There will be no fear in the Creggs camp as they prepare to meet arch-rivals Connemara in Sunday’s Connacht J1A League Final at the Sportsground, according to Head Coach Pat Cunningham.
Cunningham, who missed last Sunday’s semi-final comeback win over Westport due to Covid, believes his charges, who beat Connemara in the Cawley Cup semi-final earlier this year, will be more than ready for a wounded All Blacks’ challenge.
“Beating Connemara in the Cawley Cup will have helped psychologically, but we are certainly under no illusions as to what awaits us on Sunday in Galway. Connemara will have been building up to this and they’ll be looking to redeem themselves following that defeat,” he said.
“We never had any fear of facing Connemara in the past but maybe there has been a lack of experience in a few of the games we’ve had against them. When you come up against a team at the level they’re at, it can take a while to rise to it. There’s no doubt though that the lads can play up to that level and we’ve shown that in the last few years where we were a little unlucky in some games”.
While Cunningham was unable to attend last Sunday’s game, he was nonetheless satisfied with the belief his players displayed despite trailing 20-5 at the interval.
“There was a little bit of concern at half-time last Sunday but our lads always show real fight. Maybe it came down to being a bit complacent and it was one of those games when things seemed to be going against us and Westport were getting a few breaks,” he said.
“The lads were told to keep believing in themselves and to keep the ball moving and that the chances would come. They never panicked and eventually came out with a really impressive win”.
Sunday represents another step up for a team which has finished top of the Connacht J1A League while also claiming their third Cawley Cup in a row, but the Creggs head coach is relishing the challenge.
“We are really looking forward to the challenge of Connemara this Sunday. There are a few little injuries from the Westport game but everyone is pulling out all the stops to be fit and ready for this one, and I’m hopeful that we’ll have a full squad to choose from,” Cunningham concluded.
There’s no doubt the powerful Connemara outfit have been a bogey team for Creggs in years past, but there is real belief around the east Galway village that an important psychological barrier was broken with that victory in the Cawley Cup. The question now is whether the All Blacks were caught cold, or has this Creggs team finally arrived at the summit of Connacht Junior rugby?
For their part, the All Blacks have looked formidable in this season’s regular league campaign despite finishing runners-up to Creggs. The men from the west scored far more and conceded less than anyone in the division despite a 31-22 defeat to Castlebar in October, although much of their healthy points difference is owed to a facile win over Sligo Seconds earlier this month.
There’s no doubt, however, that they remain the team to beat at this level in Connacht…though recently Creggs have proven they are more than capable of that.