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'They will be successful wherever they go because they're good people'

Nigel Carolan and Jimmy Duffy’s time with Connacht came to an end last night.

Jimmy Duffy and Nigel Carolan.
Jimmy Duffy and Nigel Carolan.

THERE WAS NO crowd at the Sportsground to bid them farewell after Connacht’s win over the Ospreys, but last night in Galway brought to an end the outstanding service Nigel Carolan and Jimmy Duffy have provided for the province.

The pair of assistant coaches are moving onto new, as-yet-unannounced challenges after each spending more than two decades of their lives working to improve Connacht rugby.

The western province’s head coach, Andy Friend, is convinced that Carolan and Duffy will return in the future better for whatever experiences come next, but Connacht supporters will be sad to see them go for now.

Friend is naturally excited about the new-look coaching team that he’ll work with next season as Dewald Senekal, Mossie Lawlor and Colm Tucker join his staff, but he too will miss the influence of Carolan and Duffy.

“I won’t do them justice if I try and talk about their impact on Connacht rugby because I’ve only been here three years and those guys have been here for two decades as players, academy coaches, supporters, pro coaches,” said Friend last night.

“Jimmy was involved in the winning Pro12 final, Nigel was involved in the academy that brought so many great players through. In the few four years, both men have worked together with Pete Wilkins and had a massive impact. I’ve had the luck to work with both of them in the last three years and they’re not only good coaches but also good men.

“Rugby, in my view, is built on good character. Pick people with integrity that work hard and do things for others and the game – both men epitomise that.

“To Nigel and Jimmy and their respective families, we wish them every success and they will be successful wherever they go because they’re good people. I have no doubt that this is not a goodbye, it’s a ’till next time’ because they will be back.”

bundee-aki-scores-a-try-supported-by-alex-wootton-and-ben-odonnell Bundee Aki scores against the Ospreys. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

Last night saw Connacht finish their season on a high with a 26-19 win against the Ospresy, although Friend is hopeful that the 2020/21 campaign isn’t competely over for several of his players.

Ireland face Japan and the US in two Tests next month and the Connacht boss believes many of his men have done enough to earn caps.

“There’s a lot of blokes who put their hands up,” said Friend. “We had a few guys drop out late through injury. Dave Heffernan dropped out through injury but Shane Delahunt was outstanding in his 100th game. Paul Boyle dropped out late due to injury but the back row of Masterson, Butler, and Prendergast were outstanding.

“Alex Wootton did very well, Tom Daly continues to impress, Caolin Blade was brilliant and Jack Carty had one of his better games. I know we’ve got talent across the park, mate, and if other people don’t see it, that’s on them.

“I’m very comfortable with what we’ve got and what we’re building and let’s hope some of these men get rewarded with Irish jerseys.”

Friend will put his feet up in the coming days and reflect on what has been a very strange and very long season. 

Connacht didn’t win any silverware but Friend takes pride in how the province kept the show on the road in difficult circumstances and he is excited about getting back into action in 2021/22.

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“To get the three away wins against Munster, Leinster, and Ulster is a great achievement for us,” said Friend. “We blooded a lot of players, a lot of new players coming in and that’s been great. The other thing is that we’ve stayed on task.

andy-friend Friend is excited about Connacht's potential. Source: Morgan Treacy/INPHO

“We had three games postponed during the year but they weren’t because we were crook and we had done the wrong thing, it was because other teams had. We said at the start of the year that we wanted to be the team that was the healthiest. Yes, we had instances of Covid but nothing that spread within the Sportsground.

“We haven’t had a team meeting in over 12 months, we haven’t had a social function in over 12 months but people have stayed on task. That’s a credit to our players and staff, everyone’s attitude. That’s another thing I’m really proud of.

“We are building and I believe we’ve got a squad that’s ready to go to a new level and I’m really excited by that.”

About the author:

Murray Kinsella

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