Creggs party like it’s 1996!

Connacht Rugby Bank of Ireland Junior League 1A Final

Creggs 26 Connemara 15

Creggs RFC Captain Brian Diffley pictured with his brother Michael, Creggs RFC coach, after their victory over Connemara RFC in last Sunday’s Bank of Ireland Junior League 1A Final at the Sportsgrounds in Galway. Pic: Steve Fahey

Last Sunday at the Sportsground in Galway, Creggs ended a 27-year famine when they secured their first Junior 1A league title since 1996.

Captained by Brian Diffley and led by a coaching team of Tony Dolan, Kolo Kiripati and Mike Diffley, this was a tremendous and historic win.

Initially, the occasion appeared to get to Creggs who were slow out of the blocks and trailed early on. A Ronan Dowd clearance went straight to Connemara’s talented full-back Henry O’Toole, who collected and ran at speed at the Creggs line. O’Toole slalomed to within five metres before off-loading to Eoin Burke who scored in the corner to silence the large Creggs following.

This early concession seemed to spark Creggs into life and within minutes of the restart a maroon and white wave had descended on the Connemara 22. The All Blacks appeared to have been given a reprieve when Creggs were penalised for holding on. Connemara kicked to touch, but following the lineout Creggs were back on the hunt.

Having won a penalty and finding touch just five metres out, a massive drive and quick ball from Mark Dowd resulted in a side-stepping Shane Purcell scoring under the posts to bring Creggs level. Purcell then converted his own try to put his side 7-5 ahead.

Creggs fly-half Shane Purcell converts a try during the Bank of Ireland Junior League 1A Final clash against Connemara RFC last Sunday at the Sportsgrounds in Galway. Pic: Steve Fahey

On 25 minutes, Mark Purcell produced a huge, wind-assisted kick deep into Connemara territory where a fumble resulted in another Creggs lineout.

Once again it was quick ball that did the damage as Creggs created an overlap on the right wing for Danny Arnold to cross for a second try, this one brilliantly converted by Shane Purcell.

Leading 14-5, Creggs were fully in control at this stage but the threat of another famous Connemara comeback still hung in the air as the teams made their way off at the break.

Playing against the wind in the second half, it was another edgy start for Creggs before Connemara were reduced to 14 for ten minutes following a high tackle by David McDonagh on Mark Dowd.

Smelling blood, Creggs went in search of a third try and were rewarded when Brian Donoghue went over following good work by Shane Dowd and Shane Purcell, with the pack now rampant. Purcell again added the extras to stretch Creggs’ lead to 21-5.

This latest Creggs score brought about the inevitable response from Connemara who reduced the arrears thanks to Burke’s second try of the afternoon, in the corner. With the conversion missed, Creggs still had an eleven-point lead, albeit with over 20 minutes still to play.

The replacements were to play a crucial role in seeing this one out and the fresh legs introduced helped Creggs gain a measure of control once again.

Eoghan Coyle from Creggs RFC breaks the line at full speed followed closely by teammates Shane and Mark Dowd during last Sunday’s Bank of Ireland Junior League 1A Final against Connemara RFC at the Sportsgrounds in Galway. Pic: Steve Fahey

With ten minutes remaining, man of the match Eoghan Coyle once again broke through the centre of the field, and 30 metres out found Mark Dowd travelling at speed with an accurate pass. Dowd sprinted for the line to claim Creggs’ fourth try of the afternoon and all but put the game beyond the All Blacks.

Connemara did eventually get over for their third try of the game – through Ian Staunton – but it was a case of too little, too late as Creggs held on for a historic win.

This was a huge team performance from Creggs which saw a number of outstanding displays, most notably from Brian Donoghue, Ronan and Eoghan Cahill, Sean Óg Higgins, Aidan Leech, Tommy Fleming, the Dowds and the Purcells.

Captain Brian Diffley used his acceptance speech to praise the entire panel, and the ongoing commitment which saw up to 60 players fighting for a place on this well balanced team.

Creggs RFC: Sean Óg Higgins, Danny Arnold, Eoghan Cahill, Brian Donoghue, Aidan Leech, Ciaran Purcell, Ronan Cahill, Brian Diffley (captain), Mark Dowd, Shane Purcell, Tom Fetherston, Shane Dowd, Eoghan Coyle, Mark Purcell, Ronan Dowd, Tom Fleming,

Lee Kilcoyne, Peter Lohan, Ian Whittington, Michael Feeley, David Gacquin, Kevin Gavin, Tommy Devine.