An all Mayo final in this year’s Connacht Junior Cup was the prospect on Sunday morning, but by the time the late afternoon sun started to descend over Clew Bay, only the side from the shores of the bay were left standing in the competition.
Westport had 15 points to spare over Ballina on Sunday, and they showed tremendous fortitude in holding off a baying attack from the north Mayo men. Then they were reduced to 13 men, and holding the strong men of the north at bay and stretching their lead even further, when logic would have dictated Ballina would get in for a score.
Westport led 10-3 at the break, thanks to a try just before the turn around from Seán Tobin, which he also converted. Earlier in the game he swapped penalties with Kevin McCarron. Tobin kicked another penalty during his side’s two man disadvantage, and when restored to 15, David O’Malley touched down for their second try, which Tobin converted. All roads now lead to Galway on Easter Sunday, where they will take on Monivea in the final.
Monivea booked their place in the showpiece occasion with a 29-12 win over Castlebar in Cloondeash last Sunday. The visitors, who are hoping to pinch the division 1a title still, had too much in the tank for a Castlebar side looking to rejoin the top ranks of junior rugby next season, if they can win their play-off game.
Monivea came out of the blocks early and had 15 points on the board in almost as many minutes with two tries, a conversion and a penalty in the bag. Padraig Mannion and Callum Forde got the tries, with Ger O’Connor adding the other scores from the boot. The 15-0 lead stood at half time despite some valiant efforts by the homeside. Monivea added another try early in the second half, but Castlebar didn’t give up and tries from Paul Rowland and Mark Staunton brought the gap back to a manageable target. But the visitors upped their game when the pressure came on and a Seamus Fahy touched down to seal the win.
While Castlebar will be disappointed to lose the semi-final, they have a bigger target in mind in the next few weeks when they face into the promotion relegation play-off.
Ballina fight for survival
Who Castlebar will face in that play-off will be decided very shortly. Last week Ballina were deducted 27 points by the Connacht branch for failing to field against Connemara. That points deduction put them right at the foot of the table. However earlier this week after an appeal, that points deduction was reduced to four points, leaving Ballina on 24 points with one game remaining; the same amount of points as Galwegians who also have 24 points.
Ballina will play their remaining game on St Patrick’s Day against Connemara in Clifden. The Galway men need a point to claim the league title, as they trail Monivea by a single point at the moment.
The other game left for decision in the league is the meeting of Galwegians and OLBC on Sunday, a game that will see Wegians have home advantage against an OLBC side who have already been relegated, and haven’t won a game all year in the league.
Ballina will be hoping that OLBC can do them a favour and take something off Wegians, because they know the task of stopping a Connemara side who are chasing the title could be a very difficult one indeed. If Ballina end up in second last place in the table, it will set up a very interesting promotion-relegation play-off against their fellow county men in a few weeks.