Galwegians have advanced to their first All Ireland Bateman Cup final after a 35-31 win over Ulster Cup winners Ballynahinch at Crowley Park on Saturday.
The two sides served up a nine-try feast, but the home side edged the contest to become the first Connacht club to contest the All-Ireland Bateman Cup final since UCG in 1936. They will now face the three-times defending cup winners, Cork Constitution, after they defeated a much-depleted UCD at Belfield, on the weekend of April 30 /May 1.
Galwegians young centre Alan McMahon produced a try-saving tackle in the opening minute to deny the visitors' scrumhalf Chris Gibson. However Hinch went ahead after eight minutes from a turnover when centre Jordan Grattan hacked clear for flanker David McGuigan to finish, with Quinn converting.
Wegians picked themselves up to establish some dominance, and were rewarded on 15 minutes when hooker Juan Anaya got on the end of a forward rumble to touch down near the posts, and outhalf Aidan Moynihan added the conversion to level.
The dominant pack put the home side in front with a second try with flanker Josh Pim grounding the ball. Moynihan landed the conversion from the right, before adding a penalty and a drop goal to give the Blues a commanding 20-7 lead.
Hinch grabbed a lifeline with a penalty in the 35th minute, and in their first foray into Wegian territory since their opening try, they made it count when lock Jonny Madden finished off near the right-hand corner for a second try. However when their scrumhalf Gibson was binned in stoppage time for a deliberate knock-on, Wegians capitalised, and from Dave Nolan's line-out take, lock Marty Cummins burst over to score try number three, putting the home side into a 25-12 half-time lead.
After Wegians lost flanker Matt Towey to the bin in the 43rd minute, the visitors struck again with fullback Manu Eden skipping through the cover to dot down. But Wegians claimed their fourth try from a forward drive, Doran McHugh adding his name to the scoresheet, and Moynihan landing the touchline conversion.
The visitors refused to lie down, and started asking questions of the Wegian defence. They were rewarded with their fourth try when prop Craig Trenier finished off some relentless pressure, and Quinn's conversion once again reduced the margin to eight. When they came back straight from the restart and laid siege to the Wegians line, they again crossed the whitewash, with substitute back Justin Rea diving over. Quinn nailed the conversion to reduce the deficit to a single point with 10 minutes remaining.
The home side, however, steadied the ship with team captain Ja Naughton sprung from the bench, and captain on the day Brian Murphy, in particular, giving leadership to their younger teammates. Unsurprisingly it was another lineout which helped seal the win in the 74th minute. Although Hinch kept their try- ine intact, they conceded a penalty under the posts, which Moynihan duly converted to give his side a four-point cushion.
Galwegians: D McHugh, J Anaya, J East, M Cummins, D Nolan, M Towey, J Pim, A Ryan, B Lee, A Moynihan, P O’Beirn, B Murphy (capt ), A McMahon, G Armstrong; J Cleary. SUBS: P Curran, J Naughton, M Burke, P Hackett, R Hogan, R Moore, E Dowling.