Date Published: 26-May-2011
THE profile of Connacht rugby is set to reach heights never previously imagined in the 125 year history of the game in the province when Eric Elwood’s side take part in the Heineken Cup for the very first time next season.
With three high profile home games guaranteed at the Sportsground, a television audience of millions for highlights packages which are screened across the globe, it is the kind of exposure the Connacht camp could only dream of since the game first turned professional here in 1996.
Leinster’s thrilling victory over Northampton in last Saturday’s final has guaranteed the western province the 24th and last place in next season’s competition, as Connacht have finally reached the ‘holy grail’ which has been their target for so long.
Team manager Tim Allnutt said this week that the increased TV exposure will help the province to recruit higher profile players in the longer-term, even if there is confidence in the camp about the strength of the squad going into the 2011-12 campaign.
Although hooker Sean Cronin, winger Fionn Carr, prop Jamie Hagan (all Leinster), and out-half Ian Keatley (Munster) have all left the fold, Connacht believe they have enough home-grown talent and experienced imports to push on and improve next season.
Youthful locals such as Tiernan O’Halloran, Eoin Griffin, Dave Nolan, Andrew Browne, and Eoin McKeon have come off the conveyor belt to make their senior breakthroughs and show the strength of the game in the Connacht Academy.
“Even before we qualified for the Heineken Cup, we put what we considered to be a strong squad in place for next season,” said Allnutt this week. “There have been 16 changes, we’ve had a huge turnover of players, but we feel we have a strong squad, combining the players from the Academy with the guys we are bringing in.
“We’ve had almost the same core team for the last three seasons and it is always tough when you have to make changes. I think we showed last season, especially with our performances at home, that we can compete with pretty much any team. Those guys were used to playing with each other, but the guys were are bringing in are equally as good.”
Members of the squad joined supporters at Massimo’s in Galway city centre to watch the Heineken Cup final on Saturday and Allnutt joked that some of them felt like leaving after 40 minutes. But Leinster’s rousing second half fight-back had the place in raptures, as it began to dawn that Connacht would be joining them in Europe’s top competition next season.
“A lot of planning has gone into next season already and it has given everybody a huge boost,” he said. “There was a real ‘buzz’ around the Sportsground when I came in on Monday. There is huge goodwill out there, judging by the messages we have got from all over the world.
“In the past, we have been in the shadow of the other three provinces, but people will get to hear a lot more about us now. My own family back in New Zealand watches Heineken Cup rugby regularly on TV.Now we’re going to be able to recruit the best possible players from the southern hemisphere because they will be more aware of Connacht. The profile of the Magners League has already been growing massively every year.”
“Of course, our main goal would have been to get to the Heineken Cup on our own merits, but the rules are there and we will take this chance. This is what we have been grafting for for so many years and, through the Amlin Cup and the interprovincials, the Connacht fans have already shown a great appetite for the big games.”
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
Appeal for information following Portumna crash
Date Published: 08-May-2013
Gardai are appealing for witnesses following a single vehicle crash at the Portumna bridge this morning.
The road from Nenagh to Loughrea reopened shortly after 11 this morning following the completion of a technical exam.
Four men were travelling in a van when they hit the Portumna bridge around 6:30 this morning.
Gardaí, ambulance and two units of Portumna fire services rushed to the scene, and one of the men was taken to Portiuncula hospital in Ballinasloe.
He is being treated for head injuries, which have been described by Gardaí as serious.
Anyone with information is asked to contact Portumna Garda station on 09-097-42060
President Higgins among GMIT’s first ever honorary fellowships
Date Published: 10-May-2013
GMIT is to honour seven outstanding individuals including President Michael D Higgins with Honorary Fellowships at a special ceremony later this month.
It’s the first time in the 40 year history of the Institute the Governing Body of GMIT has decided to award honorary fellowships.
The GMIT Honorary Fellowships will be conferred at the g Hotel in the city this day two weeks Friday 24 May at 2.30pm in front of 200 invited guests.
Galway commuters hold their breath as LRC intervenes in bus strike
Date Published: 13-May-2013
Galway commuters are holding their breath as there has been a potential breakthrough in the Bus Eireann dispute, as both sides have agreed to talks at the Labour Relations Commission.
The LRC intervened this afternoon, on day two of strike action that has seen 95 per cent of bus services disrupted across the country.
The LRC’s Director of Conciliation Services, Kevin Foley, says the National Bus and Rail Union and the company have agreed to meet for mediated talks at 8 this evening.