Monday 20 November 2017

Connolly making most of his chance

Connacht's James Connolly
Connacht's James Connolly

Declan Rooney

It's turning out to be a momentous week for Connacht's James Connolly

Hot on the heels of signing his first senior contract he will finally get to play his first game at the Sportsground after half a dozen appearances in some of the most famous stadiums in the world, as well as one of the most far-flung.

The 22-year-old from Naas made the breakthrough last season when he made a winning debut in Bayonne and since then he has played twice at Kingsholm in Gloucester, trekked to Siberia for the win over Enisei-STM, emerged victorious at Thomond Park and featured in the loss to Cardiff in the Arms Park last weekend.

He will finally get to run out in front of the Sportsground faithful tomorrow night against Newcastle Falcons in the Challenge Cup at the end of a week which has seen him, winger Rory Parata and hooker Shane Delahunt progress from the Connacht academy to sign their first senior contracts.

Injuries to Jake Heenan and Nepia Fox-Matamua have handed him his chance and Connolly has been making the most of the opportunity.

"I was chomping at the bit, but I was patient at the same time. I knew at some stage my opportunity would come around and I had a lot of things to work on," said the flanker.

"I wanted to slowly chip away at what I needed to get better at. All of a sudden I got my opportunity and I'm just trying to keep consistent now.

"I got the opportunity at Thomond Park. I absolutely loved it, it was an amazing experience."

The step into Pat Lam's match-day squad appears seamless.

"Before the Munster game I felt a lot of pressure and I didn't really know what to expect. Your mind talks a lot. But I have clarity on my roles and all the guys around me were really supportive," he explained.

Irish Independent

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