|Ground(s)||Galway Sportsgrounds (Capacity: 7,500 (9,500 including temporary seating))|
Connacht Rugby, usually referred to simply as Connacht, is one of the four professional provincial rugby teams from Ireland. Connacht competes in the Pro 12 and the Heineken Cup. The team represents the IRFU Connacht Branch, which is one of four primary branches of the IRFU, and is responsible for rugby union throughout the geographical Irish province of Connacht.
Connacht plays its home games at the Galway Sportsgrounds, which normally holds 7,500 spectators, though is expandable to 9,500 for important games. Connacht play in a predominantly green and black jersey, black shorts and green and black socks. The Connacht Rugby crest is a modified version of the provincial flag of Connacht and consists of a dimidiated eagle and an arm wielding a sword.
With only 7% of the total number of Irish rugby union players, Connacht has a much smaller base of rugby union players to choose from than the other three provinces, due in part to its small population and the relative popularity of Gaelic Athletic Association sports such as hurling and Gaelic football. However, rugby union in Connacht has expanded, with increased ticket sales, in particular since its first season competing in the Heineken Cup. Through the work of the Connacht Branch and the support of the IRFU, the province has experienced growth, increasing its underage and schools participation through initiatives such as the 'Grassroots to Greenshirts' campaign. Beginning in 2012–13, the Connacht Eagles, a developmental side, feature in the semi-professional British and Irish Cup.
- 1 History
- 2 Development Team Status
- 3 Galway Sportsground
- 4 Connacht Eagles
- 5 Crest & Colours
- 6 Current standings
- 7 Representative Senior Clubs
- 8 Provincial Honours
- 9 Season records
- 10 Coaches in Professional Era
- 11 Current squad
- 12 Notable players
- 13 Club & Schools Competitions
- 14 See also
- 15 References
- 16 External links
- 17 Sources
The Connacht Branch of the IRFU, as well as the provincial team, was founded in 1885. The team was formed to compete with Leinster, Munster and Ulster, whose teams had been formed ten years earlier in 1875. The province is currently made up of 4 All-Ireland League clubs, 20 'junior' clubs and 4 'mini' rugby clubs.
Connacht was the first ever Irish provincial team to win in France and England in 1997. Connacht were quarter-finalists in the European Challenge Cup in 1997–98. In the next four Challenge Cups, however, Connacht failed to make it out of the pool stages. In 2001, a new competition called the Celtic League was created to serve as a domestic league for Irish, Scottish and Welsh clubs. Connacht made it to the quarter-finals of the inaugural season. They were beaten by Scotland's Glasgow Warriors by a score of 29-34. In 2002-03 the team again reached the quarters. This time, however, they were beaten by a much greater margin, by Irish rivals Munster, with the final score being 33-3. Meanwhile in the 2002-03 European Challenge Cup, they reached the quarter-finals, being knocked out by a margin of 8 points over two legs, against Welsh team Pontypridd.
The IRFU proposed shutting down Connacht Rugby as a professional team in 2003 to cut costs, in light of the IRFU's annual deficit of €4 million. This was averted when a public protest with 2,000 fans marching on the IRFU headquarters in Dublin, coupled with the possibility of a strike by the Irish Rugby Union Players Association, forced the IRFU to reverse course and maintain Connacht Rugby.
The 2003–04 season was the most successful in the province's history in European competition. Connacht reached the semifinals of the European Challenge Cup. They came within touching distance of the final, but a try from the Harlequins centre Will Greenwood, 12 minutes from time in the second leg of their semi-final, denied them a place in the final. Connacht also got to the semi-final of the Celtic Cup. The following season Connacht continued their European form in the 2004-05 European Challenge Cup, reaching the semi-finals again. Again, they were knocked out over two legs by the eventual winners, Sale Sharks.
Until the 2005–06 season, the IRFU automatically entered Connacht in the European Challenge Cup each year rather than the more prestigious Heineken Cup, regardless of its result in the Celtic League (now Pro12). Starting with the 2004–05 season, the IRFU agreed to use the Celtic League table as its sole criterion for determining which Irish teams would enter the next season's Heineken Cup. In that season, Connacht finished last among the competition's four Irish sides, which placed them in the 2005–06 European Challenge Cup. Connacht have finished bottom of the four Irish sides each season since 2004-05, meaning the team played in the European Challenge Cup every season from then, through to the 2010–11 competition.
Connacht made their first-ever Heineken Cup appearance in 2011–12, thanks to Leinster winning the 2011 Heineken Cup Final. By competition rules introduced in the 2010-11 season, the winners of both the Heineken Cup and the European Challenge Cup receive an automatic berth in the following year's Heineken Cup, which passes to another team from that country if the winner is already qualified by domestic performance. As Leinster were qualified through the 2010-11 Celtic League, Connacht claimed the extra berth. Connacht's entry into the Heineken Cup led to a significant increase in the club's popularity. In summer 2011, the supporters club the Connacht Clan was formed. In September 2011, Connacht season ticket sales went over the 3,000 mark for the first time in the club's history, and average attendance for the 2011-12 season saw a 105% increase over the previous season. They made a return trip to the Heineken Cup for 2012–13 because Leinster, which had secured qualification through the 2011–12 Pro 12, won the 2012 Heineken Cup Final. Connacht's average attendance in home Pro12 matches climbed to 4,653 in the 2011-12 season, and increased further to 5,154 for the 2012-13 season. Connacht qualified for Heineken Cup in 2012–13 and 2013–14, because of Leinster's victories in the 2011-12 Heineken Cup and the 2012–13 European Challenge Cup, respectively.
Development Team Status
The IRFU originally designated Connacht as a development team, which meant that it received only half the budget of the other Irish provincial teams. In 2003, the IRFU discussed whether Connacht should be closed down as a means of cost saving, as happened to the Scottish team Caledonia Reds in 1998, the Welsh region Celtic Warriors in 2004, and in 2007, another of Scotland's teams, Border Reivers.
Despite no longer being classed as a development team, having a smaller playing population than the other provinces means that larger proportion of Connacht's players are recruited from around the rest of Ireland. These are usually other province's fringe players or youth team members struggling to break into their team's senior squad. Growth in the number of young players from Connacht progressing from the academy into the senior squad has lessened the reliance on these sorts of transfers, somewhat. 2012-13 squad members Tiernan O'Halloran, Dennis Buckley, Eoin McKeon, Robbie Henshaw and Eoin Griffin are examples of Connacht players native to the province, born in or after 1990.
Players who are developed by Connacht are prone to being recruited by the other Irish provinces and clubs outside Ireland. For example, the club lost four important first team players in 2011 alone, with the team's out-half, Ian Keatley's move to Munster, along with the transfers of hooker Sean Cronin, tighthead prop Jamie Hagan and winger Fionn Carr to Leinster (though Carr later returned in 2013). After the loss of Irish international lock Mike McCarthy, again to Leinster, was announced in 2012, Connacht's chief executive Tom Sears accused Leinster of trying to 'poach' Connacht players, arguing it was not in the best interests of Irish rugby.
The historical home of Connacht Rugby since the late 1920s, the Galway Sportsground, often known simply as "the Sportsground", is known as a spartan and inhospitable venue for visiting teams, especially in winter. The ground is owned by "The Galway Agricultural & Sports Society Ltd." who lease it to both Connacht Rugby and the Irish Greyhound Board. Due primarily to the issue of ownership, the development of the Sportsground has lagged behind the home grounds of the other Irish provinces, who with the backing of the IRFU, have moved ahead with major developments completed on Thomond Park in 2008 and Ravenenhill in 2009, with further refurbishment planned for the RDS. These developments leave Connacht further behind the other provinces, as their rivals look to benefit financially from the increased revenue streams.
Connacht Rugby participated in the Heineken Cup in 2011-2012, which spurred a new phase of development at the Sportsground, with the aim of increasing capacity to 7,500 supporters. The Clubhouse Terrace was knocked down to be replaced by covered terrace called "the Clan Terrace". This terrace is primarily to house season ticket holders and Supporters Club members. This is the first stage of development on the Clubhouse side of the ground, as the Clan Terrace is scheduled to be replaced itself when funds to do so are in place. There is also ancillary work being undertaken behind the terrace which will see the construction of a bar, food outlets and restroom facilities on the Clubhouse side of the ground.
The second part of the development will be the erection of a covered, seated "West Stand", adjacent to the existing main stand. This stand will cater for over 300 supporters. The new West Stand, along with the developments on the new Clan side, are anticipated to improve facilities within the Sportsground.
Connacht Eagles (formerly Connacht A) is the team that represents Connacht in the British & Irish Cup and in the All Ireland Inter-provincial Championship. Pre-professionalism and a formal Celtic league structure, the main Connacht team competed in the AIPC. Since the advent of professionalism the provinces have fielded lesser teams in order to concentrate on the Celtic League/Pro12. The team is composed of Senior Connacht squad players requiring gametime, Academy players and AIL players called up from their clubs.
Crest & Colours
The eagle and sword arm crest featured in the Connacht Rugby crest is taken from the flag of the province. These arms are said to have been granted to Ruaidrí Ua Conchobair, King of Connacht, by the Schottenkloster, or Irish monastery, founded in Regensburg, Bavaria in the 11th century.
The current kit consists of a green shirt with black trimming, black shorts and black socks with green trimming. The away kit is white, green and blue. The traditional colours of the Connacht province and flag are blue, black and white with no green present; the reasons for its presence on the Connacht Rugby kit are unknown. However the Green jersey has been associated with the Connacht Rugby senior provincial rugby team for well over fifty years.[when?]
The current official Connacht team and support staff kit supplier is Australian manufacturer BLK sport, who announced a comprehensive four-year agreement to supply the full range of apparel for all of Connacht Rugby’s representative teams and support staff in 2013.
|Club||Played||Won||Drawn||Lost||Points For||Points Against||Points Difference||Tries For||Tries Against||Try Bonus||Losing Bonus||Points|
|7||Newport Gwent Dragons||9||4||0||5||163||159||+4||12||13||0||3||19|
If teams are level at any stage, tiebreakers are applied in the following order:
|Green background (rows 1 to 4) are play-off places. Qualification for the Heineken Cup is based on each country's allocation, i.e. three highest–ranked Irish teams, three highest–ranked Welsh teams, both Italian teams and both Scottish teams. Updated 30 November 2013. Source: RaboDirect PRO12|
Representative Senior Clubs
Division 2a: Galwegians RFC
Celtic League/Pro12 History
|2001–02||2nd (Pool B)||6||4||0||2||152||97||55||n/a||12|
|Quarter-final||Connacht 29 – 34 Glasgow|
|2002–03||4th (Pool B)||7||5||0||2||126||176||-50||0||20|
|Quarter-final||Munster 33 – 3 Connacht|
|2003–04 Celtic Cup||1st Round||Borders 21 – 26 Connacht|
|Quarter-final||Scarlets 12 – 14 Connacht|
|Semi-final||Connacht 25 – 26 Edinburgh|
European Challenge Cup and Heineken Cup
|Quarter-final||Agen 40 – 27 Connacht|
|2002–03||Round 1||Mont de Marsan 12 – 26 Connacht|
|Connacht 47 – 29 Mont de Marsan|
|Round 2||Narbonne 42 – 27 Connacht|
|Connacht 23 – 7 Narbonne|
|Quarter-final||Connacht 30 – 35 Pontypridd|
|Pontypridd 12 – 9 Connacht|
|2003–04||Round 1||Béziers 10 – 18 Connacht|
|Connacht 11 – 13 Béziers|
|Round 2||Connacht 29 – 7 Pau|
|Pau 10 – 6 Connacht|
|Quarter-final||Narbonne 18 – 27 Connacht|
|Connacht 16 – 10 Narbonne|
|Semi-final||Harlequins 31 – 22 Connacht|
|Connacht 23 – 18 Harlequins|
|2004–05||Round 1||Narbonne 25 – 11 Connacht|
|Connacht 40 – 21 Narbonne|
|Round 2||Connacht 56 – 3 Montpellier|
|Montpellier 19 – 14 Connacht|
|Quarter-final||Grenoble 21 – 26 Connacht|
|Connacht 19 – 3 Grenoble|
|Semi-final||Connacht 18 – 25 Sale Sharks|
|Sale Sharks 59 – 9 Connacht|
|Quarter-final||Newcastle Falcons 23 – 3 Connacht|
|Quarter-final||Northampton Saints 42 – 13 Connacht|
|Quarter-final||Connacht 23 – 20 Bourgoin|
|Semi-final||Connacht 12 – 19 Toulon|
Coaches in Professional Era
Coaching and Management Team 2013/14
|Head Coach||Pat Lam||New Zealand|
|Assistant Coach||Pat McFarland||Ireland|
|Skills Coach||Dave Ellis||New Zealand|
|Team Manager||Tim Allnut||New Zealand|
Eagles Head Coach
|Resource Coach(es)||Cory Browne
| New Zealand
|Head of Strength and
|Performance Analyst||Conor McPhillips||Ireland|
|Head Physio||Gavin Malouf||Australia|
Senior Playing Squad 2013/14 Season
- Players qualified to play for Ireland on dual nationality or residency grounds*.
- Senior 15's internationally capped players in bold.
Academy Squad 2013/14
Note: Flags indicate national union as has been defined under IRB eligibility rules. Players may hold more than one non-IRB nationality.
Players In Season 2013/14
Players Out Season 2013/14
See also Category:Connacht Rugby players
The following Connacht players have represented Ireland at full international level.
British and Irish Lions
(c) Tour Captain
- Warwick Waugh
- Robbie Morris
- Henry Fa'afili
- Ray Ofisa
- James So'oialo
- Ofisa Treviranus
- Gavin Williams
- Dan Parks
- Eric Peters
- Fetu'u Vainikolo
Club & Schools Competitions
- "Clubs". Connacht Rugby. Retrieved 30 October 2013.
- "Play-Off History". RaboDirect Pro12. Retrieved 26 October 2013.
- "Connacht fans in IRFU protest". BBC Sport. 24 January 2003.
- "Designing the future of Connacht Rugby". The Roar. 31 March 2010.
- "Connacht handed Heineken Cup place". ESPN Scrum. 22 May 2011. Retrieved 24 May 2011.
- "Connacht Rugby, Connacht Clan March". 5 September 2011.
- "ERC, Connacht season ticket sales over 3,000 mark". 19 September 2011.
- "19 September 2011".
- "Connacht Rugby looking forward 2012/2013 season". Sports News Ireland. 19 June 2012.
- "3 provinces see Pro12 attendance increases but Munster in decline". The Score. 23 April 2013.
- "Sad demise of the Celtic Warriors". Munster Rugby. 4 June 2004.
- "Border Reivers to be shut down". RTE Sport. 14 June 2007.
- "Connacht recruits eight youngsters for its academy". Mayo Advertiser. 14 June 2013.
- "Heffernan and Qualter Graduate To Connacht Senior Sqaud". Irish Rugby. 15 March 2013.
- "Munster confirm Ian Keatley signing and secure future of eleven players". JOE.ie.
- "Sean Cronin signs two year deal with Leinster". Leinster Rugby. 24 January 2011.
- "Leinster announce hat-trick of signings". Sport News. 28 March 2011.
- "Browne And Carr On Their Way To Leinster". Irish Rugby. 4 May 2011.
- "Fionn Carr returning to Connacht in the summer". Setanta Sports. 21 January 2013.
- "Mike McCarthy to leave Connacht for Leinster". RTÉ News. 12 December 2012.
- "Connacht fury as Blues sign McCarthy". The Irish Examiner. 13 December 2012.
- "Connacht Excited About Redeveloped Sportsground". Irish Rugby. 13 July 2011.
- "B&I Cup set to arrive in Connacht". Connacht Rugby. 11 May 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
- "Two from two for the Eagles". Connacht Rugby. 20 September 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
- "The British & Irish Cup will provide some great opportunities for a lot of the academy members to play with the Connacht Eagles.""Connacht Eagles welcome Munster A's to the Sportsground". Connacht Rugby. 22 August 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
- "due to a lot of our development players on duty in Glasgow this weekend we have tapped into the talent pool of the Club game for tomorrow’s match.""Connacht Eagles to take on Munster A in Limerick". Connacht Rugby. 19 September 2012. Retrieved 10 October 2012.
- Heraldry in Ireland, The National Library of Ireland
- "Connacht strike new deal with Australian kit suppliers". Galway Advertiser. 20 June 2013.
- "Connacht seal lucrative Mazda deal". Irish Independent. 3 August 2011.
- Competition Rule 3.5 "Summary of Key Rules". Pro 12. Retrieved 13 November 2013.
- IRFU - All Ireland League Tables http://www.irishrugby.ie/ulsterbankleague/tables.php
- Stephy Nel replacing outgoing Glenn Ross at Connacht http://www.espn.co.uk/scrum/rugby/story/31593.html
- "Reynecke word 'n Cheetah". SupaRugby (in Afrikaans). 20 June 2013. Retrieved 20 June 2013.
- "Willie bly ’n Cheetah". Beeld (in Afrikaans). Media24. 7 July 2013. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
- "Heyneke sal Lappies, Siya in Kaap dophou". Die Burger (in Afrikaans). Media24. 25 June 2013. Retrieved 20 July 2013.
- "James So'oailo released by Connacht on compassionate grounds". Irish Independent. 26 October 2013.
- The Ireland Rugby Miscellany (2007): Ciaran Cronin
- Official Site
- ConnachtClan - Official Supporters Site
- ConnachtFans - Unofficial Supporters Site
- KnockOn.ie: Coverage Of All Levels Of Rugby In Connacht
- Connacht information and stat on ItsRugby.co.uk
- ercrugby Profile
- Various information is taken from "Rugby in Connacht" written by Galway sports journalist Ralph O'Gorman and published by Kenny's Bookshop, Galway.
- IRFU Annual Report 2007-2008
- IRFU Annual Report 2006-2007
- IRFU Annual Report 2005-2006
- IRFU Annual Report 2004-2005