Ard na Cregg

The 2012 Ard na Cregg winners (and runners-up) open their month-long campaign for J2 supremacy on April 8, albeit with a preliminary round start for four of the 10.

Castlebar host Galwegians to determine who hosts Boys Club in the April 15 quarterfinal and Tuam meet a southbound Ballina for a crack to advance beyond Corinthians. The other April 15 quarterfinal showdowns pit Westport against Ballinasloe, Corinthians against the prelim two winner, either Castlebar or Galwegians against OLBC, and Oughterard against Buccaneers.

ardnacregg

Only bonus points separate the Big Three – Boys Club (36), Tuam (35) and Ballina (34), each with eight wins from 10. Of that triumvirate, even less separates them on match results.

OLBC clutched a last-gasp six-all draw with Tuam, squeezed home a converted try to nil win against Ballina, and Tuam edged out Ballina by two 12-10 in their fixture. Compound to that, is fourth-placed (and fellow J2 league semifinalist) Buccaneers with seven wins from 10 played.

The Ard na Cregg may not enjoy the dizzying heights and exposure of Heineken Junior Cup or the Cawley buzz, but much of the donkeywork (and excitement) lays behind the scenes throughout the regular season as clubs mastermind enough depth at B-team level to ensure a viable and well-stocked pool from which to draw personnel.

The four-week long campaign (five for Castlebar, Galwegians, Tuam and Ballina) takes its toll, and while weeks one and two pit the best against the best, semi-final and final time will often pit the rest against the rest as the bruised and battered front up for a final shot at glory.

It remains one of Connacht Rugby’s most anticipated cup competition and is every bit as serious for those involved as cup competitions raging around them, both domestic and international.

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