With the summer over it’s time to get back to the cut and thrust of the action on the rugby paddocks across the province as the Connacht Junior League crashes back into action. With four Mayo based clubs and Corrib crossing into south Mayo, there will be plenty of interest around the county as the season progressed. While the defending champions Corinthians and Monivea will be the favourites to pick up the title at the end of the season, that won’t deter the Mayo sides launching a bid for the title, while getting a place inside the top four exclusive junior clubs will be the initial aim for most of the Mayo sides with that place in the All Ireland Junior Cup up for grabs.
The season will kick off in style with an all Mayo clash on Sunday at 2pm when Castlebar take on Westport in Cloondesh. Both sides have gone through a number of changes since last season, with the hosts on Sunday seeing Johnny McCormack and Pete Kearney taking over the coaching roles this season. The former assistants will be looking to get off to a good start over the Bulls, who themselves are in the early stages of a rebuilding programme as a number of players who have served them down through the years have hung up their boots. Eddie Walsh is back in charge of the side this year; with Kevin Corcoran being lost to the All Ireland League it will be a tough year for the Bulls who try to regain their status as the top Mayo club in the competition, while Castlebar will be looking for inspiration from their captain Ruairí Hughes on the field when battle commences.
Ballina are probably the best equipped of the Mayo sides to make a dent in the dash for the title this year. Corey Brown is in charge again this year and they have been moving well in the early stages of the pre-season. Ciaran Rowe should be back in full fitness for the start of the year and the Creggs Road side will be going in with all guns blazing to make a good early start when they host Buccaneers on Sunday.
Ballinrobe are back in top level action again this year, and the south Mayo men would be most peoples favourites to be the whipping boys of the competition. But one thing is for sure, Ballinrobe will be giving their all on the field every time they go out on it and Pat Malone and Paul Keane will have their sides well prepared for every game they play. And nobody will be coming out with anything soft over the winter. They open up on Sunday with a game away to Our Lady’s Boys Club in Galway.
Corrib came out on the wrong side of a few tight games last year combined with the set back of a three point deduction at the midway point of the campaign last year put them well back from the running. Coach Paul Donnellan will be looking to get his side into a top four place and a place in the All Ireland junior cup this year.
Ballina v Buccaneers; Corinthians v Monivea; Corrib v Tuam; Castlebar v Westport; Galwegians v Sligo; OLBC v Ballinrobe.