Friday, May 26, 2023

Connacht Junior Shield Final  
Sunday, May 28 
12pm in Solar 21 Park, Milebush 
Conn Rangers v Knocknacarra
Referee: Owen McLoughlin (Sligo) 

The Mayo Football League will look to make history in a double-header of Connacht junior finals this Sunday at Milebush.

Before Castlebar Celtic look to win a record-breaking tenth Connacht Cup, Conn Rangers will be bidding to win their first provincial title at this level when they take on Galway FA Championship side Knocknacarra.

It’s uncharted territory for Conn, with their best run in a Connacht competition coming back in 1978 when they reached the Connacht Junior Cup semi-final.

Given their excellent start to the season, it would be a fair suggestion to say that the Mount Falcon-based side are coming into this one as favourites despite this being their first final, even though their run to the final has had some real obstacles to overcome.

They won their opening round over Dunmore Town 2-1 before edging out Ballinagare Manor United on penalties 7-2 (finishing 2-2 after extra time). Last month saw them teetering on the brink of elimination in the quarter-finals after being 2-0 down to Ballymote Celtic but they mounted a second-half comeback to win 3-2.

Their biggest challenge came in the form of local Super League rivals Crossmolina in the semi-finals at Abbeyview. Despite going in level at the break, the Maroon and White were the better side in the first-half and Conn Rangers were thankful to the performance of goalkeeper Brian McMahon for a string of good saves over the 90 minutes.

Rangers had the edge in front of goal and Adam Gallagher’s strike before the hour mark was the difference. With the attacking threats of Colm Rutledge, Gallagher and PJ Gilmartin up front, Sean Holmes and captain Owen McDonagh pulling the strings in the middle and Owen McNamara and Tuan O’Horo a solid pairing at centre-back, the spine of Rangers has become a formidable one for opponents to deal with, as demonstrated by the Super League form since promotion, sitting third after eight games.

This Sunday, they will be, in the words of assistant manager Mark Togher, “all guns blazing”.

“It’s massive. We’re all looking forward to it. It’s a big day out in Milebush. We set out our target in early January in that we wanted to get to the Connacht Shield final and we wanted to win it,” Togher admits.

The aforementioned strength of Rangers will be tested by the Galway outfit. They are no strangers to Connacht Shield finals, having reached two in the past four years but falling to Mayo sides on both occasions, Killala in 2019 and Westport United ‘B’ last year.

Rangers’ backline will have to be on guard against a potent Knocknacarra attack that has scored 22 goals on their way to the final; 4-2 against Corofin United, 8-0 against Kinvara United, 6-4 against Maree/Oranmore ‘B’ and 4-0 against Salthill Devon ‘B’ in the semi-final.

“You cannot take any Galway opposition lightly in any shape or form. As far as we’re concerned, it’s a 50/50 battle. We’ve been doing our homework on them and have plenty of data to work on,” explains Mark Togher.

Should the studious approach reap the dividends and Rangers keep them at bay, the Green and Black may have plenty to celebrate about.

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By Stuart Tynan
Contact Newsdesk: +353 96 60900

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