The New Year has come and with it the Connacht junior league enters its final furlong as the chase for a top four place and avoiding relegation intensifies. With the competition in hibernation since the middle of December, there will be a warm welcoming return to the fold for the Mayo sides in the competition this weekend in Division 1A with two Mayo derbies topping the billing for Mayo attention.
Ballina who have been flying the flag for Mayo clubs this season, and currently sit in third place in the table behind Monivea and Sligo, will be hot favourites to take the points and possibly a bonus when they entertain Westport at Creggs Road. In their last game before the break Ballina went down by 19-3 at the hands of second placed Sligo, and will be looking to get back on track against the Bulls. The Westport men signed off on 2009 with an 8-3 win over Corinthians to pick up their fourth win of the season in Carrowholly. That win represented a bit of revenge for the Bulls who were knocked out of the Connacht Junior Cup the previous week by the same opposition, and they will be keen to show Ballina that there is plenty of fight still left in them on Sunday.
The other Mayo derby sees Ballinrobe, who are fighting it out at the bottom of the table, make the trip north to Castlebar as they look for their first win of the season. The south Mayo men have not won a game all season, but are still only third last in the table thanks to points deductions handed out to Galwegians and Buccaneers, and their solitary point return from a bonus point for the season really is not going to be enough to keep them in league so they will be looking for a big performance on Sunday against Castlebar. From their own point of view Castlebar have been having a mixed season with only three wins from their eight games, but they have managed to pick up five bonus points showing how close they have been in a number of games they have lost. Ballinrobe should give them the perfect opportunity to pick up a bonus point win on Sunday as they limber up for the second round of the Connacht Junior Cup the following weekend against Ballinasloe. The other Mayo interest on Sunday in the top level of junior rugby sees Corrib go to Corinthian Park, the border club currently are only a point behind Ballina in fourth place in the table and this clash with the fifth place side will be a stern test of character for them. Meanwhile in the next division of the junior league, Westport’s B side will look to get one over on Ballyhaunis in Westport on Sunday.