Monivea’s valiant All-Ireland efforts foundered over the weekend, as their Under19s fell short of the mark set by Shannon at Limerick’s Young Munster in the noon semi-final, and their premier juniors could not unseat Ulstermen Ards RFC in the Senior-Junior promotion/relegation fixture.

The All-Ireland Under19 clash was Monivea’s debut appearance in the feature competition final and was in every sense a conjoint effort from the surrounding club catchment. Players from the village homebase, Athenry, Newbridge, Mountbellew, Moylough, Abbeyknockmoy and Turloughmore trudged through a trying winter.

Captain Kevin Divilly was ably-backed by several Connacht representatives including Caolin Blade, Jason Connolly, Cathal Laheen, Niall Quinn, and Darragh Maher.

The junior premiers, having cleaned up the local league weeks out from its finish, tripped in their romp through to the Heineken Connacht Cup final at the semi stage overcome by Galwegians in Glenina. 

So strong for so long, they are deserved Connacht Junior 1A league champions but were again unable to clinch the league-cup double but their early exit in the Heineken Junior Cup allowed them to focus on their quest for AIL senior inclusion. 

They got off to a hiss-and-a-roar against Munster’s Richmond and had targeted the much-vaunted Skerries (Leinster) in their final game. A speed-bump in game two saw them claim a solitary losing bonus point against the little-known Clogher Valley of Ulster, but they managed to secure the all-important second-placed spot in the preliminary competition and the chance to contest the AIL 2B’s second loser, Ards RFC of County Down.

Bizarrely, Monivea led the fixture three-quarters through but a spirited three-try fightback from the senior incumbents put the game (and next year’s senior rugby campaign) out of Monivea’s reach, up 30-17 at the finish. It was a disappointing finish for a Monivea team which has not only ridden the crest of Connacht’s junior rugby wave for six years, but regularly set the high-tide mark. 

And while uninventive but uncompromising forward play characterised their hegemony at the top, the Monivea backline was every bit as electric as anything the province had to offer in junior ranks. Fed a wealth of possession by dutiful heavies up front, Monivea halves Darren Blade and Ger O’Connor had the luxury of a well-oiled and experienced Neary/Higgins midfield with which to free outside flyers Ger Divilly and Cole Maher. Handy outhalf-cum-fullback Seamey Fahy (who’s shown no shortage of talent at 12 historically), rounds at the superbacks at 15. 

Sadly, for the red-and-blacks of Castlegrounds, they must toil away in familiar territory for another winter. And with little silverware to show for a solid and honest season to date, it may be a long summer for those out country.

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