Pro 12 Season Preview – Connacht
Connacht. The forgotten province, yet one I have a great deal of respect for. Often seemingly on the end of a very shoddy deal from the IRFU this team certainly can punch above its weight, although never consistently enough to launch a proper assault on the league.
This team often seem to be given the 3rd rate players for the other provinces, get them up the required standard, only to see the other provinces swoop in and reclaim them. Building any sort of consistent squad for years at a time never seems to happen for this team, and until it does I can’t see them improving any large amount, or at least not until further serious time, work, effort and funding goes into their academy system.
Connacht are the infamous underdogs, popular amongst other fans but for their fans they must be longing for the day when they are everyone’s hated team. For me, they’ve already built themselves up into a side that is beyond awkward to play and very difficult to break down, especially at the Sportsground. Few sides can go there with the confidence that they will come away with a win.
What Connacht needs to do is to keep building from the grass roots up, and keep believing that one day they will be given equal status with the other provinces. Having brought in players such as Dan Parks should hopefully give them at least a consistent point scoring option that means they can remain competitive.
Connacht have a spirit and an ethos, summed up in their words ‘Front up Rise up’ that gives them the determination to succeed. They might not be quite ready for it yet, but I’ve no doubt if they keep building as they are they will one day be able to properly challenge in the Pro 12.
Year on year this league gets more and more competitive as sides get harder to beat. No team will look to a match against Connacht with relish but I feel that their most realistic aims will be to finish at the top of the lower half of the league, amongst the battle with the likes of Treviso, Dragons, Edinburgh and the newly formed club Zebra.
One thing Connacht will always garner though is respect. Their support base is growing year on year and much of this must be down to the improvements being made on and off the pitch. You can only hope that Connacht keeps on moving on its upward curve but from what I’ve seen in recent seasons, this shouldn’t be a problem for them.