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Connacht set to field weakened team in Challenge Cup for visit of Bayonne

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Connacht back row Eoin McKeon who is expecting a bruising battle against Bayonne in the European Challenge Cup at the Sportsground on Saturday night.

YOU know what you’re going to get from visiting French teams in European competitions: predictably, they’ll be unpredictable. The French don’t like travelling and often prefer focusing on domestic competitions. So, who knows what sort of a team Bayonne will send to the Sportsground tomorrow Saturday (5pm) for this pool two, round three, Challenge Cup clash; or what mood they’ll be in?

And to put it bluntly, who cares? In the overall scheme of things, nothing of significance is at stake.

That won’t deter the crowds from packing into College Road – European matches are special, fans go for a night out, the atmosphere, and occasion, as much as they do for the rugby.

It won’t change the mindset of the Connacht players, either.

In fact, head coach Pat Lam has hinted that he will name a weakened starting 15 today (Friday) at noon, and so the fringe players have a chance to stake their claim for the trio of upcoming Christmas inter-provincials.

Those games – away to Leinster (Dec 19), away to Ulster (Dec 26) and home to Munster (Jan 1) – could define Connacht’s season. They’re obviously the target.

Back-to-back games with Bayonne, in a competition that even if Connacht win, will not bring them qualification for the European Champions Cup, is a bit of a distraction.

The players that do pull on the Connacht jersey, certainly don’t want to be the first to lose this season at Fortress Sportsground.

But in GAA parlance, this isn’t even the National Football League – it’s the equivalent of the Galway hurlers in the Walsh Cup or the footballers in the FBD League in January.

Lam again confirmed that the league is the priority but he said they have to “park” the Pro 12 for a fortnight, and concentrate on beating Bayonne. You’d expect nothing less from professionals.

“Our pool is one in which all four teams are alive. So it’s an important game. Everyone has won one and lost one,” said Lam, who was pleased with how his charges responded to falling eight points behind against Scarlets on Saturday, after an error ridden start.

“When guys don’t execute right, it’s not the end of the world. We try to encourage not to get into a false sense of ‘Oh that was rubbish’. It just happens someone dropped the ball or someone didn’t quite do it. Keep your heads up and move onto the next thing. We missed our kick-off, we gave away a penalty, three-nil, we missed a high ball, and all of a sudden we’re eight-nil.

“Probably the pleasing thing for the guys on the field was . . . instead of going ‘Oh, what’s going on’ and panicking, we just made a couple of errors, we’re down eight but let’s just get back to the job,” he said of his side’s transformation, which saw them fend off the Welsh, 14-8, to cement sixth place in the league, with an assured, cool comeback.

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

CITY TRIBUNE

Bragging rights go to NUIG Maree on opening weekend

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NUIG Maree's Eoin Rockall jumps to shoot as Grant Olsson of Moycullen tries to block in the Super League meeting between the sides in NUIG last Saturday. Photo: Ed Shiel.

NUIG Maree made it four straight wins over local rivals Moycullen in the Men’s Super League to get their 2021/22 campaign off to a winning start in the Kingfisher Gym last Saturday.

A tense game between two nervous-looking sides went the way of Charlie Crowley’s charges, though both sides will know there is plenty of scope for improvement in the weeks ahead.

NUIOG Mystics also made a winning start to their season, blowing away the challenge of the Marble City Hawks down in Kilkenny, and with a side featuring seven players who featured for Maree in the Women’s Super League two season ago, in addition to two string US imports, Paul O’Brien’s side could be dark horses for league honours this season.

Titans mase a welcome return to the national league on Saturday but their trip to league newcomers, Drogheda Wolves, ended in defeat, though jack Considine’s already young squad was hit by a raft of injuries ahead of the game, though taking a long-term view, the club is handing a lot of young players valuable league experience, which can only benefit Titans in the years ahead.

Maree  70

Moycullen 68

Super League basketball fans got a scintillating return to action Saturday night in NUI Galway as Moycullen and Maree played out a nail biter, with Maree scraping by as winners 70 to 68. writes Cian Nihill.

After an enthralling back and forth encounter, the local derby and season opener came down to the final minutes when six straight Grant Olsson points for Moycullen had the nominal visitors trailing by one with 24 seconds left and possession.

It would be Olsson again who took on the responsibility and, having dragged his side to within touching distance of the win, had to endure the heartache of seeing his 3-point attempt narrowly miss.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Hibs get off the mark with derby win over Rangers

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Mervue United goalkeeper Daire Geraghty gets his clearance away despite the challenge of Loughrea's Kieran Bane in Mervue's 5-2 league win over their visitors in Fahy's Field last weekend. Photo: Iain McDonald.

Soccer Wrap with Mike Rafferty

Recent seasons have proved to be somewhat of a struggle for Hibernians, but despite regular positioning in the lower regions of the Premier Division, they have always survived and in the current campaign with four teams to be relegated from the 12-team league, matters look like they will be very competitive for a number of teams to avoid the drop.

Just about six weeks into the new season, just four points separate the nine teams outside the top three and indeed just one point separates the bottom seven sides.

The action is competitive and indeed three of those lower positioned teams fashioned a first league win of the campaign over the weekend, with Hibernians the most impressive with a 5-0 success over Corrib Rangers.

Dean Cullinane, Shane Walsh, Jason McPhilbin, Jason McDonagh (pen) and Alex Murphy with his first senior goal all found the range for the Bohermore side on Sunday morning.

Maree/Oranmore were also convincing winners with a 3-0 away success over Tuam Celtic as Luke Smyth, Andrew Connolly and Pricewell Diala all found the range for the visitors.

Kerill Hardiman and Ryan Noone got the goals as Colemanstown United also fashioned a first win with a 2-1 success over a Corrib Celtic side for whom Shane Concannon got their lone reply.

Even at this early stage of the season, the challenge for Premier Division title looks to lie between three sides as Mervue United, Athenry and Salthill Devon appear to be the likely contenders.

Mervue United were making it five wins on the trot as they maintained their top position with a 5-2 win over Loughrea at Fahy’s Field. As ever, leading scorer Enda Curran found the range with a brace, as Jonathan Hannifin, Hakeem Ryan and Aaron Molloy also hit the target in a convincing success. Kieran Bane was on the mark with both goals for the visitors.

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

Connacht Tribune Digital Edition App

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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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CITY TRIBUNE

Aki returns for daunting trip to Thomond Park

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Connacht’s Matthew Burke braces for a tackle from Aaron Wainright of the Dragons in last weekend's game in the Sportsground.

BY JOHN FALLON

The return of Bundee Aki will give Connacht a badly needed boost after their collapse against Dragons last weekend as they face into two crucial derby clashes against Munster this Saturday in Thomond Park (7.35pm)and then against Ulster in Aviva Stadium on Saturday week, October 23 (5.15pm)

Aki is set to become the first British and Irish Lion to play for Connacht in the professional era and Peter Wilkins, who has moved to a more senior role as well as taking charge of attack, said that Aki is gunning for action.

“The way we are playing gives him that little bit more freedom to express himself, and also for him to feed off the opportunity of other attackers around him. I think the way we are playing will suit him. He’s enjoying training and the details that goes into that. It’s enormously exciting for him and it’s great for us.

“Bundee’s specific role over the past few weeks was to get up to speed with the way we are trying to play in attack and defence. Obviously, there are way more changes to the way we are attacking so it has been him getting up to speed with that.

“There have been different avenues to that, there has been work off-field, one-on-one meetings with us as coaches, obviously he has had catch-ups with the players, with the leadership groups and he has been able to be on the grass at training in the past few weeks, observing, and then training with the group. So he has had a really nice layer of introductions to what we are trying to do.

For more, read this week’s Galway City 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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