Sunday 23 July 2017

Stalwart Swift intends to play on as Connacht seek revenge in ‘huge’ Dragons tie

John Fallon and Declan Rooney

The longest serving player in the Pro12 league, Connacht's Michael Swift, is confident he can perform for another year.

The 35-year-old has chalked up a record 156 appearances in the league and has also played 70 games in the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge Cup during his 14 seasons with Connacht.

The London-born lock has played in 11 of Connacht's Pro12 games this season, as well as a couple of Heineken Cup games, and believes he can keep going for at least another season.

"I hope to do another year with Connacht. I am 35 now but I still feel I have something to give to the squad. I am confident that I'll be around next year," said Swift.

He said that the departure at the end of the season of Mike McCarthy to Leinster is a big loss to the side, but it also presents an opportunity for others.

"With Mike's departure it gives the younger guys an opportunity to step up. There will be a slot available there now and the likes of Mick Kearney – who has been excellent lately – and Andrew Browne will be looking to get some more game time.

"Mike is available this weekend. It is a huge bonus for us to have him back. He is one of the linchpins of our team, but to have someone from Connacht involved in an Irish camp and now the team is fantastic.

"His departure is a big loss. Obviously over the years we have built up a great relationship both on and off the field.

"He will be a loss, but good luck to the guy. The decision is made now and everyone knows where they stand. It will be a huge task to replace a player of his calibre in the squad, but that's for the people upstairs to worry about.

"He is currently a Connacht player and I know that he'll be doing everything in his power until he goes to help Connacht to win as many games as possible," said Swift.

Meanwhile, winger Matt Healy, who made his debut in the 17-0 loss to Leinster at the weekend, is likely to be out for three to four weeks after fracturing a bone in his hand.

Flanker Johnny O'Connor also picked up an injury and may not be available for the visit of Dragons on Saturday, but winger Fetu'u Vainikolo is expected to return.

Long-term casualties Mata Fifita and Kyle Tonetti will play for their respective clubs this weekend – Buccaneers RFC and Lansdowne RFC – and the two centres are expected to be available for selection for the Heineken Cup game away to Harlequins on Saturday week.

Coach Eric Elwood wants his men to bounce back from the disappointing derby losses to Munster and Leinster and gain revenge on a Dragons side who turned them over 14-3 in Newport in November.

"This game against Dragons is a vitally important one for the club. We're side by side at the bottom of the table so this is a huge game for both teams," Elwood said.

"Obviously, with us at home, the pressure is on us to win it.

"The key thing is that we learn from the mistakes of the last two derby matches that we've had. And the main focus for us this weekend is about getting everything right ourselves to secure the win."

Irish Independent

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