Pictures: Zoe Langsdale

Coláiste Iognáid (The Jes) will be in this year’s Connacht Senior Cup semi-finals after a closely fought victory over St Muredach’s.

Shay McGovern crossed the line in the last minute of play to score his second try of the game and give the Galway school a 21-22 victory over their Ballina counterparts.

Both sides exchanged the lead in the opening half, with Jack Quinn touching down for an early try for Coláiste Iognáid, which Calum Elwood converted. Billy Ruane responded with an excellent score beneath the posts for Muredachs, which Blair Norton duly converted to bring the sides level.

However, Elwood once again pushed his side in front with a well-taken penalty, before Cian Anderson got over, scoring St Muredach’s College’s second try. Billy Ruane added the extras to put them into a 14-10 lead at half-time.

The second half was a tighter affair, with the first score coming with just 10 minutes left on the clock. Shay McGovern pushed over for The Jes, with Elwood once again slotting over the extras.

However, St Muredach’s College showed excellent spirit, with Jason Duggan scoring what many thought was the winning try. Ruane once again proved reliable from the boot for the conversion.

However, Colaiste Iognaid had plenty of grit themselves, with McGovern once again at the centre of a move to touch down and claw victory from the jaws of defeat in the dying moments.

Elwood wasn’t able to add the extras this time around, but it mattered little as The Jes guaranteed themselves a route into the last four, consigning both Garbally and St Muredach’s College to a Senior Cup exit.

In a repeat of last year’s final, they will play Sligo Grammar. The defending champions, Grammar, had a comfortable victory over Marist College in this week’s other game.

Conor Creaven, Ambrose Bamber, and Diarmaid O’Connell all touched down to help guide the reigning champions to a 10-22 win.

Kacper Palamarczuk’s rugby journey started with Westport rugby minis when he was just six years old.

The next stage of this journey will see him step out at the Arcul de Triumph in Bucharest on February 4th with hopes of helping his native Poland gain victory over Romania.

And when his playing career ends many years from now, Kacper hopes it includes an appearance at The Rugby World Cup with his native Poland. This ambition is paired with the goal of winning this year’s Bank of Ireland Connacht Junior Cup with Westport.

“My aim with Westport is to win the Cup this season. It would be great to bring it back home, while my main goal for Poland is to one day make it to the World Cup. It is very possible, especially with all the young talent and amazing coaching we have on board,” he said.

Those aims are certainly within reach for the 20-year-old, with Westport into the last four of this year’s Connacht Junior Cup, while Poland is an international side on the up after gaining promotion to this year’s Rugby Europe Championship.

It was in that promotion push where Kacper made his senior international debut, starting a crucial game against Lithuania last April when a positive result was needed.

Discussing the experience, he said: “It’s a really exciting experience to represent your country. Going into my first camp for Poland was a similar experience to going into the underage camp with Ireland. I knew it was going to be a high level and I needed to be ready for it.

“We needed to win with a bonus point in order to get promoted to the European Championships for the following season. It was a brilliant experience and we successfully got the bonus point win we need to make history for Poland”.

The talented backrow forward has previously impressed for Ireland U18 and as a member of underage Connacht teams. He was also a mainstay in Sligo Grammar’s backrow as they battled in the Connacht Schools Senior Cup.

It was with a Westport underage side when he first got notice that Poland was interested in acquiring his services.

“There was a tournament called the Rugby Amber Cup that I attended with Westport RFC in Poland. We ended up winning it and I got the Player of the Tournament Award. Shortly after that I got approached about the call-up. At the time I was still involved with Connacht, so I figured it wasn’t the right time,” he added.

However, since making the choice to join the international set-up, Kacper hasn’t looked back.

In fact, it appears Westport RFC has embraced the twenty-year-old lining out for his international side, with a surge in demand for Poland flags in the Mayo town in advance of Poland’s next competitive fixture in February.

“Everyone at Westport RFC is happy for me and they are being really supportive, with a few of my teammates even travelling to the Rugby European Championship against Romania,” he added.

The semi-final line-up for The Bank of Ireland Connacht Junior Cup is complete, with Ballinrobe, Creggs, Tuam and Westport all battling it out to be this year’s champion.

Ballinrobe made it into their third Junior Cup semi-final in a row, defeating a Galwegians 2nd XV who held a 19-6 lead early in the second half. However, the Mayo team didn’t give up and fought hard to eventually claim the 19-21 win in Crowley Park.

They face Creggs in the semis after they defeated Connemara in an intriguing quarter-final clash. Eoghan Coyle and Ronan Dowd were their try scorers on the day, sending their side into the last four under the lights on their home pitch.

Meanwhile, Tuam had a hard-fought victory over Dunmore, eventually coming out 6-0 victors. That was thanks to two first-half penalties from Carl Ward and a resolute defence which didn’t give anything up. They face a Westport side that got the better of University of Galway, scoring two tries to their counterparts single try in a 15-10 win.

Both semi-finals will take place the weekend of March 4/5.

Galwegians 25 – 21 Wanderers 

A fantastic defensive effort in Crowley Park saw Galwegians fight back to get their first All-Ireland Division 2B win of 2023 surviving a last-play onslaught from Wanderers.

Wanderers got the game underway, with Galwegians showing great intent right from the start with fantastic line speed in defence putting the visitors under pressure.

The home side then turned up the heat in attack carrying hard towards the line and sucking in the Wanderers’ defence before going wide via a show-and-go from center Rob Deacy, which saw him cross the line for the first try of the afternoon. Flyhalf half Jordan Thompson pulled the kick to the left and wide, with the score remaining 5-0.

Wanderers didn’t take long to find an answer and poor discipline from Galwegians saw Wanderers begin to test them up front.

It was from there that Wanderers found a platform inside the 22. A well-taken lineout transferred into a strong rolling maul which earned them a penalty meters from the line.

A quick tap-and-go continued to push the Galway men back. To make matters worse, Galwegians prop Diego Vergara was sent to the bin for repeated infringements at the breakdown. ‘Wegians eventually found themselves worn down and Wanderers pushed over to equalise, before Fitzgibbons gave  Wanderers a 5-7 lead.

Wanderers soon extend their lead, with their maul proving too much for ‘Wegians. Once again, their conversion was good and the score was suddenly 5-14.

Galwegians were once again a man light after Brendan Guilfoyle was sent to the line for a deliberate knock-on. However, they survived until half-time without conceding again.

The Galway side came out from the break looking life a different team, with Thompson adding to their tally with a penalty, reducing the deficit to six. Then, an excellent block from prop Vergara saw Deacy touch down for his second try, with Thompson adding the extras and ‘Wegians taking the 15-14 lead.

Thompson had his kicking boots on and it was his penalty that extended Galwegians lead, before Shayne Bolton showed magnificent strength to push over the line. Thompson once again added the extras. Wanderers did respond with a converted try, but couldn’t manage to get back to terms with a Wegians side that held out for the 25-21 victory.

BANBRIDGE 43 BUCCANEERS 15

High-flying Buccaneers were shot down at Rifle Park on Saturday when revitalised Banbridge were in rampant mood as they outgunned Buccaneers 43-15 in their Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B game.

It was the Ulstermen who came flying out of the traps to gain ascendancy over The Pirates. Both teams were greatly reconfigured from their early December meeting, with the Shannonsiders fielding five changes and the Northern side a whopping eight. The absence of Buccaneers’ most experienced duo, Shane Layden (bereavement) and Martin Staunton (illness), proved huge losses on a day when their guile and leadership was lacking.

Shane Jennings filled the void in the centre with Michael Hanley coming in at fullback while Will Reilly replaced injured scrumhalf Frank Hopkins. Sam Illo and Matthew Burke were the starting props and teenager Oisin Dolan played at blindside flanker. Banbridge had an even 4/4 split of changes between backs and forwards with the return after injury of James Humphreys at flyhalf being key.

The Co. Down side had first benefit of the influential breeze blowing from end to end on a grey afternoon and they swiftly dictated the proceedings, scoring two converted tries inside the opening 8 minutes. Both stemmed from Buccs lineouts on halfway that went awry. David McCann won both lineouts and the hosts swiftly countered with Adam Doherty carving a gap in the visitors defence after just 3 minutes to score at the posts. Five minutes later some smashing off-loading saw Peter Cromie send his brother Josh over for the second touchdown. Humphreys converted both early for a 14-0 lead.

It looked like Buccaneers had steadied their ship when they regrouped effectively with Illo and then Steveni Lombard driving forward before Hanley’s skipped pass sent Jennings over for a 13th minute try which the fullback was unable to convert from wide on the left. But Banbridge responded with an 18th minute Michael Cromie try following a terrific maul, Humphreys adding the conversion.

Buccs retorted by going through numerous phases and countless hands that brought them close to the home line and this time Qualter and Hanley combined to send Saul O’Carroll over for an unconverted 24th minute try also wide on the left to reduce the arrears to 21-10. But the home side met the challenge head on, going through many phases too before Ulster’s McCann got over between the uprights to secure their bonus point try with less than half an hour played. Humphreys added the straight-forward conversion.

James Kelly replaced Burke at the interval and Buccs, although temporarily depleted, applied good pressure for a spell but Banbridge held them out before working their way into the Pirates danger zone where they mauled over for a 46th minute Peter Cromie try converted by Humphreys.

Young Fionn McDonnell replaced the injured Qualter at the hour mark and Buccaneers continued to battle but could not breach the home defence until Hanley’s angled kick was knocked into touch by Jamie Mullan and the alert O’Connor popped a swift throw-in to the on-rushing Jennings who sped in for 64th minute unconverted try wide on the right to narrow the arrears to 33-15.

Hopes of salvaging a bonus point or two were soon dashed, Humphreys landing an excellent 67th minute penalty and he then converted McCann’s second try four minutes from the end to seal their 43-15 victory.

BANBRIDGE:- A.Doherty; J.Buller, C.Field, J.Cromie, J.Mullan; J.Humphreys, N.Kilpatrick; C.Reid, P.Cromie (captain), M.Cromie; M.Lyttle, A.Thompson; D.McCann, D.Carson and G.Jones. Replacements:- J.Chambers (for M.Cromie, 33 mins), A.Kennedy (for Field, 44 mins), M.Cromie (for Chambers, 50 mins), M.Vorster (for Carson, 56 mins), R.Cartmill (for Kilpatrick, 71 mins), A.Weir (for Mullan, 71 mins) and T.Savage (for P.Cromie, 71 mins).

BUCCANEERS:- M.Hanley; J.O’Connor, S.Jennings, S.Mannion, S.O’Carroll; H.West, W.Reilly; M.Burke, S.Lombard, S.Illo; R.Byrne, D.Qualter; O.Dolan, C.McCann and R.O’Meara. Replacements:- J.Kelly (for Burke, h/t), F.McDonnell (for Qualter, inj. 56 mins), M.Burke (for Illo, 56 mins), C.Daly (for Dolan, 70 mins), T.Shine (for Hanley, 76 mins) and R.Murphy-Sweeney (for O’Carroll, 76 mins) and H.Balsiger.

Galwegians 2nds lifted the Bank of Ireland Invitational Cup after a decisive performance saw them overcome OLBC on a 52-0 scoreline. 

Three tries in the opening ten minutes gave ‘Wegians a commanding early lead and one that they wouldn’t come close to surrendering for the rest of the game. Their captain, Aoife Williams, was outstanding throughout, regularly cutting through the OLBC defense with incisive running.

OLBC struggled to deal with the pace of Maelle Jouve and Sinead O’Brien, with Wegians proving clinical with virtually every opportunity that presented itself.

Despite the scoreline, OLBC never gave up and contested every ball until the very end. There are better days ahead for The Club.

Wegians 2nds lifted the trophy in front of strong support and will look forward to their upcoming games in the Bank of Ireland Connacht League, as they battle it out at the top of the table.

*Additional photography was provided by Kay Synott. 

The draw has been made for the Bank of Ireland Junior Cup quarter-finals. 

Tuam’s reward for their comprehensive win over Monivea is a North Galway derby with Dunmore. Tuam showed a supreme attacking prowess in that game, crossing the whitewash six times in a comprehensive 35-7 victory.

Their opponents, Dunmore, didn’t have it as easy, eventually overcoming a resolute Castlebar by a scoreline of 28- 21.

Creggs put in an epic attacking display to defeat Corinthians 2nd XV by 61-19 on Saturday evening. The Buccaneers and Connemara last 16 game wasn’t played, with a decision on that tie being finalised by the competitions committee.

Galwegians 2nd XV were dominant in their last 16 tie with Sligo 2nd XV. They won by 36-5 and will play a Ballinrobe side that continued their impressive cup run with a 20-5 victory over Ballinasloe.

Westport go into the last eight after their 36-14 win over Ballyhaunis. They will play University of Galway, who had a tight 10-13 victory over Corrib RFC.

Full Bank of Ireland Connacht Junior Cup Quarter-final draw

Tuam RFC v Dunmore RFC

Creggs  v TBC (Buccaneers 2nd XV v Connemara last 16 tie wasn’t played)

Galwegians 2nd XV v Ballinrobe RFC

Westport RFC v University of Galway

BUCCANEERS 13 NAAS 11

BUCCANEERS and Naas served up a compelling Energia All-Ireland League Division 1B battle in testing conditions at Dubarry Park on Saturday with the home side taking the honours 13-11.

This hard-earned victory keeps Buccs top of the division above City of Armagh on scoring difference.

Buccs made three changes from that frosty encounter with Ryan O’Meara coming in at No.8 instead of the unavailable Ciaran Booth, Frank Hopkins returned after injury at scrumhalf and Shane Jennings started at fullback. Michael Hanley and Will Reilly were on the bench. The Cobras made seven changes with Stephen Lackey, Peter King, David Benn, Cillian Dempsey and Ryan Casey coming into their pack. Former Connacht player, Craig Ronaldson, lined out in the centre with Mark McDermott fielding at fullback.

On a sunny but very cold afternoon, Buccaneers had first use of the elements and took the game to the visitors from the start. A Bryan Croke gave away an early penalty for a badly timed tackle on Shane Layden but Harry West was off-target with placekick.

Ten minutes later, Buccs put a terrific flowing move together with Josh O’Connor and Layden linking well to send Saul O’Carroll haring forward. A try looked certain but Donal Conroy somehow got across to loosen O’Carroll’s grip from the ball as he attempted to score at the left corner flag. At the end of the opening quarter, O’Connor was tackled into touch on the opposite flank as he headed towards the Naas line.

The midlanders had lots of territory but found the Naas defence impenetrable for long periods. They forced a scrum penalty on 27 minutes but West was again off target.

But the Pirates finally found a way through on the half-hour mark after Cian McCann and Danny Qualter had thundered forward and when Jennings received the ball in centrefield he spun a superb long skipped pass to O’Connor who continues to deliver touchdowns with an improved service this season. The flying winger raced in for his ninth try of the campaign and West got his radar working accurately with an excellent conversion from wide on the right.

Almost immediately, the Shannonsiders coughed up a central penalty which Ronaldson tipped over with the help of the crossbar to leave only four points between the teams at half-time with a scoreline of 7-3.

When Buccs were guilty of not rolling away in the opening minute of the second half, Ronaldson’s penalty narrowed the margin to a single point. The Pirates’ now minimal advantage did not look sufficient particularly with the influential breeze now assisting the Kildare outfit. Matters were made worse when injuries forced both Sean O’Connell and Hopkins off in the opening minutes of the second period. Oisin Dolan and Reilly were their respective replacements.

Missed opportunities seemed like being costly but in a much more clinical second half performance the home forwards knuckled down, retaining possession well and going through numerous phases. The Buccs pack was now dominating with Steveni Lombard carrying a huge amount of ball in an uplifting contribution. The hooker looked like he might finish off a move inside the Naas 22 ten minutes into the second half but knocked on in the face of a stout tackle.

However, the industry and commitment of the pack yielded another scrum penalty after 57 minutes and this time West found the range against the wind. Eight minutes later the home outhalf landed a beauty after Naas were penalised for a foot offence at a ruck. This pushed Buccaneers 13-6 ahead.

Charlie Sheridan weaved his way past some tepid tackling late in the game to notch a Naas try wide on the right while Ronaldson’s conversion attempt didn’t make it. Buccs finished on the offensive but a knock-on by Reilly in a promising position two minutes from time denied the hosts from adding to their tally.

Nevertheless, this was a rousing display by Buccaneers.  The pack were outstanding with hooker Lombard worthy of his Man of the Match award.

BUCCANEERS:- S.Jennings; J.O’Connor, S.Layden, S.Mannion, S.O’Carroll; H.West, F.Hopkins; J.Kelly, S.Lombard, M.Staunton (captain); R.Byrne, D.Qualter; S.O’Connell, C.McCann and R.O’Meara. Replacements:- O.Dolan (for O’Connell, 41 mins), W.Reilly (for Hopkins, 45 mins), C.Fokam, F.McDonnell, M.Hanley and O.Burgess.

NAAS:- M.McDermott; C.Sheridan, H.Smyth, C.Ronaldson, D.Conroy; B.Croke, O.Cawley; S.Lackey, T.Dooley, P.King; P.Monahan (captain), D.Benn; C.Dempsey, R.Casey and E.Walsh. Replacements:- C.Doyle (for Lackey, 48 mins), P.O’Flaherty (for Benn, 52 mins), C.Halpenny (for McDermott, 60 mins), M.Dennis (for Dempsey, 60 mins), M.Stapleton (for Cawley,70 mins) and G.McNeilis.

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