By John O’Sullivan 

 

The recently completed Connacht Rugby and Bank of Ireland For The Love of The Club virtual run/walk raised over €30,000 for Club and Community rugby in Connacht. 

 

Over 2,000 people put on their running shoes in aid of the Connacht club of their choice or —  for the unaffiliated —  club and community rugby in the province generally with all of the money raised going directly to the cause. 

 

The event wasn’t just confined to the four corners of the five western counties, and participants took part in 25 Irish counties and 11 different countries, which shows the breadth of the Connacht Rugby club & community footprint throughout the world.

 

We caught up with some of the international contingent who shared their stories, images of their walking/running route, and how the event helped them stay connected to their clubs and — by extension – their communities in the midst of a global pandemic. 

 

John Gorham represented Connemara RFC from Chicago. The Clifden native said that the For The Love of The Club event enabled him — and his fellow participants, including the 2016 Rose of Tralee — to stay in touch with his home club.

 

“My friends and I really enjoyed our run,” he said. 

 

“We started and finished at “the Kerryman pub” here in Chicago. We ran a 5k course that is used for the running club during the summer.  We kept the runners to a minimum due to restrictions.

 

 “When finishing we settled in for a “couple” of pints to watch Ireland beat England.

 

 “Among our runners was the 2016 Rose of Tralee Maggie McEldowney and a couple of guys from the Chicago Lions Rugby Club.

 

 “I love the fact that events like this help me stay in touch with my club back home. Connemara RFC has always had a place in my heart and with social media, online lotto, and now events like this I can stay in touch and contribute to the club.”

 

John Gorman, centre, and his fellow runners/walkers in Chicago.

 

 

Moving continents, Jonathan Cleary took part in the run/walk in aid of Ballyhaunis RFC in Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia. Cleary was proud to represent the Mayo club, whom he described as a community focal point. 

 

“Ballyhaunis RFC have a long and treasured tradition in the community and are a focal point for many a generation,” he said. 

 

“It’s fantastic to see the progress the Club has made in terms of their underage programmes, facilities, and a wide network that reaches far beyond the town. I would like to wish them every success in the future and look forward to bigger, brighter, and better things once the lockdown has passed.”

 

Jonathan Cleary took part in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

 

Elsewhere, Martin McDonagh ran in aid of Corinthians RFC in Melbourne, Australia.

 

“Connacht Rugby had been a huge part of my life from a very young age being involved with Corinthians and having had the opportunity to work and be involved in Connacht over the years so I found it important to show my support from Melbourne, Australia for a great cause,” he said.

 

Martin McDonagh’s running route through Melbourne

 

The Connacht Eagles side has been named for tomorrow’s Interprovincial Friendy with Leinster ‘A’ at The Sportsground (k/o 1pm).
 
The side is captained by Sean Masterson and again includes a mix of Professional and Academy players.
 
Connacht Rugby will be hosting a LIVE stream of the game on the Connacht Rugby YouTube page and connachtrugby.ie, with coverage starting at 12.45pm.
 
CONNACHT EAGLES V LEINSTER ‘A’
1pm, Saturday 10th April @ The Sportsground

15. Oran McNulty
14. Peter Sullivan
13. Diarmuid Kilgallen
12. Cathal Forde
11. Ben O’Donnell
10. Conor Fitzgerald
9. Colm Reilly

1. Matthew Burke
2. Johnny Murphy
3. Dominic Robertson-McCoy
4. Niall Murray
5. Cian Prendergast
6. Ciaran Booth
7. Sean Masterson (C)
8. Abraham Papali’i

Replacements
16. Dylan Tierney-Martin
17. Jordan Duggan
18. Conor Kenny
19. Oisin McCormack
20. Donncha Byrne
21. Hubert Gilvarry
22. Shane Jennings
23. Matthew Devine
24. Diarmuid McCormack

Connacht Rugby is deeply saddened to hear of the death of Michael ‘Mick’ Grealish – one of our greatest friends and a true giant of rugby in our province.
 
A former Connacht Rugby President, Mick dedicated his life to the development of our sport at all levels ever since he joined OLBC RFC as an 11-year-old in the early 1950s. In the 60+ years since that day he played, coached and mentored at all levels of the sport.
 
As a player he captained OLBC to a Junior League and Cup double in 1970/71 – only the second time that was achieved by the club. He also held the unique triple role of both Player/Coach and President for their Junior League win over 1974.
 
Following the end of his playing career a few years later he remained heavily involved as a coach and administrator, and was coach for their last Junior Cup win in 1986/87. Our deepest sympathies goes to everyone at OLBC RFC who we know will sorely miss Mick as a colleague and friend.
 
Mick also leaves behind an incredible legacy for his work with Connacht Rugby as a whole. Grealish played for the Connacht Juniors, coached the provinces underage and junior sides, was past Chairman of the former Stadium and Grounds Committee, and held the role of Connacht Rugby President for the 2008/09 season.
 
He remained a familiar face to everyone at the club, often attending matches or visiting the Sportsground offices up until the first restrictions last year.
 
CEO of Connacht Rugby Willie Ruane has paid the following tribute:
 
“Mick defined everything that was good about the people of Connacht. It’s hard to fully state the size of the impact he has made on the organisation, whether it be as an active player and coach, or official and administrator. What struck me most about Mick was his humility and his genuine wish to help people – particularly young people – no matter what the ask was. His sad passing will be felt by so many people, which in itself is a testament to what he achieved through his lifetime of volunteerism.
 
On behalf of everyone at Connacht Rugby I’d like to extend our deepest sympathies to Mick’s family including his wife Maureen, his children Keith, Mickey and Eleanor, his many friends and everyone at OLBC”.

 

Additional info with thanks to the Connacht Tribune

Leicester Tigers 48

Connacht 32

 

By John O’Sullivan

 

Connacht bowed out of the Challenge Cup at the last 16 stage after a 48-32 defeat to Leicester Tigers at Welford Road. 

 

Despite the Westerners registering tries through Kieran Marmion, Eoghan Masterson, Alex Wootton and Paul Boyle and twelve points from the boot of Jack Carty, it was the hosts who progressed through to the quarter-final.

 

Connacht began the game looking to play with their trademark ambition and pace and they were rewarded for this approach early on when Marmion touched down. 

 

Sean O’Brien made an incisive break, cutting through Tigers’ defence, and Marmion — running an intelligent trail line — caught the centre’s offload and showed great pace to sprint in for the try close to the left touchline. 

 

To their credit, Leicester responded well to conceding a try and responded with two quickfire scores of their own. First, from a rolling maul — a regular source of tries for the English side — Charlie Clare dotted down. 

 

Then, from a turnover in their own half, the hosts broke quickly and Guy Porter ran in a try down the blindside. This time, the Tigers converted via Zack Henry and — despite Connacht being in the ascendancy in terms of possession — lead 12-5. 

 

In an open game, the Westerners scored next when Carty — showing great accuracy from the tee — confidently slotted a penalty to reduce the deficit to four points. 

 

Connacht continued to probe in search of scores and their pressure lead to Care — the host’s first try scorer — receiving a yellow card for a high tackle. However, despite being a man in arrears, Leicester scored another rapid brace of tries. 

 

First, Matias Moroni reacted first to a spilled high ball and showed good awareness to swoop in for the try. Then, five minutes later, Henry touched down after another counter-attacking move saw Leicester quickly break and score. 

 

A heavy spell of pressure from the visitors followed and — after four penalties in the 22 — Carty eventually rewarded their patience when he bisected the posts with a penalty that took the half-time score to 24-11 in favour of the home team. 

 

Connacht started the second half with intent and attacked with gusto right from the start. 

 

A bludgeoning carry from Tom Daly established field position deep in Leicester territory. Masterson intelligently spotted a gap at the next ruck and sprinted into the space Ro touch down for a try borne of quick thinking. Carty added the extras to bring by the visitors back within touching distance.

 

Leicester responded by opening their second-half account with a Henry penalty, but Connacht didn’t let that change the course of the momentum and they added their second try of the half not long after.

 

A typically enterprising attack saw substitute Caolin Blade throw a sumptuous, against the grain pass which Wootton — running a sharp line — collected and showed searing pace to burst through and touch down. Carty added the conversion and cut the deficit to two points at 27-25.

 

The scoring was of a tit-for-tat nature and Leicester were next to bare their teeth with another rolling maul try with Clare touching down for his second. Henry converted and the scoreline read 34:25.

 

Connacht, though, kept plugging away and captain Boyle personified this when he — like Masterson beforehand — spotted a gap in a ruck and sped in for a try that Carty converted, leaving the score at 34:32.

 

The Tigers were the next to score when Harry Wells barged over from close range. Henry converted and Leicester broke the forty-point mark and took the game away from the visitors.

 

The hosts finished off in style when Jasper Wiese smashed his way over the line off the back of a scrum to rubber-stamp the win at 48-32. 

 

Connacht team: 

(15-9)

15: John Porch 

14: Matt Healy 

13: Sean O’Brien 

12: Tom Daly 

11: Alex Wootton 

10: Jack Carty 

9: Kieran Marmion

 

(8-1)

8: Paul Boyle ©

7: Conor Oliver 

6: Eoghan Masterson 

5: Gavin Thornbury 

4: Ultan Dillane 

3: Finlay Bealham

2: Dave Heffernan 

1: Denis Buckley 

 

Replacements: Caolin Blade for Marmion, Dominic Robertson McCoy for Bealham, Shane Delahunt for Heffernan, Abraham Papali’i for Conor Oliver, Conor Fitzgerald for Carty

Everyone at Connacht Rugby was saddened to hear of the death of Connacht Rugby Hall of Famer Brendan Guerin.
 
A former Irish international and player for Connacht and Galwegians, Brendan gave a lifetime of volunteerism to rugby and made a profound difference to all facets of the game that he was involved in.
 
Originally a native of Co. Waterford, Brendan won a Leinster Schools Senior Cup medal with Castleknock before joining Galwegians in 1955. A second-row, he was an integral part of the legendary five-in-a-row League & Cup-winning team from 1956-60. He won his solitary cap for Ireland against Scotland in 1956, and went on to represent Connacht for many years.
 
He later became a Connacht selector and a sub-selector for the Irish team back when Connacht had no representative on the selection committee.
 
A true clubman, Brendan then served many years on the Galwegians committee and was Galwegians President in 1973-74.
 
Both his sons Enda and Shane were Galwegians club captains and each went on to play for Connacht.
 
In 2009 Brendan received the Connacht Rugby Hall of Fame Award.
 
Our condolences goes to Brendan’s family, friends and everyone at Galwegians RFC.

The Connacht management team have picked a fully loaded side as they go in search of a win in tomorrow’s European Challenge Cup Round of 16 clash with Leicester Tigers at Welford Road (k/o 8pm).
 
In the absence of the suspended Jarrad Butler, Paul Boyle captains the side in the number 8 jersey where he’s joined by flankers Eoghan Masterson and Conor Oliver.
 
There’s a wealth of experience in the tight five, with a front row of Denis Buckley, Dave Heffernan and Finlay Bealham, while Ultan Dillane partners the in-form Gavin Thornbury in the second row.
 
Kieran Marmion and Jack Carty continue their long-standing half-back partnership, while Tom Daly and Sean O’Brien start together at centre for the third straight game.
 
Another centurion Matt Healy is named on the wing, forming a back three combo with the exciting Alex Wootton and John Porch.
 
Commenting on the team selection, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“We had difficult decisions to make across the park with our starting XV. It’s a testament to our squad that we’ve got a really strong bench while others will miss out entirely, and that’s what you want going into knock-out European rugby.
 
“It’s no secret that the Connacht record in Europe needs to improve, but this is a group of players that know how to break hoodoos on the road. Leicester Tigers in Welford Road is one of the great challenges in European rugby and I have full confidence in the squad to get the win and really put us in the mix for silverware at the end of the season”.

 
CONNACHT MATCHDAY 23 VS LEICESTER TIGERS
Saturday 3rd April, Welford Road, kick-off 8.00pm

Name/Number/Caps
15. John Porch (35)
14. Alex Wootton (18)
13. Sean O’Brien (Acad) (6)
12. Tom Daly (43)
11. Matt Healy (147)
10. Jack Carty (154)
9. Kieran Marmion (181)
1. Denis Buckley (196)
2. Dave Heffernan (139)
3. Finlay Bealham (154)
4. Ultan Dillane (109)
5. Gavin Thornbury (55)
6. Eoghan Masterson (106)
7. Conor Oliver (16)
8. Paul Boyle (54) (C)

Replacements
16. Shane Delahunt (95)
17. Jordan Duggan (10)
18. Dominic Robertson-McCoy (62)
19. Oisin Dowling (4)
20. Abraham Papali’i (9)
21. Caolin Blade (126)
22. Conor Fitzgerald (31)
23. Peter Sullivan (11)

Connacht Rugby are delighted to announce a new coaching team for next season.
 
Beginning in 2021-22 Peter Wilkins will move to a new role of Senior Coach where he will have primary responsibility for attack. He will be supported by Mossy Lawler who has been appointed Assistant Attack & Skills Coach, in addition to Colm Tucker who comes on board as Defence & Forwards Technical Skills Coach.
 
A process to recruit a new Forwards Coach is also now currently underway following the announcement of the departure of Jimmy Duffy at the end of this season.
 
These changes will take the total number on the Professional coaching team from 4 to 5 providing Head Coach Andy Friend with greater coverage across each of the respective areas of the game.
 
All three coaches have signed two-year contracts running in tandem with Andy Friend’s recently announced extension as Head Coach.
 
Peter Wilkins first joined Connacht as Defence Coach as 2017, having previously held the same role at Edinburgh Rugby for two seasons. He arrived at Edinburgh having spent 8 years in Australia, where he first began work at Queensland Reds as Performance Analyst, moving through the ranks to become Skills Coach and then Defence Coach at the club, as well as Head Coach of the ‘A’ side.
 
Mossy Lawler joined Connacht as a coach in 2014 after a successful playing career with Munster and Wasps. Lawler made 65 appearances for the province between 2001 and 2008, winning two Heineken Cups in the process. He has spent the last six years as Elite Player Development Officer in the Connacht Academy and four years as Head Coach for the Connacht Eagles.
 
At international level he has served as Attack Coach of the Ireland U18 Schools and Head Coach of the Ireland U19s.
 
Colm Tucker joined Connacht in 2015 as Coach Development Officer before moving to the role of Provincial Talent Coach 12 months later and subsequently as Elite Player Development Officer, working primarily with the forwards in the Connacht Academy and as Forwards and Defence Coach for the Connacht Eagles.
 
During that time he was Head Coach of the Connacht U18s that won the 2018 Interprovincial Championship – a first in 10 years for the province. He was also Coach of the Ireland Clubs & Schools team for three years, Assistant Coach to the Ireland U19s, and Assistant Coach to the Ireland U20s 2019-21.
 
Between them Tucker and Lawler have been instrumental in the development of the many Connacht Academy players who have moved up to the Professional squad in recent years.
 
Commenting on today’s announcement, Head Coach Andy Friend says:
 
“This is really exciting development for Connacht Rugby. Firstly with Peter as our new Senior Coach we have someone who has been a crucial part of the coaching team since my arrival. Pete has an incredible knowledge of the game and has built up a wealth of experience across the PRO14 and Super Rugby. I know he will thrive in his new role of implementing strategies across a number of areas of our programme.
 
I’m equally pleased to welcome Colm and Mossy into our coaching setup from next season. I’ve always believed in strong integration between the Pro and Academy environments, so we’ve been working closely together the past few years. Like Nigel and Jimmy before them when they first became Pro coaches, they have worked their way through the coaching ranks here and have played a major part in the development of the many young players we have in our squad. Their appointments will allow for even greater continuity as we continue to develop our homegrown talent.
 
We’ve also started the process of recruiting a new Forwards Coach so I’m very excited by what we as a coaching team can achieve in the years ahead.”

 
CONNACHT RUGBY COACHING TEAM 2021-2023
Andy Friend – Head Coach
Peter Wilkins – Senior Coach
Mossy Lawler – Assistant Attack & Skills Coach
Colm Tucker – Defence & Forwards Technical Skills Coach
TBC – Forwards Coach

Connacht Rugby can confirm Jimmy Duffy will depart the province at the end of the season.
 
Duffy has held the role of Forwards Coach since June 2015 and was part of the coaching team that oversaw the successful Guinness PRO12-winning campaign of 2015/16. Before his appointment he served as Elite Player Development Officer with the Connacht Academy and before that as a Coach Development Officer working across the game at grassroots level.
 
Duffy has made the following statement following the news:
 
“This has been a tough decision for me and my family, but I feel it’s the right one as I look to progress my coaching career. Connacht Rugby has been a major part of my life stretching over 25 years, so it was never going to be easy when the day comes to move on. I feel now is the time for me to stretch myself and further my development as a coach.
 
I cannot begin to thank everyone at Connacht Rugby enough for all they have done for me during my association with the club. It’s a great organisation with a bright future, and I leave at the end of the season firmly in the belief that even better days are ahead. I’d particularly like to thank Andy Friend and Willie Ruane for their constant understanding and support as I made my decision, as well as all the staff, players and supporters. I look forward to watching the club develop even further in the years ahead.“

 
Head Coach Andy Friend says he has nothing but praise for Duffy after their three years working together:
 
“Jimmy is a consummate professional and an excellent Forwards Coach who I’ve had the pleasure of working with since 2018. His dedication, knowledge of the game and constant drive to further develop our players has been first rate. Our current crop of forwards are all the better because of him and I know he’ll succeed wherever the future takes him.
 
While we would have preferred to see Jimmy sign on with us again, we would never stand in the way of any coach when they feel the time is right to move on.”

 
CEO of Connacht Rugby Willie Ruane has thanked Duffy both for his commitment to Connacht, and the legacy he will have left behind at all levels of the game.
 
“We are naturally disappointed by Jimmy’s decision to move on, but we wish him nothing but the best for everything in the future. He leaves behind a really strong legacy at the club, not just as a coach with the professional team but also going back to his days developing coaches within our clubs and schools as well as his work with our underage squads and as a very accomplished former Connacht player.
 
The part he played in delivering our first ever trophy in 2016 will never be forgotten by the club or by our supporters. On behalf of everyone at Connacht Rugby, I’d like to sincerely thank him for everything he’s done for us and to wish himself, Orla and Joseph all the very best for the future and the next stage of their journey.”

By John O’Sullivan 

 

Head coach Andy Friend says that Connacht will need to stick to their own game plan and processes in Saturday’s European Challenge Cup last 16 clash away to Leicester Tigers. 

 

The Tigers are known for their physical approach and boast a massive set of forwards and — with former England forwards coach Steve Borthwick at their coaching helm — possess a strong and consistent set-piece. 

 

Friend, however, is confident that playing with their trademark speed and creativity is the Westerners’ best course of tactical action while warning that the team will need to be disciplined in order to limit the hosts attacking options. 

 

“Work rate is going to be really important, we’re going to have to put move them,” the Australian said of Connacht’s game plan.

 

“Not too dissimilar to what you saw when we beat Leinster at the RDS, we outworked them and we outworked them early and we got some scores on the board and then they had to chase.

 

“Our intent, both with and without the football, we’ll be able to see that. If we don’t have the footy, our desire is to go up and shut down their time and space. When we do have the ball, we’ll have to win those collisions, but if we do we’ll have to be brave enough to play as well. 

 

Friend maintains that the Challenge Cup, which he describes as chapter two of the Westerners campaign, provides Connacht with the opportunity to win silverware this season and fulfill their ambition of winning a trophy, a goal they set at the beginning of the rugby year. 

 

“This is chapter two of our season, chapter one is finished,” the former Australian sevens coach said. 

 

“We didn’t make that final(PRO14), and it was disappointing. We keep talking about it as a squad, winning silverware, and we’ve put ourselves in a position where we’re in the top 16 and if you win five games you win silverware. That would be the intention — certainly, it is my intention — and I know as a group of coaches and players that is our collective intention. We want to go and win it. 

 

“So, there is pressure on the game. We know that Connacht’s form against English sides hasn’t been great over the course of history, so we get an opportunity to go and correct that. We know we’re up against a very formidable side, so it’s no mean feat but we’re going there — and I want us to put pressure on ourselves — to perform because this is the mark of sides that can show the growth that I believe is taking place here.”

 

Meanwhile, back-row forward Paul Boyle says that Connacht have put a huge focus on their defence heading into the European showdown against Leicester. 

 

In the Westerners last outing — a 41-36 defeat at the Scarlets — Boyle felt their defence let the team down, but the former Irish international said that the players are keen to apply the lessons they’ve learned from that game at Welford Road at 8 pm on Saturday evening. 

 

“I would be very confident to say it’s not going to happen again,” the Gorey native said of Connacht’s defensive prospects against the Premiership team. 

 

“We put a huge focus on it this week and we have trained really well. We’re looking forward to going after them this week defensively.”

 

Boyle — who represented Ireland at under 20’s level — said that the remaining games, both in Europe and the Rainbow Cup, will be a shop window for Connacht players to put their hands up for international selection.

 

“That is obviously one of my main goals at the moment(earning Irish selection),” the 24-year-old said. 

 

“It comes off the back of playing well enough and I am always a big advocate of ‘if you’re playing well enough for your province you’re going to get picked’. I’m working hard and I’m just trying to play my best every week and those games are a good showpiece for yourself and a good showpiece for the team to try and get those international honours.”

 

Bundee Aki and Jarrad Butler — two of the Westerners’ most experienced players — will miss the Tigers fixture through suspension, but Boyle says that their presence in training is beneficial to the team. 

 

“Those guys have been brilliant in training. Those guys have been on team two and they’re brilliant players when they’re defending and when they’re attacking and they’re really challenging us. Even in the chats we’ve had, they’re giving us really good insight and they’re really helping us this week. 

 

“They have been brilliant since they’ve come back. Obviously they’re disappointed that they can’t play but they have been really good for the team.”

Related

PREVIEW: Connacht V Edinburgh

BEST PICS: Pro squad visit totalhealth Summer Camp at Connemara RFC
ConnemaraRFC

BEST PICS: Pro squad visit totalhealth Summer Camp at Connemara RFC

2 years ago
Happy 133rd Birthday To Us!
ConnachtRugby

Happy 133rd Birthday To Us!

2 years ago