Connacht Schools rugby has long been the foremost radar identifying promising youngsters for senior rugby circles.

With the advent of the Connacht Academy, schools rugby success took on a far more prevalent role in availing young players opportunities to seek a rugby future.

Historically, St Joseph’s College, Garbally (Ballinasloe) boasts the proudest secondary schools pedigree with a championship record in cup competitions nearly four times that of their nearest rivals.

Galway’s Jesuit College, Colaiste Iognaid is recent history’s senior cup heavyweight pulling off two successful defences (2006 and 2009). Wins in 2011 and 2002 took their tally to six in the last decade.

Current champions Marist Athlone carried off a rare Cup and League double in 2012, beating Sligo Grammar in both finals.

By virtue of 19 final berths, Sligo Grammar lays a valid claim as Connacht rugby history’s number two contender, but sit fourth on the all-time cup table unable to convert 10 of those appearances.

While the senior competitions carry the greatest weight as FirstXV clashes, middle school pupils (ages 14,15,16) contest the Connacht Junior Cup.

Sligo may have claimed most recent league spoils over St Gerald’s Castlebar but they failed to do the league/cup double dropping a replayed cup final fixture in 2012 to Rice College of Westport.

While league competitions tend to reward consistency and depth throughout the winter months, the knockout cup competitions are the more highly-regarded titles of the two.

Development Cups offer interschool clashes between colleges where rugby is third or fourth-choice sport. Recent initiatives identified a three-tier system which distinguished “rugby schools” from “development schools”, and listed 20 colleges as “emerging”. There are 43 affiliated schools under the Connacht Rugby catchment.

Given successful schools competition reliance on voluntary administration, manpower and a structured season plan continue to hamper smooth sailing.

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