CONNACHT are on the cusp of writing another little piece of history.
You wouldn’t think it, what with the doom and gloom that has descended on College Road due to poor league form, a rotten run of injuries, and the shock decision by Pat Lam to leave for pastures new at the end of the season, which must still be sinking in.
But if Connacht regroups, and beats Zebre on Saturday at the Sportsground (1pm), then it will be the first time ever the province will have won four Champions Cup matches in the same season.
Better still, it puts them slap-bang on target for another history-making feat – qualification for the knockout stages of European club rugby’s premier competition.
Beat Zebre and then get something out of the trip to Toulouse the following week and Connacht’s season will be saved, regardless of their placing in the league, where they are currently languishing in eighth.
After suffering another loss last weekend away against Ospreys – the third on the trot – Connacht’s hopes of making the top four have all but been extinguished. The chances of finishing top-six are fading rapidly, too.
Best they can hope for now, to try and salvage the season, is breaking new ground by qualifying for the quarter final of the Champions Cup; and hoping to secure a play-off place in the league, which would at least give them a chance of returning to top-flight cup rugby next year.
First up is the Italians and anything less than a win, with a try bonus, is not acceptable. This is a team that will have targeted Connacht and this fixture from a long way out, but they looked hapless, despite a good start, in conceding 10 tries in defeat to Leinster at the RDS last Friday.
It was embarrassing stuff; every bit as embarrassing as the 6-70 score line suggests. Zebre will bring a backlash to Galway but even an understrength Connacht should have far too much nous for Gianluca Guidi’s struggling side, who have won just once in both competitions this season.
Ireland scrum-half, Kieran Marmion, who was rested for IRFU protocols last weekend, is aware that it is essential that Connacht breaks the visitors’ spirit, and denies them a foothold, if they are to maintain a 100%-win record against Zebre.
“They definitely always front up against us. They probably come over here and see it as a bit of an opportunity for them. When they played Leinster at the weekend they went a few scores behind and probably rolled over and died a bit in that game. But as long as they’re in with a chance of winning, they always fight until the end. I mean, it is crucial in this game that we score and then score again and try and put them out of reach,” said Marmion.
Forwards coach, Jimmy Duffy, also highlighted the importance of Connacht settling into their rhythm early against a Zebre outfit that is likely to throw the kitchen sink at them for the first 20 minutes at least.
Duffy doesn’t subscribe to the view that the expectation of a handy bonus point win heaps more pressure on Connacht. And despite the bookies’ odds suggesting the home side will win with 30-points to spare, he insisted Connacht was taking Zebre seriously.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
Bikers do their bit to mark anniversary of blood service
This year marks the tenth anniversary of Blood Bike West, and the big birthday was marked in style with a sun-drenched afternoon at Galway Plaza’s Bike Fest West.
Galway stuntman Mattie Griffin was the headline attraction; there was face painting, games, plenty of ice-cream – and hundreds of motorcycle enthusiasts and families.
The birthday celebrations kicked off with a 160-strong motorcycle spin around the Galway countryside, raising well-needed funds for the volunteering efforts of Blood Bike West.
As a 100% volunteer-run and funded organisation, donations are vitally important for Blood Bike West to continue operating their medical transport in the West of Ireland.
Since its inception in 2012, demand for their volunteers’ services continues to grow: collecting and delivering all manner of urgent medical items regionally and nationally, such as bloods, breast milk, medicines, scans, and equipment.
In 2021 alone, Blood Bike West delivered 983 urgent medical deliveries throughout the country.
As part of Galway City Councils Community, Blood Bike West undertook to operate a 24/7 service, including 165 medication deliveries from pharmacies to the self-isolating and vulnerable during the COVID-19 lockdowns.
Since Blood Bike West’s inception in 2012, this increase sees the ongoing need to replace and renew their fleet of motorcycles.
Their motorbikes, Madison, Heather, Margaret, and newly inaugurated bike Cara, are regularly seen on Galway roads, delivering consignments to and from local and regional hospitals.
Park fun to mark Africa Day
On Saturday next (May 28) in Salthill Park, Galway’s African community invites people to join them in a celebration of culture as part of the national Africa Day celebrations.
Africa United Galway, emerging from lockdown and having hosted online festivals for the past two years, will be delivering a family fun day event.
Africa Day 2022 will reinforce a collaboration between Africa United Galway and Galway Africa Diaspora, Shining Light Galway and GoCom Radio (broadcasting live), who have worked to create a festival that will showcase Galway as a city of culture.
Among the performances on the day will be Afrobeat dancer Lapree Lala of Southside Moves, who will show how to dance in African style; Elikya Band will be bringing indigenous African Congolese music; The Youth Performances will be displaying their talent in rap, singing, speaking, and dancing and for the young at heart.
Galway Afrobeat performer Dave Kody will get the crowd moving and there will be poetry through spoken word and cultural displays. There will be a photo booth and face painting and everyone will get to have a taste of African cuisines.
In the spirit of inclusion and integration, The St Nicholas Collegiate Church Parish Choir will be presenting a special African performance as well as a feature presentation by the Hession School of Irish Dance, who will be presenting the famous Riverdance.
Also organised is a football friendly between the African community and An Garda Siochana.
The Mayor, Colette Connolly, will officially be opening the event with a keynote speech and several African Ambassadors are expected to be present on the day to reinforce the culture, beauty and strength of Africa and support for its people.
Africa Day is sponsored by Irish Aid and supported by Galway City Council.
Domestic Violence Response recorded highest number of clients in 24 years under Covid ‘shadow’
BY TIFFANY GREENWALDT-SIMON
A domestic violence support charity in Galway has recorded its highest number of clients in 24 years – “under the shadow” of Covid-19.
Domestic Violence Response (DVR), which is based in Moycullen, also reported its highest level of counselling support sessions in its 2021 annual report published last week.
The charity saw 136 new clients in 2021, and a total of 266 people utilised its services. It also saw a significant increase of return service users.
The support service also provided 51 nights of emergency accommodation through a partnership between Airbnb, Safe Ireland, and Women’s Aid.
Elizabeth Power, Coordinator of DVR Galway, said: “Our 2021 annual report highlights the stark reality of the level of domestic violence in Galway. Under the shadow of Covid-19, DVR recorded the highest number of clients in our 24-year history and delivered the highest number of support services.
“Our staff noted increases in the level of worrying and harrowing experiences of control and abuse. The trauma of these experiences will live with our service users long after Covid-19 fades into memory.
“While Covid-19 restrictions are behind us, domestic violence continues to be present in hundreds of homes throughout Galway.
“As we move through 2022, we will continue to provide our much-needed services to women and men throughout Galway, with an extensive counselling support and advocacy service and a number of new initiatives including a partnership with the HSE which will be launched in the coming months.”
For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.
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