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Coup of the century as Muliaina signs for Connacht Rugby

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Mils Muliaina

CONNACHT has signalled its intent to challenge the three other provinces with a budget-bursting signing of former All-Black superstar, Mils Muliaina, which has generated an almighty buzz at the Sportsground.

In a one-year deal thought to be worth around €300,000, a record for the province, the 100-times capped New Zealand full-back will have a dual player and mentor role at Connacht next season.

As Connacht coups go, they don’t get much bigger than Muliaina, who scored 34 international tries in an eight-year playing career with New Zealand that includes appearing in three World Cups and winning one.

Muliaina, Connacht’s first ever All-Black signing, is big box office, will draw the crowds to College Road, and boost season ticket sales. But the signing is not without risk.

Head coach Pat Lam, who coaxed the Super Rugby Chiefs utility-back to Galway, has gambled again on a signing from Down Under: Muliaina will be 34 when he arrives in Ireland, is far from his peak, is winding down to retirement and it is unclear how he will recover from recent surgery to sort out a niggling elbow injury.

Lam’s previous coup last year, luring the experienced Craig Clarke, was a massive boost but he is now sidelined indefinitely with concussion, an injury problem he brought with him to the West of Ireland.

The exposure Muliaina will bring to Connacht, and the ammunition it will give Lam and his successors in future recruitment drives, is invaluable.  The downside is, the more he plays, the less game-time Irish-qualified youngsters will get.

And in order for it to be more than an ‘all fur coat and no kickers’ signing, the rising stars of Connacht – Robbie Henshaw, Jack Carty, Darragh Leader, Kieran Marmion, Tiernan O’Halloran – need to soak up his proven skill, experience and knowledge of how to read the game.

That was clearly on Lam’s mind when he sealed the deal – and it is the only way it could be ‘sold’ to his paymaster, the IRFU. “One of our main priorities as we began recruitment for next season was to bring in a quality, experienced back to help nurture and mentor our young Irish qualified backs on and off the field. With the Rugby World Cup only a year away we also wanted someone who could help prepare and guide Connacht’s current international Robbie Henshaw,” said Lam.

“I don’t think I need to point out how huge it is to have Mils Muliaina as our first All Black coming to represent Connacht. The second ever All Black and the first ever back to reach 100 test matches is some achievement but what’s incredible about Mils is the passion and professionalism he brings whenever he plays and I know he will bring that in the Connacht jersey.

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

CITY TRIBUNE

Connacht swing into action against Cardiff in expanded league structure

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Injured scrum half Caolin Blade who will miss Connacht's opening game in the new United Rugby Championship away to Cardiff on Friday night.

By Rob Murphy

RUGBY is back this weekend as Connacht make their debut in a brand new expanded competition. The United Rugby Championship has replaced the old PRO14 with the top four South African sides joining the teams from Ireland Scotland, Wales and Italy in a  new look 16 team tournament.

Over the next seven months, Andy Friend’s men will play 18 games as they look to secure one of the eight play off places up for grabs.

On Friday Connacht will begin their campaign in Wales where they’ll take on Cardiff at the Arms Park (7:35) for an important opening day fixture. With a number of difficult inter-provincials tussles on the horizon, a good start is badly needed.

On Wednesday, Connacht Rugby announced that they were moving their October 23 fixture with Ulster to the Aviva Stadium to mark the lifting of restrictions throughout the country for crowds at live events. The stand alone fixture will be a huge opportunity for the organisation to showcase the provincial team to a wide audience and they are hoping that Connacht fans will travel east in big numbers to watch their side play in the national stadium.

It will be the second time in a little over a year that Connacht have played at the venue having faced the same opponents there last August at a time when crowds weren’t permitted, You have to go back to 1986 for the previous appearance at the Dublin 4 venue. Forgoing home advantage for a league fixture looks like a risk worth taking as the novel event should generate a lot of interest among rugby fans who have waited over 18 months to watch their side play live.

While there is scope for a full house in Wales this Friday, Connacht’s opening home fixture against the Bulls the following Friday and their clash with the Dragons in Galway and Munster in Limerick later in the month will all fall under the current fifty percent capacity restrictions in the Republic of Ireland, so this is why that the Ulster fixture in Dublin will be a watershed moment for the campaign.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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CITY TRIBUNE

Moran’s late fortuitous goal leaves Salthill men stunned

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Monivea-Abbey's Caelom Mulry gets to the ball ahead of Tom Considine of Salthill/Knocknacarra during Saturday's senior football championship tie at Kenny Park. Photos: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Monivea-Abbey 1-10

Salthill-Knocknacarra 0-10

Gerard Mulreaney at Kenny Park

THEY say that fortune favours the brave, and that was certainly evident at a very wet Kenny Park, Athenry on Saturday afternoon

A brave performance from Monivea-Abbey, full of heart, grit and determination, saw them produce the shock of the weekend when they upset Salthill-Knocknacarra in a dramatic ending to this senior championship game.

Three points down at the second water break, Monivea-Abbey came storming back in the last quarter, scoring a goal and two points without reply to take the victory and give themselves an outside chance of reaching the quarter finals.

Both sides came into this must-win encounter on the back of opening round defeats, Monivea-Abbey losing to Oughterard while Salthill-Knocknacarra surprisingly came unstuck in their opener to Caherlistrane.

Salthill-Knocknacarra were first off the mark in the second minute when Robert Finnerty found Tomo Culhane who popped his effort over the bar.

Culhane then missed a golden opportunity to score the opening goal just a minute later. He was played in by the industrious John Maher, but the teeneger ended up rushing his shot, and the ball went agonisingly wide.

Monivea-Abbey, who were missing both Cillian McDaid and Cathal Cooley due to injury, hit back when Lee Kenny was fouled by William Finnerty and Brian Moran scored the resulting free kick.

Another goal chance went abegging for Salthill/Knocknacarra on nine minutes when centre-forward Evan Murphy ran in unopposed along the end line, but his shot was straight at Denis Farragher in the Monivea-Abbey goal.

For more, read this week’s Connacht 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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CITY TRIBUNE

Butler hopes fans will back move to switch home game

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Jarrad Butler looks on as Caolin Blade looks to break through the Ulster ranks in the PRO14 meeting between the sides in the Sportsground back in December. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

By JOHN FALLON

Connacht skipper Jarrad Butler said the players are looking forward to taking on Ulster at the Aviva Stadium next month when they hope to attract the biggest crowd to attend a rugby match in Ireland in over a year and a half.

With crowd restrictions due to be lifted by the Government just prior to the derby clash against Ulster on Saturday, 23 October, Connacht hope that a crowd of around 30,000 can be achieved for the fixture in the United Rugby Championship.

At present Connacht are restricted to crowds of around 3,000 at the Sportsground and even if all restrictions are lifted, the capacity of the stadium on College Road is limited to just over 8,000.

Coach Andy Friend and club captain Butler have given the decision their full backing, with Connacht consulting with their supporters’ club before deciding to switch the match to Dublin.

Connacht beat Ulster 26-20 behind closed doors there in August last year when competitive rugby restarted in the pandemic, and Butler said players were excited about going back there.

“It is different. We had success at the Aviva against Ulster last year and that was without fans. I think there is an excitement to go back there and, hopefully, be able to play there in front of a lot more Connacht fans than would probably be at the Sportsground.

“The Aviva is one of the best in the country and I think everyone is excited to get the opportunity to play there. The positives definitely outweigh the negatives playing there.

For more, read this week’s Connacht 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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