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Gavin Duffy has played over 170 matches for Connacht.
Gavin Duffy has played over 170 matches for Connacht.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

Connacht fans prepare to say farewell to Gavin 'crazy legs' Duffy

The westerners will also get the chance to pay tribute to Dan Parks and Frank Murphy, who will leave in the summer.
May 3rd 2014, 7:45 AM 3,416 0

CONNACHT FULLBACK GAVIN DUFFY starts on the bench for this evening’s RaboDirect Pro12 match against Cardiff Blues. The 32-year-old, who will leave the province in the summer, should see some action in what will be his final home game for the province. We spoke with two men who have followed Duffy’s career closely and who believe Connacht are losing one of their finest ever players.

Adrian Flavin (former Connacht hooker)

Everyone knew, from underage rugby with Ireland and when he headed to Harlequins, that Gavin was destined for a Test career. He was born and raised in the province and was such a driver of standards during my time playing with him. He was fantastic for the province and really put Connacht Rugby on the map. He was an out-and-out leader and it was a pleasure to play for, and with, him.

He led from the front on the pitch and was an absolute gentleman off it. He played through pain on a lot of occasions. I remember, a few seasons ago, he was having trouble with his back all season. He would be on the physio’s table all day Thursday but would line out on the Friday and give it his all.

With his bravery in the air always stood out, as did his footballing skills. We used to call him Crazy Legs due to the amount of attacks and breaks he’d start with his mazy runs. I remember he set up a try for Michael Swift by starting off an attack inside his 22. It was another one of those mazy runs but Swifty got the credit and all he had to do was canter over the final few metres.

Gavin Duffy after the match Duffy featured at fullback in Connacht's famous win over Toulouse this season. Source: Billy Stickland/INPHO

Aaron Turner (Connacht Clan supporters group)

As a guy from Mayo, Duffy’s story was really one of the local boy done good. He played three successful seasons with Harlequins and, when he was away, won the first of his 10 Test caps with Ireland. I always felt he should have won more, especially when Rob Kearney was injured and they tried to convert Luke Fitzgerald to the role. He was such a natural at fullback but maybe suffered, as Geordan Murphy did, from playing over in England and being out of sight.

His bravery in the air was remarkable and the phrase ‘Great take Duffy’s’ was commonplace at The Sportsground, particularly after his return in 2006. He had that GAA background with the Mayo minors. You only really realised how important he was to the team when he would miss the odd game. He would have liked to go out on his own terms but injuries and the form of Robbie Henshaw have meant his was a supporting role for much of this season. Still, he leaves the team in a far greater place than when he was first capped. A complete gentleman, an eloquent speaker and someone who always has time for the supporters.

The one story that I think sums up Duffy best was the Challenge Cup semi-finals he played against Connacht, for Harlequins, in 2004. It was a two-legged affair and ‘Quins had beaten us by nine points at The stoop, meaning we had to win by 10 to go through to the final. It would have been a big scalp, and Connacht won 23-18, but we conceded a late try to Paul Burke. Duffy played two great games but, at the end of the game, he was in tears. He knew how much it would have meant to Connacht, who were on the verge of being wound up, to win. He gave his all for his team but was absolutely gutted for us at the end.

Farewell to Brett too

Brett Wilkinson 13/1/2014 Source: James Crombie/INPHO

Flavin believes it is unfortunate that prop Brett Wilkinson will not get the opportunity for a rousing send-off at The Sportsground this evening. The Irish-qualified South African was forced to retire earlier in the season due to a persistent neck injury. “He has been a tremendous servant to Connacht for so many years. We made our debuts together and I know he will be sorely missed by everyone involved.”

Gavin Duffy and Dan Parks among list of departing Connacht players

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Patrick McCarry

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