After the second round of action in the Connacht Junior Cup last weekend there are four Mayo teams left standing as it reached the quarter-final stage. With one all Mayo tie coming up on Sunday, there is a very realistic chance that three Mayo teams will make the semi-final stage of Connacht’s premier junior rugby cup.
Last weekend Castlebar booked their spot in the last eight where they have 12 points to spare over Ballyhaunis in a 15-3 win in Cloondeash. Peter Bracken’s side had too much for their east Mayo opponents thanks to tries in either half from Damien Togher and Aaron Wooton. Ronan Conway converted Wooton’s second half try and added on another penalty, with Gary Patterson kicking a battling Ballyhaunis’ only points from a penalty kick early in the second half. That score did close the gap to just two points, but Castlebar had too much strength and were able to kick-on and book their quarter-final spot.
This Sunday, Castlebar will face another all Mayo clash for a place in the final four when Ballinrobe make the short trip north to Castlebar. The south Mayo men secured their place in this round with a big win on the Galway Roscommon border when they saw off Creggs last Sunday. Ballinrobe had five points to spare over their hosts at the end of an absorbing encounter. Ballinrobe belied their league position and put in a second top-class performance on the road in as many weeks. Peter Cosgrove touched down for a try after flowing team movement, before a drop goal from David Madden put them eight points clear before 20 minutes had elapsed. Oisín Gill added on a penalty before the break, with Creggs replying with a penalty of their own to have Ballinrobe leading 11-3 at the turnaround. The second half saw Ballinrobe grit in and grind out the win as Creggs kicked two penalties to close the gap to two points at one stage, before Gill closed out the scoring with his second penalty and booked Ballinrobe’s progression into this weekend’s round of the cup. Castlebar will go in as favourites having had the better league season so far where they have booked their place in the promotion-relegation play-off and beaten Ballinrobe 40-12 in Castlebar in October, and as recently as three weeks ago Castlebar were 19-3 winners at The Green. But the two hard fought away wins in the last two weeks will have Ballinrobe brimming with confidence.
Westport look to teach students a lesson
Westport earned their place in the last eight with a surprisingly narrow six point win over OLBC in Galway last Sunday. The hosts had not registered a single win in the league all season, while Westport are pushing for a spot in next year’s All Ireland Junior Cup. Going on their previous meetings in the league Westport were very strong favourites having won 12-6 in Galway back in October, and in the second week in January they saw off their opponents 43-5 in Carrowholly. Kevin Corcoran crossed over for a try, while David Keane kicked three penalties along with converting Corcoran’s try to seal a 16-10 win. That victory sets up another road trip to Galway for JP Walsh’s team where they will take on NUIG side who are operating out of the third tier of Connacht junior rugby. In the first round an NUIG saw off Dunmore 24-14 in Dangan and then beat Loughrea (who have third place in division 1b sewn up ) 14-0 in Loughrea last Sunday. This weekend’s test against Westport will surely be a bridge too far for them.
Ballina will take on Galway opponents for the second weekend in a row when they host Corinthians in Heffernan Park on Sunday. Last weekend Ballina put in a towering performance to beat Galwegians 27-10 in north Mayo, and they will be looking to keep up that level of performance against a side that sits just one point behind them in the league at present. Ballina ran in five tries in their win last weekend, with Conor Forde, Richard Kelly, Conor Mason, Lawrence Leonard, and Michael Murphy all touching down over the 80 minutes. When the sides have met in the league this season, Ballina won by seven in a high scoring encounter that finished 35-28 in October and in their meeting three weeks ago Ballina scored more than 30 points again in a 32-19 win. It should be another cracking encounter and David Newman’s side will hopefully book their place in the final four, with home advantage being a big factor.
The other quarter-final pairing has yet to be finalised, with Buccaneers and Moinvea meeting in Athlone on Sunday in round two, with the winners hosting Connemara in the quarter-final on Sunday week. All games kick off on Sunday at 2.30pm.