Mayo sides go for glory in junior cup

Rugby: Connacht Junior Cup

The mouth-watering taste of a possible all Mayo Connacht Junior Cup final is still there for the eating this weekend, when three Mayo sides go into action in the Connacht Junior Cup semi-finals.

With Castlebar, Ballina, and Westport all still left in the final four of the competition at least one Mayo side will make the final, with Westport and Ballina meeting in Carrowholly in one semi-final and Castlebar looking to upset the applecart when they host Monivea in their semifinal.

Castlebar are the underdogs going into their clash with a Monivea side who sit on top of the Junior 1A table having completed their 14 league games, but with second placed Connemara still having one game to play against Ballina (the game was called off for the second week in a row this weekend ), the title looks like it will slip through Monivea’s hands, giving them an extra impetus if they needed to finish off the season with a trophy.

Castlebar have had a very solid season under Pete Bracken, finishing in second place in Junior 1B sending them into a promotion relegation play-off against the second bottom side in Junior 1A, with their opponents still to be decided, with Ballina and Galwegians the two sides still battling it out to avoid getting drawn into that contest.

While that game is still a few weeks away and may well be the most important fixture of their year, they will not be throwing in the white flag before Sunday’s game against the side from the Galway/Roscommon border. In their 14 league games this season, Castlebar have picked up 11 wins, the same as table toppers Buccaneers, only losing out to the Athlone side thanks to their greater collection of bonus points in their wins. In the cup this season, Castlebar have not had to face a top division side having disposed of Ballyhaunis in round two and Ballinrobe in the quarter-finals. With the two sides separated by a whole division, the visitors to Cloondeash will be the favourites, but Castlebar will not give them anything too easy.

The meeting of Westport and Ballina in Carrowholly is on paper the game of the day, with the two Mayo sides both well within their rights to fancy their chances of making the final of the competition. For Westport they are looking to get back into the showpiece occasion after reaching it last year where they were beaten by Galwegians. In this year’s two league meetings between the sides Westport have the upper hand having picked up wins in both games, having just that bit too much for Ballina, winning 15-5 in Heffernan Park and 16-3 in Carrowholly. Those two wins were a big reason in Sunday’s hosts finishing in fourth place in the table seven points ahead of Ballina, while the north Mayo men still have to fight off the potential of ending up in a relegation play-off against Castlebar.

Westport booked their place in the semifinal with wins over OLBC and NUIG, in both games Westport were tested a lot more than their league form would have expected as they saw off OLBC by just six points and Junior 1C outfit NUIG going down fighting in a 24-15 win. Ballina have come through some pretty tough encounters themselves with a 27-10 win over Galwegians and a 13-7 win over Corinthians putting them in good shape ahead of the semifinal.

Both games kick-off at 2.30pm on Sunday.


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