The Connacht Rugby squad made pre-Christmas visits to meet children, their families and staff of two local care facilities yesterday. The entire senior squad split into two groups and were guests of honour at University College Hospital Galway and Ability West – official charity partner of Connacht Rugby – in Tuam.

Galway man Ronan Loughney led a team of 25 senior players to the children’s ward of the Galway hospital where they visited the young patients and their parents ahead of the Christmas period and their upcoming PRO12 clash with Leinster. The players, including Connacht captain John Muldoon and New Zealander Mils Muliaina, spent the afternoon visiting patients and handing out gifts of Connacht hats, scarves and wrist bands as well as signed posters and selection boxes.  A lot of the young patients and their parents were delighted to have their photo taken with the visiting squad.

At the same time yesterday afternoon, Sligo man Sean Henry and 20 of his team mates were welcomed to the Ability West centre in Tuam where they met over 75 members of the voluntary organisation that is dedicated to helping children and adults with intellectual disability. Eddie the Eagle was the guest of honour and a big hit on the day.

Connacht’s Ronan Loughney said: “These visits are an important part of our season at Connacht Rugby. We all know how lucky we are, especially at this time of year, and we wanted to do something as a squad for the local community. Instead of doing our own Kris Kindle in the squad, we decided to pool the money to bring gifts for the two visits.

“We’re thankful to the staff at University Hospital Galway for giving us the opportunity to come in and meet the young patients. The nurses, doctors and all of the staff do amazing work and it was humbling to be there as a team and meet everyone.

“I know there was a huge crowd to meet the other lads at the Ability West centre in Tuam as well. Ability West is a fantastic charity doing wonderful work in our communities and we were delighted to be able to give something back to them by going out with gifts for their members yesterday.“

Connacht Rugby would like to thank all the staff at University College Hospital Galway and Ability West for their warm welcome and a Merry Christmas to all of the patients and members.

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