Thursday 26 April 2018

We have to lick our wounds and focus on Challenge Cup - McCartney

Tom McCartney of Connacht Photo: Sportsfile
Tom McCartney of Connacht Photo: Sportsfile
Cian Tracey

Cian Tracey

Overall, Connacht emerged from the inter-pro series with credibility, yet they remain cut adrift of the leading pack in their Guinness PRO14 conference.

The Westerners' squad won't be hit as hard as other teams during the Six Nations but it will nevertheless take a huge effort to get into contention before the business end of the season rolls around in May.

The ultimate goal remains to win Champions Cup qualification and it looks increasingly likely that their best route back to Europe's premier competition is via the Challenge Cup.

Connacht are flying high at the top of their pool and a win away to Worcester, their nearest challengers, on Saturday would secure their passage into the quarter-final.

The winners of the Challenge Cup will automatically qualify for the Champions Cup, which is partly why Kieran Keane opted to rest some of his front-liners for the defeat to Munster.

A hammering at Thomond Park may have dented morale but the players must quickly pick themselves up and focus on the positives from their last three games against Irish rivals.

Enjoying

"Look, everyone is enjoying what we are doing," hooker Tom McCartney maintained.

"You can probably get a little bit carried away when you look at the scoreline (against Munster) and be very disappointed but we have got to remember that we came away from the Leinster game thinking, 'jeez, we really let that one slip'.

"Leinster are a pretty good team and then the week before that, we had a really good performance against Ulster.

"There is still a lot of belief in this team. We'll pick ourselves up. We have got another game next week and it's another massive challenge for us - a really important game in Europe.

"We'll lick our wounds and get on to that one pretty quick."

Connacht were totally out-played by Munster but perhaps more worryingly, they were also out-fought.

Keane didn't hesitate in saying as much afterwards and he will no doubt be demanding a big response as they look to seal top spot.

"You never want nights like that when the scoreline blows out like that," McCartney added.

"It's always disappointing. For those young guys, they have worked really hard to get up to this level and earn their opportunity.

"It's great for those guys to get that opportunity but it's probably disappointing for the rest of the team that we didn't help make their debuts as memorable as they would have liked."

Irish Independent

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