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.

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

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.

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

Connemara RFC will begin the defence of their Connacht Junior Cup with a 1st round tie to either Loughrea or NUIG.
The draw was made last Saturday at The Sportsground with 20 teams learning their opponents for the 2019/20 tournament.
8 of those will play in the preliminary round, with Corinthians taking on Ballina, Loughrea facing NUIG, Galwegians making the trip to Ballyhaunis and Corrib up against Dunmore.
In the 1st round there are three all J1A fixtures, with last year’s beaten finalists Creggs making the trip to Westport, Buccaneers host Sligo, and Castlebar take on Tuam.
Elsewhere Monivea face Ballinasloe, Ballinrobe take on Carrick-on-Shannon, OLBC face the winners of Corrib/Dunmore, and Corinthians or Ballina take on either Ballyhaunis or Galwegians.
The preliminary round games will take place on 5th January 2020 with the 1st round ties the following weekend.

Preliminary Round
Corinthians v Ballina
Loughrea v NUIG
Ballyhaunis v Galwegians
Corrib v Dunmore

1st Round
Castlebar v Tuam
Loughrea or NUIG v Connemara
Monivea v Ballinasloe
Corinthians or Ballina v Ballyhaunis or Galwegians
Buccaneers v Sligo
OLBC v Corrib or Dunmore
Ballinrobe v Carrick-on-Shannon
Westport v Creggs

The domestic rugby season cranks up another gear tomorrow when the draw for the 2019/20 Connacht Junior Cup takes place at The Sportsground.
20 clubs from across the province will learn their 1st round opponents, all of whom will be hoping to replicate the performance of Connemara RFC last season and claim the trophy.
The Clifden side defeated Creggs 25-6 in last year’s decider, and with the defending champions already top of this season’s J1A league after the first two games, they’ll be aiming to clinch an historic back-to-back success in the competition.
The draw gets underway at 6.45pm in the Heineken Rugby Clubhouse, prior to Connacht’s opening Guinness PRO14 game with Benetton which kicks-off at 7.35pm, and will be conducted by the Galway City Mayor Cllr. Mike Cubbard and Fergus ‘Gussie’ Farrell ahead of his “Toughest Trek” fundraising campaign for the National Rehabilitation Centre.

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.

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.

The eight remaining teams in the Connacht Junior Cup learned their next opponents in last night’s quarter-final draw which was held live on Galway Bay FM.
Reigning champions Ballina, fresh off the back of a narrow win at home to Galwegians, face another tough assignment as they make the trip to Tuam who overcame Loughrea by 8 points.
Junior 1A League leaders Connemara and AIL 1B side Buccaneers will go head-to-head in another heavyweight clash after they overcame Dunmore and Corinthians respectively.
Elsewhere Monivea will make the short trip down the N63 to face Creggs, who are aiming for their 3rd Cup success since the start of 2018 after their Curley and Cawley Cup success. Lastly Castlebar take on Corrib after their victories over Ballinrobe and NUIG respectively.
The quarter-final ties will be played in early February.
Monivea 18-13 Westport
Creggs 32-12 Sligo
Ballina 23-20 Galwegians
Loughrea 8-16 Tuam
NUIG 12-15 Corrib
Dunmore 6-29 Connemara
Corinthians 10-27 Buccaneers
Castlebar 15-6 Ballinrobe
Connemara v Buccaneers
Creggs v Monivea
Castlebar v Corrib
Tuam v Ballina


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