‘The other Irish provinces have been so successful, of course I’ve been jealous’
Murray Kinsella reports from Murrayfield
PAT LAM AND John Muldoon expressed confidence that Connacht can earn their first-ever trophy by beating favourites Leinster in tomorrow’s Guinness Pro12 final at Murrayfield [KO 5.30pm].
The western province went through their captain’s run in a light drizzle at the Edinburgh venue this afternoon and appeared to be very relaxed.
Connacht’s huddle in Edinburgh. Source: James Crombie/INPHO
This is “unchartered territory” for Connacht, as both Lam and Muldoon pointed out, but they have belief that the occasion will not hinder them.
“Everyone’s just looking forward to tomorrow,” said Muldoon this afternoon in Murrayfield.
“We came over yesterday evening, we had a lovely send-off, lots of people out on the road and a little guard of honour at the airport yesterday. It started building yesterday and we’re looking forward to getting onto the pitch and enjoying the moment.
“It’s a huge moment for the club and a huge moment for every individual. It’s unchartered territory for us, but at the same time it’s a moment that we’ve dreamed of as children… and big children.”
The Connacht captain has had to watch on over the last decade as Leinster, Munster and Ulster have enjoyed the greater success, but now Muldoon has his own opportunity to lift a trophy.
“The other Irish teams and provinces have been so successful over the last 10 years that of course I’ve been jealous, I’ve looked on in envy and though ’wouldn’t it be great for Connacht to be there someday.’
“I’m delighted to be part of everything and to be able to walk out on the pitch and be involved in the last few weeks, months and years. I’ve been through tough days, but they will all go tomorrow.
“We’ve got a great chance, a great opportunity. We have a chance to give it a go, we know what faces us but we’re very confident going in.”
Muldoon and Lam with the Pro12 trophy. Source: Dan Sheridan/INPHO
Lam stated that he was calm and confident on the eve of the final, taking his usual level of reassurance from what he said was a good week of preparation.
The Connacht head coach was happy to be able to name an unchanged team for this final, a rarity for the province, and hopes his side’s momentum carries into the clash with Leinster.
“There is real belief, I’ve always said right from day one that anyone can stand in the huddle before you go on the field and say ‘let’s believe, let’s be confident’” said Lam.
“You shouldn’t need to say it if you’ve done the work during the year and gone through tough times together, which we have.
“We’re in unchartered territory compared to Leinster, but the experiences we’ve had of beating Glasgow when we had to in the last game of the season, then again in the semi-final. The quarter-final against Grenoble, the game against Gloucester last year, which we took a lot of lessons from. From the Grenoble one, we’ve really tidied up our defence.
“The experiences we’ve had in this season will hold us in good stead for this challenge.”
Lam stressed that Connacht are under no illusions about the quality Leinster can bring into this final, however, pointing out again that they have been the “benchmark” province in Ireland over the last 10 years.
Lam also pointed out that even the late blows of losing Isa Nacewa to an arm injury and Devin Toner for personal reasons can be compensated for.
Bundee Aki at Murrayfield. Source: James Crombie/INPHO
“We know they’ve got a big squad. I mean, they lose Isa Nacewa but they bring in the Irish fullback [Rob Kearney], so that’s what we face right through.
“Leinster could put another team out that would be just as strong, which they’ve done all year. That’s why they are who they are; they’ve brought through some quality players over these years and rightly so they’ve got the strongest representation in the Irish team.”
Whatever about the opposition, Lam and Connacht are in Edinburgh for one reason.
“We’re not happy just to be here, our goal is to win the trophy. There’s no point in showing up otherwise.”
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