Connacht Rugby stars say thriving West gives people opportunity and belonging

Former Connacht Rugby coach Andy Friend and back-row forward Paul Boyle are lending their support to a new video campaign by the Western Development Commission to encourage people to relocate or return to the West of Ireland.

A native of Australia, Friend served as Head Coach and Director of Rugby at Connacht from 2018 to 2023, while Dubliner Boyle joined the Connacht Academy from Leinster in 2017 and has made 85 appearances for the Westerners, earning one full international cap for Ireland in that time.

The pair speak glowingly in their testimonials of their experiences coming to the West as non-natives and their now-deep sense of connection to their adopted home.

Boyle credits Connacht Rugby with giving him a platform to become a full international and hails the West of Ireland’s wild landscape and collegiate culture as key reasons why he plans to stay in the West after his retirement from the game.

Friend points out that, as a professional rugby coach from Australia, he has lived all over the world, including London and Japan, but his spell in Connacht is the longest he has spent anywhere.

The extended stay, Friend says, is testament to the quality of life, the landscape, and the people in the West of Ireland, adding that his advice to those thinking of moving to the West is “embrace the conditions, embrace the lifestyle, and get out and meet the people”.

Allan Mulrooney, CEO of Western Development Commission, said the evolution of Connacht Rugby mirrored the forward progress of the entire western region in recent years and its postion as one of the best places in Ireland in which to live and work.

“Connacht Rugby’s remarkable journey mirrors the larger trend in the West of Ireland. The region is experiencing a renaissance, shedding its image as a remote, underdeveloped area, and emerging as a hub of innovation, culture, and opportunity,” he said.

“The West of Ireland is gaining recognition for its thriving tech industry, lively arts scene, and quality of life. Connacht Rugby’s success reflects the determination and ambition of this region, inspiring others to consider it as a place to live, work, and thrive.

“Andy Friend and Paul Boyle are two fine examples of talented people coming from outside Connacht to make their lives, build their career, and become key members of the community here. We hope their stories will serve as inspiration to anyone thinking of doing likewise,” he added.

Philip Patterson, Head of Commercial & Marketing at Connacht Rugby, expressed his delight at the club playing a central role in the campaign, adding that its growing appeal among young fans has made Connacht Rugby a symbol of the West of Ireland’s revival in recent years.

“Andy Friend and Paul Boyle are the perfect examples of people who have embraced life in the West, and we hope their examples will encourage people to follow suit,” he said.

“The Sportsground on a matchday can engender a sense of belonging in anyone coming from outside the region. That’s the power of sport. That’s the power of Connacht Rugby. And we look forward to welcoming those people when they arrive,” he added.

Pictured: Paul Boyle…loving life in the West.

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