Galway rugby clubs return to Ulster Bank League action on Saturday with both Galwegians and Corinthians competing in division 1B, alongside fellow Connacht rivals Buccaneers.
Galwegians are the new boys in the division this year, having topped the division 2A table with just one defeat to win promotion last season, and they will be looking to consolidate their position among some of the bigger names in Irish club rugby.
Galwegians will hope that last season's successful squad will provide solid platform as they enter the season with confidence that they should hold their own. They have lost several key players, Eddie Earle, Eoin Rooney, Dan McCabe (Kanturk ), Dave Nolan (Bourgoin ), Conor Muldoon (emigration ), but have regained Martin Cummins, a former underage backrow player. With a strong front five and some pace in the backs - Darragh Leader, unlikely to feature due to Connacht, Sean O'Brien, Caolin Blade, Ciaran Gaffney, and John Cleary, Galwegians will be looking for midtable respectability.
Corinthians surprised many last season with their confident style, finishing in a creditable fourth place. After a great start, they lost their way a little at the end, but they will be all the more prepared this season to push for promotion. With the bulk of last year’s squad, they have new coaches in former players Pat Cunningham and Sean Duignan, while Galwegians also have a new coach in Matt Brown.
The two sides met recently in the Connacht Senior League with the Glenina outfit retaining the crown with an emphatic 38-11 win at Cloonacauneen.
Running in five tries, Galwegians were on the offensive from the kick-off and were rewarded when early forward pressure allowed flanker Eoin Tarmey to dive over for the game’s opening try, which outhalf Ross Shaughnessy converted.
Despite playing against the wind, Corinthians opened their account with a 15th minute penalty from Philip Maher, but Shaughnessy restored Wegians’ seven-point lead with a similar effort.
Although dominating matters, Wegians struggled to add to their score, and were instead punished for not rolling away, allowing Maher to stroke over a second penalty on 30 minutes.
However the visitors finally made the breakthrough in the 35th minute when wing Colin Conroy, came off his wing and sliced through the cover before feeding left-wing Matt Dever who dived over for an excellent try. Shaughnessy landed a superb touchline conversion to give the Blues a 17-6 half-time lead.
Corinthians, with the wind, returned from the break with all guns blazing. And with Wegians down to 14 players, the hosts won a series of close-in penalties as they laid seige on the line. However Galwegians held out, turned the ball over, and when Corinthians had a player sin-binned,Wegians took immediate advantage.
Dever showed great pace to race through from the 22 to grab his second try, which Shaughnessy converted, and when prop Jason East punctured the home defence setting up centre Gary O’Brien for the fourth try, Galwegians led by 31-6.
Brian Murphy added a fifth try with Shaughnessy landing his sixth conversion, before Corinthian flanker Arron Broderick got in for a try at the death.
GALWEGIANS: JP Jefferys; C Conroy, B Murphy, G O’Brien, M Dever; R Shaughnessy, M Connolly; J East, R Fitzgerald, D McHugh; A Ryan, B McClearn; E Tarmey, P Hackett, MCummins. Replacements: M Towey, J Naughton, S Madden, R Moore, C Dunne.