Creggs RFC overcame Connemara RFC to become Bank of Ireland Connacht J1A League champions at The Sportsground on Sunday.
In what were perfect conditions for rugby, it was Connemara who first bothered the scoreboard. In the third minute, a fine one-handed catch from Ian Heanue while covering the backfield saw the All-Blacks set out on a counterattack with real purpose.
Heanue cut through Creggs’ defence, combining perfectly with off-the-shoulder runner Patrick O’Toole before Eoin Bourke touched down in the corner. The resulting conversion was missed, but at that stage, it was Connemara setting the tone.
However, it wasn’t long before Creggs showed their own attacking intent.
At the midpoint of the half, a well-worked line-out maul saw Daniel Arnold carry well, before the ball was given out to the backs, where Shane Purcell showed excellent footwork to outsmart Connemara’s defence and score by the posts. He converted his own try to give Creggs a 7-5 lead.
Their next score came just a few minutes later when a skilful move in the backline helped to create an overlap that Arnold was able to take full advantage of. The hooker showed excellent pace to put the finishing touches on a try that would be more readily associated with a pacy winger. Purcell once again slotted over the conversion, with the scores remaining 14-5 until the break.
The second half started with Connemara playing much of the game in their opponent's half. However, Creggs’ ability to attack from anywhere ensured that the Clifden-based side had to keep their composure at all times.
However, they weren’t able to do so, with David McDonagh receiving a yellow card after tackling high when trying to halt a quick counterattack from Creggs’ scrumhalf, Mark Dowd.
The team in maroon and white took full advantage of the extra man soon after, with Eoghan Coyle breaking through Connemara's defence in midfield, before being stopped just five metres out. From there, the Creggs’ pack protected the ball brilliantly, before Shane Purcell fed Brian Donohoe, who touched down.
Purcell’s conversion made it 21-5 and left Connemara with a mountain to climb. However, the Connemara All-Blacks are made of sturdy stuff, and they showed great spirit to fight back and get the next score.
It was once again the combination of Heanue and Bourke, with the latter touching down in the corner for his second try of the game to make it 21-10.
However, it was a false dawn, as Creggs were about to reassert their dominance through the pace of Mark Dowd. The scrumhalf received the ball just inside the Connemara half after a break from Coyle, and there was no catching him.
Purcell once again did the honours from the boot to make it 26-10, with time running out for Connemara to make the comeback.
However, the All-Blacks did show excellent spirit to keep battling, with Ian Staunton getting their third try not long before the final whistle was blown.
However, it was wasn't enough, with Creggs' captain Brian Diffley receiving the Bank of Ireland Connacht J1A League trophy to cap off a brilliant league season for his side. They now look forward to their Junior Cup semi-final against Ballinrobe. Connemara can be proud of their fighting spirit on the day and will take some consolation from being this season’s Bank of Ireland Cawley Cup champions.