Sunday 17 November 2019

Connacht rise to the challenge to overcome Leinster

Leinster 6 Connacht 10 Junior Inter-provincial

The Galwegians and Castlebar players in action during the recent U-17 Cup Final, which Galwegians won 23
The Galwegians and Castlebar players in action during the recent U-17 Cup Final, which Galwegians won 23

Rob Murphy

The reigning champions were outbattled at a wet and blustery Westmanstown as Connacht upset the odds with a brilliant display, full of desire and determination.

The rain started early and was very much a downpour by the time Leinster and Connacht kicked off. It made for a difficult afternoon for both sets of players and it was Connacht who adapted better in all departments.

Under the guidance of a new coaching team of JP Walsh and Mickey Murphy, Connacht are looking a little different this season thanks to a new wave of emerging young players but after a disappointing home defeat to Ulster last weekend, the team were very much in need of a performance on Saturday.

Leinster led 6-0 at halftime thanks to two penalties from the accurate boot of Dundalk man Ultan Murphy and they had created the best try-scoring chances in the half, with Murphy almost getting over in the corner and Johnny Williams and Mike South combining well on another attack to create space.


Yet with the wind at Leinster's backs, the scores didn't follow.

In fact Connacht could well have had some scores on the board with two close-in penalties missed, largely because of the conditions, and Connemara centre Dave McDonagh coming close to scoring a try on a rampaging run.

On the resumption, Connacht assumed control for long periods despite feeling the pressure at scrum time.

The foundations to the success came from some tenacious forward play.

Westport flanker Kevin Hastings earned some key penalties at the breakdown throughout. Big ball-carrying NUIG lock Peter Claffey had a huge influence, as did Ballinasloe back rower John Hayes, while Sean Connolly from OLBC produced a powerful display at No 6.

Leinster were now beginning to look stalled in their ideas -promising forward forays from the likes of Wicklow's Niall Smullen and Cill Dara's Damien Broughall weren't leading to sustained spells of attack.

James Clifford of Monkstown, Johnny Lee of Coolmine and Dylan Quinn of Longford had done an immense job at scrum time but the penalties had yielded very little.

Connacht's try came as the result of a loose kick from Leinster but there was a lot of work to be done when Connemara full-back Ian Heanue collected. He shrugged off one tackle and broke clear from inside his own half, beating a second defender, kicking ahead for Monivea's Coleman Maher to win the race for the try.

The conversion from Shane Sweeney gave Connacht the lead and the Connemara man added a penalty with ten minutes to go to put more pressure on a Leinster side struggling against the elements.

Adam Bourke of Westport and Conor Mason of Ballina came on to secure the scrum against a tiring home side and the game was sealed with some hard work epitomised by captain Liam Scahill.

"It was a great performance, the lads worked so hard right to the end, they were diving on any loose ball and just determined to win possession in a tough conditions as you'll see," said Connacht Juniors head coach JP Walsh.

"At half time I was happy, we were 6-0 down, turning into the wind. I could see how they were switched on, even before I spoke, I could see they were in the right frame of mind on what they had to do in the second half and they came out and played with discipline and focus."

It proved enough to secure their first victory over Leinster in three years, on that day the late Peter Cosgrove proved the hero with a try that will live long in the memory.

Maher's try won't be forgotten anytime soon either and it proved just enough to see off the men in blue for a memorable victory.

Leinster - Mick Nevin (Monkstown); Ross Doyle (Portarlington), Mike South (Railway Union), Johnny Williams (Dundalk), Ultan Murphy (Dundalk); Bill Duggan (Monkstown), Mikey Russell (Clondalkin); James Clifford (Monkstown, Johnny Lee (Coolmine), Dylan Quinn (Longford); Niall Smullen (Wicklow), Paul Nolan (Clondalkin); Cormac Dunne (Mullingar), Brian Flaherty (Monkstown), Damien Broughal (Cill Dara). Reps: James McGahy (Ashbourne); Rory Gleeson (Ashbourne), Cian Carroll (Monkstown); Wesley Wojnar (Wicklow), Adrian Hanley (Monkstown), Gareth Bater (Gorey), Steve McGee (Dundalk).

Connacht - Ian Heanue (Connemara); Kevin Corcoran (Westport), Matthew Mannion (Monivea), David McDonagh (Connemara), Coleman Maher (Monivea); Shane Sweeney (Connemara), Michael O'Toole (Connemara); Eugene Conroy (Connemara); Joe O'Connor (Westport), Paul McCreanor (OLBC); Liam Scahill (Westport), Peter Claffey (NUIG); Sean Connolly (OLBC), Kevin Hastings (Westport); John Hayes (Ballinasloe). Reps: Richard Kelly (Ballina), Conor Mason (Ballina), Adam Bourke (Westport), Roy Stanley (NUIG), Dylan Carpenter (Westport), Michael Allen (Ballian)

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