With the league more or less wound down for the year, with Corinthians claiming the title and Ballina finishing as the top placed Mayo side in the league and booking their place in the All-Ireland Junior Cup for next season, attention now turns to the Connacht Junior Cup. The competition is now at the quarter-final stage with four Mayo sides still left in the competition, Ballina, Westport, Castlebar and Ballinrobe. With each side avoiding each other in the last eight the possibility of two all Mayo semi-finals exists, but it will be a difficult task.
Bulls on parade
Westport, who have one game left in the league against local rivals Castlebar and only a fortnight ago bowed out of the All Ireland Junior Cup at this stage will be hosting Monivea at home. Monivea finished the league in second place in the table just one point behind the winners Corinthians and will go into the game as favourites, having already won in Carrowholly this season. Westport warmed up for the game with a 25-7 win over Buccaneers last weekend and will hope they can bring this form into the clash. While both these sides have been at the top of Connacht junior rugby for the past decade, Westport have fallen off the pace a bit in the last year and will be hoping they can show there’s still a lot of life left in them on Sunday.
Ballinrobe look to keep punching above their weight
Ballinrobe, who are fighting for promotion back up to the top ranks of junior rugby this season, have the hardest task of any of the Mayo sides this weekend when they make the trip to newly crowned league champions Monivea. Ballinrobe have been playing well all season, but operating out of a second tier could be a big obstacle. They will be hoping that the good form they have shown in the cup over the past couple of seasons will continue on Sunday and keep the game tight and stop Corinthians from playing it fast and loose across their back line where they can cause so much damage.
North west derby date for Ballina
Ballina are currently basking in a very progressive year for the side and on Sunday in Heffernan Park they will be looking to take it one step further when they take on Sligo in the north west derby. The city side won their league meeting 13-6 earlier this season and Ballina will be looking to put that right. Last weekend they secured their place in the All-Ireland Junior Cup for next season thanks to a 24-8 away win to Creggs which cemented their fourth place in the table. This game promises to be an interesting battle as Sligo, who have one of the meanest defences in the league conceding only 12 tries in the league, will be trying to hold out one more time against a Ballina side who have ran in 26 five pointers of their own. While Sligo have defending down to a fine art, their lack of potency in crossing the line themselves could be to Ballina’s advantage on Sunday.
Home advantage for Castlebar
The final Mayo side in action this weekend is Castlebar. Rory Casey’s side are currently locked in eighth place in the table level on points with Westport, who they have to play and hopefully beat, along with Monivea progressing through the All-Ireland League play-offs if they are going to make next year’s All-Ireland Junior Cup. But this weekend it’s all about Connacht Cup action and they will be hosting Galwegians in Cloondeash for a place in the last four. Castlebar have had an average season with six wins and four losses and a draw in the league. They haven’t been able to get the balance just right, as witnessed by the fact they have conceded as many tries as they have scored themselves and only picked up a single bonus point, while the two sides immediately below them have managed to gain seven each. ‘Wegians themselves haven’t been much better and would have thought themselves they would have had a better shot at going for the title than they did. Like Castlebar they are coming off a defeat in the last round of the league and will be hoping to put it right this weekend as they look to defend the cup they won last year.