As Connacht defended their line in the last few minutes of their Guinness Pro 12 game against Zebre, “The Fields of Athenry” could be heard clearly ringing out around the Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi in Parma last Saturday evening.
The NUI Galway Rugby Academy U16 and U17 panels had travelled on mass to support and witness Connacht secure a bonus point win that insured they maintained their table top position.
After their victory the Connacht players headed directly over to where the NUIG travelling party of over 50 players coaches and parents were gathered to thank them for their support. It made the long journey to the north to Italy all the more worthwhile and memorable for the u16 and u17 lads from Galway.
Five years ago a youth academy was established in Galway City, west of the Corrib, with the intention of feeding talented young players into the one hundred and forty year tradition of University rugby in Galway.
Since then the academy has been growing from strength to strength and is now playing development, cup and plate rugby week in week out in the Connacht u13 to u17 age groups. This year’s u16 team have reached their 3rd consecutive Connacht development league final to be played in the coming weeks. Their u14s have topped their league table this year and are into a provincial semi- final.
The combined u16s and u17s NUIG Academy panel finished off their four day tour of the North of Italy with a game on the Sunday versus a local team, Noceto, who are one of the strongholds of Italian youth and senior rugby in the region.
There are already plans afoot to return next year to develop rugby and friendship ties with Noceto and no doubt give heartfelt and vocal support to Connacht in future campaigns on foreign soil.

1111Article 3 - Connacht greet NUIG Academy traveling party after vic1111tory in Parma, Italy

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