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Connacht land Wasps and Toulouse in Champions Cup

Keith Kelly

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Connacht and Toulouse players shake hands after their game in the Sportsground in the 2013/14 Champions Cup. The sides have been paired together for a third time following the draw for the 2016/17 competition this week. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Connacht Rugby will renew acquaintances with Toulouse, the most successful European club of all time, in next season’s European Champions Cup following the draw in Switzerland on Wednesday afternoon.

Connacht were top seeds for the draw due to the fact they were the Pro12 champions, and Pat Lam’s side were also joined in Pool 2 by Wasps. Zebre were also drawn with Connacht for the third time, meaning there is every chance that two sides will qualify from the pool for the quarter-final stages.

“First and foremost we are proud to be in the competition and among the very best clubs in Europe,” Connacht head coach, Pat Lam, told EPC Rugby after the draw.

“This is a reward for what my players achieved last season. You want to play against the best and we’ve got two previous winners in our pool – Wasps, who were unlucky not to reach the final last season; and Toulouse, the most successful team in European Cup history,” he said.

This is the fourth time Connacht will compete in the Champions Cup, and it is the third time they have been paired with Toulouse, and with Zebre.

Connacht were joined as top seeds for this year’s draw by French Top14 champions, Racing 92; and English Premiership champions, Saracens. A draw was then held between the three league runners-up – Leinster (PRO12), Toulon (Top14) and Exeter Chiefs (Premiership) – to see which two sides would be promoted to top seeding, with the balls containing the names of Exeter and Leinster drawn from the hat.

The five top seeds were all allocated a pool, with Connacht the last name from the hat. Wasps was the second side drawn from the tier 2 teams and was placed in Pool 2. Northampton Saints were the first tier three side out of the hat and were drawn in Pool 4, and when Toulouse was the second name out of the tier three hat, they were automatically placed in Pool 2 as Pools 1, 3, and 5 already contained French sides. The final team to join Pool 2 was Zebre.

Toulouse finished 5th in the 2015/16 Top14, which earned them a quarter-final place against a Racing 92 side that has Ronan O’Gara as its kicking coach. Toulouse lost the quarter-final 21-16 to the side that went on to claim the Top14 title with a 29-21 win over Toulon last Friday.

They have won the European Cup four times (1996, 2003, 2005, and 2010), which is more than any other club; while they have also been beaten finalists on two occasions, losing to Wasps in 2004 and Munster in 2008.

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

CITY TRIBUNE

Titans return to the national league for coming season

Keith Kelly

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The Titans team which was defeated by Moycullen in the National Cup semi-final in 2009. Back row, from left: Joe Bree (manager), John Finn (assistant coach), David O'Keefe, Conall MacMichael, Darren Callanan, Patrick O'Neill, Colin Turke, Paul Freeman, and Mike Lynch (coach). Front: Cian McKeown, Danny Finn, Rimyvdas Visockas, Derek Mulveen, Paulius Peldzius, and Jack Considine.

TITANS BC is returning to the national league for the upcoming 2020/21 season, one of four new teams that will compete in the Men’s Division 1 this year.

The city side will play in the Northern Conference of the league alongside fellow new sides, Drogheda Wolves and Malahide, along with Ulster University from Belfast; LYIT from Donegal; Sligo All-Stars; and Dublin Lions and Tolka Rovers from Dublin.

That looks to be the easier of the two conferences: Dublin Lions were relegated from the Super League at the end of last season, LYIT finished 5th in Division 1, Sligo finished 8th, Ulster University finished 9th, and Tolka Rovers finished 10th in a 12-team league competition that ran as a single league, rather than split into two conferences.

With four new teams for the coming season – Team Kerry are the 4th new side – Division 1 is returning to a split conference format, and all the heavy-hitters would appear to be in the Southern Conference.

Team Kerry will be joined by fellow Killarney side, St Paul’s, which finished second in the league last season, as well as Cork’s Fr Mathews and IT Carlow, who finished 3rd and 4th respectively.

Limerick Celtics and Limerick Eagles, who finished 6th and 7th, are also in the Southern Conference, as well as last season’s bottom two, WIT Waterford and Portlaoise Panthers.

Titans took a one-year hiatus from the league last season, having endured a torrid 2018/19 campaign when it finished with the worst record in the league, winning just two of its 23 league games to finish bottom of the Northern Conference.

Maree and Moycullen will once again represent Galway in the Men’s Super League, which is also being split into a two-conference format, with six teams in each conference. However, while Titans will be looking north for their main opposition, Maree and Moycullen will be looking in the opposite direction as both have been placed in the South Conference.

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

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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

Group hurling ties to be restricted to supporters of participating teams

John McIntyre

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Ronan Elwood of Liam Mellows, and Castlegar's Donal McGreal in action during the group stages of last year's senior county championship.

NO neutrals will be allowed to attend the opening round of the revamped Galway senior hurling championship which is scheduled to start in little more than a fortnight’s time.

A gathering of 500 – likely to also include the rival players and mentors – will be restricted to each group game, with the participating clubs set to be allocated around 200 tickets each for sale/distribution ahead of the fixture.

A mechanism has still to be sorted for this process, but matches will be restricted to Galway’s three county grounds: Pearse Stadium, Kenny Park, Athenry and Duggan Park, Ballinasloe, along with Loughrea. Killimor was the fifth venue in consideration for hosting senior games, but redevelopment work at the ground has ruled out that prospect.

The full round of 12 group ties will go ahead on the weekend ending July 26, but there will be no double headers. Instead, games at the same venues will be staged four hours apart to allow sanitisation of the various grounds.

Only people with tickets will gain entry to the games and there will be no cash taken at the turnstiles.

 

 

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CITY TRIBUNE

Loughrea ‘mothers & others’ revelling in new fun activity

Stephen Glennon

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Loughrea Gaelic4Mothers&Others were delighted to be sponsored a new set of tops by McD's recently.

ONE of the best sporting initiatives ever launched in this country has been the LGFA’s ‘Mothers & Others’. Providing an outlet for women over 21, the endeavour has seen thousands of females taking up or returning to ladies football in a non-competitive environment.

First introduced as part of the Women in Sport initiative in 2008, Gaelic4Mothers&Others is aimed at those who are not registered as a player with a club and have not played in a long time or have never played ladies football.

Over 200 clubs have embraced it country-wide, with one of those being Loughrea GFC. In 2016, Eilís O’Neill decided to set up the programme in the town and, since then, it has gone from strength-to-strength.

Yet, to explain how it all came about, O’Neill, who is secretary of the local LGFA club, reverts to a year earlier when girls football was started in Loughrea. “In 2015, the girls club began with less than 10 kids under the age of 12. There was a small little core group and, at the first training session, it was a case of bring a friend,” she begins.

“In the space of two years, they were participating in the National Féile down in Kerry and it took on huge momentum. Obviously, at each training session, you could see the mammies standing on the sideline. I had known of the Mothers & Others because my sister-in-law had been on a team in Cork and she always spoke highly of the huge satisfaction of it.”

The concept is that the Mothers & Others train once a week – in Loughrea it is 7:30pm to 8:30pm in Bushfield on a Thursday evening – and that it is non-competitive. O’Neill, who is a mother of three, explains that it allows her to experience the same sense of camaraderie, friendship and fun she sees her children experience on the football pitch.

“It is all about participation. There is absolutely no skill set required. You can literally never have kicked a football before and join a Mothers & Others team. The ethos is really about participation and I think the huge gain for mothers is that it is their hour in the week where we can just go out and have a bit of craic.

“We are also getting fresh air, we are getting fitness and we are ticking all these boxes from a mental health point of view that are so, so important. Mothers don’t generally get that time so it is a fantastic opportunity for us to step aside from our normal routine and try something new or, maybe, revisit a skill we had as a child.”

In the early years, the Mothers & Others were trained by Paul Gallagher and O’Neill’s husband, Phillip, who continues to coach them. In addition, the support the group has received from the local community has been second to none, with McD’s sponsoring tops and the likes of Charlie’s Bar and SuperValu also giving their backing.

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

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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