Ballinasloe RFC 5-10 Monivea RFC
Monivea reclaimed the Connacht Junior Cup for the first time since 2013 at the Sportsground after a tense final against Ballinasloe in front of a bumper crowd this afternoon.
All of the points were scored in the first half as Monivea made the most of the strong wind with their defence holding firm in a second half that saw much of the play based in the middle of the park.
While it was Monivea who made the brighter start, impressive centre Matthew Mannion saw his 8th minute penalty drift wide as Ballinsloe soon moved into the ascendancy.
After a concerted period camped in the Monivea 22, a Ballinasloe try looked inevitable after a number of five-yard scrums and lineouts but the Monivea pack stood firm and eventually cleared the danger.
The first try was brilliantly taken by Monivea on 21 minutes. Excellent full-back Eoin Blade – a brother of Connacht’s Caoilin; another Blade brother, Darren, was playing scrum-half – caught a loose kick on the right flank and whipped a pass inside.
The ball was swiftly moved to the left flank where flying winger Enda Hogan beat Rob Wakefield on the outside before narrowing the angle for the conversion with Mannion’s extra two points giving Monivea a 7-0 lead.
Ballinasloe responded well and were soon back on the front foot. After another period of pressure on the Monivea line, they final crossed when John Hayes forced his way over on the half-hour mark to reduce the deficit to two points.
It was Monivea who finished the half the better side however as Eoin Blade’s partially blocked kick trickled out inside the Ballinasloe 22 to set up good field position. And when Ballinasloe infringed at the breakdown, Mannion made no mistake with the penalty to give his side a 10-5 interval lead.
Playing against the stiff breeze after the break, Monivea kept ball in hand as much as possible. Ballinasloe were struggling to pin Monivea back and they were unlucky to see a Keelan O’Neill penalty glance off the post and go wide early in the second half.
No.8 Dan McCabe was leading by example for Monivea with a number of strong runs as it looked more likely that they would stretch their 10-5 lead but Mannion was off target with a 65th minute penalty as the tie remained in the balance.
As the game entered the dying minutes, an O’Neill penalty moved Ballinasloe into position but a knock-on scuppered their last chance as Monivea held on for a deserved victory.
Ballinasloe RFC: Andrew Mannion; Rob Wakefield, Jack Parsons, Rodney Cullinane, George Mooney; Keelan O'Neill, Conor Loughrey; JJ Carey, Andy O'Hara (C), Greg Donnellan; Harry reynolds, Niall Staunton; Ciaran Coughlan, John Hayes, Mark Byrne.
Rolling replacements: Cormac Coffey, Jack Codyre, Conor Harewood, Kevin Gavin, Mark Harrigan.
Monivea RFC: Eoin Blade; Colm Neary, Coleman Maher, Matthew Mannion, Enda Hogan; Seamus Fahy, Darren Blade; Padraig Mannion, Gerard Fahy, Gerard Fitzmaurice; Keith Lyons, Vincent Lally; Stephen Joyce (C), Brian McDonagh, Dan McCabe.
Rolling replacements: Fergus Killarney, Conor Donnelan, Mark Flaherty, Kevin King, Kevin Divilly.
Ballinasloe's JJ Carey on the charge
Ballinasloe's Mark Byrne takes on Monivea's Colm Neary
Monivea's Dan McCabe takes on Ballinasloe's Jack Codyre