Red lights go off as Connacht fail to deliver in league debut

Connacht's John Muldoon chases this loose ball against Glasgow Warriors during Saturday night's PRO14 encounter at the Sportsground. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.
Connacht's John Muldoon chases this loose ball against Glasgow Warriors during Saturday night's PRO14 encounter at the Sportsground. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Connacht 12

Glasgow Warriors 18

SOMETHING is not right. We might as well accept that from day one rather than adopt a wait and see mentality. It might take a while before anyone can properly judge Kieran Keane’s influence on his new squad, but this opening day dour display must have him more than a little concerned.

In the wind and the rain, Connacht looked like a side that couldn’t believe they were being made play in such weather. Rudderless and short on ideas. Glasgow revelled in the challenge and the outcome rarely seemed in doubt. The visitors travelled without key front line Lions internationals, blooded some young academy stars and in the end picked off a neat win over a conference rival.

Is it really a bad idea if we shout stop, something’s wrong, straight away? There’s a long season ahead but already Connacht are backed into a corner. They won’t allow us to draw their attention to anything other than this weekend’s clash with South African newbies the Southern Kings, but that doesn’t have to stop us looking ahead and determining that if Connacht don’t win their next three, their play-off hopes will be below slim already.

If you take the October European rugby break as the first marker in the season, Connacht will have played six games to that point. Three wins is the absolute best one could reasonably hope for at this point as the last two games in this sequence are against the Scarlets on September 30 and Ulster on October 7, both away from home. Connacht do not win at those venues, under any circumstance.

If they get that far still alive, the aim will be to get through the Challenge Cup games and return in late October for the mother and father of all defining fixtures, a home tie against Munster. Just how will Connacht perform there? If they have rediscovered their title winning juices, a win is well within their capabilities, if it’s more akin to Saturday’s effort, then we’re in for a long first year under new management.

Let’s focus on what looks right for a minute. Unlike last season, Connacht look fit and physically ready. This was a real tussle in conditions that were never going to allow for anything other than an arm wrestle. Connacht were probably second best in the collisions but not by much and certainly not to the extent of last season’s home opener against the same opponents after a calamitous pre-season left them weeks behind and totally outclassed.

For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.