Friday 28 October 2016

Pat Lam: This is Connacht's chance, let's finish with no regrets

Published 27/05/2016 | 02:30

Aly Muldowney goes through his paces during the Connacht squad training session in Galway (SPORTSFILE)
Aly Muldowney goes through his paces during the Connacht squad training session in Galway (SPORTSFILE)

Being here in Edinburgh the day before Connacht Rugby's first ever final, I feel very privileged to be a part of this journey - one that has been growing for a long time now.

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This season has been hugely successful on the field and there are plenty of special memories from the campaign to date.

The way we handled the challenging trip to Siberia in Russia, our first win away to Munster in over 29 years and a first win away to Ospreys at Liberty Stadium.

Winning three inter-pros this season - our most in one season - as well as our record at home in front of huge crowds are just some of the highlights.

We broke our own records with 20 overall wins this season, including 15 in the Pro12, and our highest ever points and tries scored.

All of this meant that not only did we achieve our ultimate goal of Champions Cup rugby for next season, we finished level on points at the top of the league table, we had a quarter-final in Europe and now we head into the biggest game in the club's history with a genuine chance of being the first Connacht team in 131 years to win silverware.

It's been the culmination of a lot of hard work behind the scenes and we believe that this is not the end of the journey, just the continuation of the vision we have for the province.

Beating the defending champions Glasgow Warriors back-to-back was a huge achievement and ensured we booked our place in tomorrow's final. I've spoken a lot about the incredible support from around the province and the atmosphere at the Sportsground but last Saturday was up there with one of the best myself and most of the boys have ever experienced.

There is no doubt that it was that support that got us there in the end and ensured that, despite being down to 14 men, our boys got up time and time again to put in the tackles and prevented Glasgow from getting through.

What we all loved most about the celebrations was that when we were surrounded by everyone at the end of the game, we easily recognised so many of them. Friends, family, and neighbours were there and that's what the West of Ireland is about. Our community.


Tomorrow, it doesn't get any easier when we face Leinster in the final. It is the ultimate final for us, in the sense if you pick one team that we'd say would be the toughest challenge, it's Leinster. They have players with so much experience of knockout rugby and have won this Pro12 trophy four times already.

They set the benchmark if you want to test yourself against the best. We talk to the boys constantly about their rugby education and playing at that highest level and here's a chance to test ourselves as a team against one of the best in Europe over the last ten years.

It's a huge challenge but that's what makes it exciting, because we say: 'Right, that's what the level is, that's where we need to be at'.

It's all set up to be a great game at Murrayfield with a team that like to attack versus a quality defensive team. The weather forecast is good, but the biggest thing is around making sure that you make the most of the day. We can't come off with any regrets so we will be channelling all the emotion into our performance.

It's a great occasion, and we've enjoyed the week's build-up. There have been so many wishes of support and a lot of excitement around the province but as a squad, we kept everything the same in terms of our preparation.

The only difference was that we came out to Edinburgh on Thursday to get settled in before a big day on Friday of captain's run and media duties. It's a city and a stadium that we're used to but I've a feeling there'll be a lot more people at Murrayfield tomorrow than we normally have.

The stories of how supporters are getting to Edinburgh are fantastic. Trains, planes, buses or camper vans, they are finding a way to get over and make their voice heard and we're blown away by that.

If we can go on to win the Guinness Pro12 tomorrow, there is no doubting the massive effect it will have on rugby in the province of Connacht.

We are so aware of all the people we represent and we are determined to go out there tomorrow and give it everything we have.

No regrets; this is it.

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