A fly-on-the-wall look at all the goings on behind the scenes at Connacht rugby club last season as they enjoy one of the best campaigns in their history. eir sport 1, Fri, Nov 8th 10pm
Things are on the up west of the Shannon. There’s a palpable buzz around Galway on match days, a real sense of pride that Connacht, so long the underdog, are now supping at the top table with the giants of the game.
There was a time when a trip to watch Connacht in Galway was like a trip into the wilderness, in rugby terms at least. They didn’t quite have it together the way the big city boys in Dublin, Limerick and Belfast did. They would battle gamely but ultimately fall short. They would be commended for their efforts, almost patronisingly. Always the bridesmaid…..
But not anymore. If there was ever any doubt, rest assured, Galway is a rugby city through and through. Just take a trip down to The Sportsground on a match night and listen to the roar when the men in green take the pitch. You can feel the pride and the passion. These guys mean business.
The turning point was probably 2016 when Connacht defied the odds to win the PRO12 title with a memorable 20-10 victory over Leinster in Murrayfield. Led by the legendary John Muldoon, they were a breath of fresh air for fans all over the country as they swept the old order aside with a superb brand of open rugby to deservedly claim the title.
The club has gone from strength to strength since then. Building on the success of 2016, it has been firmly in the mix for a place in the knock-out stages of the PRO14 and has reached the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup in four of the last five seasons.
But it isn’t just on the field where the revolution is happening. There is plenty going on off it too, with an investment of €30m earmarked over five years to ensure the club’s sustainability at all levels. Part of this investment will see the famous Sportsground venue revamped with capacity significantly expanded to a very healthy 12,000. Spectator and training facilities will also be upgraded, turning The Sportsground into a state-of-the-art venue befitting a top tier rugby club.
Grassroots to Green Shirts is an access-all-areas look at the workings of Connacht rugby club through the 2018-19 campaign. Any doubts regarding the desire and ambition of the club’s management and squad will be dispelled after watching this as we follow players, staff and fans alike as they prepare for a series of big matches as the season builds to an exciting climax.
Already a legend in the City of the Tribes less than two years since taking on the job, we see head coach Andy Friend and his backroom staff as they put the squad through their paces on the training pitch and in the gym. Nothing is spared. You cannot survive at this level unless you are prepared to give everything.
It’s an emotional experience and a fascinating insight into the dedication required of elite athletes in their quest for glory.
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