Connacht given heroes’ welcome at Galway homecoming

Rugby squad and managers parade through the city following historic Pro 12 victory

The Connacht rugby team during their homecoming in Galway. Photograph: ©INPHO/James Crombie

The Connacht rugby squad and management were given a heroes' welcome in Galway city centre on Sunday following their victory in the Pro 12 tournament.

Thousands of Connacht fans were in Murrayfield on Saturday when Pat Lam’s men blew favourites Leinster away with a devastating 20-10 victory to claim the Pro 12 title for the first time in the team’s history.

The squad assembled at the Town Hall Theatre before parading in an open-top bus through the streets of Galway to their home ground at the Sportsground.

Connacht fans on the streets of Galway during the Connacht team’s homecoming. Photograph: ©INPHO/James Crombie

Thousands of supporters lined the streets of the city to cheer the team.


Even the notorious Galway weather obliged, with bright sunshine providing the perfect backdrop to the occasion.

While the title is Connacht’s first trophy in its 131-year history, captain John Muldoon said the team never gave up hope.

“You always believe, but when you’re going through tough days it’s always harder to believe,” he said.

The 33-year old grew up in Portumna and he might have been part of the GAA club had he not concentrated on rugby.

He said he always dreamed of lifting a cup as captain of a winning team — but presumed it would be for hurling.

“I might have been lifting the Liam McCarthy Cup, but nothing changes and I’m just delighted.

“Deep down you always believe that it’s coming, and you always believe that you can be part of it and I’m just chuffed that I’m here,” said the captain.

Massive ovation

Coach Pat Lam was given a massive ovation, having turned the side's fortunes around in the three years since he arrived in Galway.

The New Zealander said it was an honour and privilege to work with such a dedicated group.

"We represent Galway, Mayo, Roscommon, Leitrim and Sligo - the five counties - and all the Connacht people living abroad and we are honoured to do that.

“We are so grateful to all the support and goodwill we have received and we now want to build on this,” he said.

The Mayor of Galway said the Connacht rugby team epitomises all that is good about the west of Ireland.

Cllr Frank Fahy, who accompanied the team home from Edinburgh on Saturday night, said that the players and management had brought honour and glory to all of the province.

“It’s not just rugby people who are celebrating today. People from all sports and people with little interest in sport are walking a bit taller today.

“They have done it against all the odds and the manner in which they captured the Pro12 title was breathtaking. Everyone is so proud of them,” he said.

The team charter plane was greeted by almost 2,000 supporters when it touched down just after midnight on Saturday night at Ireland West Airport in Knock.

The chairman of Mayo County Council, Cllr Michael Holmes, was on hand to welcome the team home.

Bonfires blazed all along the N17 on the hour-long bus journey to Galway.

The celebrations are set to continue into the night in the city after the bus tour .