Big games for local trio
With Rob Murphy
EVERY game matters in March when it comes to club rugby in Connacht. Next weekend, across the three divisions at junior level, there are some important relegation issues to be sorted out ... and a title to be secured for good measure.
For Castlebar, Ballinrobe and Corrib, this coming Sunday is the most important in the season so far. Castlebar and Corirb need home wins to keep their survival hopes alive, while Ballinrobe are looking for a home win to crown an unbeaten season with the Division 1c title and promotion back to the second tier.
We will start with Castlebar. They entertain Ballinasloe this weekend in their penultimate Division 1a league game. The second relegation position in the nine-team league is what everyone is trying to avoid. Castlebar are tied with Connemara for seventh at the moment on 29 points, each with two games remaining.
Ballinasloe aren’t safe yet either, despite their 22-7 bonus-point win against an alarmingly understrength Monivea last weekend. They are on 35 points with two games remaining. Westport are on 34, but unlike the other three sides, they have just one game left. Still with us?
Most sides still have their destiny in their own hands. Two wins will do the trick for Castlebar barring an unlikely set of circumstances. So all is not lost, despite a poor final quarter against OLBC last Sunday where the win should have been secured.
Corinthians were crowned champions last week and have clearly lost their way since. They were missing ten players for their trip to Westport and their final game is against Castlebar, so Seamus King and Co will hope the Galway side are in similar shape for that one.
Right now, however, the Castlebar coach will only be thinking of Sunday’s clash at Cloondeash. A win will bring his side within two points of Balllinasloe and one of Westport. Those two sides meet in Moher Road next week so points will be dropped there.
Connemara are right in the mix and they face a tough home clash against Ballina this Sunday before a very winnable away tie against already-relegated Tuam on the final day. Incidentally, the All Blacks were in Junior Plate action on Sunday and easily beat Corrib 34-3. Ballina overcame Ballyhaunis 20-17 in the same competition, having trailed by 14 at half time.
On form, Castlebar look in most trouble, Ballinasloe are surging up the table and have conjured up some brilliant results of late (away to Connemara and at home to Monivea). Connemara have a favourable run in, Westport are unbeaten in six. Yet despite all that, if Castlebar win two, they should survive.
In Division 1b, the outlook for Corrib is more straightforward. Sunday is the final day of the season. They need to beat Creggs and require Dunmore to lose to Galwegians Seconds by more than seven points to avoid the automatic relegation place.
Below them in Division 1c, Ballinrobe entertain Galwegians Thirds at the Green, looking to crown a fine season with another win at their newly-redeveloped home.
Winning this league was well within their compass from the outset, but they have delivered in fine style during a tough campaign and deserve a big reception this Sunday. A bright future lies ahead.
Rob Murphy runs the popular grassroots rugby website www.knockon.ie