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Connacht must use disappointment of defeats last season as motivation

Dara Bradley

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Connacht's Danie Poolman in action against the Dragons in the first game of the season. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Connacht returns to league action at home this weekend against Cardiff Blues following a three-week break since round 2.

The hype and excitement surrounding the ongoing World Cup in England and Wales should pique enough interest in the game of rugby locally to attract a few new faces in the crowd to the Sportsground this Saturday (kick-off, 5pm).

Connacht centre Robbie Henshaw has dominated the headlines this week with speculation about ‘will he, won’t he’ start this Sunday against Italy for Ireland’s crucial pool game.

He is the only player in head coach Joe Schmidt’s squad who has yet to taste World Cup action but that seems certain to change this weekend as the Athlone star trained fully on Tuesday.

Henshaw’s hamstring strain has cleared up and his is fighting fit and expected to be named at centre alongside Jared Payne. But back home in Galway, Connacht has a mini-crisis at centre in his absence.

With new signing Aiprana Pewhairangi still on the long-term injury list, Pat Lam also has to deal with fresh injuries to centres Dave McSharry and Shane O’Leary.

McSharry had surgery on Tuesday on a finger he broke while playing for UCD against Young Munster in the AIL on Saturday. It puts him out for about two months.

O’Leary, who slotted in at centre coming on as a substitute against Glasgow, is also ruled out with concussion sustained playing for Galwegians.

With those four centres unavailable, Pat Lam’s likely midfield will again be Bundee Aki and Australian-born Academy player, Rory Parata. This pairing has gelled reasonably well in the first two league games of the season, and the management will be hoping for no more injuries in this department.

Conor Finn may provide cover and Danie Poolman, more suited to the wing, is also more than capable of filling in at centre.

There was better news in the backs’ division with full-back Darragh Leader and winger Niyi Adeolokun returning to full training. Both are available this week, as is Eoin McKeon, who has been sidelined with a knee injury picked up against Dragons the first day out.

But it’s swings and roundabouts in the back-row because, although McKeon is fit, Eoghan Masterson has been ruled out with a hamstring strain. The team will be announced at noon on Friday.

Connacht already has six points in the bag from two games, and sit fourth in the league table. They will be targeting October as a month in which they can continue to climb up the table.

Of the four league games they have this month, three of them are at home and eminently winnable.

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

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Wootton weaves his magic in vital bonus point victory

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Connacht winger Alex Wootton breaches the Cardiff cover on his way to scoring a second try in Saturday's PRO14 encounter at the Sportsground. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Connacht 32

Cardiff 17

Rob Murphy at the Sportsground

THE Cardiff players were strewn across the pitch, faces buried in the Sporstground soil. Alex Wootton had just made their lives a misery for a second time in a blistering five minute spell and a game that was very much within their grasp had suddenly disappeared off into the distance. That was the scene in first-half injury time on Saturday evening as Connacht cut loose with a burst of brilliance.

Wootton now has ten tries in 13 appearances, an astonishing return from his first season in the green of Connacht. Munster’s loss is very much Andy Friend’s gain it seems. It helps too that there’s a backline orchestrator in the shape of Jack Carty who is playing at the very top of his game with one all encompassing display after another in recent months. The Irish door isn’t opening, but he keeps on knocking away.

But back to those Cardiff defenders, they were crestfallen at half time and positively dejected by full time. For most of the contest their team seemed to be in the ascendency in terms of possession and territory, but Connacht held all the aces when it came to the level of additional quality needed to be a serious contender in this competition. There’s no shame in being second best but the Welsh regions do struggle with the concept.

The Connacht coach has injuries to concern him but nothing overwhelming, Tom Farrell is probably the first choice centre for example and he’s out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury, Quinn Roux would start most big games but we learned this week a neck injury will keep him out until April, while Denis Buckley started this game on the bench. So this was pretty much a full strength side.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Galway keeping all options open for 2021 summer racing festival

John McIntyre

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A lone racegoer follows the action at last year's Galway Summer Racing Festival which was held behind closed doors at Ballybrit.

MICHAEL Moloney is a pragmatist. He’s not a hostage to pipedreams or fanciful thoughts ignoring reality. He doesn’t build up false hope and plays a straight bat.

The Galway Racecourse General Manager knows the odds are currently against punters flocking through the Ballybrit turnstiles for this summer’s annual seven-day racing festival, but he is not without hope that circumstances may change.

“As it stands, the only public health guidelines we are working off is that there will be no gatherings of over 50 people before September. That’s what the Tániste Leo Varadkar said a couple of weeks ago.”

That conclusion gives Galway little wriggle room at present, but with the 2021 festival still five months away – it starts on Monday, July 26 – local stakeholders are keeping their fingers crossed that the overall Covid-19 picture will be much better by then.

Whatever way the cards fall in relation to mass gatherings at sporting events by late summer, Moloney emphasises that Galway Racecourse will be ready to respond quickly to any improved scenario.

Ahead of last year’s festival, Moloney admitted that Galway was heading into the unknown with the meeting being staged behind closed doors and Ballybrit set to be devoid of the atmosphere it has become famous for.

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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Saddling up for a battle with cancer

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Susan Kennelly says wearing her cycling gear, like above in Salthill, and getting on her bike gives her a boost in her battle with cancer.

A city-based doctor has become the second person in the country to be named as a Bike Like Me advocate as part of a campaign by Cycling Ireland to inspire more women and girls to discover cycling and feel confident on their bikes.

Susan Kennelly (42), who lives in the city centre, is a member of Galway Bay Cycling Club and is the second of six Bike Like Me advocates to be announced as part of the campaign.

Currently battling breast cancer, she says she has found solace in being able to jump on her bike and take to the roads, saying that putting on her cycling helmet and cycling gear allowed her to feel the same as everyone else and boosted her morale in her own health battle.

“Particularly this year I really appreciated how normalising cycling could be. I had no hair because of chemo, no eyebrows or eyelashes and had lost weight but hopping on a bike with my helmet and cycling clothes meant I really looked no different to anyone else,” she says.

Why did you start cycling?

After stepping down from competitive rowing after several years I wanted something that would keep me physically active but without the same training commitment as rowing.

A friend suggested I join Galway Bay Cycling Club and I instantly knew this was right for me! I loved getting out in the open air and the sense of comradery and security with group cycling but at the same time I didn’t have to worry about letting a crew down if I couldn’t make a spin.

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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