Westport are second best
Try: C Gaffney, D Butler, M Dever, C Lowndes
Pen: C Lowndes (3)
Con: C Lowndes (3)
Try: A McAleer, M Dempsey
Pen: M Dempsey
Con: M Dempsey
ONCE again, Galwegians are setting the standards at this level in Connacht. The bar has been raised in the Junior Cup in recent seasons, and clearing it is proving to be a huge challenge for the junior clubs across the province. Westport made mistakes in this final but ultimately a sharper Galway side with a plethora of exciting future senior talent had the answers.
Sunday’s Junior Cup triumph was their second in three seasons, their only defeat in that span coming by a single score to Monivea in last year’s decider. Westport arrived in Galway primed for a serious tilt at the hugely talented young sky blues side and came away with a 20-point defeat. An unflattering scoreline for sure, but indicative of a relentless sky blue effort.
The margin can be explained in many different ways – the kicking and general play of impressive scrum-half Conor Lowndes; the disruption and turnovers forced at restarts; the unyielding and relentless hits in defence; and Westport’s failure to build a set-piece platform from their lineouts.
It all adds up. Westport scored two tries; Galwegians bagged four, including an intercept in the very last minute. So history shouldn’t mark this down as a one-sided final. It wasn’t. After 60 minutes, Westport were back within seven when Seán Tobin and Matthew Dempsey combined for a great try. The game was in the melting pot at that point.
Yet Galwegians were never going to lose, once they figured out a few glaring problems. Their quick answers to Westport scores were the key. They knew when they needed to quell potential surges and that’s the sign of a winning side.
The first half hour was enthralling, though there wasn’t a point scored in the period. The winning and losing of the game came in the ten minutes before half time.
A lot went right for Westport early doors. They were forcing turnovers at the breakdown – centre Andrew McAleer garnered two. The forwards hassled and harried, and Galwegians lacked subtlety and composure.
Those clean turnovers swayed referee Jason Cairns early as Galwegians suffered his wrath on ten occasions in the first 20 minutes. It led to a yellow card for the powerful Paul Griffin, though the setback was offset by the sin-binning of Westport’s Paul Jennings eight minutes later.
Westport failed to take advantage of all those penalties, however. Their first four lineouts were turned over, and while they hit the next five, it set a pattern that would re-emerge in the second half. Primary set-piece position was lost and three early visits to the 22 yielded nothing but a missed penalty from Matthew Dempsey.
The full-back eventually opened the scoring after 30 minutes. It was a long overdue score for the Mayo side, but it merely sparked Galwegians into life. They won the restart, and quickly turned that into a try from Irish Schools star Ciaran Gaffney in the far corner. The conversion made it 7-3.
Even at that early stage, the story of the game was encapsulated. After half time, while Westport pondered, Galwegians pounced with Lowndes scoring two minutes into the second half, the lead was 17-3 at that point.
Dempsey’s try on 60 minutes came from a lineout 12 metres inside the ’Wegians half. It was a rare but perfect set-piece from the Mayo men, Liam Scahill powered forward in possession, McAleer then took it on another few metres before Tobin worked his magic. It was a glimpse of their capabilities, but within 60 seconds, Galwegians forced a penalty and Lowndes kicked it.
The closing stages saw tries for Galwegians replacement winger David Butler, Westport’s best performer McAleer, and Galwegians centre Matthew Dever, whose father Michael captained the Westport cup-winning side of 1975.
Westport’s talented young squad have a little bit more developing to do. Galwegians are a complete outfit.
C Gaffney; R Burke, S Madden, M Dever, E O’Mahony; D Clarke, E Lowndes; C Kyne, C Gavin, P Griffin; C O’Malley, J Healy; M Towey, N Dillon, J Dinneen.
Replacements used: D Deegan for Healy; D Butler for O’Mahoney; D Symes for Madden; S Perkins for Dillon; S McGrath for C Kyne.
M Dempsey; E Joyce, D Corcoran, A McAleer, K Corcoran; S Tobin, P Jennings; J Dever, J O’Connor, P Kennedy; T Dever, E Dunning; D Keane, M Ryder, L Scahill.
Replacements used: M Walsh for P Kennedy; C Dyra for O’Connor; C Hastings for Keane, D O’Toole for Joyce, M Brady for Ryder.
Referee: J Cairns