Connacht Juniors and the Tale of the Tape 2012

The Interprovincial Junior Series is an annual round-robin competition comprising six games.

To this end, each province meets all others once over three weekends.

This season, courtesy of two victories apiece over Leinster and Ulster, Connacht and Munster met in the third and final week each poised atop the points table. While Connacht was a point adrift of Munster, a victory for either would secure the championship.

Connacht, by recent history as last year’s champions, had a tenuous claim to the favourites tag but given 80percent of the previous year’s squad was unavailable, along with contrasting Ulster scorelines, the tag more feasibly favoured their foe for the win.

Connacht managed a three-point 13-10 victory over Ulster in week one whereas Munster swept the northerners aside 35-14 in a four-try bonus point romp. On that balance, Munster had an advantage not only where psychology was concerned (compounded by the fact Castleisland is buried in the country’s deep south), they could also have afforded a drawn affair and still claimed trophy spoils.

By late Saturday afternoon, Munster’s most-prolific 21-strong points differential, its two bonus points, and most-impressive table-topping six tournament tries counted for nothing but a silver medal. Connacht’s 50 points scored (14 adrift of Munster, and three behind Leinster) may not have earned them rights to the trophy, but a most miserly 37 conceded in three games at an average of 12 per week certainly did.

The defensive record alone elevated them well clear of Leinster and Ulster (who leaked 59 and 66 points respectively), and was seven points more efficient than Munster (43).

Both Munster and Connacht conceded an average one try a game. The fact Connacht held their nearest contenders tryless in the must-win final encounter spoke volumes for their ability to contain threats in high-pressure situations.

Nor did Connacht ever trail at half-time. Four points clear against the wind v Ulster, Connacht was able to utilise the benefit of the breeze as the game wore to a close. Down 10-nil to Leinster in Loughrea, Connacht’s Rob O’Beirn kicked two from two late in the first spell to break even 10-all (after a Pete Cosgrove try), and managed to break even again having trailed 3-0 and 6-3 against Munster. The fact scores rarely widened beyond a single score speaks volumes for the calibre of the competition and the tenacity with which each province contests it.

Credit for this year’s final victory may be placed squarely at the feet of those in green April 28, May 5 and May 12, and those sideline coaches Ambrose Conboy and Cory Brown, manager Sean Brennan, physio Killian Deenihan and logistics manager Jimmy Lawless. This year’s campaign success may be shouldered farther afield. Connacht Branch officers John Carr (President), Eamon Feely (Junior Vice), Robert Lahiff (Junior Secretary), CEO Gerry Kelly, Domestic Rugby Manager Lyndon Jones, and Branch Administrator Eamonn McGuffin, for instance take one share; week two hosts Loughrea may take another. Club President Joe Kelly and his able assistants, training ground hosts Tuam Rugby, Alan Bradbourne, Eugene and Dympna Sharkey and staff at Corralea Court Hotel (Tuam), and Fergus Farrell (Farrell Travel) were every bit as involved in what was a short-lived (but long-remembered) 2012 campaign. Ronan Coughlan, Monivea and Connacht Junior tighthead flew the flag for Farrell Travel as resident driver in Dromore and Castleisland, before AND after matches.

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