In years to come the records will state that Connemara have lost consecutive games, but regular Connemara followers will realise that the previous fixtures came against the top two teams, Cashel and Banbridge respectively, and had it not been for misfortune Connemara could have won both games. Connemara’s latest defeat came at the hands of Ulster side Banbridge, but Connemara’s 20 point haul and positive performance is encouraging. The game was barely minutes old when Connemara took the lead. A jinking run by centre Paddy Madden caused havoc in the Banbridge defence, Madden’s intuitive pass was received by winger Richard Bourke who showed the pace he is renowned for and finished for a fabulous try. Sean Joyce added the conversion to take the score to 7-0 to Connemara.
Despite taking the lead, Connemara had to spend long periods of the first half under pressure from Banbridge. Banbridge’s pressure eventually paid dividends when full back Brendan Ward, who proved an extremely elusive runner throughout, went in for a virtuoso try. Banbridge were wide with their conversion attempt leaving the score to 7-5 to Connemara. Banbridge’s class showed as they went in for a second try after some good hands by their backs, the successful conversion lead to Banbridge taking a 12-7 lead. Captain Sean Joyce looked assured in both play and with the boot, and it was a Joyce penalty that clawed back another three points for Connemara. With the momentum generated by Joyce’s penalty, Connemara pressed for the lead and were dually rewarded when Joyce slotted a penalty from near the half way line, taking the score to 13-12 to the Clifden based side. Connemara went into half time with the slenderest of advantages.
Banbridge started the second half with renewed vigour and were rewarded with a try, taking the score to 19-13 to Banbridge. For the neutral this game would have been spectacular, and keeping with the games pattern Connemara once again took the lead. Lock Bernard Keaney showed his considerable experience by picking a great line off Sean Joyce’s pass to go in under the posts to take the score to 18-19 to Banbridge, Sean Joyce once again converted to once again give Connemara a slender one point lead. Staring down the barrel of a defeat, Banbridge rallied and put Connemara under concerted pressure. Connemara’s Kiwi flanker Richie Byrne was sin binned for a tackle off the ball, Byrne acted to save a certain try. From the resultant penalization Banbridge opted to take a scrum instead of a penalty, and were rewarded after various picks and goes saw the Ulster side cross for their fourth and bonus point try. The conversion was missed, but the Ulster side still held a five point lead. Banbridge’s powerful scrum was evident all day and they were rather harshly from a Connemara point of view rewarded a penalty try in the final minutes to deny Connemara a losing bonus point. Connemara can take many positives from the defeat, they scored a respectable number of points against a team chasing promotion, and had it not been for a number of questionable refereeing decisions could have won. Saturday’s game also saw young Renvyle man Derek Heanue start his first Senior game for the club, and he looked extremely assured throughout. Winger Peter O’Toole also made his seasonal debut; it is encouraging to see young locals coming through the youth ranks.