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New signing Aki named in Connacht team for big clash with table toppers

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New Zealander Bundee Aki who will make his Connacht debut against Ospreys in the Guinness Pro12 tonight.

THE cavalry has arrived for Connacht who are seeking to avoid another drubbing on the road when they face Ospreys at Liberty Stadium this evening (Friday, 7.35pm). Pacy and abrasive New Zealander Bundee Aki has been named in Pat Lam’s side to take on the Welsh table-toppers, who are unbeaten this season in the Guinness Pro 12 league.

Aki, the former Chiefs rising star, trained in Galway earlier this week and starts at outside centre alongside Craig Ronaldson, in a game Lam has described as Connacht’s “biggest challenge of the season so far.”

Having just arrived in Ireland 10 days ago, Aki wasn’t due to start until the next game against Zebre, but was keen to get going, according to Lam.

“He’s been very open to learning quickly in training and has made a big effort in getting to know his team mates.  There’ll undoubtedly be a good bit of spotlight on him against Ospreys, but as always it is only a team effort that can lead to a positive outcome for us,” said Lam.

The 24-year-old’s Connacht debut is a timely boost as front-line players, Robbie Henshaw and Nathan White are tied-up with Joe Schmidt’s Ireland squad.

The other three players on international duty, Kieran Marmion, Darragh Leader and Rodney Ah You, have been temporarily released from the Ireland squad for this game.

Marmion and Ah You are named in the starting XV, and are among nine changes to the side that lost by 20 points in England at the weekend.

As well as Aki, captain John Muldoon returns to action this weekend, as does Eoin McKeon, and Quinn Roux, who were all rested for the away trip to Exeter Chiefs six days ago. Jack Carty is recalled at out-half, and Matt Healy comes in on the wing ahead of Fionn Carr, who is not named in the squad.

Though Leader was released by Schmidt, Lam has placed his faith in 22-year-old Shane Layden to deliver at full-back, in only his second start of the season.

Mayo-born prop Jamie Dever is named among the substitutes and could make his senior debut for the province and JP Cooney is also on the bench and is in line for his first appearance this season.

The 33-13 scalping suffered at the hands of the English outfit at Sandy Park on Saturday should focus the minds as Connacht look to back-up their fine start to the league – they lie fifth in the table, sandwiched between Munster and Leinster, on 18 points, after four wins from six games.

The league has to be a priority this season, given that qualification for the top competition, Champions Cup (formerly Heineken Cup), is not available even to the winners of the European Champions Cup.

Connacht has never won at Liberty Stadium and has beaten Ospreys just once in five years, a memorable 22-10 victory at home in February 2013.

The last time Connacht played Ospreys in Wales was last May, when they shipped six tries in a humbling 45-20 defeat. And having conceded five tries against Exeter, Lam insists his charges must improve defensively.

“We’re going down to play the top team in the league on their home ground. It is our biggest challenge of the season so far. Ospreys are a well-coached, well-drilled side with strike power all over the field. We know we will have to raise our standards considerably from last week, particularly in defence. But we’re all focused on the process of picking up as many league points as we can,” said Lam.

Connacht: S. Layden, N. Adeolokun, B. Aki, C. Ronaldson, M. Healy, J. Carty, K. Marmion; D. Buckley, J. Harris-Wright, R. Ah You, M. Kearney, Q. Roux, J. Muldoon, E. McKeon, G. Naoupu.

 

CITY TRIBUNE

Young Mystics cast their spell over Limerick visitors

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The NUIG Mystics squad that defeated Limerick Sport Husklies in the Women's Divison 1 last Saturday. Back row, from left: Kyle Walsh (assistant coach), Courtney Cecere, Laoise Walsh, Ava McCleane, Olivia Sasse, Sara Messler, Maggie Byrne, and Paul O'Brien (head coach). Front: Meadhbh O'Brien, Hazel Finn, Kara McCleane, Laura Lopez Morera, Caoimhe O'Sullivan, and Aoife Ryan. Missing from photo: Aine McDonagh.

NUIG Mystics made it two wins from two with a five-point win over Limerick Sport Huskies on Saturday in the Women’s Division 1, but there was disappointment for Galway’s other three sides.

Moycullen ran Tralee Warriors close on Sunday in the Men’s Super League but suffered another narrow defeat, having lost on the opening day to NUIG Maree. Maree’s hopes of making it back-to-back wins were ended with a poor fourth-quarter performance away to Neptune on Saturday, the Cork side running out convincing winners; while Titans also suffered a second defeat, going down at home to Dublin Lions.

WOMEN’S DIVISION 1

 NUIG Mystics 65

 Limerick Sport

 Huskies 60

A strong final quarter which saw Irish underage international Hazel Finn rattle in nine points helped Mystics make it two wins from two against a visiting side that was overly reliant on Yuleska Ramirez Tejeda.

The US import returned a stunning 31-point haul for her side, to add to the 27 points she hit on the opening weekend’s 79-76 win over Portlaoise Panthers, but a better spread of a scoring threat for Mystics saw Paul O’Brien’s claim what was at time a scrappy win.

It is a very young Mystics squad this year – there were three 18-year-olds in their starting five on Saturday – but they are mature as players, none more so than Kara McCleane, who finished the game with 23 points.

She drained a three in the first quarter to help Mystics take a 16-11 lead, with McCleane hitting 10 of those points, but the visitors rallied in the second quarter, with Ramirez Tejeda (8) and Taylor Herd (6) helping them draw level at 29-apiece at the break.

Maggie Byrne began to dominate under the defensive boards for Mystics, and when she threw in a big 3-pointer, which was soon followed by one from Finn, Mystics moved into a 41-31 lead early in the third quarter, with the visitors’ first points of the quarter coming just before four of the 120 minutes had elapsed.

For more, read this week’s Connacht Tribune.

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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

Shefflin named as surprise new Galway senior hurling manager for first intercounty role

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Henry Shefflin

Galway GAA are pinning their hopes on one of the greatest hurlers of all time proving that he’s fairly handy at management as well after unveiling Henry Shefflin as the new Galway senior hurling manager.

The shock appointment of Shefflin (42) was confirmed on Wednesday night, catching many people on the hop, including our sister paper, the Connacht Tribune, as it had been widely expected that Davy Fitzgerald was getting the job.

“Galway GAA is delighted to announce Henry Shefflin as the new Galway senior hurling manager,” read a statement posted on the Galway GAA website on Wednesday night.

“Henry’s achievements as a player are unrivalled. As a manager he has guided Ballyhale Shamrocks to All Ireland Club titles in 2019 and 2020. Henry will be joined by fellow Kilkenny man Richie O’Neill as a coach and his management team will be finalised in the coming weeks,” the statement read.

The appointment ends a seven-week period of speculation as to who would replace Limerick native Shane O’Neill who held the position for two years, before announcing at the start of September that he would not be seeking a third year in charge.

He had led Galway to the All-Ireland semi-final in 2020, only to lose to Limerick; before a nightmare 2021 in which Galway failed to win a game in the championship, losing lost to Dublin in the Leinster semi-final, and Waterford in the All-Ireland qualifiers.

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

Connacht need the win for two very different reasons

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Abraham Papali’i will be hoping to start against Ulster this Saturday, having come off the bench in last weekend's defeat to Munster. Photo: Joe O'Shaughnessy.

By JOHN FALLON

The switch of Connacht’s game against Ulster from the Sportsground to Aviva Stadium was, from the outset, met with not insignificant negativity by some fans and the business community, and with the anticipated attendance expected to be in the region of a disappointing 8,000 or so, some must be wondering if was worth moving the fixture at all.

Two things can alter that. There could still be a decent run on tickets which would make the venture financially worthwhile; and the other is a Connacht victory. A Connacht loss and the forfeiture of home advantage will come into the equation.

It could, equally, be argued that no matter where this game is a played, form so far in the URC suggests an Ulster victory. They are the only side with maximum points, four straight bonus point wins, and Connacht go into it with just one win in four.

Connacht coach Andy Friend says the players and management are not under any extra pressure to win Saturday’s clash.

“No, I don’t think so. I think we’ve got a lot of Connacht supporters who are going to be there. Family and friends are going to be there, so there’s always pressure to try and impress in front of them and to make sure you’re playing the best brand of rugby.

“But I don’t think moving the game to the Aviva has added pressure to us. Certainly, I don’t feel that, and I don’t think any of the players feel that.”

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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