Connacht Junior 1A League
Creggs Rugby 8, Connemara RFC 13.
Connemara travelled to Creggs for Sunday’s top-of-the-table Junior 1A League decider and emerged victorious following an immensely physical battle, with the outcome in the balance right to the last play of an enthralling game.
With time almost up, Creggs were camped on the Connemara line but a tremendous turnover sealed a vital win for the experienced West Galway outfit. Despite the intense competitiveness, this match was played with great spirit by both teams and particular credit is due to the Connemara defence which was unyielding in the face of sustained Creggs pressure.
The large crowd enjoyed a fast and fluid opening flurry which saw scoring chances at either end before Connemara right winger Marty Conneeley finished off a slick handling move with a try after 14 minutes to silence the large home crowd.
Creggs needed something special to lift the spirits after this score and it came in the 28th minute when fullback Ronan Dowd counter-attacked from just outside his own 22 and linked with his brother Shane who took his pass at full pace and set off on a brilliant 70 metre run which took him clear of the opposition for a super score.
With neither try converted, the score remained at 5 all but Creggs were now in ascendancy. Connemara looked to be in deep trouble when Ulster referee Robbie Mc Greer produced a yellow card for a high tackle in the 32nd minute.
However Creggs failed to capitalise on their numerical advantage and instead it was Connemara who went ahead during this period with a well taken try by second-row Eugene Conroy following a series of rucks close to the line.
Creggs were awarded a penalty on the stroke of half-time, which Ronan Dowd slotted to narrow the gap to 10 – 8. Connemara turned around to face into the stiffening wind and would not have been comfortable with such a slender lead.
Unfortunately, the third quarter did not go according to plan for the home team with the previously efficient lineout beginning to malfunction under increased pressure from Connemara. Several vital balls were stolen and this deprived Creggs of a key attacking platform.
Connemara also showed great commitment and technique in the rucks and won some critical battles on the floor. On a rare excursion into the Creggs 22, Connemara were awarded a penalty which fullback Henry O’Toole converted to lead by 13 to 8 heading into the final ten minutes.
Creggs threw everything into attack in search of a try but Connemara held firm to grind out a hard-fought win, the final whistle being greeted with a mixture of relief and elation by their large band of supporters. Creggs are still not entirely out of the League title race but are now reliant on other teams to defeat Connemara on their title run-in. This is very unlikely, as both their remaining games are at home in Clifden.
Creggs must now regroup for next weekend’s Junior Cup Quarter-Final at home against Monivea. Creggs suffered two early setbacks in this game with prop Eoghan Farrell and centre Tom Callaghan sustaining injuries in the opening ten minutes. Number 8 Kevin Brandon also had to be replaced and these changes were disruptive in such a finely balanced contest.
On the plus side, Tom Fleming has made a speedy recovery from injury and he made a valuable contribution when he replaced the unfortunate Farrell after just four minutes of action. Aidan Leech also had a storming game, carrying the ball with intent at every opportunity.
On a day when each player stood up to the challenge, Brian Diffley and Kevin Brandon were prominent throughout, while the Dowd brothers, Chris Duignan and James Brandon carried the fight to Connemara out wide. Connemara had star performers in the three O’Toole brothers, with centres David Mc Donagh and Eoin Bourke impregnable in defence while Kevin Barry, Eugene Conroy and Niall Staunton also made valuable contributions.
Creggs Rugby: Ronan Dowd, Thomas Flynn, James Brandon, Tom Callaghan, Chris Duignan, Shane Dowd, Mark Brandon, Eoghan Farrell, Maurice Buckley, Aidan Leech, Brian Donoghue, Tom Oates, Ronan Cahill, Brian Diffley, Kevin Brandon, Tom Fleming, Sean Higgins, Luke Meehan, Brian Coady, and Andrew Callaghan.
Connemara: Henry O’Toole, Marty Conneeley, David Mc Donagh, Peter OToole, Ian Heanue,Michael OToole, Kevin Barry, Barry Gibbons, Ian Staunton, Eugene Conroy, Niall Staunton, Conor O’Malley, Paul Lee, T J Berry, Marco Tademeyer, Kevin Keogh, Thomas Sicre, Dylan Slater, Emmet Ferron, and David O’Reilly.