Friday 30 September 2016

Fermanagh Bealhams to cheer on Connacht

Published 31/03/2016 | 02:30

Finlay Bealham of Connacht. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile
Finlay Bealham of Connacht. Photo: Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile

A corner of Fermanagh will cheer Connacht against Ulster tomorrow - at least wherever the small pockets of Bealhams reside.

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"My mom's family are from there," says Canberra-born prop Finlay, who arrived here five years ago at the Ulster academy and Belfast Harlequins while graduating with the Ireland U-20s.

The versatile prop, who can play both sides, pushed on from his Emerging Ireland appearances last summer to come off the bench and make his Six Nations debut against Italy, when he was one of five Connacht men on the field.

That moment was the pinnacle of a decision taken back in Canberra when he was overlooked for the Brumbies academy, instead heading north to an ancient heartland to relaunch his career.

Bealham is the only player to feature in each of Connacht's 24 matches this season - 17 of which have yielded victories - as Pat Lam's men bid for glory in the league and Europe.

They haven't won in Belfast for 56 years but the league leaders are flying high and may threaten to destabilise Ulster as they recover from another hammer blow last Friday.

Crushing

In many ways, it summed up Ulster's season; hell, perhaps the last few seasons of immense promise swiftly succeeded by crushing despair.

As scrum-half Ruan Pienaar kicks a 45th-minute penalty deep into touch, Glasgow wing Sean Lamont takes a nap, allowing Craig Gilroy a quick throw which allows Stuart McCloskey the simplest of touchdowns.

After discarding a seven-point lead at the home off the champions, surely Ulster wouldn't mess up again as they created a two-score game; sadly, almost inevitably, they did so, two home tries on the hour killing their hopes.

For all that they have managed the occasional pick-pocketing this season, Gilroy's side have too often ended up being on the receiving end of a worse mugging.

This was not the first time they had failed to ruthlessly press home an advantage; after looking on course at one stage for a home semi-final, they now rely on favours elsewhere to make the play-offs.

They can start by doing themselves some.

"We need to be a bit more ruthless and to put the foot on the throat there when we have teams up against the wall," says the Ulster wing.

"Glasgow is a haunted place for us. The try was just off the cuff. I chased down a kick by Ruan and I hedged my bets. It was a good five points. It's good to think what will happen if everything comes together but that seems to be a bit of a problem at the minute. We really need to get the finger out."

Irish Independent

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