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Mayo duo feature for Connacht


CONNACHT GO CLOSE Matthew Burke from Ballinrobe (centre) is pictured with Connacht team-mates Caolin Blade (left) and Ultan Dillane after their team’s dramatic 16-10 defeat to Munster in the PRO14 League in Galway on Saturday night. Pic: Sportsfile

Mike Finnerty

LIKE a lot of things at the moment, nobody is too sure exactly what the short-term future holds for the professional rugby union teams and players of Europe.
Only yesterday evening (Monday) news came through that the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup had been temporarily suspended due to Covid-19 public health concerns in France. The Six Nations is also hanging in the balance as everyone goes from day to day.
It was against that backdrop that we tuned in to the Sportsground in Galway last Saturday evening to watch Connacht play Munster in the PRO14 League, a week after Andy Friend’s side had scored a rare and wonderful win away to Leinster.
With the pictures being beamed into the sitting-room via TG4, and Rob Murphy’s commentary on Galway Bay FM being piped into the air-pods, we had the best of both worlds. One minute we were watching Connacht coach Nigel Carolan being interviewed while hitting a tennis ball to one of the players in the middle of the pitch on TG4 (while not not missing a beat or a stroke), and the next we were listening to Rob and Joe Healy giving us as much local knowledge as we could handle.
The prospect of seeing some of the best players in the country in action, while the whole country is confined to barracks, was obviously a big reason for tuning in.
But we were also curious to see if either of the Mayo lads in the Connacht ranks — Dave Heffernan or Matthew Burke — would feature.
Thankfully, they both did with Ballina native Heffernan getting a brief run-out during the first half before re-appearing permanently in the 49th minute along with Ballinrobe man, Matthew Burke.
Matthew, who turns 24 next month, was making just his second appearance of the season but clocked up an impressive 31 minutes to follow on from his 11-minute cameo against Leinster. He signed his professional contract with Connacht last April but chances to impress have been few and far between.
So it was great to see him get a run-out and acquit himself so well against the likes of Munster and Ireland forwards, CJ Stander, Peter O’Mahony and Tadhg Beirne, despite Connacht losing a hard-fought battle 16-10.
They were due to travel to Bristol for a European Champions’ Cup game next Sunday but that won’t be happening. So Matthew Burke, Dave Heffernan and company will have to wait and see what the future holds.

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