Ireland’s reigning interprovincial junior champions Connacht commence their defence away to Ulster in Dromore on Saturday.

A rake of post-season injuries has decimated player availability but coach Ambrose Conboy (former Galwegian, The ‘Bish rugby master and OLBC head coach) is confident Connacht has enough on hand to preserve its recent unbeaten record.

OLBC and Ballina comprise 11 of the 24-strong current squad with an even mix of forwards and backs. Ballina, a Heineken Cup and Cawley semi-finalist finished fourth in the Junior 1A league (albeit tied on points for third with senior club Galwegians). Our Lady’s Boys Club finished three points clear of ‘Wegians but 18 adrift of the rampant Monivea.

Tuam fronts with four including the talismanic Mick Ward who, in his 30s, is every bit as useful in the second row as he is across the backrow’s blindside, eight or open.

Loughrea, Ballinasloe, Westport, and Monivea all feature a pair each and Corrib’s Martin Lee secured another deserved selection several years after his first.

Within 60km of Dundalk on the A1, Dromore in County Down hosts the fixture only a few hours before the 5.45pm Aviva Stadium Heineken Cup semi-final in Dublin.

Connacht Squad (to be named Friday morning): Forwards, Alex Lee (Blna), James Walsh (OLBC), Martin Lee (Crrb), Paul McCreanor (OLBC), Ronan Coughlan (Mnva), Mark Mullins (Lghr), James Moran (OLBC), Brian Murphy (Mnva), Stephen Burke (Tuam), Mike Ward (Tuam), John Hayes (Bslo), Willie Cullinane (Lghr), Aidan McNulty (Blna), Conor Hurst (Tuam). Backs, Michael Murphy (Blna), Tommy Ellard (Wstp), Jamie Murphy (Tuam), Peter Cosgrove (OLBC), Greg Faherty (OLBC), Jerome Harrimate (Blna), Dave Prior (OLBC), Kevin Corcoran (Wstp), Robert O’Beirne (Bslo) and Trevor Moore (Blna).

Coaches, Ambrose Conboy and Cory Brown; Selector, Robert Lee. Manager, Sean Brennan. Physio, Killian Deenihan; Logistics, Jimmy Lawless.

Connacht Rugby wishes all those involved the very best wishes for this weekend’s fixture and the ensuing Interprovincial title defence.

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