Mayo celebrates Connacht’s great win
Posted in Connect on May 31, 2016.
Connacht captain John Muldoon said he will never forget the welcome afforded to them when they arrived back in Ireland West Airport in Knock with the Pro12 trophy in the early hours of Sunday morning.
Over 2,000 delighted fans were at the airport to greet the victorious squad when they touched down before 1am on their charter flight from Edinburgh.
The captain and his coach Pat Lam displayed the gleaming trophy which they had won just hours earlier at the home of Scottish rugby at Murrayfield when they brushed favourites Leinster aside by 20-10 to claim Connacht’s first cup in their 131-year history.
The chairman of Mayo County Council, Cllr Michael Holmes, and the managing director of the airport Joe Gilmore, welcomed the victorious squad home, with John Muldoon and Pat Lam praising the supporters for turning out in such numbers.
“It was a special night. Earlier that evening 2,000 people had participated in our charity runway run and then for so many people to come and welcome the team home was superb,” said Donal Healy, head of marketing at the airport.
“And the Connacht players, management and officers were superb as well and spent a lot of time with the fans.”
Bonfires blazed as the team bus was given a garda escort all the way to Galway and even a newly married couple left their wedding celebration at the Claregalway Hotel to greet the victorious squad.
Thousands attended an open-top bus tour of Galway city on Sunday afternoon which culminated with each of the squad being introduced to the supporters at the Sportsground.
“It’s a fantastic time for rugby in Connacht,” said the president of the Connacht branch, Ballina’s Gerry O’Donnell. “We have waited a long day for this and fair play to all involved for achieving it.”
Another Ballina man, former Connacht player Willie Ruane, has been chief executive of Connacht for the past two years.
Indeed, there is a strong Ballina representation in the win with Dave Heffernan seeing out the win after coming on for hooker Tom McCartney in the second half of the final.
Another former player from Ballina, ex-Irish international Gavin Duffy, now heads up the commercial office with Connacht having enjoyed two stints playing for the province.
And other areas of Mayo are represented on the playing front with Westport’s Jamie Dever and Pat O’Toole from Louisburgh in the Connacht academy and will be hoping to make the breakthrough into the senior side in the coming seasons.
It is expected that the Pro12 trophy will be taken on a tour of schools and clubs in Mayo and the other counties in the coming weeks and months as Connacht finally celebrate their first ever trophy.
Now the focus will switch to the future and chief executive Willie Ruane is confident that there are bright days ahead for the sport in the province.
“We recently launched our strategic plan for the next few years so we need to build on the success of this season,” he said.
IMAGE: WE ARE THE CHAMPIONS Connacht players including Finlay Bealham, Aly Muldowney, Ronan Loughney (whose parents are from Kilfian and Lahardane), captain John Muldoon, Andrew Browne, and Clifden’s own Tiernan O’Halloran, celebrate on the team bus as it makes its way to The Sportsground during the Connacht rugby homecoming after their Guinness Pro12 League Final victory. ?Pic: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
News Story Sourced: The Mayo News