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Connacht are primed to give everything against the giants of Toulouse

Dara Bradley

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Connacht out half Jack Carty hands off Ulster's Iain Henderson during Friday night's Guinness Pro12 encounter at the Sportsground. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

CONNACHT head coach Pat Lam sometimes still thinks like he’s a player. So, during his pre-match routine out on the pitch, he’ll often have a sneaky peek over at the opposition.

On Saturday, at the Sportsground (5.30pm, kick-off) he’ll do the same and steal a glance at Toulouse.

“Jeez, they’re big,” is something he’s regularly remarked of his opponents prior to kick-off in his playing days.

And that is sure to be his reaction when the giants of French rugby – giants both in terms of individual players’ physique and the club’s stature in the game – are on-ield warming up for the first pool match of the Champions Cup.

Size does matter. The four-times European cup winners certainly have a height, weight and bulk advantage. But Lam insists that won’t faze his charges.

“Without a doubt there is a difference in size. But we’re used to that,” said the New Zealand born Samoan.

“When I used to say ‘they’re big’, I used to get excited by that because it meant they’d go down hard, and it’d hurt more. But it goes back to our techniques and how we tackle and how we put the pressure on and get them down on the ground. We do a lot of work on that, around our tackling and contact work.

“Everyone goes down if you tackle well. If we can put pressure by keeping the ball, put pressure by kicking well and put pressure by defending well, right at the gain-line, it’s going to give us the best chance,” said Lam.

Connacht certainly won’t fear the visitors whom they have encountered on each of their two previous seasons in the top-flight in 2011/2012 and 2013/2014.

The aristocrats of the game came out on top on three occasions but Connacht’s awesome two-points victory over Toulouse in their own back yard in December three years ago will instil belief and confidence into the home dressing room.

So too will last Friday’s compelling win over Ulster. It was the first time in seven attempts Lam’s Connacht has got one over the northerners but what was most extraordinary about the result was it was achieved with so many frontline players out injured.

Midweek, Lam emphasised the importance of squad and, “making sure our weakest link is as strong as possible”.  Last Friday, against Ulster, that philosophy worked. Craig Ronaldson, who was scheduled to play 40 minutes with Galwegians, was instead pressed into action when Peter Robb pulled out before kick-off.

The centre, who could have been perceived as a weak link, was anything but and was hugely impressive in his first game since March. “Everyone prepares to play,” said Lam. “I don’t want anyone on that training field that’s not prepared to play. They’re not just making up the numbers.”

The numbers are depleted again this week but Lam was giving everyone an opportunity to prove their fitness ahead of the team announcement at noon Friday.

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

 

CITY TRIBUNE

Big boost for Connacht as dozen make Irish squads

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Former Galway minor hurler Shane Jennings who is one of six Connacht players named on the Irish U20 rugby squad for the upcoming Six Nations.

By Rob Murphy

THERE was some off season good news for Connacht this week with confirmation of 12 players from the Sportsground having made it into international squads at senior and U-20 level.

Six Connacht players were called into Andy Farrell’s 37-man senior international squad for next month’s two tests against Japan and USA. Three of those are looking to make their international debut in Tom Daly, Paul Boyle and Caolin Blade; while three more are looking to continue their progress with the Irish squad in Dave Heffernan (5 caps), Ultan Dillane (18 caps) and Finlay Bealham (14 caps).

For Daly, the progress from fringe starter to captaining Connacht has been a rapid one. The 27-years-old inside centre from Carlow is now a key part of Andy Friend’s plans having led the way in starts this season and his consistent form has clearly caught the eye of Farrell too, with the recent stand-out effort in the win over Munster at Thomond Park no doubt a key factor.

At 24, Boyle has already amassed 57 appearances in the green of Connacht having made his debut in 2017. He also has captained Connacht on multiple occasions and while he missed some of the end of season Rainbow Cup games, the Gorey native was a consistent almost ever present part of the back row during the PRO14 campaign.

Monivea man Blade is back in Ireland camp for the second season in a row and will hope to get his first cap this time around. The 27-years-old is being rewarded for another excellent season in the nine shirt for Connacht where he led the team in starts at scrum half and scored five tries in 20 appearances.

Ireland will play two games in the Aviva Stadium next month starting with a clash against Japan on July 3 before they host USA on July 10.

The Irish U-20s will be involved in Six Nations action, starting tomorrow against Scotland with the month-long tournament taking place entirely in Cardiff to help guarantee a safe environment for players.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway surrender top flight status after Clones collapse

Stephen Glennon

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Galway’s Robert Finnerty who scored 1-3 in their costly National League relegation play-off defeat to Monaghan in Clones on Sunday.

Monaghan 1-21

Galway 2-17

(After Extra-Time)

NO thermometer was required to take the temperature of those hundred or so die-hard Galway supporters who travelled to Clones last Sunday. With their side five points to the good and time almost up, they watched on in horror as a winning lead was blown.

The result: Galway beaten. The result: Galway are no longer a Division 1 county. The result: Galway now have just won one game in their last seven competitive outings. The result: Galway have gone from a side on the brink of something in spring of 2020 to an outfit that has regressed and have now been cast back to the land of mediocrity.

That Galway boss Padraic Joyce didn’t make himself available to the media afterwards to put some positive spin on the performance only compounded the result. By not offering some take, he left a dangerous void in which disgruntled supporters have begun to weave their own narrative about where Joyce’s Galway are at.

Ironically, with time almost up in Clones, it appeared the Tribesmen had turned the corner after a poor run of form. First half goals from Paul Kelly and Rob Finnerty saw Galway lead this thrilling relegation game by five points going down the home stretch, but in the five minutes plus of normal time injury-time, they came undone.

In hindsight, hauling off Galway’s two best forwards – Robert Finnerty and Shane Walsh (although he was nowhere near his best) – was a mistake as it not only blunted the point of attack but deprived it of the guile and experience that they needed to see this game out.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

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The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Galway U20s set to make up for lost time in delayed final

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Conor Walsh who is a key member of the Galway U20 hurling team seeking Leinster final glory when they take on Dublin next Wednesday.

GALWAY’S U20 hurlers have a number of injury concerns ahead of their long overdue 2020 Leinster final clash against Dublin at O’Connor Park, Tullamore, next Wednesday evening, June 23. Throw-in 7:30pm.

Among them are Sarsfields midfielder Alex Connaire and Craughwell wing-forward Adrian Prendergast, both of whom scored in the Tribesmen’s victories over Laois and Kilkenny last December, but they now look set to miss the provincial decider with groin and pelvis injuries respectively.

“This game is just too early for them, it has just come too quick,” says Galway manager Jeffrey Lynskey, who says Connaire and Prendergast join an injury list that also includes long-term victims Mark Gill of Castlegar (metatarsal) and Conor Hynes of Liam Mellows (shoulder).

“We are lucky enough though that we have depth in the squad and can pull on lads who are performing and doing well (in training). They have trained well, in fairness to them, over the last five weeks.”

Indeed, Lynskey says the form is good in the camp, outlining the focus has been getting the players back up to speed with in-house and challenges games against the Galway development panel.

“In all the in-house and challenge games, they have performed really well. They are all looking forward to getting back. They have trained hard, really, over the last five weeks and they put a serious bloc of work in during the third lockdown. Gym-wise, they all came back in fantastic shape.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

Download the Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App to access to Galway’s best-selling newspaper.

Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

Or purchase the Digital Edition for PC, Mac or Laptop from Pagesuite  HERE.

Get the Connacht Tribune Live app
The Connacht Tribune Live app is the home of everything that is happening in Galway City and county. It’s completely FREE and features all the latest news, sport and information on what’s on in your area. Click HERE to download it for iPhone and iPad from Apple’s App Store, or HERE to get the Android Version from Google Play.

 

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