Connacht’s battling Magners League win over Glasgow Warriors has given the province’s players plenty of encouragement ahead of tomorrow’s crucial European Challenge Cup clash with Newcastle Falcons (The Sportsground, kick-off 6.30pm).
Connacht’s 10-6 defeat of Glasgow last Friday was particularly timely as it lifted them off the bottom of the Magners League table and gave them a considerable boost heading into back-to-back European encounters with Newcastle.
Speaking at Monday’s press conference, the westerners’ captain Andrew Farley said that the squad were concentrating on themselves rather than worrying about a Falcons side that contains All Black prop Carl Hayman and England World Cup star Jonny Wilkinson.
“We have matured as a team and don’t look at any opposition with awe. We will concentrate on our own task. We have ground to make up having lost away to Brive so these two games with Newcastle will be decisive,” Farley admitted.
Connacht full-back Gavin Duffy, a Challenge Cup winner with Harlequins in 2004, paid tribute this week to the supporters that turned out for the province’s weather-hit game against Glasgow.
Writing in his Mayo News column, the Ireland international said: “It would be unforgivable not to mention the level of support we received on Friday night. In atrocious conditions, nearly 1,200 turned out and although that was only a third of what turned out the previous Friday on a dry night against Ulster, they made twice the amount of noise. All involved truly appreciated it.”
Duffy conceded that victory “had seldom tasted so sweet” when the hosts hung on to beat the Scots, adding that although Hayman and Wilkinson will be “the star attractions” tomorrow night, the English visitors are certain to face a fired up Connacht side.
The Ballina man concluded: “Are we underdogs? Yes. Are we up for it? As always!”
Meanwhile, Connacht CEO Gerry Kelly has confirmed that work is going to begin after Christmas on two projects at the Sportsground.
A roof is going to built over the terrace on the Branch headquarters’ side of the ground, while construction on a new sports hall, incorporating a state of the art gym, is also due to get underway. Kelly said the new gym will be ready in time for pre-season training next summer.