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Connacht injury crisis deepens as Aki is latest to be sidelined

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Connachts centre Bundee Aki who faces over six weeks on the sidelines with an ankle injury.

CONNACHT have been dealt a major blow with the news that in-form centre Bundee Aki is set to be out of action until mid-February after suffering an ankle injury.

The popular Kiwi sustained the injury in Connacht’s momentous European Champions Cup win over Wasps at the Sportsground last Saturday night. Aki was due to undergo surgery this week.

His absence contributes to Connacht Head Coach Pat Lam making four personnel changes to his side ahead of tonight’s Guinness Pro12 clash with Ulster at Kingspan Stadium (7:35pm).

Last week’s try scorer Danie Poolman will start at inside centre for the first time alongside Rory Parata. With Conor Carey added to the long list of injured props, the versatile Tom McCartney has now been named on the bench as front-row cover.

Dave Heffernan with start the game in the number 2 shirt while Shane Delahunt is named on the bench as replacement hooker. James Cannon comes in to the side to partner Quinn Roux in the second row while Sean O’Brien is promoted from the bench to join the back row with Nepia Fox-Matamua and captain John Muldoon.

There remains a 6-2 split on the bench with just nine backs available to Lam and his coaching team. Academy back Ciaran Gaffney is this week named in his first match day squad. The 21-year-old from Galway made 10 appearances, including nine starts, for the Ireland under-20’s between the 2014 World Championship and the 2015 Six Nations.

Commenting on the team selection and the Ulster game, Lam said: “This week has probably been the most challenging I’ve had at Connacht with all the injuries, sickness and the group only coming together yesterday.

“Losing both Bundee (Aki) and Conor (Carey) to long term injuries is a big blow especially with our injury crisis at prop and midfield. With 21 injuries in our squad, it’s an opportunity for the next player still standing to come in and nail his role in our structures and systems.

“With the named squad not even training once together this week, there has been a huge emphasis once again on the classroom learning and mental preparation. I was really proud of the boys with the work they put in last week and the character they showed in adversity to grind out a big win. We’ll be looking for the same again tonight, albeit in a much tougher environment at a sold-out Kingspan Stadium and against a quality side like Uster.

“We know we don’t have a good record up in Belfast but that just means this is a huge opportunity for us to create something special as a group. We’re really looking forward to the challenge,” added Lam.

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

CITY TRIBUNE

Referee shortage sees local games called off

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The Salthill Devon side that beat Corrib Celtic 4-1 in Drom last Friday night. Back row from left: Jackson Da Silva, Andrew Connolly, Cillian Doyle, Shane O’Rourke, Calum Crowe, and Arek Mamala. Front: Matthew Barrett, Darren Darcy, Matthew Murray, Michael Gallagher and Vinny Faherty. Photos: Iain McDonald.

Soccer Wrap with Mike Rafferty

It is not often that Mervue United have to wait until the third series of games in the Premier Division to get their first win, but after earlier losses to Maree/Oranmore and Athenry they finally secured their first success on the all-weather at Fahy’s Field on Sunday morning.

A 2-1 win over St Bernard’s moved them off the foot of the table, but in a close contest it was an outcome that could have gone either way. Mayo native Eoin Prendergast took both his goals well, although they were of the simple variety as deliveries over the top exposed the visitors cover and the former Conn Rangers striker was left with simple tap-in’s as they led by two at the break.

In contrast the St Bernard’s reply was a cracking effort as Matty Finn crossed from the right and the inrushing Paddy Mullins headed powerfully past Rob Carr to pull one back.

The visitors had plenty of opportunities to get back on level terms, but it was an occasion when their finishing let them down. Twice Dillon Murphy threatened a breakthrough, but his opening effort few across the face of goal; before failing to connect with a Keith Forde delivery.

Brian Moran had an effort that was easily gathered by Rob Carr, before Matty Finn was well off target with a late chance. All the opportunities were not at the one end, as Mervue threatened when Robert Carroll headed over following a Eli Sheedy corner; while Prendergast missed a great chance to complete his hat-trick, but fired over from in front of goal after a neat knockdown by Stephen Larkin set him up.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Lyons’ spectacular bicycle kick carries day for United

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Mikie Rowe of Galway United and Cork City's Cian Coleman in a race for possession during Friday night's First Division tie at Eamonn Deacy Park.

Galway United  2

Cork City 1

By Mike Rafferty at Eamonn Deacy Park

THERE is no doubt that the Galway United players will have had more of a pep in their step at training this week as their come-from-behind victory over Cork City at Eamonn Deacy Park on Friday night finally ended their five match winless streak and. hopefully, in the process installed a bit of confidence in their own ability.

No doubt the fact that the visitors would have clinched the Airtricity First Division title if they were to win was a further incentive for the home side to raise their game to a level that had gone missing in recent outings.

However, United did fall behind for the fourth game in succession, before two goals in a three minute spell by Wilson Waweru and Charlie Lyons rescued the situation and moved them to within seven points of the league leaders. United do enjoy a game in hand and while they are free this weekend, their next outing away against Treaty United will bring them level on games played with Cork City.

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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CITY TRIBUNE

Connacht thrashed by Ulster but internationals return for tough South African trip

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Connacht's Caolin Blade who scored their only try in Saturday's heavy URC defeat to Ulster at the Kingspan Stadium.

By JOHN FALLON

ANDY Friend says Connacht need to pick up the pieces quickly from an opening night hammering (36-10) to Ulster after going down by five tries to one in Belfast.

Ulster dominated the opening half and were good value for their 14-3 lead as Connacht had to defend for long periods of a half littered with mistakes by both sides.

Centres Luke Marshall and Stuart McCloskey were dominant and the two combined for the opening score after 27 minutes, before 21-year old hooker Tom Stewart crowned his first start by punishing poor defending when he looped around a lineout to score three minutes from the break.

Connacht finished the half with a boost when Conor Fitzgerald landed a penalty from 35 metres to cut the gap to 11 points but they fell apart after the restart, coughing up six penalties in ten minutes.

Scrum-half Nathan Doak extended the lead with a 45th minute penalty and then he touched down for a try six minutes later when Stewart was stopped just short.

Doak’s third conversion made it 24-3 as both sides emptied their benches and Ulster secured the bonus point when full-back Stewart Moore got over after Connacht No.8 Paul Boyle was binned for offiside.

Replacement scrum-half Caolin Blade got over for a consolation try ten minutes from time after former Leinster out-half David Hawkshaw also impressed after coming on, but other than the performance of another ex-Leinster player, flanker Josh Murphy, there were few other consolations as Ulster finished on a high with replacement prop Callum Reid getting the touchdown and Doak converting from the right.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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