Monivea made history on Saturday when they beat Waterpark in a play-off to qualify for AIB League Division Three for the first time. The Galway club will compete in the league next season, boosting the number of Connacht teams in the competition to five.
AIB LEAGUE PROMOTION/RELEGATION PLAY-OFF: Saturday, April 19
WATERPARK 3 MONIVEA 35, Ballinakill
Scorers: Waterpark: Pen: Gary Jones
Monivea: Tries: Ger Divilly 2, John Gavin, Kevin Higgins, Mike Concarr; Cons: Ian Murphy 5
Monivea, the Connacht Junior League champions, will join their Galway counterparts Connemara and Corinthians in AIB League Division Three next term after putting in a fantastic performance at Ballinakill.
Congratulations to all involved at the Castle Grounds club, including captain Kevin Higgins and coach Hohepa Dan Panapa who hails from Rotorua in New Zealand and is in his first season in charge.
Commiserations to Waterpark who drop to the Munster junior ranks. Coached by Martin Fenlon, their captain Mark Murphy and players played their hearts out over the closing weeks of the campaign, particularly when they beat both Instonians, the newly crowned Division Three champions, and fellow strugglers City of Derry.
But little went right for the Waterford club in this tension-filled play-off tie, with the momentum Monivea built up in the All-Ireland League round robin series helping them score a comprehensive five-try win.
The Galway side led 21-0 at half-time, producing some great attacks and turnovers and they were particularly strong at set pieces.
Monivea have been trying to gain access to the AIB League for quite some time. They qualified for the round robin series in 1998, 2003, 2004, 2005 and 2007 and have finally, this year, achieved their goal of joining the senior ranks.
They are the second Connacht club to qualify for the AIB League via the promotion/relegation play-off – Connemara did likewise in 2001, beating Highfield in an 80-minute showdown.
This was the last chance saloon for Waterpark who were expected to triumph given their home advantage and greater experience at this level.
But two busloads of Monivea supporters and countless cars boasting Galway registrations meant the visitors had excellent support on the sidelines and memories of last weekend’s Connacht Junior Cup final loss to Galwegians were soon banished.
Skipper Higgins, Ger Divilly and Eamonn McLoughlin were all back from injury for Monivea. Waterpark started well, had a stranglehold on possession and territory but they just could not break down a rock solid Monivea defence.
The Galway men had luck on their side when two kicks from John Culkin bounced favourably for Divilly and John Gavin to grab two touchdowns, midway through the opening half.
A pivotal moment came just three minutes after Gavin’s try. Waterpark worked themselves an overlap in the Monivea 22 but winger Divilly stepped out on the defensive line, intercepted a pass and ran the full 80 metres to the line for a deflating try for Waterpark to concede.
Ian Murphy managed to convert all three tries for a 21-0 Monivea lead, although Waterpark did dominate eight side of half-time and out-half Gary Jones landed a penalty for the hosts’ only points.
On 65 minutes, Monivea broke through for their fourth try. Higgins was the scorer after some industrious play by Pat Fitzmaurice, David Boyle and Mike Concarr.
Outside centre Concarr grabbed another seven-pointer before the finish, leaving Waterpark out for the count.