Connacht surprised everyone during the 2015/16 season went they managed to pick up the Pro12 after a hard fought season. Their captain John Muldoon finally got his just reward after a stellar career with the side.
However, since then things haven’t been going all the Irish province’s way. They had a mixed season during the 2016/17 campaign and didn’t look like a side that would be challenging for trophies.
As pre-season training continues, we look at their chances in Europe this year and whether or not they will manage to life the Challenge Cup. Last year they were in the Champions Cup and managed the irk out some positive results against elite opposition.
This coming season their challenge will be slightly easier, but the Challenge Cup still should not be taken lightly. There are several great sides in this competition who will fancy their chances of going the whole way.
The province, which is located in the West of Ireland, has some excellent moments last season but would nonetheless deem the season a failure. They didn’t manage to gain automatic qualification to the Champions Cup and then missed out on the tournament in a tight play-off.
However, the 2016/17 was not without hope. Connacht did gain victories against the likes of Toulouse and Wasps and they also looked a solid side in all of their Irish derbies. Losing their head-coach Pat Lamb will be a loss, but the Irish side will fancy their chances of bouncing back stronger than ever this season.
As previously stated, Connacht have lost their talismanic coach Lamb. In his place has stepped Kieran Lamb. Keane will be hoping to guide his side through a tough group in the first round of the tournament.
Brive, Oyonnax and Worcester Warriors make up their pool. These are all good sides, but we reckon a Connacht side with John Muldoon, Tiernan O’Halloran and Kieran Marmion will have enough to get through.
Connacht have been lucky to not lose any of their guaranteed starters from last season and should only get stronger from here on in.
We really think this side has enough to go all the way in this competition. It really does help that they have avoided some of the bigger sides in the first round of the tournament and they also have a European pedigree from last season’s Champions Cup.
This is a side that has gone to some of the biggest clubs in Europe and come away with wins, so we don’t think the likes of Worcester or Brive will scare them. The 16/1 that Betway have them to win the title seems very generous to us.
Of course, it does depend on how well the new manager takes to his role. The Sportsground can be a tumultuous place at the best of times, so he will have to hit the ground running.
But if he does, we honestly see no reason why Connacht can’t compete with the best. They may even be able to bring back the glory days of that 2015/16 season. If they do, then Galway will once again be the city to be in!