Connacht Rugby and NUI Galway combine in pursuit of excellence
Players to avail of education at college in addition to mentoring and development
At the announcement of the collaboration between Connacht Rugby and NUI Galway were players Craig Carke, Connacht Rugby, Robbie Henshaw, Conor Finn, Pat Lam Connacht Head Coach, Dr Jim Browne NUI Galway President and Ciaran Fitzgerald, former Lions, Ireland and Connacht Captain, and NUI Galway Alumnus, John Muldoon, Eoin McKeon and Gavin Duffy. ©INPHO/James Crombie
Recognised as one Ireland’s leading universities, NUI Galway will sponsor Connacht Rugby for the next three years and provide educational opportunities for the province’s young players.
The High Performance Education Partnership will allow players from the Connacht Rugby Academy and age-grade teams to avail of education at the college, in addition to a mentoring and development programme.
Connacht Rugby chief executive Tom Sears described the partnership as “massively important” to Connacht’s continuing growth and ambition.
“This year we will have over 4,000 season ticket holders and at big matches we will see 9,000 people plus. That is a level of our growth and ambition. Pat Lam has come here from New Zealand with a huge profile as a player and coach. We are attracting the likes of Craig Clarke, the Super 15 winning captain for the last two years. That is how the Connacht brand is spreading,” said Sears.
“We are putting ourselves on the map and we see this partnership as helping us even further by attracting young players into our system.”
Sears, who would not put a financial figure on the sponsorship, said Connacht was taking a holistic approach to its player development.
“We want to turn out the best people they can be and develop in all areas of life.”
With 17 members of the current Connacht squad either students or graduates of university, NUIG president Dr Jim Browne said it was important the university was there to ensure students had a potential career outside of rugby.
In providing professional players with the opportunity to combine third-level study with a professional rugby career, he said it would also “provide a powerful incentive for talented young players to come to Connacht and NUI Galway”.
“There are people who see Connacht as an ambitious province that has come on in leaps and bounds. So we share an ambition to attract people from outside Connacht who will work with both of us,” said Dr Brown.
“Our partnership aligns our desire for excellence with Connacht’s desire for achievement in rugby. We will provide the mechanism and pathways to allow students who are clearly engaged in training to avail of the university and make the best of both.”
The partnership was launched by former Lions, Ireland and Connacht captain and NUI Galway alumnus Ciaran Fitzgerald, who Dr Browne said epitomised the unity of the two institutions – a legend for Connacht and Ireland and a distinguished academic.