Ballina Flying The Flag For Connacht

31 March 2017

Ballina Flying The Flag For Connacht
Ballina RFC face a huge challenge tomorrow (Saturday) as they travel to Clonmel for the first game of the All-Ireland Provincial Round-Robin Series (2.30pm).

The draw has favoured Ballina and newly-crowned Ulster Junior League champions Omagh as they will have two home matches each, while Clonmel are competing in the Round Robin qualifiers for a third year in a row.

The table-topping team in the Championship will be promoted to Ulster Bank League Division 2C for next season. The Championship's second-placed side will play off against the second-from-bottom finishers in Division 2C who will have home advantage.

Ballina collected the Connacht Junior League Division 1A trophy for the first time in 32 years after completing their impressive league run with away wins over Connemara (12-10), Monivea (24-15) and Ballinasloe (10-3). The Mayo men are coached by David Newman and JP Leonard, and like Clonmel, they lost in the first round of this season's All-Ireland Junior Cup.

Denis Leamy's Clonmel side have become a dominant force on the provincial scene, winning three successive Munster Junior League Division 1 titles, and will be gunning for top spot in the All-Ireland Provincial League Championship after finishing second and third in recent seasons.

History was also made by Omagh who clinched the Ulster Rugby Championship Division 1 crown thanks to Saturday's 18-6 victory over Carrickfergus. Number 8 James Catterson, a hugely influential figure in their success, crossed for a try and was chosen as man-of-the-match.

Phil Marshall's Accies were promoted two seasons ago and this is their first Ulster junior top flight league win since 1987. They also reached this season's Ulster Junior Cup final, going down to Ballynahinch seconds in a hard-fought decider.

Meanwhile, the St. Patrick's weekend was a memorable one too for Malahide. The north county Dubliners won a tense title decider with Enniscorthy, edging out their hosts 17-16 thanks to Dave Mongan's second half try.

It is Malahide's first ever Leinster Junior League Division 1A success, a fantastic achievement considering Rick Evans' charges only came up from Division 1B at the end of last season. They lost just one of their 14 league games this term, scoring a whopping 535 points along the way.

Following Saturday's away clash in Clonmel, Ballina welcome Ulster champions Omagh to Heffernan Park on Saturday, April 8, at 2.30pm.

Ballina's final match of the series takes place in Heffernan Park on Saturday, April 22, when Malahide come calling at 2.30pm. If previous results have fallen their way, this match could be a very historic encounter for Ballina RFC.

2016/17 All-Ireland Provincial League Championship Fixtures

All matches to kick off at 2.30pm

Saturday, April 1

Clonmel v Ballina; Omagh v Malahide

Saturday, April 8

Ballina v Omagh; Malahide v Clonmel

Saturday, April 22

Ballina v Malahide; Omagh v Clonmel

Saturday, April 29

Play-off between the Round Robin series runners-up and the second-from-bottom side in Division 2B