Connacht J1A League
The fine margins at play in the Connacht Junior League were very much in evidence last Sunday as league leaders Connemara plundered the spoils at The Green. The visiting Blacks were dogged rather than dynamic as they kept a battling Creggs outfit at arm’s length for much of the afternoon to all but seal the league title.
Connemara started on the front foot and enjoyed good early territory as Creggs took time to grow into the contest. Within 14 minutes, the Blacks were on the scoreboard as David McDonagh’s excellent break took him within ten metres of the line. McDonagh was once again involved two phases later as the ball was funnelled wide for winger Marty Conneely to touch down in the corner. The conversion was missed by Ian Heanue, who was to endure a difficult afternoon with the boot.
Creggs had suffered plenty in that opening period as prop Eoghan Farrell and centre Tom Callaghan were both forced off through injury.
Connemara’s ferocious tackling made life difficult throughout this gripping contest but Shane Dowd found a gap 20 minutes in and broke deep into the visitors’ 22”. Support was slow in coming however and the Blacks managed to recover.
Connemara failed to heed that warning though and just eight minutes later Dowd collected a pass from brother Ronan and outpaced the Connemara cover from inside his own half to touch down. A wonderful solo effort and Creggs were deservedly level. Ronan failed to convert but the Dowd connection had certainly steadied the ship.
There was nothing between them up to this point and the hosts were certainly giving as good as they got. There were some ominous signs from a Creggs’ point of view, however, as Connemara began to turn ball over, but they were getting on top at the scrum and their opponents’ clearances were repeatedly over-cooked.
While Creggs were stubborn and hard-working to a man, it was Connemara’s own discipline that perhaps should have cost them this match. Referee Robbie McGreer certainly seemed to be losing patience and had words with Peter O’Toole when Ronan Dowd was taken out off the ball as Creggs enjoyed some possession in the last ten minutes of the first half. Then Kevin Barry was sent to the bin following a big hit on Brian Diffley as the Maroon and White threatened the Blacks’ line.
Connemara seemed unperturbed by this setback and caught Creggs napping in the closing stages of the half. Heanue found a gap, and Niall Staunton drove them towards the line before Eugene Conroy barrelled over from close-range. Marco Rademeyer may have dragged his conversion attempt wide but Joe O’Connell’s men went in 10-8 to the good at the interval, Ronan Dowd dispatching a penalty for Creggs to keep them in touch.
It was all to become a little sloppy after the break as both sides made unforced errors. Creggs’ line-outs, which had been solid in the first period, were to let them down badly in the second forty. On a number of occasions the visitors stole ball after the hosts had found touch inside their opponents’ 22”.
Creggs were having some joy at scrum time but just couldn’t find a way through a resolute if sometimes undisciplined Connemara defence.
Connemara for their part, struggled with their exit strategy and some wasteful kicking made the second half far more uncomfortable than perhaps it should have been.
In the end though they were just that little bit more composed in possession and a Henry O’Toole penalty with under quarter of an hour to play was to prove all-important.
The hosts bravely huffed and puffed right to the death but despite a period of sustained pressure couldn’t find a leveller. The second half was summed up in the last play of the game as Connemara again forced a terrific turnover near their own line to cue wild celebrations at the full-time whistle.
Creggs’ Connacht Junior Cup destiny remains in their hands but they must now regroup for this weekend’s Quarter-Final at home to Monivea. Meanwhile they can only hope that Connemara’s remaining opponents can do them a favour in the race for the league title.
Creggs: Ronan Dowd, Tom Flynn, Tom Callaghan, James Brandon, Chris Duignan, Shane Dowd, Mark Brandon, Kevin Brandon, Brian Diffley, Ronan Cahill, Tom Oates, Brian Donoghue, Eoghan Farrell, Maurice Buckley, Aidan Leech. Replacements: Tom Fleming, Sean Óg Higgins, Luke Meehan, Brian Coady and Andrew Callaghan.
Connemara: Henry O’Toole, Marty Conneely, Eoin Burke, David McDonagh, Peter O’Toole, TJ Berry, Paul Lee, Conor O’Malley, Niall Staunton, Eugene Conroy, Ian Staunton, Barry Gibbons, Kevin Barry. Replacements: Marco Rademeyer, Emmet Ferron, Kevin Keogh, Thomas Sicre, Dylan Slater, Emmet Ferron and David O’Reilly.