One feels that Connacht are entering into one of the most crucial parts of their season. Before they began their European fixtures, the men from the west only had one PRO14 victory to their name which came against the Southern Kings at the Sportsground in September.
There were some narrow losses, including away to the Scarlets and Ulster but after securing back-to-back wins in the Challenge Cup against Oyannax and Donncha O’Callaghan’s Worcester Warriors, the mood around College Road in Galway is certainly more positive and that’s the sense you got when Kieran Keane and John Muldoon faced the media on Tuesday afternoon.
Kieran Keane admitted that although results haven’t gone his way in the PRO14, ultimately, he is content that his side are improving in what they are doing in matches and on the training paddock. Interestingly, he uses an analogy of “peeling back the onion” when describing the improvement his side has shown in recent weeks.
“There’s been constant improvement which has been refreshing for us. We’re peeling back the onion a lot and I’m using that saying to basically highlight the fact that we are looking inside, you know?”
The “looking inside” reference is an important one because there have been times this season where Keane has been disappointed with the performance of his players and the most recent example of this was with the Connacht Eagles, who suffered a hammering at home to the Ealing Trailfinders, a game in which they shipped 71 points. Many players who featured in that humbling would be looking to push for a place in Connacht’s first team and although Keane admitted that even if the Eagles were at their best they would still probably lose to the Championship leaders, the manner of their “capitulation” is what was most concerning.
So the soul-searching or ‘onion peeling’ is something which Keane wants to encourage because he states that in order for Connacht to improve, they must look within themselves.
“We’re not taking anything for granted and we’re trying to be better all the time and we can’t do that unless we peel back the onion.”
Munster, who have been rocked this week with the news of Simon Zebo’s departure at the end of the season, travel up the M18 on Friday to face Connacht and it will be interesting to see if there will be any onions peeled once that game is finished.