Cawley Cup rugby kicks off March 18, a couple of divisional match-ups the talk so far.

As league competitions wind up for the winter, and the Heineken Junior Cup sets Loughrea and Galwegians on each other over Easter, open-grade club rugby will soon focus on the Cawley.

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Ballina and Castlebar will knock one 1A contingent out of contention first up, and Loughrea and Ballinrobe – yet to play their second league fixure after a tight 15-3 Loughrea first round win – will cull the 1B representation too.

Ballinrobe currently sits sixth in the 1B league but have shown hardy resolve throughout. Despite winning four of 12, they have lost six matches by fewer than seven points, and 10 of their matches have finished within single figure margins; they are no strangers to tight tussles.

Loughrea are surfing the wave’s crest at the moment, high-on-life having beaten Ballina in the Heineken Junior Cup to secure themselves a final berth. Winning is infectious, and they are riddled with success.

Boys Club, third in the premier division at the moment with a game to play, travel away to 1B’s Creggs. This is unspectacular in itself except for the fact it’ll be the second time they do so this year. Creggs hosted them in the Heineken Cup, OLBC managing 10points to Creggs’ none.

A win is a win, but the margin will have buoyed Creggs’ confidence somewhat and a full complement will likely turn out at home.

As 17 teams vie for 16 spots, Tuam has drawn Dunmore in the only preliminary fixture of the competition.

Before OLBC’s post-Christmas draw and Galwegians’ victory over the weekend, Tuam was the only team to have pushed 1A league champions Monivea even close to a loss. Tuam, having bowed out early to Monivea in the Heineken Cup, is chasing some sort of recognition for their efforts this year.

Dunmore, while topping their own table, will go into the Tuam preliminary encounter confident of their own abilities but with a conspicuous underdog tag about their neck. Whether that tag chokes or motivates them is up to Dunmore.

The first round competition is set for March 18, and comprises the following (first-named teams at home): Gort v Ballyhaunis; Loughrea v Ballinrobe; Ballinasloe v Portumna; preliminary winner v Carrick-on-Shannon; Creggs v OLBC; Corrib v Monivea2; UCG v Westport; and Ballina v Castlebar.

Heineken Cup finalist Galwegians, 1B table-topper Buccaneers, 1A League winner Monivea (premiers), Corinthians, Sligo, and Connemara are all ineligible due to senior and AIL commitments.

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