While Junior league formats remain largely unchanged, there are new faces aplenty courtesy of some post-season shuffles and competition wins.

Monivea’s premiers, so strong throughout in local competition, were pushed hard (to four points) late in the season by a battle-hardened Tuam in the first round of the Heineken Junior Cup 10-6 Monivea, drew with Boys Club 10-all on full-time in the league’s second round, and were beaten by Galwegians for a berth in the Heineken Cup final, remain in junior ranks after an unhappy finish in the All-Ireland promotion-relegation series.

Castlebar is the only Junior 1A casualty, Corinthians staving off a late challenge from Athlone’s Buccaneers in the 1A/1B playoff to stay in the premier section. Loughrea return to the foremost fold, and deservedly so, after not only claiming league honours in 1B but emerging twice as next-best in the Heineken Junior Cup and Cawley knockout competition. Castlebar, having suffered an exodus of numbers, now encounter the best-of-the-rest in Loughrea’s absence in the Junior 1B league.

They won’t be the only unfamiliar faces on deck, at the other end of the competition Gort and NUIG drop into the third tier, and nearby neighbours Ballyhaunis and Dunmore occupy the vacant 1B positions.

Ballyhaunis and Dunmore both fought tooth-and-nail to separate themselves from the swirl in 1C. Ballyhaunis go up uncontested by virtue of their league victory, clear of Dunmore by two. Dunmore, clear second by nine points, will likely tip up two or three surprises later this year and need no extra incentive against their former 1C shipmates for that derby encounter.

In the third-tier 1C league Gort and NUIG drop from 1B, Gort slightly unlucky given they were tied on four wins apiece with Ballinrobe, Ballinrobe survived by virtue of a solitary bonus point.

Eleven teams contest the Division Two league, unchanged from the winter past. Division 1A heavyweights Boys Club, Tuam, Ballina, Galwegians and Corinthians, and Westport have all entered second XVs (Monivea’s junior reserve squad contests the Junior 1C), the recently-reshuffled Loughrea and Castlebar boast second XV entries too, and a rebuilding Oughterard looks to further consolidate its junior rugby ranks with a few more victories. Buccaneers, (a senior club), and Ballinasloe (Div 1B third place-getters) round out the J2 complement.

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