Wednesday 26 July 2017

Go green and gather together for massive day

Pat Lam speaks to his players during training ahead of their game against Glasgow. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Pat Lam speaks to his players during training ahead of their game against Glasgow. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile

Pat Lam

Walking down the streets of Galway this week, there is a sea of green everywhere and you can really sense the anticipation ahead of tomorrow's game. There are flags going up everywhere, jerseys everywhere, everyone's going green and it's fantastic. The fans know they've been part of this journey the whole way through so we've been so pleased to get a home semi-final because it is a magical place here.

While everyone won't be able to get to the game, our message to our supporters all around the province and country is to 'Go Green' and enjoy the occasion. I know of a lot of people planning a BBQ and get-togethers with friends and family to watch the game at home. It's fantastic to have that support behind us and we really appreciate it, no matter where it's coming from.

Weather-wise, we'd love to have a dry track against Glasgow so that two teams, who both play an attacking brand of rugby, could have a real crack. But at the same time, we are confident that we have the game-plan in place to deal with any conditions.

We saw that here two weeks ago against the same opposition when we dug in deep to get that winning result. But there is no doubt tomorrow will be a different challenge. Glasgow will be coming here all guns blazing and determined to secure their place in a final at home in Scotland.

It is knockout rugby now and we only get one shot at it so we will give it absolutely everything. We have to fire shots as well. There's no point in playing these games safely. We've got to have something up our sleeves as well to put pressure on a quality side like Glasgow who have plenty of experience of semi-finals and finals.

We have a lot of players who have never played at this level before but I'm confident that they've done everything in terms of their preparation to put us in a good position going into the game.

We had a good week and the boys came in focused and refreshed after some deserved time off. The way we decided to look at this period, once we knew we had qualified in the top four, was almost like a new mini-season. We now have a one in four chance to win the competition outright and that's a massive achievement.

Highlights

So while our process during the week and leading up to the game hasn't changed, we are aware of the outcome and what's at stake and that just meant the boys brought an extra edge to everything we did this week.

There's no doubt we've achieved so much in what we've done already this season. To be in this situation highlights that the only way we've got a chance to win is to compete as if it's another week. While it's the biggest game in our history and one we're all very excited about, the main thing is that we're focused on how we go about winning the game.

While the players had their down-day on Wednesday, myself and the other senior management in Connacht Rugby were in Dublin to launch our Vision & Strategy for the next four years.

It's something that Willie Ruane, our CEO, has been working hard on for the past 12 months and we've all been involved in the process from the start. Over a year ago we came together the entire organisation of staff and players for a really enjoyable workshop where we discussed what representing Connacht meant to all of us. That helped form the values that we now align ourselves to and that have become known as the 'Connacht Way'.

It's fantastic to be working as a coach in an organisation that is so aligned across all departments and to now have that road map in place to direct us all towards the vision.

We all have a job to do and mine is to head up the professional team but outside of that we are very passionate about Connacht Rugby as a whole and that is so much more than just the professional team.

The vision of Grassroots to Green Shirts is one that we all have huge belief in. It's about providing a genuine pathway for young players in Connacht to be able to realise their rugby dreams from the minis game right through to the green shirts of Connacht and the green shirts of Ireland.

And we all have a massive role to play in that. So it was great to be representing the province alongside Willie our CEO, Eric Elwood and Nigel Carolan at the launch this week in the Aviva Stadium - the culmination of Grassroots to Green Shirts.

Irish Independent

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