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End of home rule for Connacht

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Connacht 3

Ulster 10

 

THERE is no time to take stock. Putting this defeat in context will be easier once the lights go off at the RDS arena on New Year’s Day as by that point, Connacht’s position within the inter-provincial hierarchy might be a lot clear but for now, this St Stephen’s Day gut-wrenching loss to Ulster is a hard one to assess.

Les Kiss and his young squad – barely recognisable from the team that won 27-20 in Galway last April – are blazing a trail after a patchy start. The 15 that took to the field at a sold-out Sportsground on Saturday were still on a high from their back to back wins over a Toulouse side that sit second in the Top 14.

In the absence of the likes of Iain Henderson, Dan Tuohy, Jared Payne and Tommy Bowe, Ulster seem to have lost no ground whatsoever. In fact, and don’t say this too loudly, they might actually be playing better. It’s not that Alan O’Connor, Sean Reidy, Stuart McCloskey and Rory Scholes are better individually, but they are certainly adding a collective burst of energy to Ireland’s form team.

Ulster arrived in Galway with five wins and four defeats on the Pro12 campaign, trailing Connacht and well aware that the upstarts from the west would be a threat to their top four hopes if a result wasn’t garnered here.

The form sides from the island locked horns and for long periods cancelled each other out in a real 80 minute struggle for superiority. The game was won in the last ten minutes and Ulster had the know-how and confidence to figure out how to win it, while their hosts froze for the first time all season.

This defeat is very much the first real body blow of an incredible campaign to date for Connacht and watching how they react in the upcoming hugely challenging away ties against Leinster this weekend and Llanelli on January 10 should be fascinating.

Previous defeats in this campaign away to Glasgow and Cardiff were certainly frustrating as a victory was very much in the offing in both cases, but this was the first time they trudged off the field second best against in-form opponents and on home soil.

Purely in terms of the game’s most memorable moments in the 22, one could argue that Connacht were hard done by here. The opening ten minutes were full of vim and vigour from the men in green who had Ulster scrambling.

Full match report in this week’s Connacht Tribune

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Wootton weaves his magic in vital bonus point victory

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Connacht winger Alex Wootton breaches the Cardiff cover on his way to scoring a second try in Saturday's PRO14 encounter at the Sportsground. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

Connacht 32

Cardiff 17

Rob Murphy at the Sportsground

THE Cardiff players were strewn across the pitch, faces buried in the Sporstground soil. Alex Wootton had just made their lives a misery for a second time in a blistering five minute spell and a game that was very much within their grasp had suddenly disappeared off into the distance. That was the scene in first-half injury time on Saturday evening as Connacht cut loose with a burst of brilliance.

Wootton now has ten tries in 13 appearances, an astonishing return from his first season in the green of Connacht. Munster’s loss is very much Andy Friend’s gain it seems. It helps too that there’s a backline orchestrator in the shape of Jack Carty who is playing at the very top of his game with one all encompassing display after another in recent months. The Irish door isn’t opening, but he keeps on knocking away.

But back to those Cardiff defenders, they were crestfallen at half time and positively dejected by full time. For most of the contest their team seemed to be in the ascendency in terms of possession and territory, but Connacht held all the aces when it came to the level of additional quality needed to be a serious contender in this competition. There’s no shame in being second best but the Welsh regions do struggle with the concept.

The Connacht coach has injuries to concern him but nothing overwhelming, Tom Farrell is probably the first choice centre for example and he’s out for the remainder of the season with a knee injury, Quinn Roux would start most big games but we learned this week a neck injury will keep him out until April, while Denis Buckley started this game on the bench. So this was pretty much a full strength side.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Galway keeping all options open for 2021 summer racing festival

John McIntyre

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A lone racegoer follows the action at last year's Galway Summer Racing Festival which was held behind closed doors at Ballybrit.

MICHAEL Moloney is a pragmatist. He’s not a hostage to pipedreams or fanciful thoughts ignoring reality. He doesn’t build up false hope and plays a straight bat.

The Galway Racecourse General Manager knows the odds are currently against punters flocking through the Ballybrit turnstiles for this summer’s annual seven-day racing festival, but he is not without hope that circumstances may change.

“As it stands, the only public health guidelines we are working off is that there will be no gatherings of over 50 people before September. That’s what the Tániste Leo Varadkar said a couple of weeks ago.”

That conclusion gives Galway little wriggle room at present, but with the 2021 festival still five months away – it starts on Monday, July 26 – local stakeholders are keeping their fingers crossed that the overall Covid-19 picture will be much better by then.

Whatever way the cards fall in relation to mass gatherings at sporting events by late summer, Moloney emphasises that Galway Racecourse will be ready to respond quickly to any improved scenario.

Ahead of last year’s festival, Moloney admitted that Galway was heading into the unknown with the meeting being staged behind closed doors and Ballybrit set to be devoid of the atmosphere it has become famous for.

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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Saddling up for a battle with cancer

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Susan Kennelly says wearing her cycling gear, like above in Salthill, and getting on her bike gives her a boost in her battle with cancer.

A city-based doctor has become the second person in the country to be named as a Bike Like Me advocate as part of a campaign by Cycling Ireland to inspire more women and girls to discover cycling and feel confident on their bikes.

Susan Kennelly (42), who lives in the city centre, is a member of Galway Bay Cycling Club and is the second of six Bike Like Me advocates to be announced as part of the campaign.

Currently battling breast cancer, she says she has found solace in being able to jump on her bike and take to the roads, saying that putting on her cycling helmet and cycling gear allowed her to feel the same as everyone else and boosted her morale in her own health battle.

“Particularly this year I really appreciated how normalising cycling could be. I had no hair because of chemo, no eyebrows or eyelashes and had lost weight but hopping on a bike with my helmet and cycling clothes meant I really looked no different to anyone else,” she says.

Why did you start cycling?

After stepping down from competitive rowing after several years I wanted something that would keep me physically active but without the same training commitment as rowing.

A friend suggested I join Galway Bay Cycling Club and I instantly knew this was right for me! I loved getting out in the open air and the sense of comradery and security with group cycling but at the same time I didn’t have to worry about letting a crew down if I couldn’t make a spin.

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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