The life of a professional rugby player is spent training hard on weekdays and travelling abroad on weekends. For most professional athletes, a lot of your time is spent with your coaches and teammates. COVID brought a lot of hardship, but there has been a positive for people all over the world and that of course is more time with family and loved ones.

Spending time at home with loved ones for 3 months consecutively is something Paddy McAllister had not experienced in his 10-year career as a professional rugby player. Coming out of this period away from training and his teammates, Paddy has reflected a lot and made some realisations during this time. Quarantine has given Paddy a new perspective and an even greater appreciation to do the job that he loves.

We sat down with Paddy to discuss how he dealt with his mental and physical health during this time, growing up in The Congo as a young boy where he only wanted to play football, to his first week of training post quarantine.

Paddy firstly I would like to ask how you been getting on? How has quarantine been for you?

One thing I have realised is that when I finish rugby, I do not want to wait around to start a job. I want to be able to transition quickly when that time does come. It was quite tough being at home with the two kids, but we were able to do so many things together as a family.I have never looked forward to fitness in my life but during quarantine, I enjoyed running on the pitch beside my house because it gave me an hour of peace by myself. I looked forward to those moments throughout the week. We had unbelievable family time which we will look back on in years to come with fond memories.

It was hard to manage the gym work with the two kids, I would try to get into the room for an hour but there were times I would literally barricade the door with the couches so they wouldn’t walk in! All they wanted to do was join in and do some push ups with me and participate in the training, but they always ended up getting in the way. My wife was amazing, she always organised around it and gave me the time when I had to train. Coming back into Pre-Season this week , getting to go back to the gym with your friends and being able to work hard was just great. I certainly won’t take it for granted anymore.

Quarantine made you realise that after rugby you want to make sure you have something set up when it does happen. Were there any other realisations that you had from being at home all the time over the past 3 months?

At the beginning it was a novelty, it was something I hadn’t experienced before because I went straight into professional rugby after secondary school and was given my weekly schedule and told what I had to wear and what I needed to do, we were spoon-fed. As rugby players we are so lucky, we have 90 percent of our lives planned out for us, to then walk out of that into this scenario, it was almost like I had retired but was still receiving a wage which was a luxury in the sense that if you do retire you don’t get a wage. I had that to fall back on but there was so much time to fill, you can get bored and frustrated very quickly.

I was up early in the mornings with the kids playing with them, after a few weeks you start running out of ideas on how to keep them busy, especially during lock down where they couldn’t socialise with anyone. After experiencing that, I feel like I am more prepared for when retirement does come down the line, I will be ready for the next challenge that comes my way. I think if you are not prepared it can turn into a dangerous slippery slope where you have too much time on your hands after a long career. A lot of thoughts may creep up into your head such as regrets and then boredom.

We recently saw that you are going to welcome your third child in October, how are you both feeling about becoming parents of three?

When lock-down happened, my wife was 6 weeks pregnant and feeling quite sick. I was taking care of the kids a lot more, which made me have an even bigger appreciation for my wife and all the things she does when I am at training or away at games.We are very excited and nervous but ready for the hard challenge ahead.

Usually, one adult can take a child each but with three it is an extra child running around when you have another one in your arms. We are going to embrace it; we are very blessed that we can have three kids at such a young age. Hopefully, I don’t retire too early and they can remember that I did something in my life so that I can recall the memories with them, and they remember those moments.

How were you able to stay motivated and focused during quarantine?

The coaches have been great, the biggest thing they instilled was structure. As our whole careers have been full of structure, we had to set aside a few hours in the day for training. Basically, get up, do the work and then you have the whole day off. It’s very easy for frustration to slip in, but the whole S&C team as well as the coaches were constantly freshening things up. They were always setting challenges for us to do every week, there were lots of fun and engaging activities. Connacht Rugby were constantly supporting staff and players throughout the whole quarantine period.

There were lots of Zoom learning sessions, yoga classes, mindfulness classes, all stuff that we benefited from. Connacht Rugby as a club provided something we could tap into, stay engaged, and learn from daily. The club has been very good in that way, everyone has supported each other and kept in contact with lots of phone calls. It makes you appreciate coming back into Pre-Season even more. Although we are only in groups of six you are never going to take for granted the profession we do and the people that work within in Connacht Rugby. That extends from coaches to players to office staff and all around the branch, the work has been incredible. I think every player and a staff member will be very grateful for Connacht Rugby during this time.

We know your parents are living in Congo at the moment, did you get to see them before all this happened?

They had just come back to Northern Ireland before quarantine, unfortunately, my grandad had taken ill, the doctors said it would be his last few days. All our family are spread out over the world, it was amazing how everyone came together within 2 to 3 days to say goodbye. The crazy thing is, he must have got uplifted spirits by seeing everybody, he beat off everything that was affecting him in hospital. He held on for another month and the nice thing is, he got to spend time with everyone before he passed away.

During that time, my parents got stuck during the lock-down and couldn’t get back to Congo, it worked out for them because they decided a few months back that my dad was going to take a job with the same company but based in Northern Ireland. They moved back to their old house yesterday, it will be great to have them close by and to have both sets of grandparents on the same island. It will be a luxury; they have spent their whole lives in Africa, now they are coming back to lots of babysitting duties!

At the age of 14 you moved to Northern Ireland from Congo, how did you get into rugby when you arrived and had you played other sports before that?

In Africa I played football (soccer) and loved it, I still love the sport. My two older brothers played rugby in Africa and I had no interest. Even when I went to their games, I would bring a football and play football on the sideline while they were playing rugby. The one thing I said to my dad before leaving Africa was to make sure my new school in Northern Ireland would have a football team. His reply was “Yeah, yeah, no worries”, when I arrived at the school there was no football team, so naturally I started playing rugby.

I was a bit bigger than the guys in my year, my first time playing rugby was great because I was used to getting beaten up by my two older brothers and now I was more physically dominant than the guys on my team. After a couple of years playing, I fell in love with it and the Ulster Academy came at 16 and asked me to join.

They came down and trained me three times a week in secondary school during the lunch period. At the time, neither my parents nor I knew what the academy was, I had been to one Ulster game and has no idea what it was. They instilled lots of confidence in me, they said if you put in the work, we think it could be a career for you. That was risky telling a young boy because my focus then became rugby 24/7 instead of working harder on my studies which I should have done. It took off from there, I moved to Belfast after school, started my rugby career and thankfully it paid off.

Your first season in Connacht Rugby was unfortunately cut short due to COVID, how was it for you and what do you reflect on when you look back at your first season in Connacht Rugby?

It helped moving here in the summer, the weather was good, my wife and the family fitted in well, there was lots of stuff to do on the weekends. Training started well, it was a club I had been looking for the past few years and it all fell into place at the right time. I started Pre-Season well and then sustained an injury in the fourth game away to Dragons which was unfortunate, it took me out of action for three months.

I started back into it after that and was playing a good amount of rugby, then suddenly the season was just gone. It’s unlucky the way it ended, we were pushing towards the playoff stages and were due to play Scarlets next who were one point ahead of us, if we had beaten them, we would have been in the playoff stages.

It’s frustrating, a big thing I have learned in my career is that at the end of every season when players move on, it is always important to pay a special tribute to those guys who have put a lot of effort into the jersey and the club, whether it’s retirement or moving on to another club.

It was sad that we didn’t get to have a personal goodbye for certain players who have given a lot to the jersey. The club did what we could and we had a sendoff for them through a Zoom call which has been an unbelievable communication tool for a lot of people the past few months. In all, it’s been a very good but very strange season.

You have just completed your first week of Pre-Season training, what has it been like and do things feel different with the new setup?

It’s been great seeing everyone, that buzz of waking up, getting your kit bag ready the night before, and all those excitements. Monday was tough, we had fitness and gym testing, which is never the easiest part of the job, but you just have to do it. Wednesday we did a fitness conditioning session on the pitch along with a big gym session after that.

It’s so good to see all the boys back again and see the light at the end of the tunnel and get a bit of craic going again. It’s great getting back to having a bit of competition when you are training, I am looking forward to the next few weeks. It’s crazy the amount of work and effort that has been put in by the Connacht Rugby staff to organise the facilities for us to be able to train safely in our groups of six.

To be able to walk into the club and see how things are prepared for us to train, people do so much work behind the scenes which they don’t get enough credit for. It’s very different from before, the social distancing is still there, we can’t shower on-site, we can’t use certain places in the ground, and we have to bring a lot of extra kit. The gym has little areas that are quarantined, we have to clean everything that we touch once we are finished in the gym. It’s strange, but we would do anything it takes to get back into it.

We know that the gym is a very energetic close environment, do you think training will be affected by social distancing?

As a rugby player, you must be competitive if you are going to make a long career out of it. With competitiveness brings high intensity sessions that the trainers bring to every session. Within your group of six, there is still competition between everyone in the sense of who is lifting what and what shape is everyone in. I think the buildup of excitement between everyone has already created a great atmosphere, all the players are delighted to be back in.

We are all cracking jokes and telling stories. A few of the new players are in our group, we are just getting to know them which is exciting. I don’t think we are going to have a boring day. Personally, I don’t think I will ever go into work even on a cold stormy day in Galway and wish I was in bed because life in the real world is very different from the way we have it. I appreciate even more how fortunate I am to do the job that I am in.

Looking towards the games in August, how are you preparing yourself to get back to match fitness again?

The club and the IRFU have put in a good protocol and process to get us there. We have to do all the sessions as good as we can but there is a lot of individual ownness on recovery, we don’t have a long period of time after being away for such a long time. On an off day, you need to get your recovery in and do everything you can nutrition-wise, recovery wise whether that is going into the ocean for a while, rolling out the body, things like that so that the small injuries and niggles don’t creep in.

Every province and player is excited to get back into it and the fact that the first games are Interpros gives it that extra spice. Our first game is against Ulster, which will be good, my first game back from injury was Ulster away and it didn’t go too well for the team and personally.

Lastly Paddy, Friendy requested that everyone had to come back from quarantine with a new skill on or off the field. What would you say you improved on when you were in quarantine?

I didn’t have time to learn guitar or any of those things as the kids would have broken it. I would say it has been my ability to mentally ride the wave of life after coming out of quarantine and coming into the new season. Things that are uncontrollably thrown at you whether it’s in the workplace, selections, disagreements, personal things at home which can affect rugby, I now understand better that these things are always going to happen and you can’t prevent them from happening in your life.

You just have to go with it and talk to others. I have got unbelievably close to my wife this last while because we have had to rely on each other looking after two crazy kids and luckily we survived quarantine. We managed to do it with two healthy kids, and no one got injured, which is an A-plus from us.

In the future, when things come at me, I think I am way better equipped in dealing with it. It has been really tough for some people who just went through quarantine, especially those who live by themselves, people at a certain age or those who have an illness, it can be tough mentally, we all need to help each other.

The biggest thing I have gained from this is, I am a bit more weathered in dealing with those things. I hope I don’t have to deal with a lot of them but if I do, I feel like I am in a good place and have a good structure of family and friends behind me to help deal with any problems that may be thrown at me like a pandemic.

David Howarth made a career change from green-keeper to Strength and Conditioning coach back in 2005 when the importance of Strength and Conditioning had really started to take off in Australia. He now finds himself living along the rough coast of the West of Ireland with his wife and two kids, the perfect setting to fuel his hobby of surfing when he gets a day away from his busy life.

 

David is not only leading Connacht Rugby’s Athletic performance, but he is also striving to make a greater long-term impact in the world of sports science through his PhD research. David along with the IRFU and the other provinces are pushing the boundaries in Athletic Performance to build players a long-term successful career and build a legacy of success in Irish Rugby.

 

The Australian born coach arrived at Connacht Rugby in 2017 from the NBA team Oklahoma City Thunder. Working alongside Johnny O’Connor and Barry O’Brien, they have created a purposeful, energetic atmosphere inside the walls of the Connacht Rugby performance center. Their drive to succeed along with their innovative and creative nature meant that they were able to keep players focused without physical contact and proper facilities during the lock-down period.

 

As our players return to training this week, they will be unfamiliar with the somewhat changed surroundings that they left 3 months ago. The High-Performance Center has changed dramatically as Connacht Rugby prepare the Sportsground for a new safer training environment post-COVID.

 

David and his team are up for the challenge as they strive to keep engagement and motivation high when the players return.

 

Firstly, David how are you? You have two kids, you are working full time in quarantine, and in the middle of a PhD how you have coped with everything?

 

Quarantine has been good so far, we managed to get my parents back to Australia before the lock-down period started which was a lucky escape! I have been managing fine, the PhD has benefited the most and has gotten the biggest kick, which is good and bad: you settle into a rhythm with research where you start analyzing your data and writing your papers and everything gets into a nice flow.

 

But one thing no one tells you about doing a PhD, or any type of Postgraduate research, is that essentially you spend most of your time getting criticized. Every time I submit another version of the paper that I have been working on I will get a lot of criticism back from my supervisors. As they are based in Australia, we meet during the night-time here. They often come to these meetings equipped with a lot of ‘feedback’ which often means you must redo a lot of the work- it gets emotional!

 

How have you created a balance between working from home, homeschooling two kids, and doing a PhD?

 

My wife keeps on saying to me that balance is a verb, so it is an action: you must try to find a time where you can do a bit of everything. She reminds me to work hard and play hard. When you have time off you need to go and enjoy it, so I will go for a bike ride with the kids and get to the beach to go for a surf. It has been the busiest but also the most productive 3 months I have had in a long time in terms of reaching personal goals and time with my kids.

 

I have gotten to know them, and they have got to know who I am. Ashamedly I have not been able to spend much time with them over the past eight years. My eldest is eight years old, she’s learning new things about me and I am learning new things about her. It has been great from that perspective.

 

Can you tell us about what the PhD is about and how it will inform your role at Connacht Rugby?

 

My PhD title is “Quantifying neuromuscular status of elite rugby union players: measurement characteristics and moderating factors”. Essentially, we are examining counter-movement jumps of rugby players on force plates over a season (across the 18/19 season) where we collected jumps twice a week during their normal monitoring. This is a research area that I have been thinking about for a long time and is something that we also use to adjust players’ training and help them manage their fatigue and drive their adaptation.

 

We are analyzing the data to see how consistent those variables are, then how sensitive they are to then see what they relate to in terms of perceptual fatigue for a player. We want to see how they feel and how they measure going through a season and to finally relate that back to their performance both on-field and physically. We have key markers that we are tying that back to not least of which is coach opinion on how they played.

 

As you go down all these research routes, sports science has a bit of a reputation for trying to draw too long of a bow to say that this measure will tell you whether a guy is going to be able to play well or not well. What we want to know is what are the moderating factors to these measurements and how do they fit into that fatigue cycle. It has been great to be able to collaborate on this with some other practitioners and work on related areas of research, like how we measure things, understanding fatigue to a deeper level and quantifying ‘performance’. It is exciting to think that there will be some contributions in this space in the next year from Connacht Rugby.

 

You played a bit of rugby yourself back in the day, how did you make that transition into the Athletic performance world?

 

When I finished school, I was very enthusiastic about my rugby ability, even though I didn’t have a lot of it! I said to my dad “I want to be a professional rugby player” and his reply was “Really? you should get a job!”. Before I started in Strength and Conditioning, I worked as a green-keeper on a golf course for eight years. When I finished my greenkeeping apprenticeship, I moved to the USA in 2002 and lived in Naples, Florida for 18 months. I worked on a golf course in Naples while playing rugby with a local team. I had an opportunity to go to Miami University and train with their football team.

 

While training with the college team, I met a Strength and Conditioning Coach who bought me in and I ended up loving it. I loved the energy of it and the music in the weight room with the guys going mental! When I came back to Australia, I returned to playing rugby in Canberra, I noticed how big of a gap there was in training. The science in Australia was cutting edge, but the types of training that they were doing in the States was way beyond what we were doing.

 

I did spend another 3 years attempting to be a professional rugby player and a green-keeper but eventually, I realized I wanted to be involved in sports differently. By that stage, I had broken everything in my body and wasn’t getting paid much for it, so I pulled the pin and started as a fitness coach with Eastern Suburbs Rugby for a year. I then moved to Sydney as I had a good contact up there with the Waratah’s and started attending the University of Western Sydney. While studying for my degree I started working with the Waratah’s and Australian Rugby Union and it took off from there.

 

It was a successful career change, I would love to say it was my own motivation, but it coincided with the time my wife and I reconnected after meeting each other in Florida. She came to visit me in Sydney, and I realised as soon as she walked into the airport that I probably wasn’t going to be seeing any other woman after that! She has been a massive driver in my career in terms of giving me space and plenty of motivation. She is doing her Masters in Adult Learning and Education now at NUIG. The irony is, she pushed me through my adult learning and education and now I can return the favour.

 

You mentioned how you noticed a significant difference between Australia and the USA after returning from the USA, can you tell me about the changes that you have seen since you came back?

 

It is worth mentioning that Australia was really advanced in Sports Science at the time. We were world leaders in Sports Science and the education system is brilliant. I am doing my PhD with some of the best Sports Scientists I have ever come across at the University of Technology in Sydney.

 

What I had not experienced then was the way that the Americans applied their Strength and Conditioning specifically, the importance of an S & C coach in a program, and the amount of energy that they injected into it. In Australia at that time, it was just the beginning. There was a group of guys there who started the Australian Strength and Conditioning Association in the mid 1990’s and they were driving it hard.  They were some of the greatest guys I have come across and was lucky enough to be mentored by one of them. That was the turning point for S & C in Australia.

 

Rugby League probably bought into it much earlier than Rugby Union, it was a professional sport earlier and they had been driving the physical and physiological capacity of their players to be able to play more games at a higher intensity, create a better spectacle and that is where the physical comes in. The more that the product is out there then the more the people can engage with it and the more money it can make. S & C coaches, in their own way, are big drivers of how professional and sustainable the game can be at that level.

 

When I returned from the States to Australia in 2003, I had noticed that more people were pushing in that area. Working with those people pushing S & C from that period until 2012, I was amazed to see the difference in the people that were doing it, the energy around it, the focus that was on being a practitioner and not just being a scientist. The most important thing was, how are you engaging with the athletes and how are you helping them find the next 4 or 5 years of their career and being able to perform at that level.

 

In 2012 I moved over to California to work for a company called Sparta Performance Science for 2 years. From there I was headhunted by the Oklahoma City Thunder as their Athletic Performance Coordinator, leading the S&C and Nutrition for those guys. This meant I was out of rugby for five years but still tried to keep contacts and dipping in and out while I was working in the NBA. The difference I saw in S & C in rugby after being away from it for five years was amazing.

 

When I joined Connacht Rugby in 2017, it was exciting to see the energy Nick Winkleman (Head of Athletic Performance and Science in the IRFU) was bringing to rugby in Ireland. I know that there has been an evolution in terms of how we take this up to the next level. Nick has been purposeful in getting guys from around the world with a variety of experience to drive it.

 

Then you have a guy like Jason Cowman (Head of S & C for the Irish rugby team) who is that breed of S & C Coach involved in understanding the science, driving the environment and helping the players to not just win games but to push their careers and set in a legacy of success in Ireland. I am under no illusions that I am some sort of ‘answer’, but I hope that I am contributing to something much longer than my tenure at Connacht Rugby and Irish Rugby. That’s why we are here and that’s why we do this. Of course, we want to win in the short term, but long term we want to create and ingrain success.

 

It’s funny, you mentioned the importance of engaging with players in S & C and now you find yourself the last 3 months in quarantine. How have you managed to keep up that level of intense training and keep the players engaged?

 

There have been several different ways we have done this. The guys I work with, Johnny O’Connor and Barry O’Brien, have been phenomenal in this exact space. Early on, we asked ourselves “How we are going to keep engagement high and how do we implement this successfully”. We set up little things like a Friday challenge for the players every week. Johnny took week one and ruined it for us because it was amazing! Suddenly, here’s Johnny with all these special effects, standing there in his orange underwear doing an isometric hold lunge and setting a challenge for all the guys.

 

It was a great way to start off, and to try and follow that up as the weeks went by was hard. It became this ever-rising scale of creativity and ingenuity. Barry rose to that challenge too; he came up with some hilarious ones and then there was me who did some terrible ones, I have no creativity compared to those guys. That was one way of keeping up that engagement and that environment.

 

Coming in here in 2017 we had just brought Johnny on as the Senior S & C coach, and we agreed that no matter what every day we want to set the tone. We both had the same mindset on that. We are likely to be one of the first faces that the players see when they come in. If we are walking around quiet with our heads down, how are they going to be for the rest of the day? If we are fired up, excited, and focused on what’s coming then the players will follow our lead.

 

We wanted to lead in that way and wanted to lead with objective data, with a positive attitude and by doing new things the best way we could. We wanted to have 3 main things that we would always create. Number one was a great environment; number 2 was innovating and push to the edge by taking our ideas and turning them into action; and, thirdly to collaborate with people. During these Covid-19 times that hasn’t changed, in terms of innovation, we have used different portals for pushing out programs.

 

Johnny has been using an online portal to send out our programs on an application that we use. We have also had so much innovation around our running programs during the lock-down.  Barry had to put together an incredible amount of work in case somebody didn’t have access to an area they could run within their 2 km. Some players were running on a piece of grass outside their house and trying to do change of direction work.

 

So, Barry came up with a bunch of drills for these guys and those who didn’t feel comfortable leaving their house and came up with ways for them to utilize the space in their living room or backyard. The innovation alone that came out of that was incredible. We collaborated with the coaches and the medical team to try and get that cross-pollination of what it is we want to come back as whenever this is all over, which is thankfully this week.

 

When we do get back to training, we are confident that we have not only kept the course and stayed fit, but we are confident that we are coming back better than when we had left. The guys have done enough training and explored enough different things to come back with new skill sets, new ideas, and new ways to perform. That all comes back to the environmental things like the videos, chats, the facetimes, to the innovation of how we train and what we are training with.

 

We sent out equipment to all the player’s houses just before lock-down and tried to get them exactly what they needed. Johnny set them out their programs of what they needed to work on. We worked with all the coaches to find a way to ensure that the players had an ongoing focus on what they needed to be when they come back in and what it is we aspire to be. We worked hard to find a way.

 

What are the challenges of starting a Pre-season campaign having been away from a higher performance environment for such a long time? 

 

This comes back to the environment that we created from the beginning up until now. The guys know why they train, why it’s important to train and why it’s important not to rush back in. We need to have that graded ramp up return into playing games. All the provinces and IRFU are working together to implement best practice models for what a return to training would look like. This will hold us in good stead. We agreed that we needed at least six weeks of ramp-up into playing games, they have given us eight. In terms of preparing ourselves to play games again, when we go back to playing again in the Aviva on the 22nd August, it’s going to be a culmination of a long period of intense and focused training.

 

It’s not over and above what I would normally be wary of coming back into training. We are going to have a few injuries, you will always have a few. It will happen if we are training hard. We are going to do everything we can to mitigate that risk, that is going to come in the form of all the testing that we do through weeks one and two so we can understand where the guys are fitness-wise. Of course, they are going to be doing CMJ’s (Counter Movement Jumps) to understand neuromuscular status, and also testing strength and speed measures. Everything will be packed into those first couple of weeks so we have a good baseline of where they are and if there are any red flags we will be all over it very quickly.

 

How will the new operational measures and social distancing in The Sportsground affect training?

 

It’s going to be tough . . . it will be such a departure from what we are used to. The training and that environment that I talked about before, a lot of that energy comes from that interpersonal closeness. It will be interesting to see how the guys cope, it’s a little bit different when you are under a heavy weight and you have someone there in your ear. They might be saying something nice or not so nice, but either way it’s going to motivate you to drive through.

 

When you are pushing on the bench and look up and see someone screaming over you, that gives you that extra motivation. Some of that is going to be missing, which goes back to our innovation. How are we going to create that environment? We have talked about that as a group, I think it’s going to be interesting. We will have to create energy, urgency, and focus in our training sessions. That is going to boil down to our coaches and our ability to communicate with the players and understand where they are. It’s going to be a challenge, but it will be exciting and fun.

 

The gym is now sectioned up into little pods, and you can only work at one station at a time. There is at least 3 meters between you and the next guy in a taped off area, it’s very clinical and strange. If you are a regular gym-goer you will usually go to the gym, put on your headphones and hit the treadmill or bench, whatever it is. That’s quite normal, whereas when you are with a rugby team and you are used to bouncing off your mates around you it’s going to be different for players.

 

How will this Pre-Season training be laid out?

 

We are waiting to hear about our Champions Cup spot next year which is out of our hands and we can’t get into the finals of last year’s PRO14. What is in our hands is our preparation and what we can focus on is what’s coming on October 3rd. Those next two games are not throwaway games, we are not looking at them as preseason games. They are important and are particularly important for players who want to push their national team selection ambitions. They need to be able to put out their best performance in those two matches. The most important thing for us right now is to continue to get better over these next 8 weeks.

 

We have broken it up into testing and installation for 2 weeks, 2 weeks of specific preparation where we start to develop player skills on the rugby field and develop our way through the amount of load players will have to tolerate throughout the season, Then we go into competition preparation, we push the boundaries there and explore where we can grow and get better. It’s a more intense period. And finally, the pre-competition phase, really driving into those two games in August. After that we are all eyes on the ‘20/21′ season and really performing there.

 

Lastly, Dave, Friendy requested that everyone had to come back from quarantine with a new skill on or off the field. What would you say you improved on when you were in quarantine?

 

This is a nerdy one – there is an open-source stats package called R. I have been focused on learning how to use R for my stats in my PhD, learning to code and create data visualizations, dashboards and apps . . . that’s been one of my major focuses.

 

Personally, one of the biggest things for me was mental skills. One thing I invested a lot of time into was understanding the research around, but also building a practice of, mindfulness and meditation to bring me into the present. There is a tremendous amount of research on it and its direct benefits with better health and performance.

Mental skills are essentially based around your ability to be aware – aware of your environment, feelings, and the actions that you and others are taking in the moment and shaping what happens next. It’s an area of focus for us as a club too, developing our mental skills as staff, coaches and players. So, I have been trying to build my awareness and clarity around these things too.

 

Connacht captain John Muldoon has now completed 15(!) pre-seasons with Connacht Rugby! A new campaign of PRO14 rugby kicks off against Glasgow tomorrow night at the Sportsground and the skipper reveals it has been all change at the province over the summer and takes a look back at his early years at the Sportsground.

A limited number of tickets are still available for the game on Saturday with savings of up to 15% available when purchased online.

See the team announcement here.

Our new home, alternate and European kits are now available exclusively in Elverys stores and online here.

Get a closer look at our new kits ⬇️

With just four days to our Guinness PRO14 opener against Glasgow Warriors, the squad are in good shape after eight weeks of pre-season training.

Strength & Conditioning Coach Johnny O’Connor has praised the work ethic within the squad and described his path from player to coach.

Save 15% by purchasing Connacht v Glasgow Warriors tickets online here.

We held our Season Ticket holder day at the Sportsground on Saturday as Connacht defeated Bristol 24-14 in a pre-season game.

We host Glasgow Warriors in our opening Guinness PRO14 game at the Sportsground on Saturday night.

Buy tickets online and save 15% 

Connacht Rugby, in partnership with BLK Sport, unveiled our new alternate and European kits for the 2017/18 season on Saturday as the team took to the field to take on Bristol in a pre-season friendly at the Sportsground.

The team played the first half sporting their new alternate kit which is a striking mix of cyan and white with a navy finish. The jersey also features the soaring Connacht Rugby eagle across the abdomen with white shorts and socks.

For the second half, Connacht Rugby unveiled their new European kit which is an energetic mix of blue and lime green. The jersey features tonal diagonal lines blending in to a powerful lime green. The jersey also features a solid lime green back with finished with Connacht Rugby branding on the lower back.

The jerseys are made with BLK’s exclusive Exotek fabric throughout the main body. Exotek was created exclusively by BLK to enhance athlete performance, while maximising player comfort and manoeuvrability. The unique shoulder detail and powerfully solid chest on the jersey are amplified using a unique silicon gel logo application.

At the launch of the new kit, Connacht Rugby Head of Commercial & Marketing, Brian Mahony, said:

“Following on from our very successful launch of our home and outerwear range, we’re excited to launch our new alternate and European kit. They are bold and striking kits which give a fantastic alternative to our fans to wear with pride. Together the kits complete a really strong range which we hope will have something to suit every taste.”

Commenting on the new-look kit, Bruce Wood, Brand Manager at BLK Sport, said:

“With the strong reception of the new home jersey and training range, we are delighted to unveil the new alternate and European jerseys. There has been an exhaustive design process undertaken, with the final product incorporating aspects from the West of Ireland, and Connacht Rugby. We hope the fans are as happy as we are.”

The new alternate and European kits are now available exclusively in Elverys stores and online here.

Jack Carty in our new alternate kit.

Bundee Aki in our new European kit.

 

We are delighted to announce that Denis Coulson has signed for the province from French side Grenoble. The 23-year-old prop is a former Ireland Under 20 international who made 29 appearances for Grenoble in the French Top 14 over the past three seasons.

Before his departure to France on an academy contract, Coulson represented Leinster at underage level and St Michael’s College.

Commenting on his latest signing, Connacht Head Coach Kieran Keane said: “Denis is a quality player and I am delighted that he has signed for us ahead of the new season. We have an exciting season ahead with the new PRO14 Championship and the arrival of Denis will add to the competition for places in our front row”.

Speaking on his arrival in the Sportsground, Denis Coulson added: “I am hugely excited to be returning to play in Ireland with Connacht. There is a fantastic atmosphere in the Sportsground and I can’t wait to play my first game there. With the new season kicking off on the 2nd of September I will be hoping to integrate into the squad as quickly as possible”.

Kieran Keane recorded the first win of his tenure as Head Coach when his side defeated Pat Lam’s Bristol at the Sportsground. Peter McCabe and Kieran Marmion both got over for tries in the first half which put Connacht in a commanding position. This was followed in the second half with a penalty try and a second try in two games for new signing Rory Scholes.

 After the game Jarrad Butler gave his reaction on the two pre-season games and his hopes for the upcoming Guinness PRO14 Championship.

Save 15% on Glasgow tickets by purchasing online here.

New Head Coach Kieran Keane speaks about his aspirations ahead of the forthcoming Guinness PRO14 season ahead of today’s Bristol clash (3pm) and the PRO14 opener against Glasgow Warriors next Saturday, September 2 (7.35pm).

Tickets for the Bristol game will be available at the gate for €5 (under-16s) and €10 (general admission).

Save 15% on Glasgow tickets by purchasing online here.

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