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'I'm not looking for better... I'm looking for a challenge' - Carolan explains Connacht exit

The Connacht attack coach says he does not have a new job lined up yet.

Connacht attack coach Nigel Carolan (left) and head coach Andy Friend.
Connacht attack coach Nigel Carolan (left) and head coach Andy Friend.
Image: James Crombie/INPHO

CONNACHT HEAD COACH Andy Friend says the province are still working on securing a replacement for attack coach Nigel Carolan, who will leave the province at the end of the season.  

Carolan has spent the best part of 26 years with the club, enjoying successful roles with the Connacht Academy and as part of the first team coaching ticket following his early retirement from the game due to injury.

Yesterday Carolan outlined that his decision to leave the province is based on a desire to experience different perspectives on the game, with the ultimate aim of one day returning to the province he has called home for so many years.

The former Ireland U20 head coach said he does not yet have any clarity on what the next chapter of his coaching career will look like. Connacht had offered to accomodate him in some capacity going forward should he fail to secure a suitable opportunity elsewhere, but Carolan is determined that this season will be his last out west, for now.

“There’s a couple of things bubbling, but I don’t have anything in stone yet,” Carolan replied when asked about where he might end up next season.

“But I’m not too bothered about that. I think it was important… the players needed to know, Andy and his plans, they need to be able to move on as well. So I think just putting that out there and making it known was important so at least our players had clarity on what was happening, and there was no ambiguity around that.”

Speaking over Zoom, Carolan answered questions about his future while sitting alongside Friend, the man now left searching for a new attack coach. He’ll have plenty of decent CVs to consider, but it will be impossible to replace Carolan’s understanding of what it is to be Connacht. Few people have enjoyed such a close relationship with the club.

“It is going to be hard (to replace him),” Friend said.

“As I said to Nige on Monday, you could just see the outpouring of emotion and well-wishes for him that came from every angle, which is a real compliment, and that just reinforced the impact that Nigel has had.

nigel-carolan Carolan has been at Connacht for 26 years. Source: James Crombie/INPHO

“So it is going to be tricky. But Nigel leaves a very strong legacy here, and the other thing I think is really important to me is, it’s not goodbye, it’s ‘We’ll see you later,’ because he’ll be back. You know he’s going to be back.

“It is a very brave decision, not only for Nige but for his whole family, Siobhan and the kids too, because you are walking into this unknown now. But that’s pro-coaching, and if you want to be a pro-coach, you’ve got to be brave enough to make those calls. 

“So when Nige made that call, my honest view to him, and I said it at the time, was, ‘You’re going to be successful.’

I know he’s going to be successful because comfort and growth don’t live in the same room. It would be very comfortable to stay here, but if you want to grow, you’ve got to be brave enough to make the call, and he’s made it. He will be hard to replace, but none of us are irreplaceable, nobody is. But as I said, there is definitely a legacy left.”

Friend explained that Connacht – who are away to Leicester Tigers in the Challenge Cup round of 16 this Saturday – are still working through the process of finding Carolan’s successor.

He also outlined that after recently confirming 21 new player contracts, they are also hoping to get some new signings over the line in the coming weeks.

As for Carolan, while his own future is a little unclear, he is clearly exciting by the prospect of a fresh start in a new environment. 

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“I’ve been a part of this bubble for the last 26 years and as I said, I’ve loved every minute of it as a player, as an Academy manager and then I was fortunate enough around four years ago to get the opportunity to coach with the professional team,” Carolan said.

“I have loved every minute of that.

“But my perspective on the game is all Connacht, it’s all with a green lens, and if I am to grow and develop I just need to widen that. I need to take down the walls that exist outside of that and view the game with a different perspective in order for me to grow.

And I can’t imagine that anywhere that I might go is going to be a whole let better. I’m not looking for better, I’m not looking for somewhere that is shinier or a better stadium or a better training facility, I’m just looking for a challenge.

“That can be a good challenge or a bad challenge. Either way, it’s going to be a challenge and I just need to grow my own perspective in order for me to progress as a coach.

As I said, it’s not a secret that I’d love to come back to Connacht someday. But I want to come back in a better version of myself, rather than the Connacht version, the closed, boxed-in version.

“I need to be able to grow my own perspective in order to be able to do that.”

Screenshot 2020-11-24 at 9.04.07 AM

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Ciarán Kennedy

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