Galway clubs will be hoping for an improvement in their results in this weekend’s second match of the new AIB League.
Of the four Connacht clubs, only Galwegians achieved a victory - and that was by the skin of their teeth in the dying moments over visitors Dungannon by 15 - 13.
This weekend Galwegians - the only club at home last Saturday - face their first away trek to Ulster where they come up against the ambitious Ballynahinch. Buccaneers, who lost 23 - 3 to Young Munster, host Old Belvedere, while in division 2 Corinthians will be hoping to put last weekend’s 36 - 7 reverse to UCD behind them. However, they are back on the road again, with a visit to Lakelands and a Terenure outfit that was a 26 - 20 winner over Dublin University. In division three Connemara will welcome a return to Monastery Field after a heavy 44 - 13 defeat away to Nenagh. They host Ards, also first round losers, and will be hoping home advantage will give them an early season win.
Galwegians’ visit to Ballymacarn Park is the first in their All Ireland League history, and it will be a difficult assignment. The two sides met last year in the AIB Cup quarter-final and on that occasion Ballynahinch, then playing in division two and having already taken Shannon’s scalp, took the honours at Crowley Park. As a result Galwegians will not underestimate their Ulster opponents, who lost to Ballymena in their opening league match by 13 - 15.
Galwegians, however, will travel in confidence in what is expected to be a highly competitive encounter against two sides with ambitions this season. Unfortunately they will be without Peter Bracken, who has joined Magners League side Newport Gwent Dragons on a four-month contract to ease their front row crisis. Bracken made a welcome return to his former club from several years in England, and already this season he has proven an influential figure. Last weekend against Dungannon, he set up a first-half try with a well-timed pass after a fine right-wing break, and his experience playing at the top level in England will be a loss for the Galway club.
However Galwegians needed a last-minute try from replacement Ja Naughton to overcome Dungannon. Despite looking the more organised and more threatening, they nearly came unstuck when they conceded a soft 55th minute try, having led at the break by 10 - 6. Wegians’ fullback Mark Butler and his Dungannon counterpart John McGuckin each failed with early kickable penalties before Dungannon outhalf James Shiells put the visitors in front with a drop goal on 16 minutes.
The home side controlled the game for long periods and they were finally rewarded when blossoming outhalf Ross Shaughnessy found Butler who did well to race in for a 32nd minute try. Dungannon, however, hit the front again with a penalty from Shiells before Bracken set up winger Tiernan O’Halloran for a second unconverted try.
However it nearly came unstuck for the home side when some poor defence allowed centre Ethan Allen to score under the posts, with Shiells adding the extras. To their credit the home side displayed composure as Naughton grounded the ball from a forward drive.
GALWEGIANS: M Butler; T O'Halloran, A Esera, D Clark, B Lee; R Shaughnessy, R Dillon; J Stephens, C Muldoon, P Bracken, D Boyd, B McClearn, A Conboy, I Muldoon (capt ), A Olive.Replacements: T Ellard, J Cleary, J Naughton, LCasserly.
DUNGANNON: J McGuckin; N Patterson (capt ), P Magee, E Allen, A Holmes; J Shiells, M Ferry; J Fitzpatrick, C Knipe, R Carleton, M Rainey, N Magee, D Hall, A Birch, S McKenzie.
Referee: Leo Colgan (IRFU )