Monday 24 October 2016

Buckley wants Belfast history as Westerners bid to end wait

John Fallon

Published 01/04/2016 | 02:30

Denis Buckley (Photo: Seb Daly/ Sportsfile)
Denis Buckley (Photo: Seb Daly/ Sportsfile)

Denis Buckley was the only one of the eight props on duty in Connacht's gripping 7-6 win over Leinster not to be capped by Ireland, but he produced the sort of stunning display which has been the hallmark of their superb season.

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Now Buckley believes they can demolished another big barrier this evening and win in Belfast for the first time in the professional era. Connacht have not won at the Ravenhill venue since a 6-3 win in the inter-pro series in November 1960.

But having won in Liberty Stadium in Swansea for the first time this season and also securing a maiden victory in the professional era in Thomond Park, Buckley believes such incentives are perfect for this Connacht team.

"The great thing about the Ulster game is we have never won up there so a lot of lads want to go up there and win," he said.

"It's something Connacht's never done so it's a great opportunity for us to go and break another record. We definitely want to win it."

Connacht are within touching distance of a first Pro12 semi-final spot, while next week they will carry the Irish flag in Europe when they travel to France to take on Grenoble in the quarter-finals of the Challenge Cup.


Buckley, now in his fifth season at the Sportsground, said that it has been a superb season but that the progress they have made is "down to the sheer effort put in over a long period".

"It's huge but it just goes back to the hard work we've put in starting in pre-season. At the end of the day we just did our job and we performed to a level we know we can perform," the Roscommon native said.

"Now it's time to look forward to another huge game. Look, in the changing room after the Leinster win everyone was delighted but I think the point we're trying to get across to each other and probably to the outside as well is that it's a win and it's a great win but nothing is done yet."

Connacht's Irish-born USA international AJ MacGinty has been hailed as "by far the best fly-half in the Pro12" by Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond after he signed for the Manchester club yesterday.

The Blackrock College product will link up with the Premiership outfit next season as a replacement for Danny Cipriani after a season at the Sportsground. Connacht have recruited Springbok No 10 Marnitz Boshoff for the 2016/'17 campaign, meaning MacGinty's departure was always likely.

Meanwhile, Sene Naoupu has returned to the Ireland Sevens squad for the Atlanta Sevens after her Six Nations campaign.

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