Walsh, 73 mins), Y.Avrahami (for Hopkins, 75 mins) and F.Hopkins (for MacFarlane, inj. 77 mins).

Referee:- Andrew Fogarty (Connacht).