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Club News: Connacht Round-Up

Club News: Connacht Round-Up

…O’Neill Claims Buccs’ Player Of The Year Award…Record Numbers At Sligo’s Primary Schools’ Blitz…Monivea Look To The Future With Grounds Sale…Galwegians Celebrate Season Of Great Progress…Busy Week Ahead For Castlebar…

O’NEILL CLAIMS BUCCS’ PLAYER OF THE YEAR AWARD: Prop forward Killian O’Neill was named ‘Oysterhomes’ Buccaneers Senior Player of the Year at the club’s Annual Awards night at Athlone’s Radisson SAS Hotel on Friday night.

Buccs’ third ever awards night drew its largest crowd to date and proved to be a successful and enjoyable occasion on all fronts.

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Corkonian O’Neill was a popular winner of the coveted main award. Articulate, quietly spoken and dapper, he is hardly the archetypal front row forward despite his nickname “Killer”! However, this masks a steely resolve and a huge commitment put in by the Trinity student who not only found time for his college classes and studies but travelled from Dublin to Dubarry Park at least twice a week for training sessions.

Killian was an ever present in Buccaneers First XV this season, during which he won a Connacht Senior Cup medal, and also willingly gave of his time to coach underage players on Friday nights at the club. Highly regarded by his peers and mentors as a young prop with tremendous potential, O’Neill proved a very worthy and popular winner of this accolade.

Meanwhile, Stephen O’Rourke added the ‘Oysterhomes’ Buccaneers Reserves Player of the Year honour to the U-20 award he won last season. The young second row proved his mettle in the testing engine room in a Seconds side that struggled to have a settled starting line-up. However, the potential in the panel was epitomised by the endeavours of this young Offaly lad as Buccs stormed against the odds to a Connacht Junior Cup triumph.

Martin Kilduff was selected as the ‘Oysterhomes’ Buccaneers Thirds Player of the Year and Michael Blythe was a worthy winner of the ‘Oysterhomes’ Buccaneers Under-20 Player of the Year award.

David Daffy, Financial Director of Oysterhomes, presented the specially commissioned pieces of Athlone Crystal to the winners.

Also at the awards night, presentations were also made to Buccaneers players who played with various Ireland teams throughout the season. 14 Buccs players in total wore the green with centre Aidan Wynne’s exploits with the all-conquering U-20 squad being the highlight as Ireland doubled up with a Grand Slam when they captured the Six Nations Championship in March. His Ferbane colleague hooker Gavin Kelly also featured in the U-20 panel.

Confirming the huge potential in Buccaneers youth players, Alan Gaughan was the only Connacht player to be selected in the Ireland squad for the IRB Under-19 World Championship that was staged in Belfast last month, while Adam Kennedy was a member of Ireland’s U-18 panel. Winger Gaughan took time to break through to the U-19s’ starting XV but nailed down his berth to play a vital role in the crunch win over Scotland, while injury restricted Kennedy’s appearances but aged only 16, he still has time to further develop his talents at scrum half.

Conor Hartigan, who captained Buccaneers to victory in the Connacht Senior Cup, and Mark Bruce teamed up in the AIB Club International team that defeated England but lost to their Scottish counterparts.

Conor O’Loughlin, Chris Keane, Daniel Riordan, David Gannon and John Fogarty made it a quintet of Buccaneers players to be capped by Ireland ‘A’ during the season, while Sean Carey, David Connellan and Adrian Hanley were a trio of Colleges internationals.

The inimitable Finbarr Furey and his band provided the chief musical entertainment on the night which was rounded off by DJ Michael Conlon. The food and service was first class and the speeches were brief so, all in all, it proved to be a very enjoyable and memorable night for all present.

RECORD NUMBERS AT SLIGO’S PRIMARY SCHOOLS’ BLITZ: Sligo RFC’s annual blitz for primary schools was held at the club’s Hamilton Park grounsa last Wednesday, and was a resounding success. A record 420 pupils, who are coached by Youth Development Officer Gavin Foley, and his work placement assistants from Sligo IT, Oonagh Morrissey and Nigel Byrne, played in the blitz.

The schools represented were Mercy Primary, St. Brendan’s, St. Edward’s, Ransboro, Strandhill, Geevagh, Sooey, Carraroe, Scoil Ursula and Gael Scoil.

The day commenced with a parade of the ten schools, who all wore the colours of an International side. Foley and his assistants awarded the prize for this section to Sooey NS. In the blitz, the emphasis was on participation and enjoyment, and everybody got some game-time.

The ‘Fair Play’ award for the school which showed the most co-operation throughout the year was won by Geevagh NS, while Strandhill NS won the award for the school deemed by the YDO to have displayed the best skills on the day.

All participants were treated to refreshments by the club. At the presentations, club President Tom Gilligan welcomed all the players and teachers, and paid a special tribute to all Principals and teachers in the schools who avail of the YDO scheme. He congratulated Gavin Foley on his outstanding work in the schools, and also thanked his assistants, as well as expressing his gratitude to the blitz referees, Oonagh, Nigel, Jamie Livingstone, Martin Feeney, Niall Kenneally and Paddy Mannion. YDO Foley thanked the staffs in all the schools, congratulated the players on their exemplary behaviour, and thanked Sligo RFC and the Connacht Branch.

Among those attending were Eamonn Molloy, Connacht Regional Development Officer, and Martin Gallagher, the Provincial Domestic Game Manager, and they could not but be impressed with the skills which were on display. The Triple Crown trophy, won for the second successive year by Ireland, was also on display, and all the schools were photographed with the famous piece of silverware.

MONIVEA LOOK TO THE FUTURE WITH GROUNDS SALE: Monivea RFC founder Padraig McGann has confirmed that the county Galway village club are set to sell their current pitches in the long term hope of increasing their player base.

“Just 25 people go to bed in the village every night and it has been that way for years. There have been one or two small developments in the general area, but by and large there has not been any significant population boost,” McGann told the Galway Independent.

Monivea, who gave Ireland supremo Eddie O’Sullivan his first coaching post, have put their six and a half acre site, which is beside the woods of the old Ffrench estate and less than 20 miles from Galway city, up for sale. It estimated that it could net the club between €5 million and €7 million.

The recent Connacht Junior Cup winners are hoping a new housing development on their current pitches will tempt people to move to the village and bolster the club’s playing numbers.

McGann, who founded the club 36 years ago, added: “This is a twin approach. On one hand we need to bring more people into the catchment area and we need to improve our rugby facilities.

“We hope to achieve both by selling our grounds. The club has a proud record of coaching kids and introducing them to the game, and we intend to step that up significantly in the years ahead.”

Monivea’s new home is half a mile away from their old base – McGann recently oversaw the purchase of a 20-acre site for the club.

GALWEGIANS CELEBRATE SEASON OF GREAT PROGRESS: This season saw yet more progress on the field for Galwegians at many levels. The club’s seniors managed once again to maintain their AIB League Division One status. The campaign was a mixed one for Paul Young’s charges, but their competitiveness earned them enough bonus points to ensure their safety.

‘Wegians’ Seconds can look back on a season of accomplishment having survived the drop in the J1 League. After a slow start to the season, they found some mid-season form, and although they had to wait until the last day of the season to be sure of avoiding relegation, they deserved to hold onto their J1 status. As for the Thirds XV, well, whatever about their results, they certainly fulfilled their club mandate to the club to keep the social rugby scene going!

Galwegians Womens team had an excellent season claiming the All-Ireland Plate Competition in April.

Galwegians Under-20s can look back on their season with justifiable satisfaction, having qualified for the South West Conference play-offs in a highly competitive league, scoring some notable successes along the way. The culmination of their season was winning the Connacht Cup final.

At Underage level, it is a case of going from strength to strength for Galwegians. Playing numbers continue to grow, and at the higher underage levels the results are now starting to come through consistently.

Pride of place again must go the club’s Under-16s, who were desperately unlucky to lose the All-Ireland final for a second consecutive season by an agonisingly close margin of 17-15 against Wicklow. This talented team have however managed to win the League and Cup title this year.

Galwegians’ U-15 side were joint winners of the League and also won the Cup. The U-18 team also took the plaudits by bringing the U-18 Cup back to Crowley Park after a wait of over 15 years.

This year also saw many Galwegians add interprovincial and international caps to the roll of honour.

It was an outstanding season for the Ireland U-20 side who, of course, won the Grand Slam, taking care of the French & Italian U-21 teams to boot! Ever-present on the team was Galwegian lock Andrew Browne, a local lad from Renmore who, in April, emulated his older brother Damien by getting capped for Connacht.

A first for Galwegians this year was a Club International cap, when prop forward Dan O’Connell was capped for the Irish Club International XV that beat England Counties in February at Donnybrook.

In the underage ranks, another promising youngster to get capped was number eight Dermot Murphy. He was one of eight Connacht players involved in the Irish squad for the FIRA-AER Under-18 Championship in France.

In a memorable season, Andrew Browne was also captain of the Connacht U-20s during their interpro campaign. Also involved with the U-20s were Ross Shaughnessy, Andrew Sherry and David Kelly.

The Connacht U-18s were the pick of the interpro bunch this year, as they won the Interpro title and Grand Slam in very impressive style. There were six Galwegians involved – Cian Moyles, Dermot Murphy, Fergus Moyles, Jason Barrett, Greg Leader and Senan Quain. Indeed the first five of these players also helped the Connacht Schools defeat Munster Schools back in October.

The club also wishes to acknowledge the part played in the Connacht U-18s’ success by manager Johnny Brennan, his assistant Mike Behan and physio Stephanie Dowling.

And last but not least, once again Galwegians completely dominated the Connacht Womens squad this season, with the following players involved: Aoife Maher, Tandy Johnson, Wendy Hickey, Karen Smith, Ruth O’Reilly, Mairead Crushell, Diane Wright, Caroline Price, Eilish McNulty, Grainne Egan, Collette Caffrey, Eva Neville, Kimberley Went, Cliodhna Hughes, Angela Flaherty, Sarah Healy, Nuala Ni Chadhain, Sorcha Ni Chadhain, Emer O’Dowd, Jean Wynne and Olivia Tuffy.

BUSY WEEK AHEAD FOR CASTLEBAR: The Castlebar RFC Reunion Weekend will be held on Saturday, May 19 and Sunday, May 20 at different venues around the town. Anyone with old photographs or memorabilia are asked to contact Trevor Ardill (tel: 0874117781) or Rory Casey (tel: 0872860235) as soon as possible. Anything collected will be returned after the weekend.

Meanwhile the Castlebar RFC Golf Classic will take place next Friday (May 18) at Castlebar Golf Club. Further details can be obtained by contacting David O’Malley (club tel: 094 9026420).