Sunday 18 March 2018

Irish side thrilled with welcome

Ireland's Robbie Henshaw makes his way onto the pitch for the start of squad training
Ireland's Robbie Henshaw makes his way onto the pitch for the start of squad training

John Fallon

Ireland assistant coach Les Kiss said they were overwhelmed by the welcome they received when the Irish squad held a short training camp in Galway this week.

Over 3,500 supporters turned up on Wednesday at the Sportsground for an open training session and Kiss, a regular visitor to the venue over the years, said the squad really enjoyed their visit to the city.

"We've been doing that for a number of years in different ways. Last year was very good, we got out to different provinces and we're going to Belfast later in the campaign.

"Out here has been fantastic, the response. It was a ticketed thing and they just went quickly. The Connacht boys were brilliant to work with and I think the guys do like that kind of connection with the people out there who are supporting us so much.

"It is amazing, that support doesn't wane wherever we go and it's uplifting for the boys, it's encouraging for them and they don't take it for granted, what responsibility they have when they go out there and there's no bigger one coming up than in 10 days."

Connacht coach Pat Lam said that the hit-out against the national squad was just what his side needed as they bid to bounce back from last weekend's disappointing loss to Scarlets when they head back to Wales to take on Dragons on Sunday.

"I was just talking to kids outside and was asking where do you come from and they said Sligo, Westport, a couple from over by Roscommon," said Lam after the session.

"It was fantastic. They have driven all this way to see their heroes. See their team, Connacht, and see their national heroes. It's a wonderful day."

He wants his men to bounce back and hold on to their top six spot, while there is an added incentive to do well for the remainder of the campaign following Michael Swift's decision this week to retire at the end of the season.

Swift, Connacht's most capped player in history with 268 appearances so far, wants to go out on a high.

"Hopefully, I can finish on a high whether that will be lifting a trophy in the Challenge Cup or us qualifying for the top six and the Champions Cup off our own back, that would be a huge achievement. It'd be the ultimate way for me to finish off my days with Connacht," he said.

Irish Independent

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