The Connacht fans’ hope has gradually been rewarded.
In fact, the replacement of Warren Gatland and his thirteen-man lineout – yes, Howley only copied what Gatland first did for us –
We were the first Irish province to win in France or England (beating Bordeaux-Bégles and Northampton Saints in ’97), with a semi-final appearance in the European Challenge Cup in 2005.
Successive appearances in the group stages of Europe’s finest club competition, the Heineken Cup, with wins in Galway against Biarritz, and famously, Harelquins, have given a tempting taste of what might lie ahead for Connacht. The underdog coming good.
Jaysus, were the circa 1st Century A.D. Táin Bó Cuailnge – Cattle Raid of Cooley – to crop up today, we Connacht folk might even fancy our chances of reversing the 1st Century result, kicking Cú Chulainn’s Ulster arse all the way back north where it came from.
Rugby is now, finally, on the up in the west. Over the last five years it has had the largest growth in underage and schools participation in Ireland. It’s even making inroads into the staunchest bastions of Gaelic Games throughout Connacht’s Irish-speaking heartland, An Gaeltacht. The suspicious murmurs are being replaced with more receptive noises.
The steps are slow but in the right direction, a pattern which looks likely to continue with the appointment of Pat Lam as head coach to replace the now-legendary Eric Elwood.
Lam has already been instrumental in attracting Waikato Chiefs captain Craig Clarke to the west of Ireland, and rumours abound that more quality players will come to The Sportsground –
Received from Droptheclaw written in pencil for his fountain pen finally ran out of ink