Buccaneers and Sligo square up at Dubarry Park on Saturday with the Bank of Ireland Connacht Senior League title at stake in this winner takes all final round fixture which kicks off at 2.30 p.m.

This comes after the Midland’s Club got the better of Corinthians last weekend via a 10-24 scoreline. Ryan O’Meara got the scoring underway for Buccs after some strong forward play, while Ruaidhri Fallon and Cian McCann also touched down for The Pirates.

Last weekend’s other Connacht Senior League game saw Galwegians finish their campaign with a 20-12 victory over Ballina. An excellent performance from Darragh Kennedy inspired the Galway side.

The full-back put in an immense kicking performance, as well as crossing the line for a try of his own. Karl Waterman also crossed the line via an excellent intercept try, atoning for his earlier yellow card.

The Bank of Ireland Connacht Senior League continued on Saturday afternoon with two local derbies. 

Ballina welcomed Sligo, while Corinthians travelled into Galway City to face Galwegians.

In a high scoring affair, Sligo proved to have too much for the young Ballina side, running out 45-26 victors. However, it wasn’t until the second half that Sligo’s strength in depth proved to be too much for the team from Mayo.

The sides went into the break with just three between them, with Sligo leading by 21-24. However, Ballina weren’t able to add to their tally until the closing stages as their counterparts raced into an unassailable 21-45 lead.

The weekend’s other Connacht Senior League game was a low scoring affair between two Galway sides, where it was Galwegians who made it two wins from two, running out 12-7 victors.

The home side built up a 12-0 lead, with Corinthians getting a late consolation try.

Those results left both Galwegians and Sligo with two wins on the board.

Buccaneers has earned one point in their sole outing so far, while both Ballina and Corinthians have one point on the board, with the latter having played a game more.

There are no Connacht Senior League fixtures next week, with Ballina welcoming Buccaneers and Sligo hosting Galwegians, the week after.

Full fixtures and the group table is available here.

It was a season to remember for Cathal Forde. The Galway native made his full debut for Connacht, signed a first senior contract, and was part of the Corinthians side that made it into the semi-finals of Energia AIL Division 2B. 

On top of that,  Cathal’s contribution to Corinthians’ run was recently recognised at the Energia All-Ireland League Awards, where he was announced as the Division 2B Player of the Year. 

Unexpected Honour

Despite an excellent club season, where he scored seven tries and had a goal kicking success rate of 84% (42/50), the centre was not expecting to be picking up the honour. 

“I had no idea. I found out the day before (the awards). It was a surprise, but definitely a good one. I knew it was a good season though and it was great to get the game time with Corinthians, but I didn’t expect (the award) to be honest”, said the centre when discussing the accolade. 

Corinthians’ season ended after a late Greystones try in the semi-finals dashed their hopes of promotion. 

“We started off pretty slow this season, but we then got into a good run of wins and the opportunity was there of getting into the playoffs and perhaps getting promotion, but Greystones were just very good on the day”, Forde said discussing his club’s journey. 

He was also keen to pay tribute to Corinthians outgoing head coach, JP Cooney, who will be stepping down from his position after this season.

“JP Cooney is obviously a great coach, but he’s also just a good person”. 

Successful Coaching

Although he is just at the start of professional playing journey, the man who is affectionally known as ‘Fordey’ has already made a foray into the world of coaching.

He was part of the Corinthians backroom team that won both the U-16 Division 1 league title and the Bank of Ireland U16 Cup Final this year.

For Forde, this was all about giving back to the grassroots side of the game that served him so well.

Discussing this, he said: “Myself and (fellow Connacht Academy player) Eoin de Buitléar, we’re helping out the under 16s with Simon Kavanagh and Niall Browne.”

“Niall Browne would have coached us growing up, so it’s nice to be giving back there. They’re a good bunch of lads and they have a few who are breaking into the Connacht underage system.”

Although Forde will be aiming to light up the Sportsground in the coming months, he recognises that it is the Corinthians club in Cloonacauneen, Co. Galway where it all started: “I think under-nines was my first year and Corinthians is a very community focussed club, so I’m always happy to be back there helping out”.

Connacht Ambition 

Cathal signed his first professional contract with Connacht in January of this year, making his debut later that month against Glasgow Warriors.  

Despite Connacht failing to get the better of the Scottish side on the day, Forde impressed, slotting over each one of his kicks at goal. 

“I thought I did alright, but obviously, the result didn’t go our way”, was his humble summation of a proud day for him and his family. 

Looking forward to next season, the U20 Ireland International recognises that bigger challenges await.

“Hopefully I will win more game time with the seniors and break into the squad a bit more in the new season. I know there are other quality centres there, but I am looking forward to the challenge” he added. 

Galway city clubs Galway Corinthians RFC and Galwegians have joined forces to stream their upcoming Connacht Senior League game on Friday evening (Kick Off-8pm).
 
Technically, the responsibility will be taken on by Rugby Smarts and the game will be broadcast on the respective clubs Facebook pages with John Mulligan and James Heaslip on commentary duty.
 
Apart from it being a local Derby, the game also has an added bite as both teams have already tasted defeat in their opening games of the returning competition. On week one, Corinthians were beaten 32-26 by Ballina while the following week saw Galwegians beaten 42-10 by Sligo making this Friday’s game a must win for both sides.
 
The new formatting of the league sees the team on top qualifying directly for the Connacht Senior Cup final and also having the honour of representing the province in the Bateman Cup, the competition traditionally held for the four Provincial Cup winners but this year featuring the Connacht Senior League Champions.
 
While it may be difficult for either Corinthians or Galwegians to get that top spot following their opening day defeats, there is still a lot to play for in the league with positions playing an important part in the following Senior Cup with positions post league determining the Cup quarter and semi-final places.
 
Both teams will also see this as important in their preparation for the Energia All-Ireland League which gets underway next month.
 
With all rugby called off last season because of the pandemic, this game will also be the first time that the clubs have met in competitive action at senior level since their meetings at the beginning of the 19/20 season. The teams met in the space of a few weeks. First in the Connacht Senior League and then in the Energia League with Corinthians winning both games.
 
President of Galway Corinthians RFC Kieran Faherty is looking forward not only to Corinthians first home game of the season but also to the renewal of one of the most historic local rivalries in rugby.
 
“You know, there is some sort of normality on the way, when you have the opportunity of hosting this great Galway rugby rivalry.
 
“Corinthians RFC looks forward to welcoming our historic rivals and neighbours Galwegians on Friday.
 
“We hear a lot about great sporting communities and rugby has ours too. Heroes from both clubs who provide a great sporting experience for girls and boys across the city and beyond.
 
“At a time when the professional ship seems to be sailing further away from the amateur clubs we still are “Pulling like dogs” in our small boats and continuing to produce a rich harvest that regularly represents province and country.”

 
Mr Faherty pointed to the coaching that exists in Corinthians at underage level that has reaped rewards this season already. “Corinthians alone had thirteen players between boys and girls selected on Connacht teams this weekend. We also had Rhiann Heary who was capped by Connacht at Senior interprovincial level against Leinster on Saturday last. Rhiann is the first Corinthian to be capped at women’s senior level for some time and it was a wonderful honour for the club to have a senior interprovincial player representing the province.”
 
“I also cannot forget the history that was made with the appointment of Yvonne Comer to the IRFU committee. Yvonne’s appointment is testament to the work that is being done in the women’s game in Corinthians and we all wish her well in her tenure.”
 
“I would also like to take this opportunity when I have it to congratulate Cathal Forde and Eoin De Buitlear who were recently capped for the Ireland U20s. They are another great example of the work done underage at the club.”

 
The Corinthians president is expecting a real local derby this Friday.
 
“Friday night’s game will showcase some exciting new young talent from both clubs in what will hopefully be an exciting old fashioned full blooded local Derby battle and all who are there or watching on stream will be given a true Corinthian hospitality.”
 
It was a sentiment echoed by his opposite number Carl Blake who will be in his first official role as president following the Galwegians AGM on Wednesday evening last.
 
“After a very long wait, we are delighted to return to rugby and can’t wait to renew our acquaintances with our greatest rivals of all in Corinthians.
 
“As the incoming President of Galwegians, there is no more fitting game to start a term of office than this! And quite frankly 2 years has been far too long a gap to go without a Wegians – Corinthians derby.
 
“However as we know that’s no fault of anyone’s, it was the cruel hand we were dealt for the last 18 months. But all the more reason to relish a derby game.

 
Mr Blake concluded with the hope that once again the Corinthians and Galwegians rivalry will show what is great in the game in Connacht.
 
“There is a very rich history between our two clubs, and I have no doubt that Friday’s game will add to that and help promote the club game in our city and province.”
 
While the game will certainly be a tough encounter on the field, off the field, both clubs have agreed to share the costs of the streaming and the sponsorship that has been provided means that neither club had to foot the cost of the event on their own.
 
Streaming details and links will be available and publicised through the club’s social media channels ahead of the game and regardless of the result; one thing that will cheers everyone up will be the return of Senior club rugby to the city.

The 2020 Connacht Junior Cup kicked off over the weekend with four preliminary round ties down for decision across the province.
 
The all-Senior affair between Corinthians and Ballina ended in victory for Corinthians, with the home side winning out in a high-scoring affair 39-22. Elsewhere there was a win for Ballyhaunis at home to Galwegians 13-3, Corrib overcame Dunmore 22-13, while the Loughrea vs NUIG fixture was conceded by NUIG.
 
Those results mean the eight fixtures in the Round of 16 are now set in stone, with all the games taking place this Sunday 12th January.
 
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 v Carrick-on-Shannon
Buccaneers v Sligo
Castlebar v Tuam
Corinthians v Ballyhaunis
Loughrea v Connemara
Monivea v Ballinasloe
OLBC v Corrib
Westport v Creggs

By John O’Sullivan

Sligo 19
Corinthians 12

Sligo clinched Connacht Senior Cup final success for the third time in their history with a hard fought victory over Corinthians at the Sportsground.

Three penalties from the boot of Euan Brown, as well as tries from Enda Gavin and Shane O’Hehir accounted for Sligo’s points in a win built upon rock solid defence and clinical attack.

Corinthians, who enjoyed the lions share of possession and territory throughout, registed tries through captain Aaron Broderick and Hiram Wood Hennessy but were powerless to prevent Sligo — whom they lead by ten points in the All Ireland League Division 2B table — from upsetting the odds and claiming a deserved victory.

In an unseasonably dry day, both teams were keen to flex their attacking muscles from the outset and test the oppositions defence.

The Galway based side, with winger Michael O’Reilly prominent with the ball in hand, were in the ascendancy in terms of early possesion and territory but it was Sligo who opened the scoring on the day.

Organised and aggressive line speed — the bedrock upon which Paddy Pearson’s charges won — saw Sligo force a Corinthians knock on in their own 22. When they played the ball after the knock on, they were penalised for being offside. Euan Brown then slotted the kick to make the score 3-0.

Corinthians immediately sought to fight back, but, despite the best efforts of full back Simon Keller, all of their attacks were repelled by the same stubborn Sligo defence. Any try would have to be earned and when the game’s first try did arrive, it took a special piece of play to manufacture it.

A huge break from fly half Mark McDermott saw Corinthians establish field position deep in Sligo territory. A few phases of hard carries then saw the ball recycled wide to O’Reilly and his deft offload found Broderick, the big second row, to touch down. The difficult conversion fell narrowly wide, with the game delicately poised at 6-5 midway through the first half.

The try was Corinthians’ last score of the half, however, as Brown continued his 100% record off the tee with further penalties for Sligo to make the score at the interval 9-5.

The JP Cooney coached Galway side started the second half with the intensity they started the first and, after ten minutes of near constant pressure, scored the try their efforts deserved.

Once again, it required an audacious piece of play to prize Sligo open. Hooker Wood Hennessy’s quickly taken short lineout found it’s way back to him and he opportunistically crossed for a try which Keller, from the most difficult of angles, bisected the posts with.

It proved to be Corinthians last score as Sligo — helped by the energy of winger Callum Goddard and the hunger of lock Ciaran Cassidy in the ball carrying stakes — began to assert themselves.

Full back Enda Gavin, trusting his own pace, raced over for a try in the right hand corner after the hard work of the pack had given Sligo the opportunity to spread the ball wide to their backs in the Corinthians 22. The conversion was wide, but the tide of momentum was now firmly with the 7th placed side in the AIL Division 2B.

With Corinthians desperately looking for a try with only five minutes remaining, Sligo lay in wait on the counter attack.

Winning a turnover just outside the Corinthians 22, the ball was worked to hooker O’Hehir and he escaped the wide defensive coverage to touch down. The conversion was wide, but the seven point lead – with the trademark hard nosed red and yellow clad defence again coming up trumps — was insurmountable and Sligo held on for the win.

Sligo team: 15-9: E.Gavin; C.Goddard; M.Butler, R.Feehily; P.Carter; E.Brown, B.Cunnigham; 8-1(M.Davey, B.West, S.Boyle; R.Holian, C.Cassidy; T.Gormley, S.O’Hehir, M.Keegan.

Corinthians team: 15-9: S.Keller; M.O’Reilly; C.Evans, S.Kilgallon; R.Greene; M.McDermott, R.Murphy; 8-1: R.Murphy, M.O’Brien, J.Campbell; A.Broderick, C.Raftery; C.Hansberry, H.Wood Hennessy, G.Noone

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