Rugby: Connacht Senior Cup Final. Sligo Rugby Club will be hoping to finish their season on a high on Sunday (1pm) when they take on Galwegians in the Connacht Senior Cup final in the Sportsground in Galway.
It is Sligo’s first appearance in the final since 1992 and there is a unique and unusual link between the present Sligo team and that of 20 years ago.
Forward Peter Mullen, who will line out in the second row for Sligo next weekend, was also on the 1992 team.
It will give Peter, who turned 39 on Friday last, a distinction shared by very few players in any code, of playing in provincial finals 20 years apart.
Peter, from Farmhill Road in Sligo, was just 19 when he played in the last final. He was a first year student at UCD at the time.
He came from a rugby background, as his dad Brian and uncle Arthur both played. His uncle had in fact been on the Sligo team that played in a previous Connacht final in 1982.
Asked did he ever think he would playing in another Connacht Senior final 20 years on, he said: “I suppose you don’t think about things like that when you are 18 or 19. It is not something I ever really thought about, I just kept playing.”
He said that he was lucky that he has had no major injuries, apart from maybe an odd problem that kept him sidelined for a month or two.
And what motivates him to keep playing?
“I just enjoy playing – I don’t know what it is really! I suppose you are doing it for so long that I don’t know any different.”
“Obviously there is something there that keeps pulling me back. The way I look at it, it is great to be able to contribute something.”
But he said that what he is contributing now is probably different to what he would have contributed 10 years ago.
“I have to be realistic about that. This is something you have to come to terms with as you get older and you want to keep playing.”
“You can’t expect to do things that you would have done as a young player but you will bring something different to the party at this stage.”
He said that Sligo did not have a huge squad. “Everyone isn’t available all the time and 25 players are needed.”
Peter was part of the Sligo teams that won Connacht Junior Cups, including the triumphs in 1999 and 2011, but has seen lean times with the club.
However, he said things have started to pick up the last four or five years. “We’ve got stronger again and we’ve got a few players back.”
He said that they mightn’t have finished high up in Division 2B of the Ulster Bank League this season but compared to our last time in the All-Ireland League he believed they had a better team.
“We were competitive in the majority of our games. We had one or two bad days where we had a slightly weaker team going out. On those days when we were missing a few of our key players we struggled a bit.”
“We won five games, we possibly could have won seven or even eight. We would like to think that we would have learned from the results we let slip.
“We found that teams punished us a lot quicker this year compared to last year.”
Peter said that while the All-Ireland League is now probably a bigger priority than the Connacht Senior Cup, it was still “a big deal” for Sligo.
“20 years ago the leagues were set up differently, they were played on a provincial basis, and the Connacht [Senior] Cup was probably a bigger deal at that stage.”
He added: “At the same time, it is still a big deal for us. We are playing a team a couple of divisions above us. It would be a huge thing for us to win and we will be regarding it that way. If we can finish the season with a bit of silverware it would be fantastic.”
Galwegians, meanwhile, played in Division 1B of this season’s Ulster Bank League and include a Sligo native, Jason East, in their side.