Russian rugby club Enisei-STM will become familiar with Oliver Cromwell’s ‘To hell or to Connacht’ threat next season, as Connacht Rugby has been ‘sent to Siberia’ in the European Challenge Cup.
Connacht has been drawn against the Siberian club in Pool 1 of next season’s second flight European competition along with English outfit Newcastle Falcons and French club Brive.
Enisei-STM, the Russian champions, are based in the city of Krasnoyarsk in Siberia, and will involve a round trip of up to 10,000 miles for Pat Lam’s squad and any supporters brave enough to travel.
The exact date of the fixtures has yet to be announced but there will be home and away games against all three teams and Connacht must play Enisei-STM in the depths of the Siberian winter from November through to January.
Snow and hail are the norm as maximum mean temperatures in Krasnoyarsk in the Winter months are minus 10 degrees Celsius, and the minimum mean temperature is minus 20 degrees Celsius.
In the 1700s, the Russian Government sent political prisoners to Siberia because of its remoteness, inhospitable and hostile climate and environment.
It will be the coldest conditions any of the Connacht players will have to play in.
The name of the club, which was founded in 1975, comes from its location on the banks of Enisey River and the STM is an abbreviation for a heavy machinery plant that is one of the major employers in the town.
The match should prove a logistical difficulty, too. If the club opts to play in its home town, there are no direct flights from any city in Europe to Krasnoyarsk – there are scheduled flights to and from Moscow. London to Moscow is about four hours’ plane journey and it is a further five hour flight from Moscow to Krasnoyarsk. There are also direct flights to Krasnoyarsk from Larnaca in Cyprus.
Enisei-STM played its qualifying matches in the slightly less inhospitable city of Sochi, which is also difficult to get to, should they choose to play their home games there in the Challenge Cup.
The Connacht Eagles beat Enisei-STM at the Sportsground in a friendly in April 2012. Since 1995, they won the Russian League six times and were runners-up eight times.
In order to qualify, they beat Italian and Portuguese teams to reach a play-off against Romanian opposition, who they defeated over two legs to earn their spot in the draw.
Connacht coach Pat Lam said he was pleased with the draw as he is pitted against Newcastle, his former club, and he is “excited” by the trip to Siberia.
“We’re happy with the pool and, for me personally, it’s a return to Newcastle Falcons, which I’m excited about. They were the first team I played for when I moved to Europe in the late 1990s. In France it’s Brive, a past European Cup winner which will be good for us. And finally to Enisei-STM, which is going to be an exciting trip to Russia,” said Lam.
A Moycullen win would add badly needed spice to football’s big day
Inside Track with John McIntyre
BEFORE a ball was kicked in this year’s Galway senior championship, the smart money would have been on champions Corofin, Tuam Stars, Salthill/Knocknacarra and Mountbellew/Moylough making it to the semi-finals if they managed to keep out of each other’s way on the road to the penultimate stage off the title race.
Unfortunately, for a Salthill team which, in any event, didn’t scale their expected heights this year, they came up against the champions in the quarter-finals where the Seasiders’ challenge was dismissed in convincing fashion. It was business as usual for Corofin who remain odds on to claim a record-breaking eighth consecutive title.
With Tuam Stars edging out Bearna after extra-time, a Paul Kelly goal helping Moycullen get the better of St James’, and Mountbellew/Moylough powering home against 14-man Killannin, it means that three of last year’s semi-finalists are back seeking a place in the Galway decider this weekend. Mountbellew/Moylough are the odd ones out having fallen to Corofin in the 2019 quarter-finals.
Val Daly’s troops will need the performance of the lives to overturn club’s football’s dominant power, especially as they continue to field without county player John Daly – a son of their manager. Of course, they are not without a chance and if the likes of Michael Daly, Matthew Barrett, Eoin Finnerty, Eoin Ryan and Barry McHugh hit the ground running, they could give Corofin a searching time.
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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Greens see red on gold rush
Opposition is intensifying to the prospect of a licence being awarded to Canadian gold prospectors planning to explore the heart of Connemara.
Environmental campaigners have warned of the dangers of awarding a prospecting licence to Toronto-based MOAG to mine for gold and silver in land around Roundstone, Ballyconneely and Ballynahinch.
They claim the exploration could devastate water supplies, tourism, wildlife – and also led to tensions in the local community.
Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment, Richard Bruton has indicated he intends to grant a prospecting licence to the company to explore for the valuable minerals in townlands in Ballynahinch Barony.
The licence allows the holder to explore for mineral deposits, and does not authorise mining of any materials that are found – that requires further licensing.
And Minister Bruton’s Department insists that the activities permitted under this licence are “non-invasive” and “of minimal environmental impact”.
However, campaigners have warned of the dangers mining can have on Connemara, and have urged the public to object before July 6.
See full story in this week’s Connacht Tribune.
Controversial Ballinasloe landfill prepares for closure
The Galway dump that forced householders to close their windows during the hottest of summers will take in waste for the last time during the middle of this year.
The pong the emanated from the landfill site in Kilconnell will be no more as it will cease accepting waste by the end of June next year.
Ballinasloe area councillors were told how Galway County Council took over the running of the landfill site following the liquidation of the former operators Greenstar.
The Council agreed to accept 300,000 tons of municipal waste over a three-year period and this will come to an end by the middle of next year, after which the dump will be capped and closed the following year.
Director of Services Jim Cullen informed a meeting of Ballinasloe Municipal Council that following the closure of the dump, there would be long term care of the site to ensure that there would be no adverse environmental issues.
When Galway County Council took over the running of the landfill site, an allocation of €300,000 was provided by the Department of the Environment for local projects.
Of this, €120,000 has been given to the area engineer to spend at his discretion and the remaining €180,000 has been dispersed equally among the six Ballinasloe councillors – resulting in each getting €30,000 to spend on projects in their area.
It is expected that a further €300,000 will be allocated to organisations within a certain radius of the landfill site and a committee made up of Cllr Aidan Donohue (FG), Cllr Dermot Connolly (SF) and Cllr Timmy Broderick (Ind) to decide how this fund will be dispersed.
For years, the dump in Kilconnell caused annoyance for local residents because of the smells emanating from the site and many householders say that it is still a major problem.
Cllr Michael Finnerty warned about the possibility of a run-off of leachate – a liquid that drains from landfill sites that can cause pollution – from the site into the future.
He said that he attended a meeting in Ballinasloe in which residents expressed concern about a leachate run-off from the old dump in Poolboy which has been closed down for years.
He was assured by Mr Cullen that the situation in Poolboy was being continually monitored by the Environmental Protection Agency but he would investigate these claims.
With regard to the closure of the dump in Kilconnell, Cllr Aidan Donohue said that he was not convinced about the ongoing maintenance of the site into the future.
He said when the landfill site in New Inn was closed many years ago, the Council just walked away and left the site in an unacceptable state.
The Fine Gael councillor was referring to suggestions that the Kilconnell site might have future potential and may be an asset but he cited what happened in New Inn when he said that it was just abandoned.