CONNACHT will attempt to complete a hat-trick of season wins over Ulster when the sides clash in the PRO14 quarter-final at Kingspan Stadium on Saturday (5:35pm).
Aside from Quinn Roux (virus), Head Coach Andy Friend should have a full complement of players to select from as the province seeks to emulate their feat of last October. On that occasion, Connacht secured a historic 22-15 win over Ulster; it was their first victory over Ulster in Belfast in 58 years. They followed this up with a 21-12 win over their rivals at home in December.
While consistency in performances may have been a problem at intervals this season, Connacht have been hitting targets. No more so than securing European Champions Cup rugby for next season after finishing third in Conference A of the PRO14.
No wonder then that Friend is upbeat heading to Kingspan Stadium. His faith in his players is unshakeable. “I reckon they are ready,” he states. “I also believe, and I have said it a few times, that I still don’t think we have played our best rugby.”
That said, he feels his charges are primed for this one. “We have had, in the month of April, 30 players who hit their personal bests, whether it is on speed, in the gym, or body composition. Out of those 30 players, we have had 52 pbs (personal bests).
“So, we are still growing as a squad and we have this internal competition where we are pushing each other and people are stretching themselves. The most exciting thing is I know the 23 players we select (for Saturday) will go up there with nothing to lose and a lot to gain and I am excited about that.”
The turnaround in Connacht’s fortunes this season compared to last has been impressive. In 2017/2018, they finished the league with just seven wins and a total of 39 points in their conference. This season, they completed the pool phase with 12 victories and 61 points.
In this regard, Friend’s influence has been notable. He has cultivated a culture of respect, awareness and ambition, a holistic approach not unlike that in the Pat Lam era. The quiet-spoken yet charismatic Australian has also brought a growth mindset to the Connacht set-up, not only in terms of game-plan, skills, and learnings, but also putting his faith in Academy players coming through.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
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City Council’s conference call ‘eavesdropper’
Bradley Bytes – a sort of political column by Dara Bradley
Galway City Council, like the rest of us, is adapting to the new reality of life under Covid-19 restrictions.
There haven’t been any face-to-face City Council meetings, be they full meetings or committee meetings, since the crisis really hit.
But that doesn’t mean elected members and management are twiddling their thumbs. Far from it – they’re busier than ever, just a different sort of busy.
Last Wednesday evening, city councillors held a conference call with Chief Executive Brendan McGrath.
Members of his management team were also involved in the meeting, which was conducted using technology that allows people to ‘attend’ a meeting online from the comfort of their own homes.
Each member is invited to the virtual meeting through a link sent to their email account. They click into this and then they are ‘in’ the meeting and can speak and see the others, also attending remotely.
A reliable deep-throat who participated in Wednesday’s chat informs us that the meeting had to be stopped – at the behest of McGrath – and restarted, over fears someone was eavesdropping.
The suspicion is that the link to join the meeting was sent to someone it shouldn’t have been, and this person attempted to listen in.
“Brendan halted the meeting and we had to hang up and start again because a mystery man was listening-in on the teleconference. It was hacked but Brendan has the number and can find out who it was,” said one source.
If the standard of debate at the tele-conference was anything like some of the drivel you can get at some ordinary Council meetings, then the conference-blocked hacker didn’t miss much!
For more Bradley Bytes, see this week’s Galway City Tribune
Salthill’s ‘Heart of Hope’ a beacon of light for frontline workers
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A giant illuminated heart has been erected on the Big Wheel at Curry’s Funpark in Leisureland as a poignant symbol of hope and expression of gratitude for the country’s healthcare workers.
Last month, preparations got underway to set up the fun fair, but it became yet another casualty of Covid-19. Owner Owen Curry got to work on constructing a blue ‘Heart of Hope, An Croí Gorm’ with LED lights to attach to the 120-foot wheel overlooking the Prom.
Together with his crew, and respecting the rules of social distancing, he had the heart in place on the axle of the Big Wheel within a day.
“I wanted to do something, to say to the doctors, nurses, first responders, lab technicians and everybody working in the health service how grateful we are for their incredible dedication and courage in the current crisis.
“When the other lights on the Big Wheel are switched off, the heart emits a glow and appears to float in mid air over the Prom,” he said.
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ICU consultant reveals intensive planning ahead of peak Covid demand
From this week’s Galway City Tribune – A consultant in critical care at Galway’s biggest hospital has assured the public that there is still significant capacity for very ill patients fighting Covid-19.
But to help University Hospital Galway best cope with the expected surge in numbers within the next two weeks, Consultant Intensivist John Bates has pleaded with the public to follow the strict public health guidelines about staying at home.
“There’s been a lot going on – a lot of retraining, a lot of redeployment, a lot of up-equipping. We normally have twelve ventilator beds and we’re up to 24 at this stage and have significant capacity. We’re working to get beyond that but we certainly have capacity at the moment,” he told the Galway City Tribune.
Asked if the hospital would be able to cope with the peak of the pandemic – tipped to hit in the next fortnight – he said there were no guarantees.
“It depends on the size of the surge. We can’t say for sure how big the surge will be. It’s a new disease and models of how it will go are different – in some we will be okay and others we will struggle,” Dr Bates said.
“The curve appears to be flattening. Dublin is starting to come under pressure accessing critical care beds. It’s likely we will at some stage here too. But we have good capacity at this stage.”
The number of healthcare workers who will likely be affected by the pandemic has been factored into the hospital’s readiness plans. In China, ten per cent of critical care staff were out of action while in Italy it has reached 20 per cent.
Despite the high risks facing hospital staff, Dr Bates believes morale at UHG is good.
This is a preview only. To read the rest of this article and extensive coverage of the coronavirus impact on Galway, buy a digital edition of this week’s Galway City Tribune for €1.95 HERE. Please remember that without advertising revenue and people buying our papers, this website would not be here. Thanks for your support!