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Marmion and Henshaw set to return for away clash against Edinburgh

Dara Bradley

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Connacht's Danie Poolman is tackled by Aled Brew and Jason Tovey (right) of Newport Gwent Dragons during Saturday's Guinness Pro12 encounter at the Sportsground. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

CONNACHT’S internationals shoot into action this weekend boosting the province’s chances of back-to-back wins in the opening two rounds of the Guinness Pro 12.

Head coach Pat Lam is free to start Robbie Henshaw and Kieran Marmion against Edinburgh in Murrayfield tonight (7.35pm) after the duo was rested for last week’s win over Newport Gwent Dragons under the IRFU’s player welfare.

Scrum-half Marmion did feature from the bench in the 16-11 win at the Sportsground, in a compromise due to a lack of Connacht cover in the number nine position – he will almost certainly start.

Henshaw, full-back for much of last season, is expected to line out at outside centre this season, as Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt wants him ‘blooded’ for the number 13 jersey ahead of the World Cup next year. Henshaw at 13, alongside Dave McSharry, is an exciting prospect for Connacht, and one to look forward to as the season progresses.

Utility back Darragh Leader, who filled the central role last week, may slot in at full-back, although Shane Layden did quite well at 15 on Saturday.  The team will be announced at noon today (Thursday) before they depart for Scotland.

Extremely worrying news emerged after the Dragons game, with confirmation that Jake Heenan aggravated a shoulder injury that kept him out for six months last season.

A tank of a man, standing six foot two inches and over sixteen stone, the open-side flanker has been a revelation since arriving from New Zealand last year. The 22-year-old left the field with just two minutes to go, worryingly holding the shoulder he had surgery on last February.

Connacht confirmed it is awaiting further tests to assess the scale of the damage – everyone will obviously be hoping he’ll recover quickly because his energy, enthusiasm and skill in the tackle and at the breakdown are vital ingredients if the Westerners are to make a serious impression in the league this season. Lam et al are keeping their fingers crossed.

There was some encouraging news on the injury front with the return to full training of winger Matt Healy, top try scorer last season. Healy (hand fracture) is on the mend and will be available in the next couple of weeks. Centre Shane O’Leary (dead leg) is available for selection as is captain John Muldoon, who sat out training on Monday with a tight hamstring.

Connacht did shock the home team two seasons ago, 32-24, and a repeat of that performance, in which Henshaw scored a decisive try, is not beyond the bounds of possibility.

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

 

CITY TRIBUNE

Connacht left down and out as Leicester coast home

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Connacht scrum half Kieran Marmion who scored their opening try in Saturday's European Challenge Cup defeat by Leicester.

Leicester 48

Connacht 32

THE scoreline isn’t easy on the eye and this report must follow suit. Connacht have more problems brewing than they would like to admit. A flawed and ultimately disappointing season reached a low point at the famous Welford Road on Saturday as they exited Europe without much to show for their efforts. Out fought, out muscled and outclassed by a Leicester side that were missing almost their entire first team squad.

Connacht scored four tries in this Challenge Cup last 16 encounter and had their moments in an exciting second half but when the final whistle arrived, the 16 point deficit felt about right. A more powerful, clinical and streetwise Leicester had toyed with the visitors for much of the 80 minutes and when the questions were asked, the Englishmen had the answers in their forward pack. Lineouts, mauls and good old fashioned hard hits got the job done as the westerners wilted and fell apart.

All of this season’s failings were exposed, the defence is arguably as bad as it’s ever been in the professional era, their ability to stop the lineout, catch and drive from the opposition has completely deserted them, missed tackles crop up at key junctures, positioning in the back three was again caught out and the ball carrying of the forwards in close contact with defence continues to be ineffective.

The usual stuff worked well, Connacht were sharp on attacks from deep in their own half, making big gains there. They also made some impressive inroads at the breakdown where Leicester’s pillar defence was badly exposed for two tries as Connacht basically picked the ball up in the ruck and went right through the middle. The second half fightback showed the endeavour, honesty and pride that’s needed but that’s about it.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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Flynn’s fitness eyes opened by Australia’s approach to it

Stephen Glennon

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Craughwell native and Athlone IT sports science student, Adam Flynn.

ONE would hardly think that there is a global pandemic ongoing looking at the TV images from the Southern Hemisphere, but Athlone IT sports science student Adam Flynn, who was working in Australia when Covid-19 hit, says the country was strong in its approach to tackling the pandemic and that it is now reaping dividends.

“Australia did lockdown fairly quick (in March 2020),” recalls Flynn, “although there weren’t many cases in Australia when it locked down. While I know most countries did lock down, one of the main differences I saw was that the sanctions for breaking the lockdown were a lot stricter over there.

“I think when you have stricter sanctions, people are less likely to go down to the shop to get one or two bits and risk spreading it. As well as that, they had free Covid testing centres everywhere. So, if you felt you had it, or even if you didn’t know you had it and wanted to get tested, because some people could be asymptomatic, you could pop in and get a test.”

The short-term pain has led to long term gain in Australia with a level of normality resuming. No wonder Craughwell native Flynn, having returned to complete his final year of study at Athlone IT last September, is envious.

“If I’d realised that the course was going to be online, I would have stayed in Australia,” says the sports science student. “I was on campus twice or three times in the first semester and we haven’t been on it at all this semester. So, if I realised that, I would have done it online from out there. I don’t really regret it, either. Hopefully, things will open up again soon.”

In all, Flynn spent almost two years in Australia, eight months of which was working under Christian Woodford of Woodford Sports Science Consulting in Melbourne. “He works with all levels of athletes, focusing on their physical preparation for the game,” he says.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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.

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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

Lee’s stable star Sole Pretender makes light of long injury lay-off

John McIntyre

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The Norman Lee trained Sole Pretender and jockey Simon Torrens clear the last on their way to winning the Bar One Racing Hurdle at Cork on Sunday.

THE highest rated National Hunt horse trained in Galway is back with a vengeance after overcoming a near 600-day absence in terrific style at Cork on Sunday.

And Gort-based trainer Norman Lee is now eyeing a crack at the Grade One Stayers Hurdle at the upcoming Punchestown Festival with his stable star Sole Pretender.

Off the track for 598 days, the seven-year-old made a sparkling return to the racecourse with an impressive pillar-to-post win in the Bar One Racing Hurdle.

This conditions race attracted a decent field, including Cheltenham County Hurdle runner-up Petit Mouchoir and the Willie Mullins trained Bapaume, a comprehensive winner at the track on his previous outing.

With that reliable yardstick Davids Charm also lining up and given his long lay-off, it was no surprise that Sole Pretender was sent off a 14/1 chance to land the €17,000 contest.

But adopting his customary front-running tactics under 5lbs claimer Simon Torrens, Sole Pretender set a decent gallop from the off and none of his rivals could land a blow.

Petit Mouchoir was already held when coming to grief at the second last, while runner-up Bapaume could get no closer than five lengths at the line.

Sole Pretender’s triumphant return represented an outstanding training performance by Lee, who was relieved and delighted in equal measure after his horse’s sixth career win from ten starts.

“He’s a horse that had a little ligament issue and we gave him the whole year off. I thought he would need the run, but he is a proper good horse and he will improve for the run too.

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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