New season kicks off this weekend

Rugby: Connacht Junior Rugby

Photo: Sportsfile

Photo: Sportsfile

The new Connacht Rugby Junior League season kicks off in earnest this Sunday with Mayo sides in action in both of the top two divisions.

In the Junior 1A division both Castlebar and Westport will be looking to improve on their league seasons from last term, where they finished in sixth and seventh place respectively. The county town men will face a serious examination on Sunday when they take on last year's league champions, Connemara, in Monastery Field at 2.30pm.

The county town men have already faced this opposition, recently having beaten them 14-7 in the quarter-final of the Cawley Cup, a result they backed up with a 32-5 win over Monivea last weekend in the semi-final and they will take on Creggs in the final of that competition in December.

Last season Castlebar won five and lost nine of their 14 league games, but they did manage to pick up 11 bonus points along the way and they will be hoping to get this season off to a winning start, but it will be tough in the Gaeltacht.

Westport finished one place behind Castlebar in the league standings at the end of last season despite winning a game more than their county rivals, but they only managed to pick up five bonus points, seeing them end up a spot behind Castlebar at the end of the day.

On Sunday they will be at home to a Tuam side who are stepping back up to the top flight after claiming the Junior 1B title last season, going the whole season unbeaten winning seven from seven. They also made a dent in the Connacht Junior Cup, making it to the final four of that competition.

Westport exited the Cawley Cup at the quarter-final a few weeks ago, going down by a single point on a score of 18-17 away to Dummore, while their opponents this weekend were eliminated from that competition by Creggs, going down 13-11.

In Junior 1B it is an all-Mayo derby to open the league season for both Ballinrobe and Ballina, with the south Mayo men having home advantage. Last season Ballinrobe finished in fifth place in the standings with four wins and one draw to show for their 14 games. They warmed up for this one going down 23-17 to Loughrea in the semi-final of the Curley Cup at the end of last month.

Their opponents on Sunday were plying their trade in the third tier of junior rugby (their first team play in the All Ireland League ) and they were promoted up to Junior 1B for this season after finishing in second place in that division, picking up five wins from their eight games and also getting five bonus along the way - just edging out Ballyhaunis by a single point in the standings at the end of the league.

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