CONNACHT RUGBY: “You Like To See People Enjoy It” – Andy Friend 

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Andy Friend

Guinness PRO14 Championship – Friday, 5th October 2018 

Ulster 15-22 Connacht 

It was one of those moments that will be remembered when the season concludes.  It’s not too long ago that Connacht were fighting for their professional status but now, another ghost was exorcised in the Kingspan Stadium, Ravenhill as they finally slayed Ulster at their own fortress.

This was within Connacht’s grasp after they floored the northern province 44-16 in December 2017.  And with Ulster’s form suffering a serious drop (including their previous week’s 64-7 humiliating loss to Munster), a chance to establish themselves as the third strongest Irish club is there for the taking.

Tiernan O’Halloran, Bundee Aki and a Penalty Try were the significant scores while Jack Carty chipped in with five points to give Connacht a third win in six PRO14 games.  And it was the perfect tonic to bounce back from the disappointing loss 20-3 reversal against Leinster.

“I think that will probably hit us,” acknowledged Andy Friend to Sean Farrell from the42.ie.  “When you have young players playing and a new coach coming in, you probably don’t appreciate until after it’s happened how much it does mean to people.

“You hear Connacht fans singing the ‘Fields of Athenry’ in the Kingspan, I’m told it’s pretty special and doesn’t happen often. Maybe it’s 60 years ago.”

Connacht hadn’t beaten Ulster in Belfast since 1960.  And in 11 attempts since the Celtic Leagues started being regulated in 2007, they came home winless each time.

“They’re the moments you remember,” added Friend who can hardly realise yet the impact he’s already had on Connacht.  “I’m just proud of the way these blokes played.

“As a coach you like to see people enjoy it, like to see people achieve things and put smiles on peoples’ faces. Because there’s plenty of times when you don’t do that.  You do the opposite.

“When those moments come your way, enjoy it. You probably only get 24 hours to enjoy it.”

Connacht begin their 2018-19 European Challenge Cup campaign on Saturday, 13th October when the take on the Bordeaux Begles.  Kick-off at the Sportsground is 3pm.

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