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Ballinrobe go back to the Green

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Ballinrobe go back to the Green


Preview
Rob Murphy

BY this time next weekend, every club in Connacht will have got their season up and running as Divisions 1b and 1c of the Junior League crank into gear.
The standout tie from the opening fixtures takes place in the heart of Ballinrobe as the club return to their traditional home of the Green in the centre of the town. They begin their Division 1c campaign against fellow promotion contenders Gort on Sunday at 2:30pm.
The return to that venue is the culmination of years of hard work and financial investment developing the pitch there to get it ready for rugby.
The backing of the Towns Park Committee and the support of Ballinrobe Town AFC, who also play there, has been crucial.  
This first fixture is sure to attract a big crowd, and the hope is that a venue like this in the heart of the community will help restore the strong profile of the club in the region.
Ballinrobe last played there in the early 1990s, when they were one of the province’s leading Junior sides, with a cup final appearance in 1987 and cup triumphs in 1990 and 1991. Those were very much the halcyon days for the club which had been re-established in the early 1970s.
The original incarnation of Ballinrobe RFC played at the Green in the 40s and won their one and only Junior League title in 1944 while located there. But the most prominent fixture the ground ever hosted was the meeting of Connacht and Welsh powerhouse Bridgend in 1986.
As legend goes, the Welsh club agreed to play Ballinrobe that year after officials of both clubs had met after a Five Nations game in Cardiff the previous spring. But as the fixture grew near, the Connacht Branch of the time decided that such a prestigious club needed provincial opposition, and usurped the men in black and white hoops.
The days of Adrian Garvey’s powerful boot from full-back, John Horan’s out-half play, John Malone and packs that contained the likes of Mick Walsh, Pádraig Burke, the O’Connors and Tom Heneghan are gone but not forgotten, and will be recalled this coming Sunday.
The new coaching team of Trevor Watson, Seamus O’Toole and David Nestor have a rejuvenated squad training with huge numbers committed.  
Some emerging young stars have returned to the club in the guise of Dave Madden and David Harney, as well as Neale footballers Peter Cosgrove and Keith Hennelly, and a strong crop of under-19 talent are making the step up.
Relegation last year might have seemed like a low point, but the evidence suggests that the disappointment was absorbed and put behind them and the rebuilding has already begun. Ballinrobe will battle with NUIG, Gort and Sligo Seconds for the automatic promotion spot this season.
Division 1b also starts this weekend with Ballyhaunis looking to build on a fine first season at the level last year and hosting Buccaneers Seconds in round one. Corrib, under the guidance of Martin Lee as player/coach, begin at home to Monivea Seconds and will be among the main challengers in the league.
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