CONNACHT AND US

Following Connacht’s stunning Pro-12 success, we asked SEAMUS DUKE to assess the huge impact locally of a rugby revolution…

‘Big boost for Roscommon youth’

The Future – Aidan Farrell

Aidan Farrell is a coach with the blossoming Roscommon CBS rugby players…

“This win will have a huge positive impact on the game in a school like Roscommon CBS. The type of game that Connacht play means that it is not confined to huge guys smashing their way up the field.

  “Connacht have great athletes on their team but they are not huge men. They play a style that is great to watch and they keep the ball alive all the time.

  “Pat Lam has really bought into the Connacht Rugby scene. He is a great PR man…he is very clever. Now there is a major rugby team on the doorstep of local young players that they can aspire to play for.

  “There are lads in the CBS playing rugby who never played any other sports – and that’s a positive too (the fact that rugby has developed an interest in sport for them).

  “We expect to have a strong senior team in the CBS in the coming school year and this Connacht win will be a big boost to all our players and will incentivise them to do well.”

Robbie going out on a high

The Robbie Factor – Michael Silke

Michael Silke, Buccaneers on Tiernan O’Halloran…and the Henshaw family!

“It was a mighty weekend for Connacht and a super weekend for Buccaneers because we had five players on the panel. Apart from Robbie Henshaw, it was great to see Tiernan O’Halloran play well. His father (Aidan) is from Moate and won an All-Ireland with Offaly footballers in his time.

  “Robbie Henshaw had a phenomenal season and everyone here is wishing him well on his move to Leinster. His grandfather, Billy Henshaw, who is 91, is a regular visitor to the clubhouse to watch the big matches and is a great character.  “Pat Lam was here at the clubhouse recently and was very gracious to Tony Henshaw (Robbie’s dad) about the move to Leinster and he wished him well.

  “Robbie is probably doing the right thing in the long run. What a lot of people do not realise is that there are a lot of Robbie’s family and cousins playing rugby in Dublin. His girlfriend is also from Dublin and in the long-term, and from his career point of view, he is making the right move and we all wish him well.

  “As an aside, the Henshaws are a very musical family and Robbie is a dab-hand on the squeezebox. He is a lovely lad and a great player and it is brilliant that he is going out on a high after contributing so much to Connacht in recent years.” 

‘Huge boost for small clubs’

Creggs Connection – Kieran Dowd 

Kieran Dowd, President of Creggs RFC, on the local club’s proud links with Connacht…

“It was a historic day in many ways and it was not just that we won the final but it was the manner in which it was won, playing the same brand of open rugby we saw all season.

  “Connacht might have beaten Leinster before, but it was usually on a wet day at The Sportsground, scoring a try in the last minute or something like that! But this time it was on a beautiful, sunny day on a dry pitch playing open, attacking rugby.

  “This win will be a huge boost to the club and all small clubs in Connacht and hopefully it will boost the number playing at underage level. I like the way Pat Lam and his staff have brought the ‘community and club’ aspect into the scene and it is working very well too.

  “When Connacht trained at Creggs earlier in the season it was fantastic to see the players and the way that they had so much time for the kids…signing autographs and chatting to them. They are great ambassadors for the game. Last Saturday was a very proud day for Connacht as a province.

  “I was also very taken with John Muldoon referring to Joe McDonagh (former GAA President, who died recently) giving him inspiration at the weekend. This is a team that crosses sporting borders and it’s great to see it too.”

‘Bitter-sweet day for Denis’

Our Man Denis – Maurice Buckley 

Proud father Maurice Buckley on his son’s role in a wonderful season for Connacht…

It was a bittersweet day for Roscommon town man Denis Buckley as he was injured during training prior to the Pro 12 semi-final against Glasgow, ruling him out of the semi-final and that glorious final.

  The 26-year-old prop played the majority of the season and had impressed so much that there was talk of an international call-up. However the injury he sustained ruled him out and he was confined to a support role on Saturday. Denis celebrated Connacht’s famous win with his teammates on the pitch at Murrayfield after the game.

  Now with Connacht seeded in the Champions Cup next season, and defending their Pro12 title, the games will be more high profile then ever and it will once again put Denis Buckley into the shop window. Surely it will be only a matter of time before Denis adds the green of Ireland to the green of Connacht.   Denis may not have been able to start on Saturday but it was still a very proud day for him and his family.

  His father, Maurice Buckley, told People Sport: “It was a never-to-be-forgotten day. I was at the match with our son, Maurice Junior. It was fantastic. It was a bitter-sweet day for Denis. He was so thrilled with the win but would have loved to have been playing – but that’s the way it goes. Hopefully Connacht can build on this win and come back even stronger next season.”

‘The atmosphere was incredible’

In the Stadium – Domnick Connolly

Councillor Domnick Connolly says only a Roscommon

All-Ireland win could surpass the atmosphere in Edinburgh…

“I haven’t been to too many rugby matches in my time but when I had an opportunity to go to the game last Saturday with a few friends I decided to go – and it was an unbelievable experience.

  “The atmosphere was incredible. Only if Roscommon won the All-Ireland could there be more excitement.

  “The fans of both sides all mingled together and there was great banter. There was a massive following there from Connacht and the team didn’t let us down. They played brilliant rugby and it was a privilege to be there to see it.

  “Edinburgh is a fantastic city to visit and the people there were so friendly too. There were scarves on sale with Connacht and Leinster colours half and half and I brought one back to Down the Hatch (pub in Roscommon town)!

  “It was one of the best sporting occasions that I have ever been at.”

Adrian’s tribute to those who marched

Presidential View – Adrian Leddy

Leitrim native, long-time Roscommon town resident, Adrian Leddy is an ex-President of the Connacht branch of the IRFU…

“It was a fantastic feeling to be there to see this day. The reception that the team received was unreal and there were huge crowds in the stadium two hours before kick-off.

  “The early scores that Connacht got were so important and the style of rugby under Pat Lam is very exciting. The three tries that Connacht scored were brilliantly worked and were as good as you would see. The way that all the players can handle the ball and the skills they showed was a pleasure to see and the forwards were just as involved as the backs.

  “The Connacht branch will have to build on this win now and not sit on their laurels. We have to drive on now. We are seeded in the Champions Cup next season and we can do well there.

  “We also have to hold on to Pat Lam and our best players like Bundee Aki and others.

  “I also want to especially mention the Roscommon and Creggs connection to the team with Jack Carty, Denis Buckley, Daniel Qualter and others.

  “There are a lot of people who laid the groundwork for this win over the years, people like Eric Elwood and Michael Carlin and our own Joe Daly, who was President of the Connacht branch in 2003 when we marched on IRFU Headquarters to save Connacht Rugby. This win is down to those people too.”