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Dublin: 4 °C Monday 21 October, 2019

St. Gerald's secure first ever Connacht Schools Junior Cup

The Mayo school came out on top after a thrilling final against CBS Roscommon.

CBS' Conor Shanagher [left] and Barry Walsh of St. Gerald's clash during the Junior Cup final in Galway.
CBS' Conor Shanagher [left] and Barry Walsh of St. Gerald's clash during the Junior Cup final in Galway.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

LATE TRIES BY the powerful Thierry Baba and composed Barry Walsh handed St. Gerald’s of Mayo their first Connacht Schools Junior Cup at the Sportsground this afternoon.

CBS Roscommon played an integral part in a thrilling final in Galway, but were forced to defend with 14 players in the closing stages as St. Gerald’s ran out 36-22 winners.

CBS opened the scoring in the 15th minute when fullback Michael Farrell struck with a penalty, but St. Gerald’s found an instant response as Baba, also a talented footballer, showed wonderful pace down the right-hand side to grab the game’s first try.

Barry Walsh converted from touchline to give his side a 7-3 lead. Conor Shanagher began to threaten in midfield for CBS thanks to his dynamic running, but St. Gerald’s stretched their lead in the 23rd minute, when Sean Tonra crossed the whitewash after a smartly-worked penalty move from close range.

The conversion was missed, before St. Gerald’s added another try just four minutes later. Fullback Mark Balaski dotted down following a remarkable solo counter-attacking burst from inside his own half. This time Walsh was on mark with the extras.

James Brandon CBS' James Brandon had a superb game in the back row. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

CBS failed to give up though, and second row James Featherstone crashed over just before the interval, allowing Farrell to convert with composure and bringing the Roscommon side back to 19-10.

Matters improved even further after half time, with flanker James Brandon scoring to the right of the posts after a clever pick and go. The try was just reward for CBS’ sustained pressure on the St. Gerald’s line, and Farrell’s sublime touchline conversion brought them to within two points.

Walsh’s well-struck penalty extended the St. Gerald’s lead to 22-17, but CBS found a response again as inspirational captain Brian Diffley burst over from close-range to score. Farrell’s conversion was unsuccessful, leaving the game poised at 22-22 going into the closing stages.

A 59th minute yellow card for Shanagher after he failed to wrap the arms in a tackle left CBS outnumbered, and St. Gerald’s were clinical in sealing the win. First Baba benefited from some deft handling in midfield, then Walsh broke from deep to seal the win for the Castlebar school.

A superb final, with both sides impressing. The future of Connacht rugby looks bright.

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