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Connacht's squad paid for four academy players to come to the Pro12 final

This Connacht squad won’t leave any man behind.

WHEN CONNACHT TALK about a sense of togetherness and unity having driven them to their first-ever trophy, they aren’t exaggerating.

The incident involving Robbie Henshaw’s stolen laptop in the Slí Burca housing estate has been the most famous illustration that Connacht stick up for each other off the pitch, while all the evidence on the pitch has backed up their talk.

The Connacht team celebrate The entire Connacht group together after victory in Murrayfield. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

For Saturday’s Pro12 final, Connacht flew every single player who had played for the province this season into Edinburgh to be part of the their shot at glory and the subsequent celebrations.

However, there were four young players from Connacht’s academy who had trained with Pat Lam’s senior squad but hadn’t featured on the pitch in this campaign and were therefore set to be left behind.

With Connacht having used 46 players on the pitch this season, there was naturally a financial limit to Connacht’s desire to bring every single member of the organisation, and those four academy players were told they would miss out on the trip to Scotland.

Determined to remain united until the end, Connacht’s players chipped in to raise the funds required to bring Ciarán Gaffney, Cormac Brennan, Saba Meunargia and Rory Moloney to Murrayfield for the final.

“We had four players this year that trained with us, didn’t get any game time,” explained Connacht captain John Muldoon after the 20-10 win over Leinster.

“One of the lads [Brennan] was on the bench for the Ulster game and for various reasons they had to cut the line somewhere and they decided not to bring four of the lads that hadn’t played.

“That was obviously the management’s perspective; 46 lads is a lot to bring. But the lads got together and chipped in and brought the other four lads, and that shows what the team is about.

Bundee Aki and Robbie Henshaw celebrate Connacht are built on a strong collective spirit. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“The fact that we’re not willing to leave the four lads behind, and the four lads are inside in the dressing room and they deserve to be here as much as anybody else, and that shows the togetherness and what it means to everyone.

“To me that sums up the group massively.”

Head coach Lam also underlined his own delight to have seen such a positive act from his squad in the build-up to Saturday’s final.

“I’d just like to back John up on that, because that was massive,” said Lam.

“The whole squad came, and we took the academy boys that played, and there were four guys who came in half-way through and trained, but they hadn’t got on the field. So we had to cut the numbers somewhere, as far as finances go.

“And then Mul showed up in our office, to myself and [team manager] Tim Allnutt, and said ‘we’d like take those four academy boys as well.’

“I said ‘great’, and the boys all chipped in.”

– First published 01.00

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Murray Kinsella

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