Thursday 24 May 2018

Keane: Players didn't take their chance, we were bullied

Connacht captain John Muldoon and team-mates after their defeat to Munster at Thomond Park. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Connacht captain John Muldoon and team-mates after their defeat to Munster at Thomond Park. Photo: Diarmuid Greene/Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Kieran Keane settles into his seat in the Thomond Park press room and takes a quick glance at his small audience before opening a large A4 folder.

Those in the assembled crowd who were expecting Keane to launch into a detailed assessment of why Connacht were so badly beaten up were initially left disappointed, until the veteran Kiwi warmed to the task.

Since arriving in Galway, Keane's no-nonsense approach has almost become customary, but it is part of his make-up.

Ask him what he perceives to be a bland question and the chances are that the answer that flies back at you will be just as short and direct.

"Overall impression of the defeat?" comes the opening question from one hack.

"We got a poor second tonight."

Cue several seconds of an awkward silence as Keane gives his trademark, deadpan stare.

Okay, so not a great start, but the Connacht head coach looks as if he has something to say.

The one thing that has been clear from day one, when Keane first introduced himself in the Sportsground last August, is that he shoots from the hip and he doesn't care who that impacts on, his own players included.

Connacht had largely enjoyed a positive interpro series, but they looked ragged and weary as they arrived in Thomond Park.

Without the likes of Bundee Aki, Ultan Dillane and Kieran Marmion, who were all rested, it was always going to be an uphill task against Munster and they looked every bit a squad whose resources had been stretched.

"Is it a big ask? It is a big ask. Yes it is. Particularly for us," Keane responds when asked if two big derbies in five days was too tall an order for Connacht.

"Perhaps we don't quite have the depth of numbers that other big clubs have. But I am not here to make excuses.

"We are dealt those cards and we knew what was needed. We rotated our squad as best we could.

"We had to take out some very influential players and we gave opportunities to young ones.

"So was it too big an ask? It will hold us in good stead on the positive side. We got a bang on the nose and we just have to recover from it. It's a lesson."

The young players who got their chance will be all the better for the chastening experience, but Keane didn't believe that many of them staked their claim ahead of the Challenge Cup next weekend.

"We were well and truly bullied in a number of areas," he insisted.

"You could look back and say there were too many changes or anything else. But when you are in this competition, from my limited experience, you need to give other players an opportunity. Not everybody can play all of the time. So that's the way it is.

"We probably got hurt by the yellow card - we did, didn't we?

"We conceded 14 points that broke us during that yellow and they opened us up. I think we got shocked by that a little bit.

"We hadn't played a lot of rugby up until then, which was hurting us in the first-half. It was a tough day for those young fellas."

All fair points, well made by Keane, it just took some time to get there.

Irish Independent

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