Connacht is already looking ahead as the province’s season winds down

Perhaps this is the ending Connacht’s season deserves.

he mighty Zebre is at home and with only three quarters of tickets booked so far it doesn’t seem likely that the sold out College Road signs will be needed.

A win – and certainly it’s never so bad that a game against Zebre doesn’t end in victory – will mean Connacht’s league campaign ends in perfect symmetry.

Eight wins and eight losses. Some of the victories were uniquely notable; others downright abominable.

They’re one of only two teams from the northern hemisphere to win on South African soil, and yet they’ve defiled their own turf with a compilation of embarrassing home defeats reminiscent of the grim, darkest years of the early century.

In Europe, they flattered deception, missing two chances of progression with enough advantage to avoid their dubious round of 16 reward by hitting the competition favorites on two legs.

They typically put on a lively performance at home before meekly defeating in Dublin; Once again their discipline, the worst in the league, reinforced the pathetic defense.

Sometimes they were absolutely thrilling to watch; totally annoying on other occasions.

Players like Mack Hansen have been surfing an exotic wave of incredible excitement all year long in an Australian tavern; Cian Prendergast and Conor Oliver left lasting impressions.

But so many others have pulled out and management’s decision to effectively eliminate the outgoing squad members from their recent South Africa tour spoke volumes.

That management itself is largely on the alert – Andy Friend heads a staff of two newbies at that level and another who has been out of the sport for 18 months – has done little to help matters.

Speaking to the media yesterday for the final week of play of the season, Friend expressed his opinion that players struggled the most when they were forced to think about what they were doing.

“The game is about flow and when you think you’re not in the flow,” he says, alluding to the fact that this has undermined the too many occasions when Connacht has barely made it out of the traps in her Greyhound Stadium has done .

For the first time under his tutelage, Connacht will be absent from next season’s Champions Cup – ‘That hurts us’ – and while there’s been much talk of giving the Challenge Cup a belt, it has to be their main thing, in United Rugby Championship to remain competitive goal.

The addition of the South African quartet – as well as the geographical quirk that puts Connacht twice against all three Irish provinces (how they would love a Zebre double!) – ups the ante.

This season, they were finally spotted trying to come up with a new style of play; Some of the players either couldn’t handle it or gave up, which reflects on them as badly as it did on the teachers.

Friend, who criticized Connacht’s professional preparation after the Aviva implosion, is confident the arrival of a Leinster cohort and their “self-regulation” can bring more cohesion to his 44-strong squad for the next term.

Planning for next season is already well advanced.

Still, it seems sad that former stars like Ultan Dillane could be frozen this week as the province’s season fizzles out. Connacht is already looking ahead as the province’s season winds down

Fry Electronics Team

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