Blade: Young people can see Connacht system works
Stand-in captain Caolin Blade may not have got the result he wanted for Connacht in the Challenge Cup last Saturday, but it was still a significant day for the province.
Blade skippered the side for the first time against Sale Sharks on a day when junior rugby clubs in the province got a huge boost.
The 24-year-old came through the system at Monivea - Eddie O'Sullivan's first coaching post was there - where the club in a GAA heartland in mid-Galway has thrived for decades.
Saturday's 32-13 loss to Sale was also notable as it was the first time in the professional era that two players from Connemara have played for Connacht.
Experienced full-back Tiernan O'Halloran from Clifden was joined in the back three by Colm de Buitléar, who was making his first start a week after his debut for the province.
De Buitléar, a grandson of the late nature film-maker Eamon de Buitléar, started playing rugby for An Ghaeltacht Rugbaí, the club in Carraroe which was founded by his father Cian in 2005.
"It's massive for young people in Connacht to see that the system works," said Blade, who has chalked up 72 appearances for Connacht since making his debut four years ago. "Obviously the result was a bit disappointing but it was a huge honour to captain the team."