Galwegians warmed up for the new AIB League and Cup campaigns by winning the Connacht Senior League over the weekend, securing the title with a 25-17 victory over Buccaneers at Crowley Park.
Galwegians retained their Connacht Senior League title when they deservedly overcame arch rivals Buccaneers in a very entertaining match at Crowley Park.
Both sides were near full strength in what was an ideal preparation before the start of the All-Ireland competitions in the coming weeks.
‘Wegians got off to a dream start when scrum half and Connacht squad member Kieran Campbell intercepted a pass near halfway in the third minute, and galloped home to score near the left for the game’s opening try.
However, Buccs responded well and Campbell’s opposite number and Connacht rival Conor O’Loughlin sniped over on 15 minutes to level the game.
‘Wegians then went on to dominate the remainder of the first half, with their much bigger pack well on top of the lighter Buccaneers forwards.
And this provided the platform for them to regain the lead as the game entered the second quarter, courtesy of a brace of tries from powerful number 8 Ati Olive.
The first came from a close range scrum, when a strong shove gave the hosts’ new recruit the simple task of grounding the ball for a pushover try.
And barely three minutes later it was more of the same, as this time Olive peeled off the base of a scrum and caught the visiting defence napping to barge his way over in the right corner.
The Blues appeared to make the game safe with a fourth try on 35 minutes, when a strong rolling maul from within their own half was followed by a clever box kick from Campbell.
Winger Terry O’Donnell profited from fatal hesitation by Buccs full-back Terry Hynes and a lucky bounce to score an opportunistic try, with winger Mark Butler finally finding his range to land the conversion for a 22-5 lead.
The game seemed beyond Buccs at this point, but credit to the midlanders, they got right back into it with two tries either side of half-time.
With only their second attack of the game, the excellent O’Loughlin scored his second try with another trademark break through the cover just before half-time.
Then barely one minute after the restart, former Galwegian and new Buccs out-half Liam Bibo finished strongly in the left-corner, and landed a magnificent conversion to reduce the arrears to 22-17.
Suddenly against all the odds, the game was right back in the melting pot. However, ‘Wegians knuckled down and regained the upper hand.
On 51 minutes a bout of pressure yielded a penalty 30 metres out, which Butler struck between the posts to stretch the lead to 25-17.
Both teams then emptied their benches and the game lost some of its momentum, and in truth the result was never really in doubt, with no more scores added by either side in the final quarter.
So it was the Blues who retained their league title which was presented to captain Ivan Muldoon after the game by Connacht Branch treasurer Eamonn Feely.
GALWEGIANS: R O’Beirne; T O’Donnell, A Esera, D Clark, M Butler; R Shaughnessy, K Campbell; J Stephens, D Murphy, P Bracken, B McClearn, J Moran, A Conboy, I Muldoon (capt), A Olive.
Replacements used: L Casserly for Olive, C Muldoon for Murphy, S McGrath for Stephens, D Boyd for Conboy, R Dillon for Campbell.
BUCCANEERS: T Hynes; W Henshaw, P Smith, G Kelly, C Sheehy; L Bibo, C O’Loughlin; M Staunton, G Halligan, C Higgins, A Hughes, J Tormey, P Burke, S Stapleton, C Rigney (capt).
Replacements used: B Gilligan for Staunton, C Watters for Stapleton, B McManus for Hughes, G McGill for Higgins, M Donohoe for Hynes.
Referee: P Jennings (Connacht)