This is, and has been, a bad season for Connacht rugby. That in itself is hardly cause for concern because, ask yourself, how many Connacht campaigns have actually been good since the dawn of professionalism. Three? Four?. Ok, let’s go with four. That’s four good seasons since 1997, four in 20 years.
On Saturday in Thomond Park, Connacht reverted to type at the venue and actually managed to go deeper into the realm of the abysmal than any side in West of Ireland green has ever managed when playing Munster at the venue. Fifty points shipped, seven tries, this was record breakingly awful from a Connacht team that had a light touch engagement with the contest from the outset.
Four good seasons, let’s give you the first example. The 1997/1998 campaign under Warren Gatland, the second-greatest Connacht coach of all time, a trail blazer. Everything you see today would not be possible without that campaign of outrageous bravery where Connacht won in Bordeaux and Northampton on their way to a heroic last eight exit in the Challenge Cup.
That 1997 team was marked by stern defiance, a firm bond, and a collective will to achieve the unthinkable, to look out for one another, to ensure no try was conceded without, at the very least, hands been put on players, tackles been attempted, bodies been put on the line. There was none of that on show in the Keith Earls try that kick-started this game. Dan Goggin glided through a gap untouched before setting up the Moyross native.
For a second example, let’s go with the inaugural Celtic League season in 2001 when Connacht had assembled a truly brilliant group of players and took the competition by storm winning in Cardiff, Newport and Bridgend on their way to a quarter final defeat to Glasgow under the guidance of Steph Nel.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.