Saturday 1 October 2016

Irish derbies hold key to success

John Fallon

Published 11/03/2016 | 02:30

Ultan Dillane, here at Ireland training during the week, will be hoping to return injury-free and aid Connacht’s push for the PRO12 play-offs. Photo: Sportsfile
Ultan Dillane, here at Ireland training during the week, will be hoping to return injury-free and aid Connacht’s push for the PRO12 play-offs. Photo: Sportsfile

It's easy to understand the wave of optimism among Connacht supporters which is accompanying their best ever season, as Pat Lam's men go for glory on two fronts.

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Connacht have never led the way at this juncture of a season, with new records being set nearly every week.

The primary task of making the Champions Cup is all but achieved but there is still a fair amount of work to be done if a first semi-final spot in the Pro12 is to be nailed.

And with three Irish derbies coming up in the next three games, a glance at the results against Leinster, Ulster and Munster in the professional era makes for sobering viewing.

The games at home to Leinster, away to Ulster and then home to Munster will probably decide Connacht's fate, and they will need to reverse the history of results.

Connacht have played a total of 77 games against the three Irish provinces in the league. So far there have been just 12 victories, two draws and 63 losses.

Leinster will be first up at the Sportsground. There have been 26 league games between them, with six Connacht wins and 20 losses. Five of the wins have been at the Sportsground, with seven home losses and one away win in Donnybrook.

Ulster away will present another one of those huge barriers which Connacht have been knocking down with regularity this season. Connacht have never won in 12 visits to Belfast in the professional era. Indeed you have to go back to 1960 for their last win there.

The overall record is 21 wins for Ulster, three for Connacht and one draw.

The third derby will be an opportunity to complete a first season double over Munster, having won 18-12 in Thomond Park in November.

The sides have met 26 times with three wins for Connacht, 22 for Munster and one draw.

It's been the most memorable season ever for Connacht but there is still ground to be covered and the importance of the three Irish derbies could not be more obvious in the quest for glory, but then again, Lam's men have been reversing trends throughout the campaign.

Irish Independent

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