CONNEMARA 20 CREGGS 14
By John O’Sullivan
 
Connemara qualified for the Connacht Junior Cup semi finals after a hard fought victory over Creggs on Sunday at the Monastery Field.
 
In a repeat of last season’s Junior Cup final, 12 points from Henry O’Toole and a Shane Sweeney try secured victory for the hosts, but it was their defence — which the rock solid centre Eoin Bourke personified — that won the day.
 
The visitors, meanwhile, registered three penalties through Shane Purcell and notched a try from Maurice Buckley. But, despite having the lions share of territory and possession, Creggs were unable to prize open the Blacks stubborn defence on enough occasions. The win gives Connemara the opportunity to complete consecutive Connacht League and Cup doubles.
 
Connemara and Creggs were winners and runners up in both the League and Cup last season and it was clear from the beginning of the game that there was no love lost between both sets of players.
 
The tempo was high and the physicality was intense and it was the home team who started better. The first of many dominant scrums provided clean ball for the Blacks’ backs. The ball was worked to last season’s Connacht Junior Player of the year, Henry O’Toole, and the full back drew a tackle before releasing the scoring pass to winger Shane Sweeney to touch down.
 
5-0 soon became 8-0 with a penalty from O’Toole as another powerful scrum the home team yielded a penalty.
 
If Connemara were dominant in the scrum, then Creggs’ line out was in the ascendancy. Accurate throws from Buckley fed a dominant maul which sent the Blacks marching backwards at a rate of knots. It was through this route that the visitors got themselves on the board. Purcell accurately slotted a penalty after the hosts were penalised for collapsing a maul.
 
Creggs were now well and truly in the game and two Purcell penalties translated their dominance into points. But the Blacks — through O’Toole and Sweeney — scored two three pointers themselves, showing a clinical touch despite having meagre amounts of possession and territory, to make the half time score 14-9.
 
The second half was played in the same manner as the first; Creggs dominant but the hosts defence proving well organised and game, even when two separate yellow cards twice reduced them to 14 men.
 
The ever impressive Shane Dowd at full back and outside centre Eoghan Coyle both made running incisions into Connemara territory but every attempt was met with the same resistance.
 
On the rare occasions they enjoyed possession, the home team made it count on the board; a capability and efficiency that ultimately proved the difference between the sides. Two more O’Toole penalties brought the score to 20-9 and time was running out for Creggs to find a route to victory.
 
Another surging rolling maul saw the visitors drive their opponents backwards and this time — unlike all the others — it bore try scoring fruit with Buckley touching down at the base. The block was against Creggs, however, and when an attempted, quick drop kick conversion drifted wide the final whistle sounded.
 

Connemara team: (15-9): H.O’Toole; S.Sweeney; E.Bourke, D.McDonagh, M.Conneely; C.Jonas, M.O’Toole; (8-1): T.J.Berry, P.Lee; C.O’Malley; K.Keogh, N.Staunton; I.Staunton, B.Gibbons, E.Conroy.

Replacements: M.Mullins, J.Vaughan, D.Kennedy, I.Heanue, F.Heffernan.
 
Creggs team: (15-9): S.Dowd; K.Gavin; E.Coyle, T.Callaghan; S.Purcell, A.Callaghan; (8-1) B.Diffley, P.Lohan, J.Brandon; B.Donoghue, K.Brandon; A.Leech, M.Buckley, T.Fleming.

Replacements: D.Arnold, R.Horan, E.Farrell, R.Cahill, M.Brandon.

The quarter-final draw for the 2020 Connacht Junior Cup has thrown up a repeat pairing of last year’s final with Connemara taking on Creggs in the last eight.
 
Connemara who are reigning J1A league and Junior Cup holders are aiming for a historic back-to-back double, with the Clifden side six points clear of Creggs at the top of J1A with a game in hand.
 
The two sides learned their fate after coming through their Round of 16 ties over the weekend, with Connemara seeing off Loughrea 15-6 while Creggs defeated Westport 16-9.
 
That game is the only all-J1A tie of the quarter-finals. Castlebar who are 4th in J1A will play host to Corrib, Monivea make the trip to Corinthians while Buccaneers play host to Ballinrobe.
 
All the quarter-finals take place this Sunday 19th January with kick-offs at 2pm.
 
2020 CONNACHT JUNIOR CUP

Preliminary Round (Sunday 5th January)
Ballyhaunis 13-3 Galwegians
Corinthians 39-22 Ballina
Corrib 22-13 Dunmore
Loughrea w/o-con NUIG

Round of 16 (Sunday 12th January)
Ballinrobe 15-14 Carrick-on-Shannon
Buccaneers 31-3 Sligo
Castlebar 17-14 Tuam
Corinthians 31-14 Ballyhaunis
Loughrea 6-15 Connemara
Monivea 35-10 Ballinasloe
OLBC 7-61 Corrib
Westport 9-16 Creggs

Quarter-Finals (Sunday 19th January)
Buccaneers v Ballinrobe
Castlebar v Corrib
Connemara v Creggs
Corinthians v Monivea

Connemara won the repeat of last season’s Connacht Junior Cup final with a 16-8 victory away to Creggs on Saturday night, writes John O’Sullivan.
 
The Blacks, who began the game at the top of the Connacht J1A League, trailed to an unconverted Eoghan Coyle try, but rallied in the second half and sealed the victory thanks to a late Curtis Jonas try — added to three Henry O’Toole penalties — which Shane Sweeney converted.
 
Creggs and Connemara went head to head for both the Connacht Junior League and Cup last season, with the Clifden based side victorious in both competitions, and it was clear from the early exchanges that the hosts were keen to avenge their defeats.
 
The tempo of both teams’ defensive line-speed was at a ferocious level and the ambition with ball in hand was evident. The running games that brought so much success for both of the games contestants last season still the weapon choice.
 
However, defensive solidity was the prominent feature of the opening 20 minutes with the game played largely between both sides 22s.
 
It appeared as if it would take something special to open the nights try scoring account, and Creggs duly obliged midway through the half.
 
Eoghan Coyle, brushing off four would be tackles, burst through the Connemara defence and ran in a score of individual brilliance from the halfway line, much to the delight of the large crowd assembled under the new stand at The Green.
 
Shane Purcell’s conversion, from tight to the right hand touchline, was narrowly wide but any lead in a game of such narrow margins felt huge.
 
To the visitor’s credit, the concession of a try stirred a reaction from them and they were on the board themselves not long after. After a high tackle yielded a penalty, O’Toole — last season’s Connacht Junior Player of the Year — slotted the three points to make the score at half time 5-3 in favour of Creggs.
 
The second half saw no dampening of the attacking approach and Creggs’ Brian Diffley and Connemara’s Niall Staunton were both willing and massively effective ball carriers.
 
The home side notched the first points of the half when Purcell, after the Blacks were penalised for being offside, bisected the posts with an accurate penalty.
 
An 8-3 lead would be as good as it got for Creggs, though, as Connemara began to assert themselves and eventually make it count on the scoreboard.
 
Two further O’Toole penalties gave the table toppers a narrow 9-8 lead, but the best was saved to last for Connemara.
 
Picking up at the back of a retreating scrum just inside his own half, number 8 Jack Vaughan made headway through the heart of the Creggs defence before offloading to his scrum half, Michael O’Toole.
 
O’Toole, jinking through contact, found centre David McDonagh whose powerful run brought the Blacks deep into the 22. Before being tackled near the line, McDonagh had the wherewithal to skillfully offload to the onrushing fly half, Jonas, who acrobatically touched down for a try worthy of winning any game.
 
The conversion, from a difficult angle on the left hand side, was struck firmly and true by Sweeney to give the Blacks the win and — perhaps crucially come the end of the season — take the losing bonus point away from Creggs.
 
Creggs
T.Fleming, M.Buckley, A.Leech; I.Whittington, B.Donoghue; P.Lohan, J.Brandon(C), B.Diffley; E.Coyle, S.Purcell; K.Gavin; T.Callaghan, E.Jennings; R.Dowd; S.Dowd.
Replacements:D.Arnold, S.Higgins, K.Brandon, M.Brandon, M.Quinn.
 
Connemara
E.Conroy, B.Gibbons, F.Heffernan; M.Mullins, N.Staunton; J.Vaughan, P.Lee, K.Keogh; M.O’Toole, C.Jonas; P.O’Toole(C); D.McDonagh, E.Bourke; M.Conneely; H.O’Toole.
Replacements: K.Barry, C.O’Malley, S.Sweeney, R.O’Halloran, E.Conneely

The draw for the 2019/20 All-Ireland Junior Cup has been made. Round 1 kicks off on October 26th with 16 clubs from all four provinces facing off.
 
Cup holders Ashbourne, who will be aiming for an incredible and historic four in a row, open their defense of the coveted trophy with a home game against Creggs.
 
Last season’s beaten finalists and former winners Enniscorthy have been promoted to Division 2C of the All-Ireland League – a well worn path for several previous winners.
 
Knocked out at the semi-final stage last time around, Wicklow are drawn away to Kilfeacle in Round 1.
 
Monivea, beaten finalists in 2011 and 2012, are away to cup newcomers Kilkenny.
 
The quarter-finals will take place on 19th November with the semi-finals pencilled in for the 14th December. The 2019/20 All-Ireland Junior Cup Final will take place on the 25th January, 2020.
 
All-Ireland Junior Cup 2019/20 – Round 1
Saturday 26th October, 2019, kick off 2.30

Ashbourne v Creggs
Richmond v Grosvenor
Dromore v Newcastle West
Connemara v Gorey
Instonians v Crosshaven
Kilkenny v Monivea
Kilfeacle v Wicklow
Castlebar v Ballyclare
 
ALL-IRELAND JUNIOR CUP – LIST OF CHAMPIONS
2019 – Ashbourne 16 – Enniscorthy 11, Edenderry RFC – Report & Highlights
2018 – Ashbourne 18 Kilfeacle & District 9, Portlaoise RFC – Report & Highlights
2017 – Ashbourne 22 Enniscorthy 20, Energia Park – Report & Highlights
2016 – Enniscorthy 23 Instonians 7, Ashbourne RFC – Report & Highlights
2015 – Dundalk 55 Bangor 5, Portadown 5 – Highlights
2014 – Enniscorthy 10 Clogher Valley 9, Coolmine RFC
2013 – Tullamore 29 Enniscorthy 10, Cill Dara RFC
2012 – Tullamore 9 Monivea 3, Dubarry Park
2011 – Crosshaven 17 Monivea 9, Templeville Road
2010 – City of Derry 19 City Of Armagh 17, Dubarry Park
2009 – Tullamore 23 Navan 13, Dubarry Park
2008 – Navan 20 Tullamore 6, Dubarry Park
2007 – Seapoint 47 Coleraine 15, Dubarry Park
2006 – Rainey Old Boys 27 Youghal 5, Lansdowne Road

The Connacht Junior Cup is heading to Clifden after a brilliant display by Connemara gave them victory in today’s final at a sunny Sportsground.
 
A 25-6 win over J1A runners-up Creggs secured a historic league and cup double for Connemara, and sets them up perfectly for a tilt at the AIL Provincial League Championship and with it a potential spot in next season’s All-Ireland League.
 


It was Creggs who took an early lead from the boot of Shane Dowd, but Connemara gave themselves a healthy lead when tries from Michael O’Toole and Henry O’Toole pulled them 12-3 clear. A huge second penalty from Dowd reduced the gap to six points which is how they went into the break.
 
The 3rd quarter was played almost entirely in the Creggs 22 as the league winners dominated possession and territory, though the Roscommon side’s defence held up very well. In the end the pressure eventually told in the 69th minute when a beautifully worked move was finished off by David McDonagh under the posts, and the icing was put on the cake 2 minute before the full-time whistle when Henry O’Toole kicked a further three points.
 


The full-time whistle sparked scenes of jubilation on and off the field, and in the end it was a deserved victory for the Galway side.
 

Seven teams from eight clubs have learned their opponents for this year’s Connacht U20 Cup which will be held across the month of April.
 
The U20 Cup will see teams representing Ballina, Ballinrobe, Connemara Corinthians, Creggs, Monivea/Westport and Sligo face off in a knockout series of games with three quarter-finals before two semi-finals and a decider on the Easter weekend.
 
The draw was conducted by two Connacht men who were integral to Ireland U20s Grand Slam win – forwards coach Ambrose Conboy and hooker Dylan Tierney-Martin.
 
Check out the pairings of some intruiging games we’ve got coming up in the weeks ahead!
 

QUARTER-FINALS
Sligo v Ballina
Monivea/Westport v Ballinrobe
Creggs v Connemara

SEMI-FINALS
Sligo or Ballina v Monivea/Westport or Ballinrobe
Creggs or Connemara v Corinthians

Two of the best junior clubs in Connacht this season go head-to-head on Sunday when Connemara RFC and Creggs RFC face off in the 2019 Connacht Junior Cup final.
 
The game is a fitting climax to the junior rugby season, after both sides quickly became the teams to beat in the J1A League. In the end it was Connemara who came away with the league title, with their 13-8 win away to Creggs at the start of the February proving to the all-important turning point in the title race. Further wins over Sligo and Westport were to follow and the league was then secured. Next up for Connemara is the AIL Provincial League Championship, as they face off against the respective Junior League winners from the three other provinces for a place in next season’s AIL.
 
Even though Creggs came up short in their league title race, it’s still been a hugely productive 12 months for the Roscommon club both on and off the field. 2018 saw the club claim both the Curley Cup and Cawley Cup, so a Junior Cup victory on Sunday would complete a unique treble of the cup trophies. Coupled with the opening of their new 3G pitch, and the success of CBS Roscommon reaching the Top Oil Connacht Schools Senior Cup final, it’s been a very important and impressive period for the region.
 
In a first for Junior Cup final day, minis players from both clubs will get the opportunity to experience what it’s like play at such an event. A mixture of U10s, U11 and U12s from Creggs and Connemara will take to the field at half-time, only adding to what should be a really enjoyable day.
 
Kick-off is at 3pm on Sunday, and it will be preceded by the Junior Plate final with Our Lady’s Boys Club RFC coming up against Sligo RFC from 1pm.
 

The two best junior clubs in the province will battle it out for this year’s Junior Cup honours after Connemara RFC and Creggs RFC confirmed their place in the 2019 Cup final.
 
Both sides navigated tricky away ties in the semi-finals stage yesterday, with Connemara overcoming Tuam 18-6 while Creggs defeated Castlebar in an entertaining encounter 25-18.
 
Just four points separate the two sides at the top of the J1A League, with Connemara holding the advantage after defeating Creggs 13-8 earlier in the month. There’s just two rounds remaining in the league so the Junior Cup final will serve as a fitting climax to a close rivalry that’s emerged over the last few months.
 
The decider will be held at The Sportsground on Sunday 24th March with the kick-off time TBC.
 

The draw for the 2019 Junior Cup draw has thrown up two intriguing ties with all four teams looking to move one step closer to the final at The Sportsground later in the season.
 
The draw took place at The Sportsground at lunchtime today after yesterday’s four quarter-finals when Tuam, Creggs, Castlebar and Connemara emerged victorious.
 
The last four ties will see Castlebar with a home tie against Creggs while Tuam play host to Connemara, with both ties taking place this Sunday at 2pm. The final is scheduled for Sunday 24th March at The Sportsground.
 
You can watch how the draw unfolded below.
 

Women’s Rugby in Connacht is thriving like never before, and now Connacht Rugby is shining a light on all the great work that has been done in the past and is continuing to take place around the province to promote the female rugby stars of the future.
 
Every week you’ll get to read a bit about every club in Connacht that offers a Girls Rugby programme. You can find out about what they’ve done in the past, how many teams they have, what times they train and who are the people that bring Girls Rugby to life in the club.
 
This week we have Connemara RFC, with text and pics with thanks to Darwyn O’Halloran.
 

Rugby has been played in Connemara since the early 1920s. With each passing decade the interest in the sport seemed to grow. Like all other rugby clubs we have had our highs and lows, our victories and defeat but one part of the club that we have always taken great pride in is the participation of our young players. This has become especially true in the most recent years with the successful introduction of the girls youth rugby teams. It wasn’t easy though. Over the years there have been attempts of establishing a girls rugby squad in Connemara. There was always an interest shown by a few of the local girls wishing to play rugby, some of which had played at minis level with the boys and now wanted to progress onto youth level. The problem was there never seemed to be enough girls to form a full team. This often resulted in Connemara having to join forces with other clubs just so they could compete. It wasn’t the most ideal set up but these team ups proved to be rather successful. The first success came in the form of an under 18 2012 Connacht cup win while partnered with Dunmore and again in the following year, this time partnered with Westport. Following this some of the Connemara players went on to represent the Connacht under 18s in 2013. Unfortunately the following season proved to be more of a challenge. With many of the girls now heading off to college or looking to play senior rugby, there simply wasn’t enough players to even hold a training session.
 
So Connemara went without a girls rugby team for a while. That was until the 2017/18 rugby season, when two mothers (Ellen Nee and Breda Coneys) on separate occasions approached Malachy Gorham stating their daughters were interested in playing rugby for Connemara. They asked would he be willing to coach a girls rugby team. Malachy is well known in the community for his hard work and involvement in coaching both gaelic football and rugby. He is also known to never back down from a challenge or turn a blind eye where help is needed, so of course he was the perfect person for the task at hand. In the following few days meetings where held between Malachy, Ellen and Breda. During these meetings they discussed what it was going to take to reach their goals. They contacted Wendy Hickey of Connacht Rugby for advice and information on what age group should they focus on and what competitions to enter.
 

Finally, with a plan in place the first girls training session was held on the 18th of September 2017. On the first night there were 36 girls participating in training ranging in ages from 12 to 17. As the weeks went by the numbers continued to grow, eventually finishing the season with 53 players. Now in our second season of rugby we have 82 girls in total registered with Connemara, 22 of which are our newest arrivals, the under 12s.
 
With the ever growing numbers more and more support was needed to ensure training and matches ran smoothly and were beneficial to the players. This support came in the form of additional coaching staff, the participation of passed players, the commitment from the local schools, the unconditional love and support from family and friends and of course the generous donations from local businesses. Each girl that registers with Connemara are given a club travel top with her initials on it. Of course the girls all participate in the clubs fundraisers but if it wasn’t for the donations from the local businesses the travel tops wouldn’t be possible.
 

Every Monday and Thursday night at about 6:45 the Monastery pitch in Clifden is bombarded with young female Athletes all eager to start the session at 7:00. Training twice a week can be a huge commitment for these young people and their families, especially since a large portion of the girls are preparing for their junior and leaving certs. Not only that is there the commitments of school but also the fact that for the majority of the girls, rugby is not their only sport. We have player that also have a background in gaelic football, camogie, soccer, dancing, show jumping, dressage, athletics, triathlons, martial arts, gymnastics, badminton and swimming.
 
As a coach there is something very fulfilling and inspiring in knowing that these young athletes have so many other interests and commitments outside of rugby and yet they still chose to give up two nights in there week and often their weekend to come play rugby. It makes you think the coaches are doing something right. It is thanks to these such commitments from the players, parents and coaches that the teams have seen such great results. Last season Connemara won the U15 development league, U13 plate and were the runners up in the U18 shield. The introduction of the girls U12 team this season is a massive success in its own way.
 

Trophies and titles aside, the greatest success the girls have achieved to date is their positivity to everything going on at training and matches and how the have developed both as players and people. They show great teamwork and support for one another. Their physical abilities have shot through the roof and to top it off they’ve learned that whatever is thrown at them they can take it and keep moving forward. When asked, in what way has rugby had a positive impact on their daughters? The parents almost seemed to echo each other with words like “friendship”, “camaraderie”, “ confidence”, “respect” “power” “strength”, “resilience” and “selflessness” . “She has so much more confidence and cares about her fitness and diet. Spends less time on the computer and has made wonderful new friendships”- Amanda Keenan. “ improved fitness, great craic training in the mud followed by Janes hot chocolate”- Olivia Staunton. “ New friends, improved confidence, can’t wait for Thursday evening”- Joan Conneely. “ a great sense of camaraderie”- Brid McLaughlin. “ She can beat me in an arm wrestle now… As I see it as a parent, rugby rewards attitude and commitment. Molly was an athlete before rugby, but in athletics winning determines ability and in other sports namely soccer or gaelic football, the most skilled are revered, especially at underage. Endeavor doesn’t really register. However, in rugby, endeavour is precisely the quality you need to even begin to make an impact. Without touching the ball you can have a massive influence on the game and that’s where Molly found her niche. She loves the physical challenge and the fact that she can alter the course of a game, despite not necessarily having the best ball skills on the team. That inclusion provides motivation to continue.”- Simon Booth.
 

It seems safe to say that girls rugby is alive and well in Connemara.At the moments we are thinking of doing a mothers and others group. It is hoped that in the next few years we can progress to the point where we have a senior women’s rugby team. If we continue the way we are it should be no trouble at all but for now we will continue to focus our energy on these young athletes, as we know they are the future.
 
Darwyn O’Halloran
 
Coach and former Connemara player.

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