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Boyle Leading From The Front For Corinthians’ Limerick Mission

Boyle Leading From The Front For Corinthians’ Limerick Mission

Mark Boyle is pictured at Virgin Media Park where Galway Corinthians won 45-17 against Dolphin earlier in the season ©Galway Corinthians RFC

Galway Corinthians has become a second home for the Boyle family in the last couple of years. Mark Boyle will captain Corinthians in Saturday’s Energia All-Ireland League Men’s Division 2A promotion/relegation final against UL Bohemian at Annacotty (kick-off 2.30pm).

The Wexford native began his rugby career at Gorey RFC, going on to represent Leinster and Ireland at underage level, and joining Lansdowne before making the move out west a couple of years ago.

Mark’s older brother, Paul, has made almost 100 appearances for Connacht, and he aspired to follow in the footsteps of his sibling. He had a summer trial with Connacht in 2022, but a contract offer never transpired.

At the time, Boyle felt as though he was falling out of love with the game, but it was Corinthians who showed up for him when he needed them the most.

“As a family, we all just fully immersed ourselves into the club,” he told IrishRugby.ie. “My dad (Pablo) drives three hours every weekend to come to the games. He’d go to Belfast and Cork, he goes to every game.

“I got involved in coaching last summer. We’ve all thrown ourselves into the club. It’s been great.

“My dream growing up was to be a pro rugby player, it was the be all and end all for me. When I got let go from Connacht, I thought that was it, but Corinthians took me in and really looked after me. I owe them a lot.

“In my first few games with Corinthians, I wasn’t playing that well and I wasn’t really enjoying it, but there was no giving out from them.

“I suppose, the beauty of the AIL, I got to go on a few good nights out, meeting players and people involved with the club. It probably saved me a bit at that time. It made the world of difference.”

The Galway city club came from behind to beat Wanderers at the semi-final stage last weekend. Trailing 14-0 at one stage, they went up a couple of gears in the second half to win 35-21 thanks to tries from Sean Fox, Finn McNulty, Sean Naughton (2), and Michéal O’Reilly.

Like last season, Corinthians finished second in the Division 2B table on 75 points, 13 more than last season. They have gone one step further this year by winning their home semi-final, whereas twelve months ago they lost 12-8 to Dunngannon at Corinthian Park.

The impact of their bench played a crucial role this time around, as lynchin number 8 Boyle explained: “We lost the semi-final to Dunganon last year, it was probably unexpected at the time. I think this year we have a stronger squad.

“It’s a long season, lads get injured or are away for different things. Our bench really made a difference when they came on last Saturday.

“They’re all guys who can improve the team. We’ve had a lot of great players involved in both matches and training during the week.”

Coached by Michael Harding, Corinthians are able to call on some of Connacht’s most promising young players. Current Ireland Under-20 out-half Naughton has impressed in directing the back-line and showing his skills with ball in hand.

He has struck up quite an attacking partnership with former Ireland U-20 Grand Slam-winning centre John Devine, and both players are currently involved with the Connacht Academy set-up.

John’s older brother, Matthew, also made a number of appearances at the start of the campaign, but has since been getting his Connacht career up and running. He marked his first start with a two-try player-of-the-match performance against Zebre Parma last week.

In addition, seasoned operators like Raymond Dufficy and Malachy Joe Gavin bring experience to the Corinthians pack.

If you had said to Boyle, a proud Wexford man, that he would be captain of a Galway club at just 23 years of age, he probably would not have believed you.

“The old Corinthians coach, JP Cooney, said to me at a Connacht match a few years ago when I was watching Paul play, ‘Come play for Corinthians’. I thought to myself, ‘No, not a chance’.

“But two years later, I ended up signing after he was gone, and now this season I’m club captain,” quipped the 2022/23 Connacht Rugby Senior Club Player of the Year.

Tomorrow Corinthians come up against a UL Bohs team that struggled towards the back end of the regular season, only doing enough to earn another lifeline this weekend after a dramatic, late 13-12 semi-final win over Sligo.

Back rower Boyle spoke about how much pride he takes in captaining the team. He admitted that it would be the biggest achievement of his rugby career if they could secure Division 2A rugby for next season.

“I was so proud to be captain this year. It all happened so quickly that I didn’t have much time to think about it. It’s a great honour to lead them out, win, lose or draw.

“Hopefully we do the business on Saturday and win the game, but this whole season has been so enjoyable. If we lose on Saturday, I probably won’t say that, but I’ve loved everything about it this year.

“We, as players, get along so well both on and off the pitch. This 100% would be the biggest achievement in my rugby career to date.

“I’ve lost two play-off semi-finals already. If we were to win on Saturday, it would be one of the greatest days, not just rugby-wise but in my life as well,” he added.