FAMILY TIES Mark Staunton
Castlebar declared ‘joint winners’ of trophy after season ends early
IT’S not quite the fairytale ending they had hoped for, but regardless Castlebar RFC were declared ‘joint-winners’ of the Connacht Junior Cup last week.
The Mayo side were due to play Connemara in a much-anticipated decider last weekend, but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Connacht Rugby took the decision to conclude the 2019/2020 season immediately and ‘share’ the cups between all competition finalists.
So the record books will show that Castlebar RFC won their first ever Connacht Junior Cup in 2020 and, although they would have loved nothing more than a big day out in the Sportsgrounds, receiving the news last week was still a hugely proud moment for them, according to team captain Mark Staunton.
“It feels like a bit of an anti-climax at the moment, but once the dust settles you have to be proud because, at the end of the day, it was the right decision,” he told The Mayo News.
“We got to the final through some tough games, and now our name is on the cup for the first time ever, so you have to look at the positive side of it all.
“The lads were looking forward to a day in the Sportsgrounds… there was massive work going on in the background in the build-up – fundraising, putting up posters, plenty of hype, everyone was looking forward to it, so we’re disappointed we couldn’t get there.
“But hopefully we’ll be back again.”
You have to cast your mind back to 1996 for when Castlebar last reached a Connacht Junior Cup Final, losing out to Monivea on a scoreline of 23-9.
It’s been a long wait for the club to reach that stage of the famous competition again. However, not as long as they’ve waited to take home the silverware.
“I would have preferred to have won it the other way, but it’s definitely a proud moment for us,” admitted Mark Staunton. “It will definitely bring on a lot of our lads for next season too, showing them the standard we can play to.
“If we can do it next year, hopefully we’ll give the league and cup a good run again.
“Overall, it’s been a good year for us. We stayed up in the league, reached the Cawley Cup Final and then the Junior Cup Final and won the trophy – at least half of it anyway!”
Mark is one of five Staunton brothers (Luke, Matthew, James and Simon are the others) on the Castlebar team, and with their family so synonymous with the rugby club in the county town, this season’s achievement of reaching the Junior Cup final was a proud one for the clan.
Only last week Mark welcomed his newborn son, Shay, into the world, so the Stauntons will have plenty to keep them occupied over the coming weeks and months.
“It’s a pity there were no pubs open to celebrate in, but we’ll do that again I’m sure,” he laughed. “Right now everyone is just tipping away at home and keeping the head down, we might organise a Skype party and a few cans soon!
“The auld fella [well-known local businessman, Jimmy Staunton] is as proud as punch,” he added. “He has five lads playing on the team and he has been involved with the club for as long as I can remember, over 30 years, so he’s very proud.
“I never thought I’d be a Junior Cup winning captain, never mind like this, but I’ll take it.”
FAMILY TIES Mark Staunton