CONNACHT’S stunning comeback victory in the Youth inter-pro final and the superb progress off the Schools squad earlier this year demonstrates the tremendous work currently being done at development level in the province.
It is proof, if any was needed, that notwithstanding it’s smaller population, the province of Connacht is capable of matching the rest of the country on the sporting landscape.
In Gaelic football, Galway, Roscommon and Mayo have won All-Ireland underage titles in the past two years. Galway United and Sligo Rovers are in soccer’s Premier Division, while in hurling, Galway have dominated the underage scene. Connacht as a sporting province can compete and now that’s beginning to show in rugby circles.
This is another reason why Connacht rugby needs to continue to develop at senior level over the next five years. It’s important that the young talent emerging will have a viable and realistic path to professional rugby without having to go to Dublin, Limerick or Belfast to further their careers.
The talent is there already and with the likes of Andrew Browne, Ronan Loughney, Michael Diffley, David McGowan and Peter Durcan all on the cusp of a breakthrough at professional level, the future looks bright.
Their emergence justifies the presence of professional rugby in Connacht even when results aren’t going to plan. It also emphasises why now, more than ever, the senior squad needs the full backing of sporting folk within the province as well as from the IRFU.
For now, though, people in all rugby circles in Connacht will want to congratulate dedicated manager Johnny Brennan and the coaching team for their vital role in this great success.
CONNACHT’S Eric Elwood and Dan McFarland coached Ireland U20s to a memorable victory over Wales in the opening match of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign on Friday night in Swansea. Ireland won 17-15 despite going down 15-0 after 20 minutes on the night. Connacht’s Aidan Wynne (Buccaneers) and Andrew Browne (Galwegians).
THE dust is still to settle on Connacht’s nightmare display in Edinburgh last Friday week where they conceded six tries in a 49-31 defeat that has all but ended their Heineken Cup hopes for another season.
It’s all well and good stacking up adrenaline-filled heroic performances against opposition with far bigger budgets, but the true barometer of any team is how they perform against opponents at their own level. This season Connacht have failed miserably in that area.
In Glasgow last November, they conceded five tries in a hopeless 20-minute spell. Two weeks later in Cardiff, against a side missing seven internationals, they produced a lacklustre attacking display and were tamely beaten. Then came the Montpellier collapse against a team missing 12 first team regulars and now this.
Considering the nature of some of the scores conceded, the loss to Edinburgh must rank as the lowest point Connacht have reached since the Celtic League was launched in 2001.
Michael Bradley’s side were not even competitive for long periods and that’s what is most worrying.
This side are haemorrhaging defeats at the moment, 13 in their last 15 games. Few if any of their supporters expect them to be qualifying for Europe with the budget granted to them by IRFU HQ, but everyone expects a certain level of consistency in their performances. That hasn’t been the case against the weaker teams, despite numerous encouraging displays against the leading sides in the league.
A victory away to Ospreys will lift spirits but this is not a problem that can be solved by one or even a succession of victories. It’s time to look to the future and blood the young local talent over the next eight games.