New CEO Willie Ruane vows to drive Connacht forward
Connacht's red letter week maintained the positive vibes with the announcement of former playing favourite and experienced local businessman Willie Ruane as their new CEO.
Hot on the heels of their audacious coup in securing former All Black Mils Muliaina and outbidding both Leinster and Munster for Waikato Chiefs' centre Bundee Aki, the west is more than awake this week as they prepare for next season's bid to qualify for the new Rugby Champions Cup.
Ruane, a native of Mayo, played rugby for Connacht in the late 1990s and also represented Ireland at Colleges and U-21 level.
He has been working in the banking sector for the past 15 years and takes the role in Connacht after being a director within Ulster Bank's Business Restructuring Division. "I have a strong connection with Connacht Rugby and a good understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing the province," said Ruane.
"Connacht Rugby has a top-class coach, an exciting squad of players and some fantastic facilities. I am looking forward to helping to drive success on and off the pitch."
IRFU chief executive Philip Browne said: "We are delighted to appoint a person of Willie's calibre and experience. It is both an exciting and challenging time for provincial rugby in Ireland with new European competitions and a revitalised Pro12.
"Connacht face a number of commercial challenges, but recent infrastructural investment and record crowds at the Sportsground shows the appetite and ambition of the province to grow the appeal of professional rugby in the region."
Retiring Connacht full-back Gavin Duffy, a former Mayo minor footballer, is pondering a return to Gaelic football with 2006 All-Ireland club champions Knocknacarra-Salthill.