Westport welcome has us ready for next test
Published 18/03/2016 | 02:30
At this stage of the season, it's a good idea to come together as a squad, take stock of what we've done and refocus ahead of a massive run-in.
In that regard, our two-day camp in Westport couldn't have been more beneficial for everyone involved.
Over the years, we've been very lucky to have been to some great places but it never fails to amaze me the incredible hospitality on show around our province.
Maria and Darren at the Clew Bay Hotel couldn't have done more for us and were so welcoming to every one of us. It's a great hotel in the centre of the town and they had bikes organised for all the players so they could cycle to and from training at Rice College.
This was a great bonus given the weather we had there both days.
As well as the training sessions on the great new pitch at Rice College, the boys had some big gym and swim sessions at the nearby Westport Leisure Park so we were really happy with the work that went in from everyone as we prepare for Leinster next week.
With so much time together, it wasn't all work and the boys had a brilliant time sampling some of the activities on offer around scenic Westport.
Two groups got nine holes out on the championship course at Westport Golf Club which they really enjoyed.
Then there was a group that were taken out fishing around the bay. They didn't catch any fish by all accounts but enjoyed the sunset.
Westport House hosted another group for some combat games so everyone was kept busy and there was a great buzz by dinner time on Tuesday evening. We were treated to some pre dinner entertainment by the Clew Bay Pipes Band - and JP Cooney even joined in on the bag pipes.
Both evenings were pretty chilled out - everyone was fairly wrecked after all the activity and sunshine.
We had our table quiz on Monday night and by Tuesday the competitiveness was intensified when the squad broke into their mini teams for an evening of team building games in the hotel.
The mini teams area awarded points throughout the season based on achievements and different competitions so it's really heating up now in the final few weeks.
All in all it was a great camp and gave us a real boost ahead of a huge week before the Leinster game.
As well as our own preparation, we know how important it is to get the squad out and around the province. It's something we're really passionate about.
We have a lot of players from here but also some that have come from the other side of the world to play rugby here. When you're out in the community and meeting supporters from places like Westport, Carrick-on-Shannon, Creggs, Sligo, it reminds us all about who we are representing as a team.
And that's critical when it comes to understanding our own vision.
We met lots of young players - boys and girls - at the open training session in Rice College. A lot of them had only taken up the sport recently and they spoke about the success of the Irish rugby teams as well as Connacht. If we are able to help in inspiring young kids around our province to pick up a rugby ball, then we are on the right track.
There seems to be so much excitement building for this game with Leinster. Our supporters always look forward this derby to but the fact that it's also a top of the table clash and so much riding on it for both sides, there's definitely an added spice to it. We are playing at home in front of what promises to be one of the biggest crowds of the season, so that gives us a huge lift.
Leinster have found it difficult here on a few occasions in the past but we can't take much from that. They are a hugely talented side and we will need to be at our best to beat them. But I know we're going to throw everything at them and I can't wait.
It's the last weekend of Six Nations and I'll definitely be tuning in to watch Ireland v Scotland.
It was a special moment for everyone involved in Connacht to see five of our boys finish the game last weekend and I felt extremely proud of not only the individuals who worked hard to get there but also everyone here who's been working hard to help realise that dream for so many years.
Long may it continue.