The Ba­sics

Rugby World - - WELCOME TO MY CLUB -

S THE two-man band in the Con­nacht hos­pi­tal­ity mar­quee wraps up an­other tune, fan Carol McKeon tries to ex­plain a trans­for­ma­tion of sorts. “It’s won­der­ful,” she says, part won­der­ing what more needs to be said, be­fore con­tin­u­ing. “I’ve been sup­port­ing rugby since I was a teenager and we’ve been up here since Eoin was five. I’ve seen the whole pro­gres­sion. It’s been fan­tas­tic, it’s just a great story the whole way.”

Be­side her, son Eoin – a back-rower for the Ir­ish prov­ince – looks on with a glint of mis­chief in his eye as his mam faces the jour­nal­is­tic ques­tions for once.

Un­daunted, she adds mis­chief of her own: “The change has been huge. For starters we’ve got thou­sands up here now – we had ten back in the day!”

This is Gal­way, on a day when Ital­ian vis­i­tors Ze­bre not only have to face the might of Con­nacht but Mother Na­ture as well. Out­side it’s not so much driv­ing rain as joy-rid­ing rain; that an­noy­ing, un­pre­dictable, con­stant spray.

You re­mem­ber the hal­cyon days of 2016, when Con­nacht won their first ever ma­jor tro­phy, slam­ming Le­in­ster at Mur­ray­field to take the then Pro12 ti­tle? Of course you do, it was a mag­nif­i­cent, mad­cap, fun-packed sea­son when Pat Lam and his boys did the busi­ness.

In 2017, af­ter a so-so sea­son, Lam left for Bris­tol. He was re­placed by Kiwi Kieran Keane, who over­saw a slight de­cline be­fore jump­ing ship too.

How­ever, if you are just go­ing to pot his­tory, you ig­nore some of the roots.

“You could go on all day about what it’s been like when we weren’t do­ing well, what it’s been like when we were,” Eoin McKeon says as his mam gen­tly sways to the open­ing bars of Paul Si­mon’s Me andJulioDownBytheS­chool­yard.

“I think some peo­ple com­pare it coach to coach. A coach brings in a cul­ture and a way of do­ing things, then ev­ery­thing in the or­gan­i­sa­tion changes. That’s the big­gest evo­lu­tion the club has had.

“Some coaches come in and do re­ally well and some have come in and not.


Team colours


Great­est player

Talk­ing to the op­po­si­tion With Ze­bre’s Carlo Canna Trav­el­ling fans Kids from Genoa

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