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 Connacht League Final

Westport Bulls RFC U19s Report Season 2011/12

 

In August 2011 if we were told that we would compete in the U19s Connacht League Final and win the U19s Connacht Cup Final, have players capped for Ireland at both U19 age grade, (Jamie Dever) and U18 age grade, (Ruben Pepperhobbs) and five players capped for both Connacht Schools and Club we would think the fortune teller had indeed lost his senses.

In a nut shell, that is how the season panned out.

Initially, we had negotiations with Connemara RFC to see if would enter a joint team in the U19s league but it soon became clear that the logistics of travelling to either Westport or Clifden for training would not be palatable for either Club.

Eddie Walsh and Pat McCormack were charged with the duty of harnessing a group of genuine U19 players and players who were making the transition from the previous season’s U17’s team that had progressed to the semi-finals of both the league and cup campaigns. Tom Browne stepped in as Manager to bolster the coaching management set up.

There was a lot of debate during the early youth co-ordinator branch meetings at the Sportsground but eventually it was decided to run a 10 a side blitz on successive Sundays during September to establish the standard of each Club participating in the proposed A & B leagues. It was a novel approach and one that encouraged guys back from the summer holidays. We were lucky in Westport that so many players accepted the challenge and we went through that campaign unbeaten securing a position to play in the A grade league.

 

Before the league proper commenced, training improved in both numbers and participation and Eddie and Pat promised the guys that if they put in the work and training that they would earn a right to play at the business end of all competitions after Christmas.

The league was a tough arduous campaign with many ups and downs. We beat Buccaneers at home 21-20 but when Buccs were successful in an appeal we were forced to play them again at home. We were leading 11-7 with five minutes to go when we took the foot off the gas and Buccs rumbled up the pitch to score a converted try leaving the final score 11-14.  The flip side of that was our game against Sligo straight after Christmas. We were losing 14-8 and had lost Andrew McAleer to a bad shoulder injury. We never gave up and forced Sligo back onto their goal line and during the last play of the game Dwayne Corcoran intercepted a pass to score under the posts. We converted and won the game. Kevin Gill still has teeth marks in his knees from that days encounter!

 

We won all our other games, beating Monivea 30-0 along the way, but because of our loss to Buccaneers we had to play Monivea in a Play-Off decider as they had also lost only one game, to us!  With all our preparation for the play-off we still underestimated the tenacity of the Monivea team and though we could have won the game when we were lined up for a drop goal attempt that never materialised a draw in that game was probably a fair result. The replay was another tight affair when we were beaten by the narrowest of margins to a score line of 12 – 11.

It was particularly difficult for a lot of the players as in the middle of all of this they had also represented Rice College in the Schools Senior Cup semi final losing out in a replay to eventual winners, Marist College, Athlone.

Revenge was sweet though, when we beat Athlone’s Buccaneers in the Cup semi final which set up another meeting, on Easter Sunday, with Monivea on the Sportsground’s hallowed main pitch. We won this game comprehensively 12-5 with our forwards dominating collisions and the back line making plenty of yardage. Andrew McAleer and Kevin Hastings scored our tries.

Looking back, it was an extremely enjoyable season and just rewards were delivered to a group of lads who never quit when the going got tough and they backed each other up right through the season. They are indeed a credit to the Club and to themselves and we look forward to seeing them represent the Club at senior level in the coming years.

Many thanks to the Club’s Main Sponsors and also to T. Bourke’s Bar, Martin McNally, Sue O’Toole and the guys from the U17 squad who contributed hugely to our squad during both competitions.

We can only wonder, when August comes around this year what will the fortune teller predict for next season?

Bulls U16’s pipped by Connemara in superb Connacht Cup final

Sunday 14th April 2013 Tuam.

 

Given the windy condition in Tuam last Sunday it was always going to be a game of two halves. Connemara won the toss and decided to play with a very strong breeze at their backs for the first half. From the kick off it was clear Connemara were going to utilise their big pack to punch holes around the fringes with lock, Shane Laffey and number 8 Aaron O’Donoghue prominent. After 3 minutes Westport first half challenge was made more difficult when Brian McCormack was harshly yellow carded for a high tackle – harsh given that it appeared only chest high, the difficult condition for all players and the game was just settling down.  Despite Westport being down a man and playing against the strong wind Connemara were been thwarted by players such Chris O’Donnell, Ross Prendergast, Jim McNicholas, Colin Coyne, Conor Madden and Stephen Staunton putting their bodies on the line with superb tackling. However just before Westport were to be restored to 15 men Connemara lock, Shane Laffery burst over the line for the first try of the game.

Westport shook of this disappointment and with players such as Darren Browne, Brian McCormack, Liam McNulty and Brendan McLoughlin to the fore forced the Connemara team deep into their 22 and indeed were unlucky not to force a try – denied by a knock on just as they were ready to ground the ball. A big boot from Connemara out half Nicholas Joyce from his own 22 forced the play into the Westport 22, Westport defense were unable to reorganize quickly enough and Connemara winger Emmet Moran scored their second try. Connemara full back Emmet Moran missed the conversion from a difficult angle. The first half ended with Westport pushing Connemara back into their 22, however the hoped for score against the strong wind failed to materialize.

The start of the second half was accompanied by heavy rain which impact Westport ability to use their exciting back 3 of Ryan Moran, Paul Moran and Paul Prendergast and much of the good work was done by forwards Jim McNicholas, Brian McCormack, Peter Spellman, Darragh Walsh and Darren Browne. As the game entered the final quarter Westport gained their much deserved breakthrough, clean ball from the forwards allowed scrum half Conor Madden to feed Sean Ryder, who stepped inside his man and had too much pace for the covering Connemara players to score a great individual try. Sean Ryder converted his own try and Westport had 15 minutes left to try to score another try & surely win the game.

The full blooded nature of the game was having it tool with players from both sides needing attention for their many bumps and bruises, Conor Madden’s injury required Westport to re-organise their back line with Harry Langan coming in on the wing, Tim Costigan moving to scrum half and Paul Prendergast moving into second centre. As the game entered the last 5 minutes it was clear the only team who would score was Westport, however the big question was could Connemara hold out. A sweeping move by Westport saw the ball go through the backs to Harry Langan who was on his way to the line only for the referee to call him back for a forward pass. If Westport were going to lose out it would not be for the lack of effort – each and every forward drove the ball up. Connemara’s only way of stopping the Westport onslaught was to give away penalty after penalty.

With 2 minutes left the referee lost patients with Connemara and he yellow-carded Connemara’s Aaron O’Donoghue. The game ended on the Connemara line as Westport’s Tim Costigan appeared to ground the ball only for the referee to judge that the ball was held up. The final whistle was greeted with elation by Connemara and desperation by Westport, however all that watched enjoyed a superb game that showcased the extrodiardary commitment and skill from both teams.

Westport Team: Brendan McLoughlin, Jim McNicholas, Darragh Browne, Colin Coyne, Liam McNulty, Ross Prendergast, Chris O’Donnell, Brian McCormack, Conor Madden, Sean Ryder (Capt.), Ryan Moran, Stephen Stauton, Tim Costigan, Paul Prendergast, Paul Moran

Subs.Ross Bourke, Ronan Price, Peter Spellman, Darragh Walsh, Fionn McDonagh, Harry Langan, Aidan Walsh,

 

Connemara Team: Peter Lee, Rory Ward, Dylan Keaney, Shane Laffey, Dillon King, Paul Lee, Dylan Barry, Aaron O’Donoghue, Thomas Mullen (Capt.), Nicholas Joyce, Thomas Mannion, Henry O’Toole, Brendan Regan, Jack Gavin, Emmet Moran,

Subs.Dylan O’Neill, Kevin King, Fionn McAleer, Liam Wlodarczyk 

Full gallery of Photos from the match courtsey Conor McKeown Photography;

 

 

 

 

 

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