U-17s' Welsh trip hailed as 'a massive success'
The Connacht Rugby U-17 squad recently returned from a two-match tour of North Wales as part of their development ahead of the summer programme.
Based out of the exceptional facilities of Rydal Penrhos boarding school in Colwyn Bay, the 30-man squad completed a five-day, multi-faceted trip which incorporated strength & conditioning, on-pitch training, video analysis, goal and values setting, pool and sea recovery sessions and challenge matches against Sale Sharks U-17s and Cheshire County U-17s.
In the first match, Sale's pace and power propelled them to a 45-7 victory, despite Connacht enjoying the lion's share of possession.
The Sharks punished any errors with ruthless efficiency but the Connacht players regrouped afterwards, analysed the footage and rectified their mistakes for the second fixture, a 34-7 thumping of Cheshire's finest.
Assistant coach JP Walsh was impressed with how the players responded to the initial defeat. "We are very pleased with the reaction," said Walsh.
"We probably went into the first match a bit undercooked and suffered because of it, but the way the players pulled together and put in the performance they did against Cheshire County is a testament to their skills and ability.
"The trip has been a massive success, we've had the opportunity to test ourselves against some of the best players in this age category in the UK, the players enjoyed the experience and we've taken some very important learnings home with us."
Ballina on the double
The future of Connacht Rugby is certainly in safe hands if last Sunday's triple-header of Connacht Youths finals are anything to go by.
Ballina RFC secured the U-14 and U-18.5 Cups, with Galwegians RFC clinching the U-16 trophy at the Sportsground.
The three finals were thrilling encounters with Ballina claiming the Connacht U-14 Cup title in style with a 33-22 win over Galwegians in the day's opening match.
There was no sign of cup final nerves for either side in a rip-roaring encounter that saw both teams play some thrilling running rugby and share eight tries.
That game was followed by the U-16 final as two late wonder tries for Galwegians saw them claim the title at the expense of Corinthians with a 20-11 victory.
Stunning tries in the final quarter for Jack Power and Tyrone Ezeogu helped Galwegians to the title after a hard-fought encounter.
Diarmuid Kilcommins crossed in the right corner for Corinthians in the final play but it was too little too late.
The U-18.5 decider was a magnificent way to cap off the day as Ballina defeated Corinthians 23-22 in another high-quality clash.
Ballina were the superior side but Corinthians battled all the way to the final whistle and a late Craig McCormack penalty proved crucial for the Mayo club.
The Connacht Rugby Awards Ball takes place on Sunday night at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Galway with players and clubs from across the province set to be honoured.
Eighteen awards will be presented as achievements at all levels of the game will be celebrated - underage, club, schools, women's and the professional squad.
The full list of nominees from the Connacht Rugby Club and Community game is as follows:
Connacht U18 Player of the Year: Cian Huxford, Hugh Lane, Niall Murray.
U19 Player of the Year: Brian Diffney, Rory Gaffney, Sean Masterson.
U18 Girls' Player of the Year: Sarah Dent, Ellie Dillane, Elizabeth McNicholas.
Referee of the Year : Karol Collins, Brian Deighan, Daithi Flood.
Coach of the Year: Patrick Durcan (Castlebar RFC), David Newman (Ballina RFC), Brett Wilkinson (Buccaneers RFC).
Women's Club Player of the Year: Emma Clery (Galwegians), Shannen Lane (NUIG), Anne Marie O'Hora (Castlebar).
Women's Player of the Year: Grainne Egan, Ciara O'Connor, Anne Marie O'Hora.
Junior Club Player of the Year: Dan McCabe (Monivea), Mickey Murphy (Ballina), John O'Brien (Connemara).
Senior Club Player of the Year: Jordan Conroy (Buccaneers), Lise Soloa (Corinthians), Michael Wells (Sligo)
Connacht Club of the Year: Ballina RFC, Buccaneers RFC, Sligo RFC.