Creggs edged out in thriller

Connacht J1A League Final
Connemara RFC 18 Creggs RFC 15

Creggs’ brave bid to win the Connacht League Final just fell short in challenging, extremely windy conditions – and very poor light – in Castlebar on Saturday evening.

  After a thrilling encounter, Creggs were left feeling short-changed, having dominated long periods of the game. Morever, there was consternation in the Creggs camp, where the view was that Connemara (while penalised six times) were offside on many more occasions, but without being punished.

  It was a superb game, and Creggs are hurting this week, having been narrowly ahead entering the final five minutes. That said, all credit to Connemara for having the composure to strike with key late scores, and for withstanding a tremendous Creggs onslaught in the dying minutes.

In a high quality contest, Connemara attacked from the kick-off before Creggs won an early scrum. Then, after a long Creggs clearance, Connemara counter-attacked at pace, gaining huge ground. The ball was switched through slick hands from left to right, and just two minutes had elapsed when Marty Conneely gratefully dived over.

  With the conversion missed, it was almost 40 minutes before the next score, Creggs levelling after their own impressive passing movement. After a number of attacking phases close to the Connemara line – and some excellent handling – Eoghan Coyle crashed over, Shane Purcell adding the conversion. Creggs were very much back in contention.

  In the 52nd minute, Connemara regained the lead with a terrific long-range penalty, albeit in front of the posts. Shane Purcell’s 69th minute penalty restored Creggs’ lead, 10-8 ahead with just over ten minutes remaining. On 75 minutes, Connemara went ahead by one, with another fine penalty, setting up the tense finale that had always been anticipated.

  A poor kick for touch gave Creggs a strong lineout position, but disastrously, Connemara turned possession over, and devoured ground. It was a killer blow. From the ensuing phases of sustained possession, they crossed after an incisive kick and run by scorer TJ Barry, going 18-10 ahead (the conversion was extremely controversial). 79 minutes gone.

  Creggs, staring at defeat now, restarted, winning a penalty and finding touch. An exemplary lineout sowed the seeds for a series of phases, and after some lovely handling, Creggs crossed for a second try, Michael Dunne touching down.

  Creggs threw the kitchen sink and more besides at a backpeddling Connemara in a frantic finale. Despite a heroic last foray or two by Creggs, a very relieved Connemara held on – but it was mighty close.

Creggs: S Dowd, K Gavin, E Coyle, M Purcell, R Dowd, S Purcell, A Hession, T Fleming, M Buckley, A Leech, B Donohoe, T Farrell, T Callaghan, J Brandon, B Diffley. Subs used: D Arnold for T Callaghan, P Lohan for A Hession, R Cahill for T Farrell, S Og Higgins for T Fleming, T Fleming for A Leech, CJ Corcoran for S Og Higgins, M Dunne for K Gavin, C Rohan for B Diffley.