MEET Pat Lam, the new Connacht coach. You’ve probably heard about his exemplary playing career with club and country, and his somewhat mixed coaching career, but who is he and what’s he like?
He’s 44. He was born in Avondale, a small suburb on the west side of Auckland, New Zealand’s largest city. His parents are from Samoa. He likes a Guinness. Not many mind – not any more. “I had my fair share when I was a younger man”. He’s not gone on watching television; just the odd bit with his children, some news, some sport.
He likes golf. He’s played Galway Bay and Carton House. He plays off a handicap in the twenties. His parents are better at golf; they’ll come over to join him soon for an extended month-long holiday.
He’s married to Stephanie or ‘Steph’ for short. They have five children. Four are in Galway, and have settled into school. One, the eldest boy, is in university back in New Zealand. He’s coming to Galway in December to celebrate his 21st birthday.
Pat Lam arrived in Galway on April 2. He’d never been here before that. He’d been to Dublin, Cork and Limerick as coach and player. When he arrived here he was “overwhelmed”; he thinks it’s “beautiful” in the West of Ireland; the people “so, so friendly”.
It’s lived up to his expectations so far . . . except for the weather: The first seven days he arrived it was wall-to-wall sunshine. It’s the hottest summer in decades.
He’ll soon experience the ‘true’ weather – wind and rain at the Sportsground. He says there’s “nothing” he doesn’t like about Galway. He might revise that once the rain arrives.
Steph likes Galway, too. “My wife came here and she just said ‘this feels like home’. She just loves it here. My kids enjoy it, and that makes it easy.”
He says he was an “average” student in school. His passion was sport. He did enough to get through university. He’s a qualified teacher. He taught Form 2, the Irish equivalent of which is sixth class primary school. He did three years doing drug education programmes in schools throughout New Zealand.
He enjoys music, reads the odd book. But his main preoccupation, outside of rugby, is his family. He loves spending time with his family. Holidays are spent in Samoa. Samoans and Irish are similar – “there’s good craic from both,” he says.
There are other similarities – timekeeping. “In Samoa we call it ‘Island Time’, which is late. I’ve found here that ‘Irish Time’ or ‘Ireland Time’ is the same as ‘Island Time’, if not worse. If someone says something is going to happen at 7.30pm, that means 8.30pm in Island Time and over here, in Ireland, I’m realising it’s about 9.30pm.”
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune
Bundee Aki to miss European play-off
Connacht centre Bundee Aki received a three match ban for misconduct this week which means he will miss Connacht’s final two league games and the European play-off game most probably against a French side.
Aki faced a Disciplinary Panel via video link after a Misconduct Complaint was made against him by the Disciplinary Officer of PRO12 Rugby.
The complaint referred to Aki’s behaviour to and remarks directed toward, referee Ian Davies, during and immediately after the Round 20 fixture between Connacht and Leinster.
Aki admitted to the charge of misconduct and the Panel gave him a sanction of a three-match suspension.
That means he will also miss Connacht’s final home fixture against Scarlets tomorrow or in the last game of the regular season against Munster in Thomond Park next week.
The player can return to play on Monday, May 22 which means he would be available to play in a final European qualifier should Connacht win the first one.
Disaster for Wegians as home loss sees Blues relegated
GALWEGIANS’ hugely disappointing All-Ireland League campaign came to a rather ignominious end when they were soundly beaten by their visitors Naas, who in the process secured second place with this victory and earn themselves a home semi-final in the promotion play-offs.
The Blues came into this game knowing that nothing less than a win would save them from the drop, and they were also counting on UL Bohs to do them a favour against Dolphin, so the motivational stakes could not have been higher.
Wegians started nervously and looked like a side bereft of confidence, and it was the Kildare men who dominated the opening quarter, threatening the Wegians line on several occasions. However for all their dominance, the Blues defence held sway and kept their line intact.
Wegians got a boost when an intercept by centre Rory Parata on his 10m line saw him race clear into opposition territory, and his clever kick ahead just eluded winger Alan McMahon. However Parata was impeded on his run which gave a chance for a shot on goal, and out-half Morgan Codyre made no mistake from in front of the posts to give the hosts a 3-0 lead.
With the aid of a stiff cross-breeze, the visitors kept up the pressure, and they finally managed to breech the Wegians rearguard just on the half-hour mark. It looked like Wegians would initially deal with an attacking threat, but when the ball went loose, Naas hooker Warren Larkin found himself unmarked with the line at his mercy and he dived over for the game’s opening score.
Cillian Dempsey scuffed the simple conversion to leave it at 5-3, and shortly afterwards a great hit by Parata on his opposite number Fionn Carr led to a penalty opportunity. Codyre again took full advantage to restore his side’s lead by the narrowest of margins at 6-5.
Arguably the turning point of the game came right on the stroke of half-time. With Wegians prop Martin Fox in the sin-bin, the ever-threatening Carr went on a sortee down the right flank. The ex-Connacht man easily brushed off three attempted tackles before feeding his winger Ben O’Connor who sauntered over unopposed for the simplest of scores. This time Dempsey converted to give his side a 12-6 lead at the break.
Wegians came out of the traps immediately on the restart, and when they were restored to 15 men and with the slight wind advantage at their backs, there were flickers of hope that they could regain their lead. They desperately needed the next score to keep themselves in contention, however the visitors dealt comfortably with the attacking threat and they soon took a stranglehold on the game, working their way back upfield.
For more, read this week’s Galway City Tribune.
Cian Kelleher debuts at full back in Connacht’s season-opener
New signing Cian Kelleher will make his competitive debut lining out at fullback for Connacht against Galsgow tomorrow (5.15pm). The 22-year-old is named in a back three with Niyi Adeolokun and Irish international Matt Healy.
Eoin Griffin has been handed the number 13 shirt for his return to the Sportsground after two seasons with London Irish. The 25-year-old from Galway will partner last season’s PRO12 Players’ Player Bundee Aki in midfield.
In the pack, Denis Buckley makes a welcome return to the front row after his lengthy lay off recovering from an ankle injury. Internationals Finlay Bealham and Ultan Dillane are also named and Nepia Fox-Matamua returns to start in the back row with Eoin McKeon and captain John Muldoon.
From the bench, Lewis Stevenson is in line to make his full Connacht debut and Kieran Marmion comes in as the replacement scrum half.
Commenting on the team selection and the upcoming game, head coach Pat Lam said:
“What an exciting game to kick off a new season at home where we have two teams who really like to express themselves. Games against Glasgow are always tough and uncompromising and with their impressive selection of international players, we expect that to be no different tomorrow.
“It’s a new season and a somewhat new-look side with just eight who started at Murrayfield in May lining out tomorrow. Today is the last time all 12 teams will be level on points. With five points on offer now our focus is on the process which will give us the best chance of winning.
“Starting the championship at home is a huge boost and we’re looking forward to experiencing the magical atmosphere here at the Sportsground once again come 5:15.”
Connacht team to face Glasgow Warriors, Saturday 3rd September, the Sportsground, 5:15pm
15 Cian Kelleher
14 Niyi Adeolokun
13 Eoin Griffin
12 Bundee Aki
11 Matt Healy
10 Jack Carty
9 Caolin Blade
1 Denis Buckley
2 Tom McCartney
3 Finlay Bealham
4 Ultan Dillane
5 Danny Qualter
6 Eoin McKeon
7 Nepia Fox-Matamua
8 John Muldoon (captain)
16 Dave Heffernan
17 Ronan Loughney
18 JP Cooney
19 Lewis Stevenson
20 James Connolly
21 Kieran Marmion
22 Shane O’Leary
23 Peter Robb
For a full preview of the match and Connacht’s season see this week’s 24 page souvenir supplement free with the Tribune